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Introduction to the Internet

The Internet is a tool that connects millions of computers together, allowing them to communicate with each other. Information is not "stored" on the Internet. Rather, information is stored on host computers; the Internet is simply a tool that allows you to access the information stored on someone else’s computer. Sometimes the Internet is compared to a HUGE worldwide plumbing system connecting computers together.

The Internet is a tool that allows you to do these things:

  • Send and receive electronic mail
  • Access the World Wide Web
  • Remote access (Use one computer to access information stored on another computer)
  • Transfer files (Rapidly send and receive files between computers)

Significant Moments in Internet History

1969 - Work begins on ARPAnet
ARPAnet or the Advanced Research Project Agency Network is considered the grandfather of the modern Internet. ARPAnet was designed by the United States Department of Defense during the Cold War as a means to connect computers between universities. The first two universities to connect their computers under ARPAnet were UCLA and Stanford. This connection allowed universities to exchange top secret military information and share access to the country’s most powerful computer systems.

1971 - First E-Mail Sent
Email, an electronic message sent over a network, was invented by Ray Tomlinson, a computer engineer working on ARPAnet. Tomlinson says that he invented the first email program in less than seven hours. Tomlinson is the person who decided that every email address would include the "@" symbol.

1982 - Emoticon :-) Invented
The smiley face, represented by the characters ":-)", was invented by Scott Fahlman, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University. Fahlman invented the :-) because researchers weren’t sure when an electronic post was meant to be a serious comment or a joke. Fahlman started using a :-) after posting a joke so people knew that he was not serious. The practice caught on and eventually became commonplace Internet lingo.

1988 - First Internet Worm Released
In 1988, Robert Morris, a graduate student in computer science at Cornell University released the first Internet worm, sending it from MIT to disguise the creator. The worm was designed to judge the size of the Internet, not cause damage, but unfortunately it infected many computers around the country, causing them to crash and costing hundreds to thousands of dollars to repair. Morris was eventually sentenced to three years of probation, 400 hours of community service, and fine $10,050.00. He is now an associate professor at MIT.

1989 - World Wide Web Invented
The World Wide Web was created by Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist working at CERN, a particle physics laboratory in Switzerland. The World Wide Web is a smaller network within the Internet. It is a tool that allows users to access documents written in a special language called HyperText Markup Language (HTML).

1994 – Yahoo! Launches
Yahoo! was started by two students at Stanford University. Originally known as “Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web,” the site was created by the two as a way to organize their favorite websites into categories. Eventually renamed Yahoo!, the company went public, and now supplies results for 24% of Internet searches.

1997 – The Browser Wars
With the release of Windows 98, Microsoft integrated their once stand-along web browser Internet Explorer into the Windows operating system. The move was branded as anti-competitive, but it lead to the 95%+ dominance of Internet Explorer over former leader, Netscape. Netscape eventually went bankrupt and was purchased by AOL. In response, Netscape opened up the source code of the Netscape Communicator which lead to the creation of the Mozilla Project and the Gecko browser engine, the key component of the now-popular Firefox web browser.

1998 – Google Launches
The search engine Google began as a research project in 1995, created by two doctorate students at Stanford, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. After three years of development, the company was incorporated in 1998. At the time of its incorporation, the entire company was housed in a neighborhood garage. No longer simply an internet search engine, Google now provides access to books and maps and videos. According to the Nielsen/NetRatings, almost 50% of internet searches are conducted with Google, the largest industry share.

2001 – Napster Ordered to Shutdown
Napster, a file sharing program allowing users to swap MP3 files, was forced to shut down in 2001 due to allegations of copyright violations. Because Napster allowed people to share MP3 files for free, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), became concerned that the program would lead to a decrease in record sales, and initiated a law suit against Napster in 1999, asking a judge to shut the company down.

2003 – MySpace Founded
MySpace, a social networking website, was founded in 2003 by Tom Anderson, Chris DeWolfe, and a small team of programmers. Registered visitors can create a profile, which includes information about user and a section devoted to friends. The website has faced a number of controversies, including accessibility problems, child safety concerns, and excessive advertising.

2004 – "Web 2.0" Concept Developed
The term "Web 2.0" was coined to describe the evolution of the World Wide Web and the role it plays in society. Web 2.0 technologies and services are characterized by their ability to improve as more people use them. Examples of Web 2.0 internet-based services include social-networking sites like MySpace and FaceBook, and wikis, which allow users to update and change the text of a website, as users can on Wikipedia.

2005 – The Second Browser War
Enjoying nearly no competition, Internet Explorer had seen no upgrades since version 6 in 2001. With the launch of Mozilla Firefox earlier last year and its rapidly-growing userbase, Microsoft decided it was time to finally update Internet Explorer to version 7. In addition to the decline in Internet Explorer use to Firefox, Apple users were treated to an exclusive browser of their own, Safari. Based on the previously UNIX-exclusive Konqueror browser, Safari is bundled with Mac OS X (a tactic Microsoft uses with their own browser). Microsoft stopped the production of Internet Explorer for Macintosh because of this.

2006 – YouTube Launches
YouTube is a free video sharing site that allows visitors to upload, share, and watch video clips. YouTube was founded in 2005 by three employees of the PayPal website, and then acquired by Google in 2006. YouTube is controversial because copyrighted clips are frequently uploaded to the site, even though such actions are illegal.


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