The internet is something we all take for granted today. It has become so ubiquitous that the United Nations has tried to classify it as a fundamental human right, alongside food and shelter, such is its importance in the world today. Yet this astonishing feature of our lives, which now reaches approximately 1.9 billion people or a quarter of the world, is younger than most of you reading this today and has its humble beginnings in the early 1990s with British engineer, Tim Berners-Lee.
Although early structures existed in the 70s and 80s, primarily for military use and the term itself was coined in 1982, the internet really kicked off when the World Wide Web (WWW) and web pages were created in 1991. On 6th August, Lee created the first web page, which although basic, sparked something that would go on to change the world.
Progress was slow however, literally. Many of you will have grown up with the painstakingly slow agony of dial-up internet. Compared to today, you could achieve almost nothing other than view the odd page, and maybe if you were lucky, the occasional multiplayer game. It was still at this time, quite a novel experience, and generally avoided by the majority of people, who had almost no technological know-how at this time. I certainly remember my parents being quite confused by how the thing actually worked. As long as there was a searing, shrill high-pitched tone representing the connection, then things were working ok. There was the added misery of nobody actually being able to use the phone and the internet connection at the same time, to the dismay of many households worldwide. By the turn of the century, gradually our connections were upgraded to broadband, and the vast opportunities of the internet were available for us to enjoy, exploit, and be entertained by.
Despite its early setbacks, we still had the creation of massive firms based primarily on the internet for the very first time. eBay and Amazon both began as fledgling sites during the middle of the decade, capturing a market that had not yet existed and revolutionised the way we bought and sold goods, in addition to the way we thought about shopping. The creation of Google and Yahoo radically changed the way we used and accessed sites around the internet, while Napster was the pioneer of music sharing systems, of which many current programs base themselves on. It is so entwined in all that we do today, it is hard to think how we did live without it.
Over time, people got more accustomed to the internet. Older generations, who were certainly more sceptical about its practicalities generally, saw its advantages and it is no longer the preserve of the youth. This accessibility led to what is known as the ‘dot-com bubble’, where people with little economic experience invested millions into the internet sector, which eventually led to a whole variety of companies going bust in early 2000.
Today, we can see the internet wherever we look. It’s in our homes, schools, workplaces, shopping centres and our phones. Many people earn a living by the internet, and if it was to suddenly disappear, the world would come to a standstill. Despite all this progress, the internet that we know today, is a child of the 1990s.