Some of us are old enough to remember life without the internet – and what a boring life it was, devoid of the wonders of memes, free music downloads, unspeakable filth, trolls and social media.
Well, now the internet is officially edging towards middle age: today it turned 25 years old, and to celebrate we thought we’d take you on a skip through some of its most important milestones.
Tim Berners-Lee (pictured at the top of the page) makes the world’s first website, info.cern.ch, publicly available on the internet.
The University of Illinois releases Mosaic, the first browser capable of displaying images on the same page as text.
Excite, Lycos and Yahoo! allow people to search the full text of web documents, and web surfing is born.
Netscape Navigator launches and quickly becomes the most popular browser – in large part because of its innovative approach, rendering the text of web pages before all the images had downloaded. The codebase is later used by Mozilla for the development of Firefox.
Microsoft includes Internet Explorer as part of an upgrade for Windows 95. The browser wars begin, and Netscape ultimately loses.
Sergey Brin and Larry Page begin work on a new search technology called PageRank. Google starts here.
Hotmail (now Outlook.com), arguably the world’s first widespread web-based email service, is launched by Microsoft.
a/s/l? ICQ becomes the first modern instant messaging service, although IRC had been around since 1988.
Richard Garriott’s Ultima Online, the first subscription-based graphical MMORPG, launches. In 2007, Garriott becomes the sixth space tourist. The two events are not unrelated.
Shawn Fanning creates Napster, a hub for sharing songs with strangers. The music industry hasn’t recovered.
Tech stocks on the NASDAQ Composite Index reach a record high. Days later, the dotcom bubble bursts: they fall 10 per cent.
Mark Bush becomes the first person in the UK to have broadband installed at home – a Telewest ADSL connection. Before that, Bush had been spending £300 a month on dial-up internet.
Bram Cohen releases the BitTorrent protocol onto the web, making file sharing faster and harder to track.
First 3G service launched by NTT Docomo in Japan. Smartphone shipments overtook desktop PCs at the end of 2010.
Mark Zuckerberg launches Facebook. It’s not the first social network, but it soon becomes the definitive one.
Blizzard Entertainment launches World of Warcraft, which quickly established itself as the world’s most popular and best known MMO. As of July 2013, WoW had over seven million subscribers, and Blizzard claims it has generated US$2.3 billion in subscriber revenue since launch.
Inspired by the difficulty of finding clips of Janet Jackson’s infamous Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” online, three PayPal employees launch a video sharing site called YouTube.
Twitter goes live. By 1st January 2011, a record 6939 tweets per second are sent.
Google launches the beta version of its own web browser, Chrome. Chrome was the first browser to unite the address bar and search bar into a single “Omnibox”, saving us all a lot of time.
WikiLeaks releases a tranche of American diplomatic cables, including documents marked “Secret” and “Confidential.”
The last IPv4 addresses are assigned.
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden alerts the world to the widespread use of internet surveillance programs by US government agencies.