The internet has fundamentally transformed the world. Future historians may look back at pre-internet history and post-internet history as a divide that's every bit as significant as the B.C.E. and C.E. markers. But how much do we really know about the history of the medium that has become intrinsically woven into every day life? Here are five facts you might not know about internet history.
1. The Web and The Internet aren't the same thing.
Although the words web and internet have become synonymous, they are actually two different things. The internet had existed as a U.S. government program since the 1960s, but it wasn't until 1989 that the tool thought of as the internet was born. Its credited creator, Tim Berners-Lee, debuted the code for his creation—the world wide web—in an academic chat room in 1991. To help differentiate the two, some use the analogy of the internet as the train tracks and the web as the train that transfers information along the tracks.
2. The Web was intended as a tool for scientists to share information.
Tim Berners-Lee was a scientist working at CERN, a famous particle physics laboratory in Switzerland, when he created the code for the world wide web. The problem he was trying to solve was that scientists would be working on information on one computer and were frustrated when they couldn't access that information on a different computer. Sometimes it even required learning a different program to access the information.
3. The internet only worked because it was free.
Berners-Lee and others who worked on the early framework of what would become the internet today knew that the only way the technology would take off and see worldwide use is if it was free for anyone without a fee or requiring any permissions.
4. The internet was intended to be open.
Berners-Lee intended the internet to be a place where anyone could modify or publish a web page—a read-write system similar to the model found on various websites. However, soon read-only pages were created that prohibited anyone but the web page author or owner to modify.
5. Tim Berners-Lee wasn't the only inventor of the internet.
Although Tim Berners-Lee's contribution to the creation of the world wide web is widely celebrated as the creation of the internet today, other people had a hand in creating the modern internet. Hypertext, dynamically linked documents, is the idea that the function of the internet is based on and it was invented in 1963 by IT pioneer Ted Nelson. Credit also goes to computer engineer Vint Cerf for creating TCP/IP protocols, the architecture of the internet.