When the World Wide Web exploded on the scene in 1993, it was heralded as a new communications utopia. It was, early champions raved, the great information equalizer, leveling the playing field between powerful corporate interests and upstart grassroots movements. Everyone?s ideas would flow effortlessly around the world, spreading values of freedom, diversity, and democracy.
Unfortunately, such idealistic visions were quickly overshadowed by the gold-rush mentality of the dot-com revolution?less a global village than a gigantic shopping mall. Perhaps mercifully, that commercial bubble burst in 2000, and many dot-coms (though not, of course, eBay and the porn sites) were forced to shutter their doors.
While the last couple years have felt like cyberspace?s
equivalent of the morning after, the Web is now bouncing back with
a new focus that looks a lot like the original idealism that
spurred its growth. We survey some of the new developments in the
The history of computers begins about 5,000 years ago in China with the invention of the abacus.
The first telegraph message, ?What hath God wrought,? is successfully sent via an iron wire stretching 37 miles between Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.
The transatlantic cable of 1858 carries instantaneous communications across the ocean for the first time.
Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone, the backbone of Internet connections today.
Responding to the Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite, the Pentagon forms the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), an organization among whose goals is to develop a computer communications network that can link strategic centers in the event of nuclear attack.
The Internet is born, as ARPA goes online in December, connecting research labs at four universities.
Computer scientist Ray Tomlinson of Cambridge, Massachusetts, invents e-mail and inaugurates the now-ubiquitous @ sign.
Queen Elizabeth II becomes the first state leader to send an e-mail.
Number of people who host Internet sites breaks 100.
Former Vice-President Al Gore coins the phrase ?information superhighway.? His father, a former senator, was a principal architect of the interstate highway system a generation earlier.
The term ?Internet? is used for the first time.
Tim Berners-Lee develops hypertext, a new technique for distributing information on the Internet, which eventually leads to the World Wide Web.
Writer Jean Armour Polly coins the phrase ?surfing the Internet.?
Number of Internet hosts breaks one million.
The World Wide Web revolution truly begins as Mosaic (which eventually develops into Netscape), makes it easy for the average person to browse the Internet and businesses and media outlets start to take notice of the Internet.
You can now order a mushroom-and-onion pizza online from Pizza Hut. The first cyberbank, First Virtual, opens for business. And The Rolling Stones broadcast the ?Voodoo Lounge? tour over the Internet.
Radio HK, the first commercial, 24 hour, Internet-only radio station starts broadcasting.
The WWW browser war begins, primarily between Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, PLO Leader Yasser Arafat, and Phillipine President Fidel Ramos meet for 10 minutes in an online interactive chat session.
On July 8, all Internet traffic records are broken as the NASA Web site broadcasts images taken by Pathfinder on Mars, generating 46 million hits in one day.
Minnesota? s third-party governor Jesse Ventura says he would not have been elected had it not been for the Internet.
?E-commerce? becomes the buzzword as Internet shopping rapidly spreads.
The number of Internet hosts reaches 150 million.
The British government is thrown for a loop when a list of MI6 special agents is leaked to a UK Web site.
The Internet bubble bursts, causing many dot-coms to close shop.
Like it or not, the market war between the two leading browsers is over?Internet Explorer is now the fully dominant one.
The first live cybermusical, The Technophobe & The Madman, debuts on the Internet.
The death knell tolls for Napster after a bankruptcy judge rules in September that a German company cannot buy the assets of the troubled file-swapping giant, prompting Napster CEO Konrad Hilbers to resign and lay off his staff.
Sources: International Data Corporation, the W3C Consortium, Nielsen/Net Ratings, the Internet Society, Hobbes? Internet Timeline