Have you ever wondered how long it took to create the internet or who is considered the Father of the Internet? When we think of the internet, we think of requests disappearing into “a cloud”, where a response usually is returned. But the idea was just beginning in the 1960s. J.C.R. Licklider of MIT was the first person to float the idea of networked computers that could be used to share data over a distance. By 1965, a computer at MIT in Massachusetts was able to connect to a computer at Stanford in California. And, the precursor to the internet took form.
Who Is the Father of the Internet?
Vint Cerf, born June 23, 1943, designed the TCP/IP protocols and the internet architecture with his co-designer Robert E. Kahn. Known as the “Father of the Internet”, Cerf began work at the United States Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in 1973 at the request of Kahn.
Kahn had successfully demonstrated ARPANET, a network of computers capable of intercommunications in 1972, but needed a packet-switching protocol that let computers interact regardless of their hardware configuration. That’s when he thought of Cerf. Cerf came to play a critical role in shaping today’s internet. His achievements and awards include:
- U.S. National Medal of Technology in 1997
- ACM Alan M. Turing Award in 2004
- Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005
Since 2005, Cerf has served as Google’s Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist. In that role, he serves as Google’s face in the internet community. He is responsible for identifying technologies to advance the internet-based products and services. Cerf has also served in other capacities outside of Google, including:
- Chairman of the Board of ICANN from 2000-2007. Cerf helped found the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
- Founding President of the Internet Society from 1992-1995 and Chairman of the Board in 1999.
Through his various roles, Cerf continues to influence the development of the internet.
Who Invented the Internet?
No one person invented the internet. From Licklider’s idea to Cerf’s protocols, the internet developed from two computers in 1965 to a global network of 4.4 billion users in 2019 with the help of hundreds of people. Aside from Cerf and Kahn, some better-known participants include:
- Leonard Kleinrock. He developed the theory of packet-switching in the early 1960s, which involved sending data between two points on a network.
- Larry Roberts. Using Kleinrock’s theory, Roberts designed the Department of Defense’s ARPANET network, which become the foundation of the internet of today.
- Raymond Tomlinson. Can you imagine life without email? Tomlinson is credited with sending the first email via ARPANET in 1971. Further, he went on to develop standards for email messages, to design ways to organize emails on a user’s computer, and to create tools for writing and reading emails.
- Paul Mockapetris and John Postel. You can thank these two gentlemen for domain names. Without their system of using names, we would have to remember the actual TCP/IP address of every site we visited. In 1985, the first domain name was assigned.
- Barry Shein. The internet began as a communications network for governments, universities, and corporations involved in government-funded projects. In 1989, Shein became the first internet service provider to allow dial-up access to the internet for a charge of $20 per month.
- Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Berners-Lee created HTML in 1990. Next, he went on to develop the first website in 1991, which initiated the World Wide Web as we know it.
- Marc Andersen and Eric Bina. As students at the University of Illinois, these two men released the first web browser called Mosaic in 1993. Then, they went on to found Netscape.
Through their contributions, these men changed the world.
Why Create the Internet?
After World War II, governments began to contract with private corporations and universities for research. Although the primary focus was on defense research, other agencies such as the Department of Energy contracted with the private sector for research projects. Because these researchers had no way to share information in a timely fashion, efforts were sometimes duplicated, or the results were incompatible. These challenges resulted in delays and increased costs.
ARPANET was designed to address the problem of resource sharing. In the beginning, file transfers (FTP) and remote login (Telnet) shared information or access devices. When a system for sending and receiving messages via email became available, the methods for collaboration changed, and the basis for today’s internet began.
There were other applications proposed, such as voice communications and disk sharing; however, the essential concept of ARPANET was the need for an infrastructure that would allow new applications to operate independently of the network hardware. The development of TCP/IP protocols made that independence possible. Eventually, the government-created network led to the World Wide Web.
How did the government-focused ARPANET become the World Wide Web? What happened after personal computers could connect in 1979? Ian Fuchs created BITNET, which contained many of the commercialized services of today’s internet. When ARPANET converted to TCP/IP in 1983, it opened the door for widespread connectivity.
Most of the 1980s were spent adding countries to the infrastructure and adding core features such as domain names and email routing. Congestion became a problem, so Van Jacobson developed algorithms for TCP to reduce congestion. Over 90% of internet hosts still use his solution.
In 1989, Berners-Lee developed HTML, which led to the creation of the WWW. In 1991, Berners-Lee opened the WWW to the public. Shortly thereafter, George Sadowsky created a team of 1500 instructors trained in internet technologies, operation, management, and governance. These instructors were essential to global expansion.
Since the early 1990s, the internet has grown exponentially. Dr. Cioffi created DSL technology, developing browsers and MP3 files. VoIP evolved, and the first blog appeared in 1998. With the commercialization of the internet, behemoths such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon have come to dominate the space.
Evolution of the Internet
The internet has become such an important part of everyday life that some consider it a human right. Without the internet, people would have difficulty communicating, many employees could not work, and students would face more barriers to learning. New technologies that leverage the internet are exploring the Internet of Things, cloud gaming, artificial intelligence and 5G. No one knows how the internet will evolve. But if the past is any indication, changes will happen at lightning speed.