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The Web at 40: How the world got wired Add to ...

Oct. 29, 1969, 10:30 p.m., Pacific Time The Internet is born ... and promptly crashes. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency were trying to figure out a way to combine physically distant computers into one virtual network. Exactly 40 years ago today, the first such network - called Arpanet - was established between machines at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Stanford Research Institute. The first message transmitted was supposed to be the word "login." The baby network got through "l" and "o" without trouble, but crashed at "g." By the end of 1969, the Internet was four computers old. Within that fledgling circuitry lay the groundwork for what would become, just a few decades later, one of the most important tools in human history.

GLOBAL INTERNET USAGE, as of June 30, 2009







LOCATION

% Per cent of regional population

Millions of users

WORLD

24.7%

1.6 billion

NORTH AMERICA

73.9%

251.7 million

LATIN AMERICA/ CARIBBEAN

30.0%

175.8 million

MIDDLE EAST

26.7%

74.5 million

ASIA

18.5%

704.2 million

OCEANIA/ AUSTRALIA

60.1%

20.8 million

AFRICA

6.7%

65.9 million

EUROPE

51.7%

375.9 million



The 1970s

In which nobody seems to be able to agree on anything.

The seventies marked the spread of Arpanet to universities across the United States. But around the world, various researchers, government agencies and businesses were busy creating similar networks of their own, using various technical specifications. So rather than one Internet, a series of mini-nets emerged. The 1970s also saw the birth of electronic mail. Although initially offered almost exclusively to businesses, e-mail would see many of its defining characteristics built in this decade, including the use of the @ symbol in addresses and the creation of reply and forward functions. By the end of the seventies, the Internet's slow shift from research and business tool to consumer staple was beginning - first, with the introduction of the modem. Just as the decade came to a close, Compuserve broke new ground by offering an e-mail service to the masses.

The 1980s

In which the Internet's true usefulness - as a place for angry people to yell at each other - becomes clear.

Despite competing network technologies around the world, more and more researchers rallied around the TCP/IP network protocol championed by Arpanet. Eventually, this protocol would become the backbone of the Internet. But even before the World Wide Web revolutionized the idea of global community, the first fledgling social networks were beginning to form. Faster modems in the 1980s made it easier to visit and contribute to Bulletin Board Systems - terminals where computer users could log in and connect. In effect, such systems were the very first social networks. In 1982, the first emoticon was born, when a user suggested what's commonly known today as the sideways happy-face as a means to mark a joke. Towards the end of the decade, a developer in Finland built the world's first Internet Relay Chat client and server - the precursor to many of today's chat programs.



TOP LANGUAGES USED ON THE INTERNET







Language

Millions of users

Growth 2000-'09

Arabic

49.3

1,862%

Russian

38

1,126%

Chinese

361.3

1,109%

Portuguese

73

864%

Spanish

133

631%

French

76.9

531%

English

478.7

237%

German

65.2

136%





The 1990s

In which adding '.com' to the end of your company's name instantly increases its stock price tenfold.

The World Wide Web as it is known today was born during the 1990s. The first Web page went online in 1991. Its purpose was simple: to explain what a Web page is. The Web works in large part because of the underlying concept of hypertext, which allows users to move from one page to another by clicking on links. Soon, users began downloading Web browsers such as Netscape Navigator, and the Web revolution spurred exponential growth - there were about 300,000 computers on the Net at the beginning of the decade, and more than 52 million by the end. The rapid growth created one of the biggest economic bubbles in recent memory. Web startups, often with no profit or discernible business plan, began building massive market capitalizations on the back of soaring stock prices.

The 2000s

In which phrases like, "I can haz cheezburger?" gain strange currency.

As the new millennium began, the tech bubble burst and billions of dollars were wiped from the market. While the Internet's underlying infrastructure began life as a tool for researchers and businesses, the Web's most important inventions during the 2000s were almost all predominantly aimed at consumers first - from Wikipedia to Facebook to Skype. Google emerged as the Web's major hub company, at the centre of how users find information online. Web 2.0 companies began springing up, selling everything from T-shirts to virtual real estate, thanks to the relatively low cost of starting a business on the Internet. Even as the Internet became the focal point of much of the world's innovation and a powerful political tool for politicians and dissidents alike, it became a more trivial place, thanks to the rise of the meme. From a video of a Quebec teen swinging a makeshift light-sabre to pictures of cats with bizarre misspelled captions to Kanye West interrupting people, it seems everyone and everything can rack up 15 minutes of virtual fame.

EXPONENTIAL CONNECTIVITY





At its birth, the Internet was composed of just two 'hosts' - the technical term for computers connected to the network. In the 40 years since, roughly 700 million more machines have joined the party. That's more than two computers every second during the first 40 years of the Internet's life. But that meteoric growth has been anything but linear. For more than 30 years, the Internet was an abstract thing for most people, a domain for researchers and tech-heads. This decade alone, the number of computers on the Net has soared from about 93 million to 700 million.



YEAR

Number of computers on the Net

1969

4

1970

13

1975

62

1980

188

1985

1,961

1990

313,000

1995

6,642,000

2000

93,047,785

2005

394,991,609

2009 (to July)

681,064,561

CARRIE COCKBURN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL / SOURCES: GRAPHIC NEWS, GUARDIAN.CO.UK

 

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