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From ARPANET to Facebook: The history of the internet

Here are all of the important dates that arguably have a claim to being “the Internet’s birthday.”


Curt Hopkins


Kristen Hubby

Internet Culture

Posted on Jan 8, 2013   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 4:05 am CDT

We’ve wished the Internet a happy birthday already. Several times. But we have no plans to stop. The Internet, after all, was fired not out of the natal cannon at a specific time and place. It’s more of a process.

That’s not to say the Internet is indefinable. The first browser, for instance, is part of the Internet.

In order to help you with your party planning, we’ve put together a timeline of Internet anniversaries—all the dates that arguably have a claim to being “the Internet’s birthday.” Now you can get to building your replica of Queen Victoria’s wedding cake out of Legos for the party.

History is a continuum, but you have to decide where you’ll start and end. We could start with Vennevar Bush’s paper on the “memex” in 1945, or the creation of the voltaic pile in 1800, or the development of the alphabet, for that matter. Instead, we’ll start with the creation of ARPANET.

1958: In response to the launch by the U.S.S.R. of the Sputnik satellite the previous year, the U.S. government creates the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA).

1961: May 31. Leonard Kleinrock publishes “Information Flow in Large Computer Nets,” the first paper on packet switching, the method used for online data transmission.

1962: JCR Licklider and Welden Clark publish “On-line man-computer communication,” which outlines the idea of a “galactic network” of information.

1965: A computer at MIT’s Lincoln Lab and another at System Development Corporation in Santa Monica are linked via phone line. A computer at ARPA is added later.

1966: Lawrence Roberts publishes “Toward a Cooperative Network of Time-Shared Computers,” the first plan for ARPANET system of connected computers.

1968: July 29. ARPA requests bids for the construction of the first ARPANET.

1969: Contract to build ARPANET awarded to Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN). First four nodes created.

Sept. 2. Kleinrock, at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) establishes the first local connection between two computers, passing data directly from from one computer to another.

1971: Bob Thomas of BBN releases the first computer virus, Creeper. Ray Tomlinson sends the first computer-to-computer email.

1973: The term “Internet” appears. ARPANET makes first international connection, to University College, London.

1974: BBN introduce Telnet, the first public access public packet data service.

1975: Steve Walker creates first email service, MSG, and mailing list

1978: May 1. First spam sent by Gary Thuerk of DEC.

1979: First USENET created by Tom Truscott, Jim Ellis, and Steve Bellovin between Duke and the University of North Carolina.

1981: Dr. Larry Brilliant creates the first online community, a conferencing system to help organize the rescue of a helicopter’s passengers in Nepal. This will lead in 1985 to The Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link (The WELL), the first well-known online community.

1983: January 1. TCP/IP protocol goes live. Later, University of Wisconsin develops the first name server, leading to the domain name system. Desktop workstations introduced, some with IP networking software built in.

1986: NSFNET created, significantly increasing computing power and allowing and inspiring a dramatic increase in connectivity among educational institutions.

1988: Jarkko Oikarinen creates Internet Relay Chat (IRC).

1990: ARPANET goes dark, the NSFNET and MILNET having gradually taken over its functions since their introduction. The first device to ever be controlled by the Internet, the so-called “Internet Toaster” is hooked up. The first search engine, Archie, is developed by Alan Emtage, Peter Deutsch and Bill Heelan.

Dec. 25. Sir Tim Berners-Lee initiates a successful communication between a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and a server at CERN in Switzerland.

1991. August 6. Berners-Lee launches the World Wide Web, a system connecting TCP, hypertext and servers, and the first browser, on the world’s first website,

The first webcam, trained on the coffee pot at the Cambridge University’s computer lab in the UK, launches.

1993: National Science Foundation launches InterNIC as a registrar for domain names.

April 22. Mark Andreesen and Eric Bina develop the Mosaic browser. Adoption of the browser grows at an annual rate of 341,634 percent.

1994: January. Justin Hall creates what is arguably the first blog.

Nov. 4. First live transmission of video over the Internet, a Dutch metal concert.

1995: NSFNET transitions back to research network, the bulk of the world’s Internet traffic now carried by Internet service providers.

First mobile browser, the “Pocket Web” for the Apple Newton, created at the Telecommunications Office, a research group in Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany.

March 25. Ward Cunningham launches the first wiki and the first wiki language.

July. Jeff Bezos opens

September. Pierre Omidyar launches AuctionWeb, later eBay.

1997: Lucent develops the first telephony network, allowing for Internet phone calling.

JAVA programing language created at Sun Microsystems by Jim Gosling.

1999: June. Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker launch the first peer-to-peer file-sharing service, Napster.

2000: Internet2 deploys.

2004: February. Facebook launches.

2006: March 21. Twitter sends first tweet.

2008: NASA transmits images to and from the International Space Station at 20 million miles above the earth using  “Disruption-Tolerant Networking (DTN)” software, successfully testing the first deep space communications system based on the Internet.

2011: Social media figures heavily in communications surrounding Arab Springs revolution, and the Royal Wedding was the biggest even on the Internet through live streaming.

2012: Facebook reaches 1 billion monthly active users, 604 million of them were mobile users, with 581 million users daily on September 14.

 “Gangnam Style” by the famous South Korean singer and producer PSY becomes the first YouTube video to reach 1 billion active views on December 21.

Twitter records 500 million tweets per day in October and surpasses 200 million active users in December.

2013: The U.S. National Security Agency, otherwise abbreviated as the NSA, is revealed to be snooping on citizens and acquiring more Internet data than expected, including secret information from major Internet sites.

Both Netflix and YouTube account for more than 50 percent of the Internet’s traffic.

2014: Year of the hacks.

In April, a coding error made by OpenSSL, an encryption software that makes transactions between a computer and a secure network, in 2012 but discovered in 2014 creates a loophole making users, companies, banks, email services, social media sites and others vulnerable to having their personal and log-in information stolen. 

The “Ice Bucket Challenge” began, raising proceeds spreading awareness towards ALS by challenging others to pour a bucket of ice over their heads. The gene that causes the deadly disease was later discovered by scientists in 2016 due to the money raised.

Biggest hacks were Sony Pictures, Home Depot, JP Morgan and eBay. 

2015: Google searches from mobile devices surpass desktop searches for the first time.

On August 24 an average of 1 billion users, or scaled as 1 in 7 people, access Facebook each day.

WordPress powers and average of 25 percent of web sites as of November.

2016: Users of the short-form video app called Vine play 1,041,666 million videos as of February. Vine was later shut down by Twitter in October.

Short videos like “Damn Daniel” and the “Mannequin Challenge” gain more internet traction across social media platforms than major politicians.

Meme culture’s growth skyrockets, crowning itself king of the internet.

For a look at the Internet’s timeline in far greater detail, and from different perspectives, you may want to check out Hobbes’ Internet Timeline, Silicon Valley Historical Association’s Internet Timeline, the timeline from the Computer History Museum, Brief History of the Internet from the Internet Society, TechPresident’s Poltiics and the Internet Timeline, The Guardian’s “definitive Internet history” and Live Science’s ARPANET to the World Wide Web.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated for relevence. 

Photo by Adam Foster/Flickr

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*First Published: Jan 8, 2013, 11:00 am CST