The Internet has undergone rapid development. You can find out all the important steps in the history of the Internet here.

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How it all began and how the internet developed

The Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon defines the Internet as a “global, heterogeneous computer network based on the TCP/IP network protocol”. Various services, such as e-mail, chat, file transfer, World Wide Web (WWW) or, most recently in Germany, Internet telephony, are provided via the Internet.

Today our everyday life is influenced by the Internet in many ways and is supported by various Internet services. Digitization is happening at such a rapid pace that our lives are becoming ever more deeply intertwined with the Internet-based network. In fact, despite its widespread use and importance today, the Internet is a very recent invention. In the following we would like to summarize the history of the Internet in a short and simple way.

Three phases in the history of the internet

The history of the internet can be roughly divided into three phases. The first phase, the early phase, begins in the mid-1960s. The foundations of today’s technology and applications of the Internet were laid here.

The second phase of internet history followed in the 1970s and is characterized by the growth and international expansion of the internet. In addition, the Internet developed away from military to academic research funding. This phase is alternatively also referred to as the wild phase of the Internet, since the Internet was still an exchange economy for software and information and was characterized by the participation and self-organization of communities and hackers.

The commercial phase of the Internet begins in the 1990s. With the shutdown of the Arpanet, a US Air Force computer network and precursor of the Internet, the Internet was also accessible to the public. Over the years, the use of the internet and the exchange of data realized via it continued to increase, so that the internet is now an important part of our everyday life.

The Origin of the Internet

The Internet was born during the Cold War, or more precisely in 1957, when the Soviet Union launched its first satellite, Sputnik 1. The US Department of Defense feared that this would allow the Soviet Union to destroy the US intelligence system. This fear was the trigger for the planning of a computer-controlled message system, which should continue to function even if a node fails. In addition, a faster exchange of knowledge and information was also sought through such a network system.

The ARPA (Advances Research Project Agency) was founded for this purpose, which carried out initial tests with packet-switching networks and ultimately also developed the ARPAnet. ARPAnet is a decentralized computer network in which the computers are set up at different locations.

This network, which was primarily developed for military purposes, was also opened to some universities in the USA in 1965 and finally presented to the public in 1969. At that time four computers were networked within the USA and the number of connected computers grew very slowly.

The Years 1970-1988: The Foundations of Internet Communication

In the years between 1970 and 1988, the APRanet was expanded to include some important services and protocols. These new developments are still fundamental to Internet technology today and are therefore important milestones in the history of the Internet. The striking and important developments are shown in the graphic below.

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In the following years, the Internet continued to develop and then spread beyond the USA. The new network was of great importance, especially in the university area, as it was used for research purposes and for the exchange of knowledge.

In the mid-1980s, Usenet was the most widespread application on the Internet. The Usenet was developed in 1979 by Tom Truscott, Steve Bellovin and Jim Ellis and is a worldwide electronic network that represents an independent service of the Internet alongside the World Wide Web. Usenet can be described as a discussion board with various discussion forums (“newsgroups”) that function independently of ARPA. All you need is a computer running the “UNIX” operating system and a telephone connection.

With the development of the TCP network protocol (and the TCP/IP protocol that was later developed from it), the term Internet became established and the term ARPAnet, which was based on the ARPAnet protocol, was replaced.

1989-1990 years: The World Wide Web (WWW) is formed

The British physicist and computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee was an important figure in the development of the Internet. In 1989 he published the first drafts of the markup language HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), on which all websites are still based today. He also developed the HTTP protocol. HTTP enables navigation via links, so that targeted connections are made to information on other websites.

Berners-Lee also developed the URL, the first web browser and the first web server. These developments were the basis for the World Wide Web (WWW).

In 1990, the Internet became a medium suitable for the masses. This year, the National Science Foundation decided to make the Internet usable not only for research purposes, but also for commercial purposes. From now on everyone could use the internet. With the advent of the World Wide Web, the ARPAnet was shut down at the same time.

1993: The first internet browsers

Although the first internet browser was developed by Tim Berners-Lee, it did not catch on. Instead, the first mass-market Internet browser was developed by Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina in 1993. This graphics-enabled browser “Mosaic” was very popular in a short time. A short time later, Marc Andreessen founded the company Netscape together with Jim Clark, which resulted in the Internet browser Netscape Navigator.

1994: The first search engine

The development of the first search engines is a drastic development in the history of the Internet. In 1994 the first search engines Lycos and Yahoo appeared before Alta Vista in 1995 and Google in 1998 started operations. Today, the Google search engine developed by Larry Page and Sergey Brin has prevailed over its competitors and is considered the most popular search engine in Germany. This is mainly due to the fast speed and relevance of the search results, which are what Google excels at.

The year 1994 is also marked by the rise and popularity of Internet use. For the first time, the number of commercial internet users exceeded the number of scientific users.

1995-2001: The first heyday of the internet

In the years 1995 to 2001 there were no fundamental developments that changed the internet and how it works, but the internet network grew very rapidly. More and more computers were connected to each other and the number of domains registered in Germany also increased rapidly. Some of today’s most successful websites, such as Amazon and Wikipedia, launch their internet presence during this phase.

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A lot of internet companies emerged, many of which became insolvent with the stock market crash in 2000/2001. This event also ended the first heyday of the Internet.

2003 to today: The Web 2.0

After the stock market crash and the associated market shakeout, a second boom followed, which is referred to as Web 2.0. Web 2.0 does not mean serious technical innovations of the internet, but a changed perception and use of the internet.

Since 2003, the Internet has become more important than ever. The reasons for this are, in particular, new application options, services and websites that have recently emerged and are having a major impact on our lives today.

Frequently asked questions about the development of the Internet

How long has there been internet in Germany?

The development of the Internet began in the USA. There it experienced many developments until it was finally accessible outside of the USA. Just like in the USA, the Internet in Germany was initially intended for university use. Ultimately, the commercialization of the Internet in Germany began with the privatization of the third-party funded projects EUnet in Dortmund (1992) and XLINK in Karlsruhe (1993). The provider MAZ, which was founded in Hamburg in 1994, was one of the first Internet providers not to come from a university environment.

What is the Internet?

The Internet is a worldwide network that consists of a large number of computer networks and is used for data exchange. It is therefore a technical infrastructure through which various communication and information services can be offered.

What services does the Internet include?

Services offered over the Internet include the World Wide Web (WWW), Telent, Usenet, email, File Transfer Protocol (FTP), telephony, radio and television.

What exactly is the difference between the Internet and the WWW?

The difference between the Internet and the WWW is on a technical level. The Internet is a worldwide network of individual computer networks. The World Wide Web is an Internet service that enables the transmission of websites. WWW is the most commonly used Internet service and is therefore often used synonymously with the term “Internet”.

How does the WWW work?

The WWW is a collection of servers on which information is stored and which can be accessed using a software Clients, the so-called browser. When using the WWW one moves from website to website. This process is also known as surfing. Communication on the World Wide Web is based on HTTP, the Hypertext Transfer Protocol. Text, image, audio or video files are located on the HTTP server, which is generally referred to as a web server. The information is addressed with a URL and made readable through http or https.

What is HTML?

HTML, the Hypertext Markup Language, is a descriptive language that can be used to display text, images, videos and audio files in a structured manner in the browser. HTML is the format in which web pages are written.

What is a browser and how does it work?

A browser is a client that sends a request to a server on the World Wide Web via HTTP. This server then sends back the requested data. The browser can then display this data on the screen. There are numerous browsers on the market that are alternatively referred to as http clients.

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What does HTTP mean?

HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol or Hypertext Transfer Protocol. It is used to make web pages from the World Wide Web readable in a web browser.

What does HTTPS mean?

HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, translated it means something like secure hypertext transfer protocol. HTTPS is used to encrypt and authenticate communication between the web server and the browser. In general, it can be said that HTTPS ensures security on a website.

What does URL mean?

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. This is a standardized way of accessing content on websites. Each URL is associated with a unique webpage, so when the browser enters the URL, it can locate and display that particular page. Even if the terms “Internet address” or “Link” are used synonymously, they are not appropriate if the actual URL is meant.

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