Earlier this week, Google CEO Eric Schmidt made waves with his announcement that the entire world would be online by 2020. Considering that the Internet user base grew about 400% between 2002 and 2012, his prediction isn't necessarily unrealistic.
The origin of the Internet can be traced back to the 1960s, to ARPANET (Advanced Research Project Agency Network), the world’s first operational packet switching network and the first to implement TCP/IP (the protocol used for computers to communicate with each other). The first message carried on ARPANET was “login”. It was sent from UCLA to the Stanford Research Institute on October 29, 1969. However, a system error caused only the first two letters, “lo”, to be transmitted, making it the first ever Internet crash as well.
In 1991, the first website was published, Info.cern.ch, which ran on a NeXT computer at CERN. The site focused on the developing World Wide Web project, how pages could be built and how to find information on the Web. For nostalgia buffs, a copy of the original site (circa 1992) is available.
By 1995, all restrictions on the use of the Internet for commercial traffic were gone, paving the way for the Internet we know today. Of course, when the Internet first emerged, the public was a little confused about what it was for. Fortunately, there were videos like this to help out.
The Internet has come a long way since then, in the last ten years alone it's grown by over 550 million Web pages, not to mention connection speeds. Did you ever have to use a 300 baud modem? You have our sympathies.
The Internet is possibly the most disruptive technology to emerge since the printing press in 1450, and a successor of equal or greater impact is likely long in coming. But with the rapid growth of wireless infrastructure, mobile devices, applications and personalization, the relationship of the Internet and its users is changing.
The original experience was one of the user rooted at the terminal, hunting for information. Today, information is served to the user, at their convenience, through applications that deliver content based on the user's preferences, behavior and even their social relationships.
This experience will continue to change, as technology becomes more flexible and applications grow more intelligent. It's hard to imagine how the Internet could become much more adept at serving users the content they want, short of developing some sort of pro-active sentience, but how likely is that?