25 Years of World Wide Web

Cape Times (South Africa), March 23, 2010 | Go to article overview

25 Years of World Wide Web


BYLINE: Rhodri Marsden

LAST WEEK saw the 25th anniversary of the registration of the domain name Symbolics.com. Granted, it's not particularly catchy, and to this day it's renowned for nothing other than being the first. But it unwittingly became the eldest brother of a phenomenon that profoundly changed the world.

It's not clear exactly what prompted a Massachussetts software company to contact the US Department of Defence - which was, at that time, responsible for administering the internet - and ask for it. It certainly couldn't have had any idea of the revolution that was to come - indeed, the world wide web was still more than five years away, and the internet was merely a network of computers used primarily for research purposes. But Symbolics.com pre-dated every other domain that we now type every day.

1985 - Symbolics.com is registered, with Bbn.com and Think.com making up the first three dotcoms.

1986 - Xerox snapped up theirs in January, followed by IBM in March and Boeing in September. At this stage, the concept of using the internet for commercial purposes was still unheard of.

1987 - Apple, just as it was launching its groundbreaking SE computer, registered Apple.com in February - again, without much of a clue of its future potential.

1988 - Robert Morris, a student at Cornell University writes the first notable computer "worm", supposedly to gauge the size of the internet at that time (some 60 000 computers, as it turned out).

1989 - The World becomes the first company to offer dial-up internet access to the American public. In March, Compuserve makes its first links to the internet, allowing the receipt and transmission of e-mail messages.

1990 - The first search engine, Archie, is written by Alan Emtage, a computer science student at the university of Montreal.

1991 - June sees the first use of the term "surfing" in relation to the internet by Brendan Kehoe, an Irish software developer.

1992 - With the web still in its infancy, Demon Internet is launched in the UK. In the US, 11 newspapers already have an online presence.

1993 - With the web's commercial potential recognised by Congress, control of the internet shifts from the US Department of Defence to the National Science Foundation. April sees two big developments: the web's first "killer application" is released, the Mosaic web browser; and Cern renounces intellectual property rights to the web, ensuring it's free for all. In September, AOL grants its customers access to Usenet. Hardline geeks were appalled, but the web exploded in popularity.

1994 - The UK starts to wise up. HM Treasury makes its first appearance online this year, as does Bbc.co.uk, while Eva Pascoe opens world's first cybercafe, Cyberia, in London in September. October sees two big firsts: Stanford Federal Credit Union steals a march on the banking sector by being the first to offer online banking. Netscape is launched.

1995 - The year kicks off with the news that a cult website, Jerry and David's Guide To The World Wide Web, has chosen a more memorable name in Yahoo.com. In April, Compuserve subscribers finally get access to the world wide web. Microsoft releases the first version of Internet Explorer. In September, eBay is launched under the name AuctionWeb.

1996 - The frantic scrabble for domain names shows signs of getting out of control, with tv.com changing hands for $15 000, while May sees the debut of Future Splash Animator; this will eventually become known as Flash and add a dynamic side to the web. The summer brings another first: Hotmail.

1997 - Two more future web giants are born in September. …

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