Brief history of the internet

The history of the internet is a fascinating story of how various computer networks around the world were interconnected to form a global system of communication and information exchange.

Timeline in brief


The origins of the internet can be traced back to the 1950s, when the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union created a need for a reliable and resilient communication system that could survive a nuclear attack.


The idea of a universal network that could connect different computers and users was developed by J. C. R. Licklider at the U.S. Department of Defence’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in the early 1960s.

Watercolour artwork image of a 1960’s mainframe terminal

The first computer network that used packet switching, a technique that breaks data into small blocks and sends them across different routes, was proposed by Paul Baran at the RAND Corporation in 1964, and independently by Donald Davies at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in 1965.

The first operational packet-switched network was the ARPANET, which was launched by ARPA in 1969 with four nodes at UCLA, Stanford, UCSB, and Utah. The ARPANET was designed to allow researchers to share computing resources and data across long distances.


The ARPANET adopted the TCP/IP protocol, which was developed by Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf in the 1970s, and enabled different networks to communicate with each other using a common set of rules. This led to the emergence of the internet as a network of networks.


The Domain Name System (DNS), which assigns human-readable names to numerical IP addresses, was introduced in 1983 by Paul Mockapetris and Jon Postel. This made it easier for users to access websites and services on the internet.

The first email service on the internet was developed by Ray Tomlinson in 1971, who also introduced the use of the ‘@’ symbol to separate the user name from the host name. Email became one of the most popular applications of the internet.

Artwork: email

The World Wide Web, which is a system of interlinked documents and multimedia that can be accessed through a web browser, was invented by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN in 1989. Berners-Lee also created the first web server, web browser, and web page.

1990’s and 2000’s

The first graphical web browser that popularized the use of the web was Mosaic, which was developed by Marc Andreessen and his team at NCSA in 1993. Mosaic later evolved into Netscape Navigator, which competed with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer in the browser wars.

The growth of the internet in the 1990s and early 2000s was driven by various factors, such as the development of home computers, broadband connections, search engines, online platforms, ecommerce, social media, and mobile devices.

The internet has revolutionized many aspects of human society, such as communication, education, entertainment, business, politics, culture, and science. 

It has also raised various challenges and issues, such as security, privacy, censorship, digital divide, net neutrality, cybercrime, and cyberwarfare.

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