Tech - Internet
By: - at May 22, 2013

15 Interesting Facts About the Internet

web pagesIt's hard to imagine life without the Internet today. It connects us with friends and business associates around the world and allows us to share information at unprecedented speeds. In fact, without the Internet, we couldn't spend time on Facebook, YouTube, or any other online activity we have come to enjoy. The Internet was a huge game changer for business and personal lives. However, most people don't know the story behind the development of the Internet. While entire books have been dedicated to all of the stories behind the Internet and its initiation, a few are particularly interesting. What is strange to realize though is that at one point, none of these inventions existed.  So here is 15 Fascinating Facts About the Internet.

15)  Development of the Internet Started in 1960s and Continued With the Government Until the Launch
The Internet started out as an idea to transmit data through electronic signals. In fact, according to the History of MIT, the first decision to develop the Internet came about when a user attempted to type in the word "login" into the network. The network crashed because the data load related to the letter G was too big. The tech developers realized that something had to change. This was a sentiment shared throughout the burgeoning technological world.

Early ARPANet Teletype
Early ARPANet Teletype

No one thought that it would be as big as it was. It was intended initially to be nothing more than a text based service that would allow for greater freedom and memory savings. It started out though as a computer network of ARPANet linked computer networks throughout the United States. Several universities and research labs participated in this. According to the OnLine Man Computer Communication, J.C.R. Licklider's original paper in 1962, it would be possible to connect to virtually limitless networks through gateways. He developed key internal processes that led to the development of the initial ARPANet and networking. Otherwise, he cautioned that it would result in a tremendous waste of resources and space. Further developers of the ARPANet used much of his work to develop the precursor to the Internet. His successors were Robert Taylor and Lawrence Robert. In 1973, he returned to work with them for another two years. The majority of the work was funded by the government or through research facilities that received their funds from the government. NASA played a significant role in the development of the Internet and in creating the initial connections.

14)  Timothy Berners Lee Developed the Concept of the World Wide Web
Sometimes referred to as the Father or Inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Timothy John Berners Lee made his initial proposals long before implementing them. At first, most people thought his ideas were just madness. They could not imagine how they could be brought into reality. However, his first successful proposal on the Internet resulted in a beneficial and successful communication between a Hypertext Transfer Protocol client and server. This created a springboard for other developers to start building off his discovery. He termed it the worldwide web. In fact, he called it the World Wide Web Project. He made it clear from the beginning that he wanted this to be something that everyone would have access to. The purpose was not to set it aside for a few individuals or just leave it for the government.

Timothy Berners Lee, creator of the modern internet
By Silvio Tanaka (originally posted to Flickr as Tim Berners-Lee) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Sir Timothy John Berners Lee went on to be a pivotal member in the development of the worldwide web. According` to the "Berner Lee Biography," he founded the W3C company at MIT. Here he worked with other companies and professionals in the industry to develop acceptable standards and provide recommendations. The web was still in its infancy and many of the concepts had not yet been tested for the general public. One of the most remarkable things though was that he chose to make these ideas and concepts available without charge. He did not claim any patent or royalties at any point. As such, the World Wide Web Consortium, later established, decided to follow suit. The purpose would be to develop standards that anyone could use to participate on the Internet. This is one of the biggest reasons that the Internet itself does not have a charge except for the access fee that you must pay to get an Internet connection. Had he chosen to require royalties, you would have to pay a fee every time you accessed a web page.

All of his efforts did not go without notice. According to People Magazine, Queen Elizabeth II knighted him for his work in the Internet and the World Wide Web. At the 2012 Summer Olympics, he was honored as the "inventor of the world wide web." Additionally, he has been inducted into the World Wide Web Hall of Fame and received numerous awards for his work. Time Magazine also listed him in the 1999 issue of 100 Most Important People of the 20th century.

13)  The Internet Started Out as a Single Page
internet is open
The world's first website and web server went live Aug. 6, 1991. It was a simple text based page and Timothy Berners Lee published it. His purpose was to alert people to the possibility of the world wide web. He referred to it as the World Wide Web Project. Through this, he hoped that everyone would be able to one day contribute. This goal has, of course, been more than he ever hoped for. This initial website was located at It included information on hypertexts as well as the technical details required for creating a web page. It even had an explanation for how you should use the Internet to create information. It was updated regularly. The original web page was lost in the updates, but the World Wide Consortium official website retains the 1992 copy as part of its collection.

12)  The Emoticon Was Intended to Enhance Communication from the Beginning
The use of symbols to communicate feelings and emotions is nothing new. After all, all language is basically predicated on this. Traditional print publications, cave paintings, hieroglyphics, and Morse code print abbreviations are all examples of communication. The emoticons likely developed from Professor Scott E. Fahlman. His school and computer science program had been involved in the computer development and research program. One of his concerns was that it would be difficult to understand the tone or meaning of a message without vocal intonation. He then decided that certain combinations should be used to indicate emotions. The classic :-) was his initial recommendation for general happiness or humor while the :-( should indicate displeasure or sadness. He used it himself among his students.

emoticons giving thumbs up

The emoticon caught on fastest among the younger Internet users. They liked the ability to signal their emotions. However, other potential inventors have been mentioned and it's hard to know for sure who really came up with it first. Kevin MacKenzie is another commonly believed person to have developed the emoticon. He too was concerned with the inability to translate the meaning of a message without hearing the accompanying voice. His supposed emoticon was only a dash with various symbols or letters to form the mouth. No colon was used to indicate the eyes.

11)  The First File Sharing Service Was Napster in 1998
NapsterThe first standard mp3 file was developed and perfected in 1991. This led to an increased ability to listen to files. However, in 1998, Napster launched in the first massive music file sharing program ever available. This forever transformed the Internet. Ultimately Napster led to numerous lawsuits that eventually led to shutting down Napster and its free file sharing networks. Copyright and information protection laws changed in response to the lawsuit and the new behavior created by the availability of Napster and other file sharing programs. After the lawsuit, Napster was transformed and developed into an online music store.

napster press release

The biggest contribution that Napster made, however, was that it led people to realize the incredible possibilities for file sharing. It also opened up a whole new form of piracy. The Recording Industry Association of America developed extensive legal muscle that it has since used to enforce copyright claims and prevent as many file transfers as possible. Hundreds of other file sharing networks have since sprung up. The legality and illegality varies with the organization. After Napster's foray into the field, other file sharing networks arrived to offer movies as well as pictures and text documents for sharing.

10)  Spam First Started in 1978, Even Before the Official Internet Was Born
spamThe first account of spam came about in 1978. An unknown marketing team purchased a computer and operating system. One of the marketers decided that he needed to send out a mass email to all 600 users and administrators. There was no official Internet at this time. They were just using the ARPAnet and not the Internet we know today. However, the marketer typed the addresses in such a way that all that went through was a long list of user addresses. At the time though, it was not known as spam. The other coworkers were annoyed with this development.

The word spam actually comes from an urban legend relating to the 1980s multiple player online dungeon role playing games. In these games, the only method of exploration and interaction was through texting. One of the users decided that the experience was too boring. So he programmed the keyboard macros to consistently type the words "SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM" every few seconds and send to all of the players. This resulted in the system shutting down in some cases or freezing for a period of time. It not only detracted from game play but caused tremendous frustration. While this has not been confirmed, this supposedly stemmed from Monty Python's Spam Loving Vikings Sketch." Monty Python enjoyed tremendous popularity at the time, and they never denied the connection. The term soon caught on and was used to refer to unwanted or annoying messages sent to people who did not want them. The term is still used to this day.

9)  Many People Believed That the Internet Was Being Developed to Prevent a Nuclear Holocaust
One of the primary technologies and theories used to connect the different physical networks to a larger network was known as packet sharing. Paul Baran is credited with developing studies that led to the establishment of survivable networks throughout the military. The military’s relationship with the Internet was given top priority. It was revolutionized by the concept that individual segments of information could be divided into message blocks. Donald Davies agreed that this could work, and he coined the term packet sharing. This would allow for greater bandwidth utilization and increase response times. If successful, it would change the entire concept for the better.

NORAD Command Center
NORAD Command Center

The one downside to this was that the packet switching led to rigid routing structures. A common problem of these was that they would fail at particular points. Paul Baran and Tommy Krash received funds from the military to begin focus on ways to reduce network redundancy. His initial work had focused on ways to prevent nuclear holocaust scenarios. When people found out about his connection to the project, it created a panic. The association led to many concluding that a nuclear holocaust was imminent and the only salvation would be the Internet. This of course proved to be false, but it did not keep wild rumors from circulating for quite some time as well as some strange press for the world wide web.

8)  Multiple Networks Contributed to the Eventual Launch of the Internet
While ARPANet receives most of the attention, several other networks also contributed to the research and scientific development of the theories. Some of them played more minor roles while others participated in the development. Donald Davies proposed a packet switching national data network that based itself on packet switching. He developed the Mark I packet switch network with the National Physical Laboratory.

Packet Switching Network

The Merit Network of the Michigan Educational Research Information Triad wanted to explore the possibilities of computer networking on a larger scale. According to the official Merit Network site, they connected the University of Michigan with the Wayne State University. Others soon followed. It allowed remote submissions and terminal support as well as batch connections and interactive file transfers.

Inspired by the ARPANet design but wanting to see what some of the alternatives were, Louis Pouzin developed the CYCLADES. This packet switching provided a number of networks to serve as alternative host. This package design was the first network that made hosts responsible for data delivery. It created greater reliability and developed some of the more common protocol mechanisms that still provide guidance today. To this day, the host is responsible for the data delivery, and protocols have been established to maintain those requirements.

7)  Internet is Actually Just a Simplified Term
The official term used to describe the activity was inter networking or inter system networking. The word "Internet" first appeared on the "Internet Transmission Control Program" booklet in December 1974. The original term referred to what it was being used for. However, as time passed, more and more people started referring to it simply as the Internet.

Early Interface Message Processor or "Node"
Early Interface Message Processor or "Node"

For a time, Internet and internetworking were used interchangeably. Then in the late 1980s, the term "Internet" became accepted as the general network name. By the 1990s, few people even knew that there had been another reason for the name. However, developers still referred to certain programs by their appropriate names rather than lumping everything into one general "Internet" term pot.

6)  The Internet Development Raised Concerns of a Global Digital Divide
International Telecommunications Union When the Internet first began to become popular, a number of organizations and interest groups had concerns. Once the fears of a nuclear holocaust had passed, most agreed that the internet would be an invaluable addition to the way we communicate. It seemed that it was something that the entire world should have access to. The International Telecommunications Union describes Internet and informational access as being as key to freedom and global rights as the right to live free. However, technological and infrastructural divides led to a digital divide that separated large segments of Africa and Asia, as well as certain portions of South America from Internet access.

These countries and regions were not sitting around doing nothing. According to the New Partnership for Africa's Development website, a number of programs were developed around the time of the USAIDInternet's launch to develop the necessary technological infrastructure to support the Internet. The United States Agency for International Development was launched in 1996 to assist in helping to create better lives and better economic conditions. As its official website states, the United States Agency for International Development had significantly more responsibilities and goals than just providing Internet access. Its purpose included economic as well as humanitarian goals intended to benefit all nations, particularly the third world ones. In 1996, it partnered with the Leland Initiative, which focused on establishing Internet infrastructure in Madagascar, Rwanda, Guinea, and Mozambique.

5)  Commercial Activity Was Forbidden at First
e-commerceInitially, no Internet service providers existed. However, toward the end of the 1980s and before the launch of the first web page, companies began forming to provide internal services for companies and businesses. This meant that they provided services for regional research networks as well as UUCP based email systems. Later on in 1992, Congress passed the Scientific Advanced Technology Act, 42 U.S.C. 1862. This permitted commercial interactivity, even if the organization was a research laboratory or an education community.

This new law created a surge of Interest. Most importantly, it led to a growth in private ownership and infrastructure. However, the irony that developed out of this was that the Internet has no true central law. As frequently discussed in the Journal of Internet Law, individual countries can regulate content on their pages to a certain extent. However, no central body of law functions or restricts access. The government's decision to step back and allow commercial activity permitted the growth that led to the Internet becoming such a thriving and ever growing organization.

growth and sucess of the internet

The commercialization of technology and inclusion of private organizations allowed the Internet to grow as fast as it has.

4)  The Term "Internet" Had to be Officially Accepted
Since the term "Internet" was just a made up word, it had to be officially accepted. It didn't matter that by the mid 1990s, no one had ever thought of calling it anything else. However, the Federal Networking Council met to determine whether it was appropriate to officially call it the "internet."

i love the internet

This was not a small matter, since it was about far more than just whether it should be referred to as the Internet. What was more important was that the council came up with a definition that satisfied everyone. This was important due to some of the different operating systems and protocols that had been developed. Even though the Internet was quite young, it had already exploded and grown by leaps and bounds by 1995. They hammered out an extensive definition that most everyone could agree upon and that would provide sufficient guidelines. After Oct. 24, 1995, this became the official name for the Internet. The definition has not been updated since that time.

3)  The Developers Believed That the Internet Would Never Stop Changing
One of the few things that all of the Internet developers firmly believed was that once this system developed, it would never stop changing. This was partially due to the purpose of the Internet and its predecessors. An information transmitting system that would allow for group interaction could not ever remain fully static.

internet is always changing and evolving
By Dr. Avishai Teicher via Wikimedia Commons

 Most of the initial documents and research relating to the Internet's release all inferred or specifically discussed the fact that the Internet would change significantly in the upcoming years. The Internet followed that pattern, expanding in ways that no one ever anticipated. Current trends indicate that the Internet is continuing to change such as the wider and deeper inclusion of social media and the transformation of information packaging. Internet specialists now work to be ahead of the curve and to anticipate what the new trends will be.

2)  Modern Email Appeared Shortly After the Advent of the Internet

Inventor of Email, Ray Tomlinson:
Ray Tomlinson the creator of email

Inter-connective messages could be transmitted long before the Internet became official. After all, that was part of the reason that the idea for the Internet even started. However, electronic mail or email did not exist in the form we understand it today. Modern email did not appear until around 1993. The first email messaging systems actually required that both the sender and the recipient be online in a delayed form of instant messaging. The modern email was actually an evolution from natural messaging systems that were already being developed.

While the first official modern email is not credited as appearing until approximately 1993, the official father of email is a man named Ray Tomlinson. He developed it in 1972 when he chose to include the @ symbol in the message to indicate sending. He then developed a system to make sure that it got to the right system. This was not, of course, widely available. His research and development came into use primarily in 1993 and beyond.

email button

Soon more people had access to the Internet and wanted to use email. Before this, the military and government related programs used this service primarily. Despite the rise of social media options, email is still considered one of the most important components of the Internet and to Internet communication.

1)  The Theory of Internet and Computer Viruses Predated the Internet

Where did Internet Viruses come from? This guy here:

John von Neumann published a paper known as the Theory and Organization of Complicated Automata. This is credited as being one of the primary documents that provided the foundation for later computer viruses and Internet viruses. Von Neumann's actual goal in this was to develop a self-reproducing computer program that would be beneficial, but subsequent developers found that it could be used to corrupt data and files. According to "Computer Viruses and Data Protection," this was quite disturbing for John von Neumann. Hackers and those who wanted to see if they could beat the new systems or hack into the systems to get to classified information, used his research as a guide. His work was then expanded and developed. The first virus is supposed to have been released into the Internet in the early 1990s. The first real anti-virus program on the other hand, was developed in the 1980s. But anti-virus software was not released or feasible for mass production until a few years after the first virus started attacking the Internet.





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