Key Dates on the Internet

Click here for a Snapshot of the Internet's Current Hierarchy.

Click here for further Background of its History.

1969. 4 mainframe hosts. US Dept of Defense employ Defense Contractors Bolt Beranek and Newman to build and provide ongoing support for the first computer packet-switching network running between the Stanford Research Institute at Menlo Park, 40 kms south of San Francisco, and the research departments at the Universities of Los Angeles (UCLA), Santa Barbara (UCSB) and Utah (UU). The network is called the ARPANET - from the words Advanced Research Projects Agency.

That same year, NASA landed on the moon twice with the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12....
 
Click here for a moment by moment timeline of first trip, with photos, a major example of mankind's ingenuity when many work together. Click here for a "plain-text" explanation of the CM (Command Module) and its docking with the LM (Lunar Module) just after each launch.
On the CM and LM there were two computers called Apollo Guidance Computers which could multi-task eight jobs with one 1.024 mhz processor, four 16-bit registers, 2kb of main memory, and 32kb of storage memory. They were comparable to early home computers in the late 1970s. Click here for more background to that Klaxon alarm and the five system reboots (error 1202) that occurred in four minutes on that tiny onboard computer during the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Click here for an account of the Apollo 13 trip the following year, a trip when the oxygen tank exploded on the Service module when the astronauts were halfway there, and how they got home, again with photos. Another amazing account of mankind's ingenuity, along with many prayers.
 

1971. Back to the Internet. 20 mainframe hosts. Bolt Beranek and Newman establish the Email program using the following protocol Username @ Hostname

1972. Louis Pouzin who had invented the original "shell script" run in a command line interpreter back in 1963, now designs the datagram for use in Cyclades, a packet switching network based in France.

1973. 40 hosts now connected to the ARPANET with satellite links to London and Norway. All Hostnames are registered at Stanford. Drawing on Louis Pouzin's ideas, work on a new system employing new TCP/IP protocols commences. Jon Postel 1943-1998, a researcher at UCLA, oversees a Request for Comments — RFC — Editor to document these Transmission Control Protocols (TCP ports), and Internet Protocols (IP addresses). His base became the University of Southern California (USC)'s Information Sciences Institute in Los Angeles in 1977. In 1988 he formally established the phrase IANA — the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority — with himself providing the central co-ordination functions of the Internet. Following his death in 1998 IANA became a part of ICANN, see further details below.

1980. 200 hosts. IP version 4 protocol is released, a fundamental protocol which allows for up to 4 billion individual IP addresses 0.0.0.0 - 255.255.255.255 and up to 65535 TCP port numbers. The US National Science Foundation now creates a second core network for institutions that have no access to ARPANET. Three Computer Science depts initially join. Vinton Cerf comes up with a plan for the inter-network connection between the CSNET and the ARPANET.

1982. A modified Coke machine at Carnegie Mellon University becomes the first Internet-connected "smart" device on record, able to report on its inventory and whether newly loaded drinks were cold. Note that the phrase itself, IoT (Internet of Things) would have to wait until 1999 before it was placed on record.

1983. 500 hosts. At the start of this year, US Dept of Defense make TCP/IP protocols mandatory on every host mainframe. The University of California in Berkeley include a modified version of TCP/IP in their commercial release of BSD UNIX. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in conjunction with DEC and IBM computers, use TCP/IP when developing a campus-wide model of distributed computing. They call it a client/server system, meaning that the client computers always initiate the communications by sending requests, and server computers subsequently respond to the requests, providing the client with the desired data or an informative reply. It thus differed from the centralized approach, where one mainframe computer was dominant.

At the same time, numerous defense contractor networks and other university networks establish gateways to the ARPANET / CSNET. The ARPANET continues to be administered by Bolt Beranek and Newman under contract to the Defense Data Network's Network Information Center (DDN-NIC) at Stanford, and the CSNET by the National Science Foundation. Now being called the Internet — from internetworking — connecting networks regardless of their different individual protocols to these network backbones and thus indirectly to each other. Note, at this time unrelated commercial use of the Internet was strictly forbidden.

1985. 2,000 hosts within 100 networks. The Domain Name System introduced to simplify the sending of email which is now the major application on the Internet. Each computer's Hostname now includes a domain name. Information on a Hostname's associated IP address now stored locally within each computer network's Name Server(s), and just the domain name and the IP address(es) of the Name Server(s) registered in a Top Level Domain registry (TLD) - currently there are 1511. Initial TLDs are .arpa, .mil, .gov, .org, .edu, .net and .com. All domain registrations are overseen by the Defense Data Network at Stanford except .edu registrations which come under Jon Postel at USC. These generic domains are being given out for free, along with free IP address blocks.

1986. 5,000 hosts. With the introduction of Country Code Top Level Domains, this registry system is significantly decentralized. Melbourne University in Australia given responsibility by the DDN-NIC for overseeing registrations in the .au domain. In the US, the National Science Foundation builds a third backbone network, the NSFnet, with high speed links to university networks right around the country.

1987. 25,000 hosts. The first email from China to Germany occurred, via the CSNET.

1988. 50,000 hosts. Merit Network, a non-profit company made up of a consortium of Michigan universities in Ann Arbor Michigan partnering with IBM and MCI, upgrades the NSFnet from 56Kbps to 1.5Mbps. Over 170 campus networks come online to the NSFnet. It takes over backbone duties from the ARPANET.

1989. 100,000 hosts and 4,000 domain names. CERN — the world's largest particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland — comes online to the NSFnet, also JUNET — Japan's University Network. The first commercial ISP — The World — begins selling file copying access to private dial-up accounts.

1990. 200,000 hosts and 10,000 domain names. The ARPANET, having been fully overtaken and replaced by the NSFnet, is decommissioned and dismantled. The National Science Foundation starts a series of workshops and studies to enable the transition of the NSFnet to private industry. In preparation for this, Merit, partnering again with IBM and MCI, forms Advanced Network & Services (ANSnet) which over the next two years upgrades the NSFnet backbone from 1.5Mbps to 45Mbps.

1991. 500,000 hosts and 15,000 domain names. Network Solutions – a private company based in Washington DC – is appointed by Defense Dept to administer the TLD root zone file to establish those organizations worldwide who are responsible for each country's TLD registry. Also to work with Jon Postel in administering the generic domain registrations, .com, .org, etc.

1992. 1 million hosts and 20,000 domain names. Tim Berners-Lee at CERN demonstrates a newly written WorldWideWeb browser program (later called Nexus) communicating via his HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocols) with a computer database at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) at Stanford University. The simplicity and effectiveness of his protocols for "surfing" the Internet and exchanging information results in a rapid uptake of his technology and the World Wide Web is born.

1993. 2 million hosts. 25,000 domain names and 600 www sites. The National Science Foundation takes over funding responsibility for the Internet from the Dept of Defense. Private companies are becoming involved everywhere.

In November that year, Mosaic, the first web browser for Windows 3.1 is officially launched by the National Centre for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) part of the University of Illinois. Written by Marc Andreessen, it displayed image files inline with text data instead of displaying them in a separate window, a major improvement.
In December 1994 Marc wrote a new browser program, the Netscape Navigator, with Netscape evolving into Mozilla Firefox in 2002.

Back to 1993. This same year, IANA issues the Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) with an initial 4 million IP addresses to allow it to become a regional IP address registry, using volunteer labour and donated facilities from a number of countries. Initially based in Tokyo.

Over to Australia.

1994. Back to 1994. 3 million hosts. 50,000 domain names and 10,000 www sites. Beijing, China comes online as the Institute of High-Energy Physics (IHEP) in Beijing connects to the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. ANSnet is sold to America Online (AOL). Numerous government institutions and commercial providers in the U.S. create their own backbones and interconnections on the Internet, preparing for an orderly transition.

1995. 5 million hosts. 100,000 domain names with an equal number of www sites. The NSFnet is dissolved on April 30, 1995. The high quality commercial networks (Tier 1 networks) including AT&T, Sprint, ANSnet, UUNet and others have formed a mesh network (rather than a single backbone network), interconnecting with each other on a settlement free basis i.e. no fees charged by the receiving network, known as peering.

In August 1995, Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser was released as an "add-on" pack to Windows 95, costing $49.99. In August 1996, it was bundled with Windows 95 at no charge and by 2003 it had a 95% usage share of the browser market world wide.

1996. 10 million hosts. 500,000 domain names / www sites.

1997. 20 million hosts. 1 million domain names / www sites.

A Norwegian browser, Opera, is launched on Windows. The following year the company commences a project to port Opera to a multitude of platforms including Smartphones and Game machines e.g. Nintendo.

1998. US Dept of Commerce takes over responsibility for the Internet from the NSF. They contract with ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) – a non-profit corporation based in Los Angeles – to oversee IANA. This includes regulating the root zone file which establishes those organizations responsible for the TLD registries. Twelve organizations publish this file and it is maintained by one of them, initially Network Solutions, then Verisign – based in Reston Virginia – who purchased Network Solutions in 2000. Verisign was to retain responsibility for the .com and .net TLD registries, and also temporarily the .org (non-profit) registry.

1999. Wi-Fi: In August 1999 the Wi-Fi™ IEEE 802.11 alliance was formed to provide a high-speed wireless local area networking standard covering short distances, about 25 square metres from the router inside a building, utilizing each device's MAC address as its unique identifier. Additional access points, along with switching and cabling to the router, enabled large shopping centres to increase their coverage. In June 2001, WiMAX™ IEEE 802.16 Forum offered extended outside coverage, up to 50 kms from each base station. Awkwardly, it was unable to counter the mass rollout of 4G that came in 2009 (see next paragraph). In 2020, while free Wi-Fi proliferates everywhere, WiMAX subscribers worldwide number, perhaps, just in the tens of millions.

2000. GPRS, 3G, 4G, 5G: In June 2000 GPRS General Packet Radio Service was commercially launched at 56Kbps on a GSM mobile phone network in the UK, followed by a China network in August. Rather than the MAC address, it utilized info on the phone's SIM card as its unique identifier at each base station.
In 2002, the mobile wireless standards body 3GPP 3rd Generation Partnership Project released their framework for mobile technology worldwide. Using increased bandwidth, 3G was implemented on W-CDMA Wideband CDMA networks running at 384Kbps, with the option of faster speeds again using HSDPA. Yes, lots of initials.
In 2009, newer 4G technology with at least two LTE Long Term Evolution antennas increased the speed again, up to 10-fold.

In November 2019, 4G subscribers worldwide number 4 billion, 3G 2 billion, 2G 2 billion, and 5G (see below) just 13 million.
On 17 October 2017, Qualcomm announced its first 5G mobile connection (yes, much faster again) having a speed of 1 Gbps. But needing new phones with additional 5G aerials, and many new towers, yet to be built.
On 28 May 2019, Telstra launched its first 5G mobile phone plans in Australia with a Samsung Galaxy S10.
Click here for its latest news.

Back to 2000.
2000-2001. 100 million hosts. 40 million domain names. The Southern Cross Cable — a network of trans-Pacific telecommunications cables between Sydney, New Zealand, and California — is built and supported by Telecom New Zealand / AAPT now TPG - 50%, Singtel (Optus) - 40%, Verizon - 10%. Overseas transmission costs — previously by satellite — drops by a factor of twenty-five, i.e. from 25 cents per megabyte to one cent (and less) per megabyte. Telstra subsequently invests heavily in the Australia-Japan Cable, it becomes operational in 2001.

2003. The Public Interest Registry – a non-profit organization in Reston Virginia – takes over responsibility for the .org domain from Verisign.
This same year a system was released to allow domain names to contain foreign characters. A special syntax called Punycode was developed to employ the prefix "xn--" in the domain label and encode any foreign characters within the label from Unicode into a unique ASCII address — e.g. the chinese character 中.org (pronounced "zhong" meaning "middle") would thus find itself encoded on name servers worldwide as http://xn--fiq.org.

Also this year the Apple Safari browser is launched on the iMac to replace Internet Explorer. It used the Webkit engine that had been earlier used in the Blackberry smartphone browser and the Nokia smartphone browser (for Symbian), both launched previously in 2002.

2007. The Apple iPhone is launched, a 2G smartphone but having much more screen space. With the 3G release the following year, its faster performance (as well) meant it rapidly outsold all the other smartphones, including the Blackberry, Nokia, and various Windows Mobile devices.

2008. In September 2008 the Google Chrome browser is released, running on Windows. It steadily took over the desktop browser market share from Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Also in September 2008, Google's first Android smartphone, the HTC Dream is released. The Samsung Galaxy, running on Android, followed in June 2009. The Android operating system steadily took over the market share of smartphones worldwide, from Apple.

2010. Punycode is extended to enable its foreign character feature inside the top level domains. Click here for the latest list.

2016. In October 2016, ICANN's governance transitioned to that of a private corporation having a multistakeholder model.

2020. There are now 904 million hosts reached via a global routing table referencing 440,000 networks covering 92,000 Autonomous Systems (AS) serviced by the several hundred backbone Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that make up the core of the Internet, overseen by five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs). There are now 360 million domain names, with the .com domain registry — administered by Verisign — containing 147 million names, the .cn domain — administered by the Chinese Government's appointee CNNIC — 17 million names, and the .au domain — administered by Australian Government appointee AuDA — 3 million names.

Click here for a real world example of a domain name, its IP address, and different prefixes enabling distant routers to drill down to its network.

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