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A short history of the internet by Sean McManus

We've come a long way, baby. Here's a timeline of some of the significant milestones in the internet's history.

1969 - The first node is connected to the internet's military ancestor, ARPANET. With no HQ and the ability to bounce messages between surviving nodes until they reach their destination, ARPANET was intended to be America's bomb-proof communications network at the height of the Cold War.

1971 - Michael Hart begins Project Gutenberg to make copyright-free works electronically available. The first is the US declaration of independence.

1972 - Bolt Beranek and Newman computer engineer Ray Tomlinson invents email by adapting an internal messaging program and extending it to use the ARPANET to send messages between sites. Within a year, three quarters of ARPANET traffic is email.

1973 - University College of London is one of the first international connections to ARPANET.

1976 - The Queen sends an email from the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment in Malvern.

1982 - Scott Fahlman kick-starts smiley-culture by suggesting using the :-) and :-( smileys to convey emotions in emails. His message has been preserved at

1984 - Joint Academic Network (JANET) built to connect UK universities to each other over the internet.

1986 - Internet newsgroups are born. Rick Adams at the Center for Seismic Studies releases software enabling news transmission, posting and reading using internet-standard TCP/IP connections. His software builds on work begun in 1979 at Duke University to exchange information between Unix machines.

1988 - The first internet worm is unleashed by Robert Morris. It infects about 6000 computers. Although it causes no physical damage, it clogs up the internet and loses hundreds of thousands of dollars in computer time.

1989 - Tim Berners-Lee and the team at CERN invent the World Wide Web to make information easier to publish and access on the internet.

1993 - Marc Andreesen of the National Center for SuperComputer Applications in the US launches web-browser Mosaic. It introduces proprietary HTML tags and more sophisticated image capabilities. The browser is a massive success and businesses start to notice the web's potential. Andreesen goes on to develop the Netscape web browser.

1994 - Internet Magazine launches. It reports on London's first cybercafe and reviews 100 websites. It's billed as the 'most extensive' list of websites ever to appear in a magazine. A 28.8Kbps modem costs 399 (plus VAT).

1995 - Digital Equipment Corporation's Re lab launches engine Alta Vista, which it claims can store and index the HTML from every internet page. It also introduces the first multilingual .

1994 - Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web is renamed Yahoo! and receives 100,000 visitors. In 1995, it begins displaying adverts.

1995 - Jeff Bezos launches, an online bookseller that pioneers ecommerce.

1995 - eBay is launched to enable internet users to trade with each other.

1996 - The browser wars begin. Microsoft sees the internet as a threat and integrates Internet Explorer with Windows. Netscape and Microsoft go head-to-head, intensively developing and releasing upgrades to their browsers.

1996 - Macromedia Flash 1.0 launches to add interactive animation to webpages. Early adopters include Disney and MSN.

1998 - arrives. It pioneers a ranking system that uses links to assess a website's popularity. 's simple design is soothing while existing engines cram their pages with animated adverts.

1999 - Shawn Fanning launches Napster. The peer-to-peer software enables internet users to swap MP3 music files stored on their computers and to find each other through a central directory. Record labels are furious. By November 2002, they shut it down.

2000 - The dotcom bust. After several years of venture capitalists throwing money at proposals with 'internet' on the cover, it all starts unravelling as many of these businesses fail to find a market and other realise they don't have a business plan.

2001 - US regulators approve the merger of AOL and Time Warner. Shareholders of relative upstart AOL own 55% of the new company. AOL started in 1985 and grew its modest internet connection business into one of the world's biggest media companies.

2003 - Nearly half of us are connected: UK telecomms regulator Oftel reports that 47% of UK homes have internet access and 58% have a PC. Of those online, 15% use broadband and 92% are satisfied with their service.

2004 - As broadband becomes more popular, media companies start selling music and video online. Napster relaunches as a paid music download store. It's up against iTunes, Apple's download store for its trendy iPod portable music players.                           End

A short history of file sharing by Sean McManus

This history of file sharing was written by Sean McManus while conducting re for the Rock & Pop Timeline book by Johnny Black, which presents a year by year history of the music industry, its stars and fashions. The article doesn't appear in the book in its original form, so I thought I'd share it with you here.

In 1999, Shawn Fanning launched a new program that was to change how many people used the internet: Napster. The software enabled music fans to swap songs stored on their computers with each other and to find each other through a central directory. Napster users could trade in bootlegs, rare tracks and current releases by major artists.

The Record Industry Association of America (RIAA), which represents five major record labels and a host of smaller labels, was annoyed. "We love the idea of using technology to build artist communities, but that's not what Napster is all about. Napster is about facilitating piracy, and trying to build a business on the backs of artists and copyright owners," said Cary Sherman, senior executive vice president and general counsel for RIAA. In December 1999, the RIAA sued Napster for copyright infringement.

The publicity and word-of-mouth attracted more Napster users and inspired the web community to start building its successor for if Napster should be shut down. Early in 2000, file sharing program Gnutella was briefly released by Nullsoft. Although Nullsoft soon withdrew support for the software, programmers started hacking it apart so they could publish the code needed to adapt it and build new software based on it. By 2003, the site was listing 14 programs based on Gnutella, including Bearshare and Morpheus.

In February 2001, a judge ruled that Napster had to stop the distribution of copyright material through its network. Record companies provided filenames and song titles that should be removed and Napster blocked over 250,000 songs using over 1.6 million filenames.

But that wasn't good enough. In July 2001, a judge told Napster it must block all files infringing copyright, effectively forcing it to shut down. Napster folded in September 2002 when its sale to Bertelsmann was blocked by a Delaware court. Bertelsmann had invested heavily in the company in the hope it would provide a secure commercial file sharing application.

The RIAA has continued to pursue Napster clones in the courts. In June 2003, it claimed it would use software that seeks pirated music in the file sharing networks to gather evidence against individuals.

The recording industry has been quick to accuse internet piracy of causing a drop in CD sales, but a survey by Forrester Re in August 2002 concluded that's not true. The company said that frequent digital music consumers weren't buying fewer CDs and that the 15% drop in music sales over two years owed more to the recession and competition from the booming markets of video games and DVDs. By 2007, Forrester predicted that digital music revenues would be worth US$2 billion as long as record labels made it easy to buy songs from any record label without having to pay a flat subscription fee.

Metallica was among the artists strongly opposed to Napster, and the band launched its own law suit against the company. But not everyone has opposed Napster-like technology. In June 2003, Ween announced that it was developing its own P2P client. WeenAmp would connect fans to a peer-to-peer network for sharing concert recordings and enable them to view webcasts and listen to a Ween radio show. The band said that the software would enable them to get music to fans in minutes and prevent fake or illegal MP3s from being traded as rarities. "The taping community has always done a great job in circulating shows and this should really pull everyone into one central location to trade good sounding shows and other mp3s," said the band.

In July 2003, owners of the Napster name Roxio announced that it planned the launch of Napster 2 in time for Christmas. This time, Napster will sell digital music on behalf of record companies, but many regret that the rarities and bootlegs will no longer be available and wonder whether the spirit of Napster will survive along with its name.

Napster finally launched in the UK in summer 2004, by which time it was up against Apple's iTunes and a wide range of other paid-for music sites.                           End


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