Top 10 Facts About Who Invented the Internet

Cover photo: 360b /
10 Things You Should Know About the Inventor of the Internet

There has been a long standing debate about who invented in the Internet. Was it the government? Was is Xerox? Was it really Al Gore? The origins of the Internet are murky and go back further than most people realize. Nikola Tesla dreamed of a worldwide communications system as early as the beginning of the 20th century. The Internet that we use today is a combination of several inventions and advances in computer science that have all come together to create the system we used to communicate with friends, share files, and explore our world. The Internet as we know it today was the product of the creativity and the forward thinking of many people from all over the world over the last 40 years. The Internet has come a long way since its origins in the 1960s, and it continues to develop in new and exciting ways.Here are 10 things you should know about who invented the Internet:

10. The Internet Was Invented in the 1960s

The internet started in the 1960s. Groovy man.
The internet started in the 1960s. Groovy man.

The Internet invented in the 1960s is not the Internet we use today. The founding date of October 29, 1969 is the year that scientists at UCLA sent a message through two neighboring machine through the network ARPANET. This was the first time data had been transferred between computers. This process happens by breaking down data into small pieces called packets and then reassembling them at their destination, similar to the process used today. ARPANET was first created in 1967 under the direction of the US Advanced Research Projects Society (ARPA). ARPANET became the basis for the internet. In 1971, ARPA’s name was changed to Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and sometimes ARPANET is referred to DARPANET. It saw two more name changes in the following years – a reversion to ARPANET and finally it has settled as DARPANET.

In January 1983, all the computers on the ARPANET network were installed with the TCP/IP protocol. This stands for Transmission Control Protocal/ Internet Protocol. TCP is responsible for the breakdown of data before it is sent and for reassmbling it after it arrives. IP is responsible for the communication between computers – or addressing, sending and receiving the data. With the installation of TCP/IP protocol, the Internet became closer to what it still looks like today. We still use TCP/IP Protocol – common examples are HTTP and HTTPS, which you will see at the beginning of a website address.
It was only in 1989 that Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. This is the Internet we use at home today. The World Wide Web was a huge step forward in the development in the Internet because it created a system for accessing the information shared between computers.

9. The Internet Was Invented a Number of People, but Probably Not by Al Gore

Al Gore invented the internet. No. No he didn't.
Al Gore invented the internet. No. No he didn’t.

Joseph Sohm /

There was no single person who created the Internet that we use today. Leonard Kleinrock published a paper about the flow of information in communication nets in 1961, and ultimately sent the first Internet message from his laboratory on October 29,1969. In 1962, J.C.R. Licklider ran with the idea of a huge network when he became the head of the Information Processing Technology Office, which is now known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA, formerly ARPA). Following on from Kleinrock and Licklider, Robert Taylor helped create ARPANET, which facilitated the first exchange of information between two computers.

Al Gore made an infamous statement during an interview with CNN where he stated that he took the initiative in creating the Internet. While he did not mean to say that he personally created the Internet, the users of the Internet have been unwilling to let go of this poorly phrased and offhanded remark. While Al Gore did not invent the Internet and did not really claim to, he did play a role as a lawmaker in supporting the use of the Internet. The Internet as we know it is a commercialization of the work Gore that did at the Department of Defense where he sponsored a $600 million bill dedicated to to high-performance commuting. While the public continues to criticize and even tease Gore for this remark, the tech community has admitted that without Gore’s staunch support of the Internet in its early days, the development may have been significantly slower. The funding from Gore’s work directly supported the development of the first web browser. Even Netscape founder Marc Andressen says that the bill made a difference in the development of the Internet. The government played (and continues to play) an important role in the development of the Internet but it is not the sole creator of the Internet either.

8. The Government Did Not Create the Internet

Ethernet invention was crucial to development of internet
Ethernet invention was crucial to development of internet

The government played a significant role in the funding and development of the Internet, but the Internet as we know it today could not have been created without private industry which played an equally important role. Xerox hired Robert Taylor, who ran ARPANET, to run Xerox PARC’s computer lab in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Another employee at Xerox, Robert Metcalfe helped Xerox PARC develop the Ethernet,which links different computer networks together. When it was first invented, Metcalfe described it as an ‘omnipresent, completely-passive medium for the propagation of electromagnetic waves’. Xerox filed a patent application for the Ethernet in 1975. Ethernet is one of the most important and commonly used discoveries in the timeline of Internet inventions. Ethernet is a local area technology and allows the connection of devices operation in a local area – typically in the same building. But, as Xerox recently said to the press, inventing the Ethernet is not the same as inventing the Internet.

Robert Taylor, who oversaw ARPANET, said in an interview that private industry could have never invented the Internet on its own because it is conservative as a matter of self protection. Even IBM and AT&T were resistant to the idea when they were approached in the 1960s. They were invited to join ARPANET and both declined. The government provided funding for the Internet, but funding alone did not create the Internet. The private sector and the government worked in tandem to work the Internet into what it is today.

7. Why Was the Internet Created?

The internet was a doomsday survival tool.
The internet was a doomsday survival tool.

ARPANET was created because scientists and military experts were concerned about the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. They feared an attack on the telephone system, and they dreamed of a communication solution that could survive an attack by Soviet missiles. J.C.R. Licklider offered a solution: a network of computers that could communicate with each other across long distances that would work even if the phone lines were compromised. In 1969, the first message was sent from one computer to another. They sent the word ‘LOGIN’ from one computer at UCLA to another computer at Stanford. Only the first two letters of the message arrived in Stanford but it was progress.

6. The World Wide Web Was Invented by Tim Berners Lee

Tim Berners Lee invented the world wide web. Give credit where credit is due.
Tim Berners Lee invented the world wide web. Give credit where credit is due.

drserg /
Tim Berners-Lee is a British computer scientist. Tim studied physics at Oxford, graduated to become a software engineer, and then he went on to work at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is internationally renowned and the largest particle physics lab in the world. CERN is where thousands of scientists from all over the world work to uncover the mysteries of the physical universe, but it is also the place where the World Wide Web was first used. While he worked at CERN, Tim Berners Lee had the idea for a global systembased on hypertext that would allow researchers from all corners of the world to share their information. In a paper in 1989, Berners Lee insisted that the Internet should be combined with hypertext to share information globally. Hypertext is text which is displayed on a computer screen and references other texts, which the reader can access. Hypertext can also be pictures, video and sound. Tim named this system the World Wide Web. Tim went on to create the first web browser, a means of retrieving and presenting information on the World Wide Web. Tim Berners Lee created what he hoped would be an egalitarian mechanism for sharing information across the world but in the 25 years since the official launch of the World Wide Web, Tim fears that his invention has lost many of the principles that it was founded on. He continues to campaign both in Britain and globally to protect his creation, despite recognizing woefully that there is a dark by-product of his creation. He also campaigns for data ownership-insisting that individuals should own their own data, not large companies who harvest and sell it.

5. The Email System Was Invented by a Fourteen Year Old Boy from New Jersey

E-mail was invented by a young nerd child.
E-mail was invented by a young nerd child.

At the age of 14-years old, V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai began building the system that was later patented as EMAIL. After responding to a call by the National Science Foundation, Shiva joined a program to educate youth in computer programming. He was inspired by a friend of his parents who worked as a particle physicist to create electronic mail, and at the time, Shiva just thought he meant sending electricity through paper. Shiva observed how the mail system worked at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark, New Jersey, and copied it into an electronic format, something that had never been done before. The idea of an inbox or an outbox folder also came from the University mail system. Electronic mail had to be simple and resemble the old system or else no one else would use it. When Shiva was older, he considered dropping out of high school when his teacher insisted that he stay and send his email concept into what is now known as the Intel Science Awards. Shiva did and he won one of the honors awards. Shiva didn’t realize the significance of what he’d invented until later in life.

Because the system was modeled so closely to the actual paper mail systems used by organizations, the email we use today has not changed very much from its development in the 1970’s. Shiva insists that despite the threats from text messaging and Facebook, email is here to stay because it is still a part of the old style of interoffice communication.

4. Wi-Fi Changed the Internet Forever

Wi-fi changed and continues to alter the way we use the internet
Wi-fi changed and continues to alter the way we use the internet

Wi-Fi and the Internet are often uttered in the same breath, but they are not the same thing. Wi-Fi is a wireless technology that allows devices to communicate over a wireless signal. Wi-Fi works similarly to how a radio does, and in fact, it is actually just a high-frequency radio signal. Like everything related to the Internet, Wi-Fi has several inventors and even more parts. Vic Hayes is generally accepted as one of the leading figures in Wi-Fi because he created the standards that made Wi-Fi possible in 1997. However, Wi-Fi as we use it also credited to a group of scientists in Australia. They invented a chip which improved the signal of Wi-Fi so that it would solve the most common issues and become easier to use. This chip came from the scientists’ work in radio astronomy. The Australian agency who employs these scientists recently sued nine different companies including T-Mobile and Lenovo to win a settlement of $229 million after a 10-year long campaign to gain recognition for their invention. The court never decided on the case because the companies decided simply to pay the Australians a settlement. It is very difficult to prove who did and did not invent Wi-Fi because so many companies and agencies were working on it at the same time and there has been no clear indication as to who actually ‘invented’ it first.

3. The Other Side of the Internet Is the Darknet

The Darket. The internet's evil twin. Yes, it has an evil goatee.
The Darket. The internet’s evil twin. Yes, it has an evil goatee.

Also known as the Deep Web, the Darknet is the part of the World Wide Web that cannot be found by standard search engines. Soon after the development of ARPANET, secretive networks began to develop alongside side it. To reach the Darknet, users need to use a special browser like Tor. Tor was created by the US Naval Research Laboratory to help people use the web without being traced. Websites on the Darknet accessed through Tor use a .onion suffix instead of .com – like on the World Wide Web. This makes the sites hard to trace and hard to find – unless you already know about them. One of the reasons the Darknet grew so quickly was because maintaining the storage of data after the advent of the Internet protocol suite was a huge problem. The Darknet has been estimated to be anywhere from two times to one hundred times larger than the World Wide Web.

In 1999, a University of Edinburgh student named Ian Clarke submitted a project titled Freenet to his tutors as a final project. They found it quirky and underwhelming and only gave him a B for his work. However, Ian Clarke’s project was downloaded by 2 million people world wide, and it was the first software program to deliver anonymous paths through the darkest parts of the Internet. Two years later, the Tor browser arrived. A product of the US Navy, it was meant to protect operatives working overseas. Despite the goals of some developers, the anonymization tools have been misused by both criminals and terrorist groups around the world. Yet, the Darknet still provides a way for journalists, activists and ordinary citizens to communicate important and sensitive information with each other without detection from oppressive governments or other enemies of free speech. It even created a pathway for a new currency which lay outside of both nationalized and private banks.

2. The Internet Has Its Own Currency

The Internet has its own money. Sweet, sweet Bitcoin
The Internet has its own money. Sweet, sweet Bitcoin

In 2009, a man who calls himself Satoshi Nakamoto created the first Bitcoin, the world’s first Internet currency. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, which means that those who create it, buy it, trade it and make purchases with it cannot be traced. The number of Bitcoin made is finite – only 21 million Bitcoins will ever be made and this number will probably be reached by 2140. Bitcoins can be mined by groups of computers which work to solve impossible math problems. Bitcoin has seen a lot of ups and downs since it’s introduction to the world in 2009, when it started out at $1 a coin. It has since seen highs of nearly $800 a coin and crashes of $100 a coin. Bitcoin has a very niche community and as more businesses and merchants around the world accept Bitcoin, they find themselves with a very loyal following. Bitcoin is open source and public. No one person controls or owns Bitcoin – even the founder Satoshi Nakamoto. Anyone with a bank account or Internet access can buy Bitcoin.

Bitcoin has seen backlash both from the traditional banking system and the media. Some fear that users of Bitcoin are comprised of those people who use the Darknet for criminal activity. However, the number of Bitcoin believers are growing. It is possible to live off Bitcoin in places like Kreuzberg, a trendy neighborhood of Berlin. Bitcoin ATMs were recently spotted in trendy shopping centers in Tel Aviv. Buying and selling Bitcoin might be considered complicated for some users, but for the believers, the extra steps provide security, freedom and a potential pathway to the future of the money market.

1. The Internet Is Constantly Developing

The Internet is always growing. The internet of things. Oooh spooky!
The Internet is always growing. The internet of things. Oooh spooky!

The Internet may be 40 years old, but it is always moving forward to the next big thing. For example, many people are excited about the possible development of video emails. Now that we can carry the Internet in our pockets, the possibilities seem endless. We have seen the Internet become more social than ever before with the development of MySpace followed by Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Tumblr. The Internet is also on a trend to make everything more personal, and some call it the Internet of Me. The Internet of Me connects you to all of the things you use everyday like your car, your phone, light bulbs and even your smoke detector. The focus on the Internet has moved away from what we can do with it to what we can do on the Internet that is meaningful. Developers and scientists gather at conferences every year to discuss the future of the Internet. Many people agree that the beauty of the Internet is that anyone can teach themselves to code and anyone can create the next new thing. Physicists at CERN are no longer the only big players in the game. Now, people in their 20s and 30s, such as Mark Zuckerberg, are changing the face of the Internet as well as the way the way the world uses it, some of them from their college dorm rooms.

Despite its constant development, the Internet is also considered by some to be in danger. The hot button issue of net neutrality is a principle that says that service providers should treat all data on the Internet equally. Many of the largest Internet companies like Microsoft, Twitty, eBay and Yahoo! are in favor of of law that says that service providers should not charge more money to visit certain websites.

The Internet we use today is the result of the collaboration of many people of many backgrounds from all over the world. It consists of many parts, all of which are kept neatly in a box which we have labeled the “Internet.” Scientists, government officials, computer scientists and even amateur programmers have all worked to shape the Internet. Their inventions and creativity have changed the world as we know it. Google Earth lets us explore the far reaches of our planet in real time from the comfort of our own home. Email and social networking let us instantly keep up with our friends, colleagues, families and even people we have never met. It has changed the way we talk, read, shop, eat and the way we experience the world around us. Forty years of collaboration has brought us to many new and exciting places. The only question is, where will the next forty years take us?