What initiated the development of the Internet in the first place was the need of universities to share information between their researchers and the fear of the military that a major attack will destroy their computer networks controlling satellites and other types of weapons. The history of the internet is closely linked to this research.
It comes as no surprise therefore that the bulk of research was initially carried out by the universities. They started writing protocols to enable file sharing between their computers. Anyone who had a personal computer during the ’80s will know that different computers didn’t necessarily speak each other’s language during those early days.
These early rather basic networks were not intended for public use at all. They were used exclusively by researchers at the universities and by computer experts. The underlying idea remained the sharing of files between members of the network, so information could be accessible by all of them at the same time.
One of these file sharing services was called FTP, which stands for File Transfer Protocol. This is still widely used on the Internet at this very moment. If you have a website, for example, you would use an FTP program to transfer the files from your personal computer to the web server.
The universities spent many thousands of hours on research during the ‘eighties and ‘nineties to work on a menu system, so anyone logging on to the network could easily get a list of available files they can access by typing the name of the file or selecting its name.
A huge step in the right direction was when the scientists at the European Laboratory for Partical Physics (located in Switzerland, in short called CERN) developed the basic principles of what we call http today during 1991. Hypertext transfer protocol is in layman’s terms the ability to create links in a page of information so anyone clicking on that link will be taken to that other page. This is still what makes the web work today.
The next major step ahead was when the web browser was introduced during 1993. The first generally available browser was called Mosaic. Suddenly anyone could log on to the ‘Net and access vast numbers of files simply by clicking on the hyperlinks embedded in a file. You could now also type in a domain name in the address bar, for example that of your university, and go to all the files they wanted to share with the word in a few seconds. Soon after Mosaic, Netscape introduced their Navigator and Microsoft followed soon afterwards with Internet Explorer.
The early web was not planned to be for commercial use. The scientists and researchers wanted it to be for the exchange of information between non profit networks only. They could not win the fight; the first commercial networks appeared on the scene during the ’90s and soon there were numerous private networks offering email accounts and web browsing. The history of the Internet is still unfolding at this very moment and we are privileged to be part of something that changed the world so profoundly.