The Internet — arguably one of the greatest breakthrough of the last century not just from a technological standpoint but also as a small step forward for us as human beings. It has become an integral part of our daily lives that we sometimes forget just how powerful and useful it is and that we fundamentally rely on it to perform much of the tasks we require to get things done. So, who do we thank for inventing one of the greatest tool we have today?
Much like every great invention, the Internet was born out of necessity, a way to perform tasks easier. In this case, it was to enable the communication of multiple computers at once and share information. First, to get any confusion out of the way, the Internet and the World Wide Web is not one and the same.
The Internet, in a nutshell, is a series of computers connected with one another to form a network. Multiple networks from across the globe connect with each other through TCP/IP to create a massive infrastructure where any one computer can connect and have access to.
This is where the World Wide Web comes in, which enables the access and exchange of information on the Internet through the use of fundamental elements such as HTTP, HTML, and URL which we will go into more detail in a bit. First, a little history lesson.
The First Network
One of the first ever networks was created by ARPANET or Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. At first, there was some debate as to the reasoning behind the creation of these networks some of which delve into the realm of conspiracies theories but as one of the founders of ARPANET put it, the first network was created to “optimize processor usage” or time sharing.
During the 1960s, universities and research facilities had no networks to speak of. All they had was these big machines called ‘mainframes’ that processed task one at a time. Networks were created to address this limitation by connecting multiple computers to a single mainframe to take advantage of all the potential processing power at their disposal to perform task faster and get more things done.
NPL or National Physical Laboratory came up with a methodology for data transfer across local networks called packet switching which basically sends data by dividing it into small pieces on one end and reconstructing it on the other. This is also meant that data traffic and congestion would be reduced by using this method.
Networks were starting to be developed all across the globe and with so much of existing at once, there was concerns on communication and how these networks will talk with one another and exchange data. This gave way to the creation of the Internet Protocol Suite or more commonly know as TCP/IP or Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol. As the name suggests, TCP/IP serves as a defining set of rules or guidelines on how networks across the world would communicate with one another and establishes the basic communication language on the Internet. This also ensured that data of the same type that is being sent would always reach its destination regardless of the route it takes.
Now that networks had a means of communicating with one another, one could argue that this was also the time when the Internet started its inception. It was also around this time that e-mail was invented, which is the one of the first by-product of the Internet, accounting for the majority of traffic during the early 1970s and one that still exists to this day.
Data and information was now freely communicable and accessible but it was all text-based and was very plain and dull to look at. Now on to the next hurdle, how to take all this information and transform it into something that is presentable, something that is cohesive and visually appealing.
Enter Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, the man that would change the way we use the Internet for good…
The World Wide Web
During the 1980s, Berners-Lee was working at CERN or The European Organization For Nuclear Research and there he came up with a way to make it possible for scientists to share and collaborate on their work. The interface he came up with used elements like HTTP, HTML, and URL and he called it the world wide web, which is technically the first ever internet browser and would be the foundation of the browsers that we use today, such as Chrome, Firefox, and Safari but what exactly are these elements?
These three elements make websites possible and serves as the standard model for building and accessing it. The HTTP enables communication between browser(the user) and the server(where information is stored) possible. The URL is name and location of a particular information you want to access and basically serves as the ‘address’ of the website you want to go to. HTML serves as the language of the web. Websites are written in HTML using codes and tags that sets conditions on how text and images are to be presented on a website. These tags also enables the use of hyperlink which are elements on a website that are ‘clickable’ or ‘actionable’ that directs you to other websites that are relevant to the information you are currently viewing.
Berners-Lee created the first website at CERN in August, 1991 and from that point on, the Internet saw an exponential growth. With network infrastructures in place, key technologies available and a proper way to access and share information, the Internet was ready for a global expansion and adoption. It was the age of digital communication. The Internet became workable for people all over the world and e-mail was introduced to the public.
So, the question remains, who invented the internet? If you need to point fingers, then we should thank NPL for creating packet switching to handle the transfer of data. ARPANET as one of the first creators of networks. Tim Berners-Lee for creating the world wide web. In the grand scheme of things however, much like that no one owns the Internet, no single individual was responsible for creating it.
The Internet was created by PEOPLE whose only goal was to make work and research easier and faster. To communicate better and share information. Taking what was available to them at the time and attempt to improve on it. So, thinking along the same lines, the Internet was just a by-product, a stroke of chance, a welcome consequence, the logical next step of us, human beings and our need to move forward.