The History of the Internet
The internet is a massive, global network of computer networks. Thousands of miles of cable connect data centres worldwide. The internet’s infrastructure includes computers, routers, servers, repeaters, wifi towers, and satellites. With the help of this network, digital information can be transmitted around the world, making it possible to order your weekly shop, share your life on Facebook, email your Aunt in Wollongong, and even look for the tiniest cat.
Among the technologies that have led to such widespread social and economic change are the Internet and the World Wide Web. The number of internet users has grown by 900% from 400 million in 2000 to over 4 billion today, and the Internet has transformed society and commerce. No longer the home of email and static webpages, the Internet is a dynamic space of commerce and collaboration. In fact, video now accounts for two-thirds of internet traffic, and people access the Internet through their mobile devices.
The Internet started in the United States, with the Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA). The goal was to allow military and government agencies to communicate with each other quickly in case of war. Computers were installed at various U.S. universities with defense-related research projects. As the internet’s usage expanded from military to scientific, the network’s administration was distributed to different organizations. The National Science Foundation (NSF) took over this responsibility, and the network quickly transformed into the commercially funded Internet we know today.
Today, the internet is the largest global network of computer networks. It is made up of millions of smaller domestic, academic, business, and government networks. It transports all kinds of information. The most common service on the Internet is the World Wide Web, which is used by billions of people worldwide. And in addition to providing information, the Internet has also become a vital tool for business and academic organizations. But what is its history? How did it begin?
The original version of the Internet (also known as the “Web”) was read-only. Unlike today’s Internet, Web 1.0 was not interactive and relied on physical cables to connect devices. Computers would send requests through physical cables to servers, which were like computers that store websites. The servers then retrieve that information and send it back to the computer. The entire process takes just a few seconds. In this way, the Internet was an important part of people’s daily lives.
Today, the internet is ubiquitous in urban centres. More than half of all South Africans use the Internet, and nearly half of the population in Morocco is online. This growth is largely due to mobile phones and broadband prices have halved over the last three years. Yet, the percentage of internet users in rural areas is still far lower than that of the urban areas. For example, Tanzania has between 30 and 40% of its population online while Uganda has between seven and 10% of its citizens.
The internet is not owned by any single entity, but is organized as a decentralized network of networks. Thousands of entities operate their own networks and exchange traffic with each other based on voluntary interconnection agreements. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) manages the shared technical standards that enable the web to function. Anyone can attend an IETF meeting, propose new standards, or recommend changes to existing standards. While no one is forced to adopt the IETF recommendations, their unanimous decision-making process helps ensure that the recommendations are adopted by the internet community.