The Internet and the World Wide Web: Roots and Origins
People busily surfing and clicking in front of their computer and laptops have become a common sight nowadays. With a computer and an internet connection nearby, a person can immediately access a world of possibilities. The internet contains features and information as wide as a person’s broad and creative imagination, and it has been as powerful as a person’s thinking abilities. As it may appear today based on the developments the internet is continuously making, it has been considered as a broad basin of all the possible queries, services, ideas, and all opportunities and possibilities that a person might think of. Over the years, the internet has grown into such a very competent and influential technology from which people are drawing more and more information which eventually created some form of interdependence—interdependence in a way that people provide what the Internet holds in its infinite basin from where people retrieve and use up information. Today, as the internet and the World Wide Web (www) grows larger and more prominent, more and more services are being associated to it. Services which have made the lives of people easier, and their tasks more efficiently handled. At present, a computer and an internet connection at home has become a must-have in terms of need instead of being a luxury as how it has been considered in the earlier times. Its capabilities and scope is becoming increasingly unexplainable as it conquers the entire world through networks, signals, and connectivity. Indeed, the ability of this technology above any other mass media there is has become unquestionable as it proved to change the lives of people greatly in a positive sense.
However, as people sit back and stay content and assured of the internet services they enjoy, questions about its realities and nature may still arise. Such questions may evolve from the issues the internet is now facing in the society as it becomes a very controversial form of mass media. Also, some people may try to figure out where this remarkable information and communication technology rooted from and from what basic technologies was it made of. Thus, such issues and concerns to understand further the nature of the internet can possibly be answered in studying its origins way back in the earlier times when it was made out of an entirely different purpose. From this purpose, people may eventually discover how the current role of internet has evolved and developed into something wider and more diverse. Hence, here enters the importance of studying and exploring about the history and origin of the internet.
From Where It All Began
Connectivity to Aid a Military Effort
The early roots of the internet reveal that it was called another name which rhymes with its current label but means a completely different meaning. The modern internet was known way back in 1966 as ARPANET (Griffiths). In 1957, also popular as the International Year for Geophysics, an intense need for upper atmospheric studies was apparent due the a period of intense solar activity which roused the concern and curiosity of the world’s governments especially the United States of America. Efforts like the acquisition of a satellite which can orbit around the Earth and survey physical disturbances were initiated. ARPA or the Advanced Research Projects Agency within the Defense Ministry was the one responsible for giving the U.S. a state-of-the-art technology that shall prepare them for future unexpected troubles. ARPA became responsible for associating with NASA in October of 1958 to establish a world-wide scope connection through its satellite system. However, in order to efficiently do its job of space observations and ballistic missiles and nuclear testings, ARPA needed to build connections with its contractors and the operational base. This paved the way for the idea of direct connections between various and geographically separated computers (Griffiths).
As it appears, the idea which brought about the modern idea of the internet came from an idea of a technology that can aid in a military project (Brady). It may be wondrous to discover that the idea was actually to devise a system which can help connect military bases and personal units of computers to improve the military projects during that time. However, it also appears surprising that the basic ideas of connecting computers during that time would lead to groundbreaking ideas of the internet and the World Wide Web. It was indeed from the computer laboratories of the U.S.’ ARPA where such idea originated. This need for such linkage between bases and contractors’ computers eventually led an MIT scientist, John Licklider’s thought of a “Galactic Network”. This was a concept about the revolutionary and innovative visualization of connected computers where in everyone can possibly have access to other’s computers which will open the possibility of a wider-scoped communication (Griffiths).
On the other field, Leonard Kleinrock has already thought of a system wherein messages can be sent faster by breaking them into packages and eventually putting them together at the end-line. This emphasized the shortfall of telephone lines where messages are being transferred through a single line alone where in the message breakage is more prone. Also, it would be harder to monitor this kind of communication, as thought about by Kleinrock (“Transmission Control Protocol”).
Finally, on the 29th of October in 1969, Licklider with Lawrence Roberts, who worked on the packet switching project of the U.S. Air Force, made the first interconnection of the first two nodes between UCLA and SRI International at California and this marked the beginning of the Advanced Research Projects Agency NETwork or the ARPANET (Brady). Eventually, this marked the name that was later on revolutionized to what the world know now as the internet. Having these things in mind, it appears that the concept of feasibility of the internet as a technology had already been brewing in the minds of the early proponents of a network that will allow communication and communication monitoring through linked computer units. Thus, it appears easy to understand where the exact idea of the modern internet was based on. It seems to have the exact base foundation as the modern internet; however, the development of the technology did not turn out to be on easy grounds (Griffiths).
Proponents and Early Developments
Behind this genius technological invention like the internet, a lot of minds have put contributed to the development of such a brilliant idea. The first of them was John Licklider of MIT. It was during the August of 1962 when he envisioned a system which can enable global interconnection where in everyone could have easy access to any data and programs from any site through the interconnected computers (Cerf et al.). Licklider was also the leading researcher on computer programs. As he worked under U.S.’ ARPA, he was also able to encourage several successors to continue what he had begun in the field of networking. These men who followed Licklider’s lead were Ivan Sutherland, Bob Taylor, and Lawrence Roberts, another MIT researcher (Cerf et al.). Lawrence Roberts was able to work with the United States’ Air Force as he worked on a packets switching project which aimed to overthrow the circuit switching system. Vernon Cerf and Robert Kahn on the other hand were the first ones to develop the description of the TCP or the Transmission Control Protocol which aids in creating an easy delivery of messages through an ordered and systematic stream of bytes. This was first used in 1974 to make a clear description of a global network written meticulously as the specifications of TCP by Cerf and his colleagues. Eventually, the first TCP Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) as a wide area network was created on the first day of the year 1983 where ARPANET hosts were all changed from older protocols to TCP/IP.
In 1984, the first ever internet service provider having a 1.5 megabit/second speed and was known as the NFSNET. NFSNET was the commissioned network by the National Science Foundation of the United States. In 1989, NFSNET was approved by the U.S. Federal Networking Council and it eventually paved the way for the first commercial mailing system called the MCI Mail system. This further opened the doors for the first several electronic mailing services such as Telemail, Compuserve, and OnTyme. This point was also when the first three internet service providers (ISP’s) were born. These were the UUNET, PSNET, and CERFNET. After these developments came the speedy growth in the world’s network. Soon, there existed several networking companies like Cisco systems, Proteon and Juniper. Also, the availability of commercial internet equipment became widespread (Brady).
However, despite the rapid and extensive growth that occurred in the strengthening of such networking technologies, the network did not become that popular to the public until the start of the 1990’s. It was in 1991 when an English scientist, Tim Berners-Lee together with Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN) in Switzerland developed and publicized the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) which aimed to develop wide standards to make it possible for the web to achieve its full potential (Alesso, Burke & Smith 120). It was also Berners-Lee who discovered the idea of the hypertext database system which is able to connect objects in the web to another object. Berners-Lee and his successors led the improvisations to insert the idea of the hypertext in the web. It was Berners-Lee’s group who introduced the concepts of HyperText Transfer Protocol that enables network documents to be connected, the HyperText Mark-up Language (HTML) for formatting web documents, and the Universal Resource Locator (URL) which gives objects on the network a unique address (119). This induced the development of the very first graphical web browsers around 1992-1993. Two of the earliest browsers were ViolaWWW and Mosaic (Brady). Mosaic was the graphical browser developed by a group led by Marc Anderseen from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NVSA) at the University if Illinois at Urban-Champaign (Alesso, Burke, and Smith 120). After these improvements, the web came to a great boom when a lot of services and programs sprung out of it. In 1992, audio and video internet broadcasts have been introduced and this excited the entertainment-loving users. Such broadcasts were formerly known as the “MBone” which literally meant Musical Backbone (Alesso, Burke, and Smith 120). The internet scope by this period expanded up to more than 1,000,000 hosts, and the prospect audience and users of the internet and internet services became close to infinite (Alesso, Burke, and Smith 120).
Hence, the internet went on and conquered more and more fields, applications and welcomed more and more hosts and users as time went by. As the internet prospered after the aforementioned developments, the World Wide Web continued to work on reaching it full potential through the succeeding technological explosions related to the internet and internet services. Over the years, the internet has proven to play a significant part in people’s everyday life in a lot of ways, may it be personal, business or academic matters. Looking back, as the early telecommunication regulation bodies in the U.S. removed all restrictions on the possible commercial functions of the internet, it causes no surprise that the internet and the World Wide Web is at its full commercial boom nowadays (Alesso, Burke, and Smith 120).
The Modern Internet and the Roles it Play in the Society
As the internet continued to grow and expand by the recent years, the world began to have questions about what exactly the internet does, and what can really be its nature. As years passed, more and more notions are also being related and associated with the internet; that is why of the 24th of October in 1995, The U.S. Federal Networking Council (FNC) passes a declaration which aimed to give a solid and distinctive definition to a broad technology, the internet. The definition, was basically consisting of the nature and specific function of the internet such as
(1) being logically linked together by a globally unique address space based on the Internet Protocol (IP) or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons; (2) being able to support communications using the Transmission Control protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) suite or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons, and/or other IP-compatible protocols; (3) provides, uses, or makes accessible, either publicly or privately, high level services layered on the communications and related infrastructure described (FNC, qtd. in Cerf et al.).
Since the time that the internet was given a proper and fixed definition, a lot of innovative features have been made possible for the utilization of the expanding range of users. These features and services were now able to change the lives of people in way that these services made the usual tasks and functions of people more efficiently and speedily done. One of these services is the Electronic mailing system or the e-mail. This service offers an immediate communication between people from geographically separate places from all over the world (Merriman and Trinkle 5). This service has been very useful in a lot of institutions like companies, schools, government institutions and even on the personal level since communication has been very essential especially in a society which grows more and more business-oriented as time passes.
Another interesting feature that has been made on the internet is the newsgroup. This has been one feature interesting enough for users who are especially inclined to gathering and meeting with other people where they can exchange views which are shown as posts in each newsgroup. In every newsgroup there is one editor/moderator who monitors posted messages and makes sure that the communication and exchange of views are properly done (Merriman and Trinkle 13). Also, there is the Discussion List which is another feature which seems to be a mixture of e-mail and newsgroup services. In this feature, the membership for a discussion list shall depend on the similarity a person had with the people in the list. Also, the privilege to post and access messages is also being given only to those who have subscribed to the list. Nowadays, there have been discussion lists that are specifically for doctors, students, teachers, mothers, publishers, etc (14). Aside from these features, there is also Blogging or Weblogging which have been very popular to the young ones of the modern generation. This service allows people to express their interests, emotions, thoughts and beliefs through creatively written and posted messages which the rest of the world who have access to the network can see. Blogs are usually made up of random information and ideas which contains hyperlink entry list which aid in faster reading (Merriman and Trinkle 15).
File transfer is another feature of the internet. This feature allows the users to connect to some remote computer and access files which can be downloaded. This also allows a person to upload and post files to a specific location where people can search for and download files (Merriman and Trinkle 16). As more digital and electronic years pass, more and more people are spending hours in front of their computers due to the entertaining and informational role the internet plays nowadays. Today, as this technology conquers wider scope, it has opened its doors to a lot of other services which aid the society in a great deal. The internet was also able to give opportunities for various fields like education (eLearning), government (eGovernment), commerce (eCommerce), and marketing (eBusiness). The internet seems to easily give to the public which eventually creates a so called “global society” which is being made possible by different computer-computer services, faster ISP’s, and better connections life dial-up (Phone line), broadband, and the “wi-fi.”
In a lot of ways, the internet has reached out to the different sectors of the world aiding and helping in making more efficient communication and learning, more productive business transactions, more immediate entertainment, and a lot of other functions. It may indeed seem difficult to enumerate the possibilities the internet bring today since the answers would appear infinite. This was made possible from the early development of the genius minds which thought of a simple networking concept, which eventually grew with time and with the need of people to have a more electronic and mobile information and communication technology. However, as people became more fascinated about the wonders the internet brings, there remain some societies which do adapt to the technology as how well some countries (industrialized countries) usually do. Looking at this issue, a question may arise as to what grounds could the internet have to be called as an ultimate global network when not all societies are part of this network yet? This issue may arise especially nowadays when most of the things people deal and face everyday can be worked out and accessed from the internet. Are there indeed enough proof to claim that the internet tend to be bias to the so called “information have’s” against the “information have-not’s” or is there really such thing?
The Digital Divide
In 1994 during the magnificent spring of the internet and the World Wide Web, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) within the U.S. Department of Commerce initiated a study to address the issue of a digital divide which was then defined as the “perceived gap between those who have access to the latest information technologies and those who do not” (Compaine xi). However, way before this concept of digital divide emerged, there was believed to exist the concept of the information have’s and have-not’s which describe the status of societies that adopted and those that have not yet adopted the technology (Compaine 3). Thus, these concepts were formed from the findings that during the birth of the internet and the World Wide Web around 1991, not that large number of users (unlike today) has actually adopted the internet. The very first NTIA survey thus showed that generally, the internet was ignored during that time as it do not yet have that web user-friendly appearance which it already has today. This theory thus implies that certainly not al group of people shall have same capability and resources to have access to such a technology like the internet like all the other industrialized societies do. This idea claims that although the internet appears to be very powerful and influential in the lives of its diverse users, there remain some parts which tend to be covered by the shadow of being traditional and skeptical about new technologies.
As it appears, the internet was made years ago out of a completely different purpose which is to aid in military defense. However, because of people’s natural creativity and inventiveness, its original function eventually branched out to other more interesting and appealing services for the mass public. Undeniably, the internet since its birth during the early 1990’s has been able to change the world and the way the world works. It has revolutionized the way people communicate and learn through an infinite bucket of information and electronic services which caters to a wide variety of users. It was able to touch different sectors of the society creating a uniform effect which is to make things more mobile, instant and accessible. Thus, the internet have made people see it as a positive medium which opens doors to discover new advantages and opportunities and always looking forward for the infinite possibilities (Temmel et al.). Indeed, little by little in a consistent way the world is being transformed by this information and communication technology into a Internet or Global society where people are becoming more and more connected, thus making a virtual impression that even through a simple technology, the whole world becomes one. Such wonders and magnificence only the internet technology was able to achieve over the ages.
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