On August 6th, 1991, Sir Tim Berners-Lee published to the World Wide Web for the first time ever. Let’s look back on the amazing, beautiful, magical things the internet brought us during that time.
With the birth of the World Wide Web, the internet went from being a little-known network used by a handful of engineers and academics to one that would change everything from the way we live to the way we connect. It feels like just yesterday — our Hotmail accounts held mostly chain emails, Craigslist was still a legit place to find jobs, and we listened to Rick Astley by choice. Now that it’s been a number of decades since the World Wide Web first opened its doors, our baby internet is all grown up and old enough to take interest in pellet grilling and 401K matches.
What an incredible and strange ride it’s been for us all since then. From the world’s first social media platform, to reckless streaming, online dating, and the colors of a dress that nobody could agree on. To celebrate, we brought you some of our favorite highlights over the years.
1. Dawkins coined the term “meme” and it changed our lives.
The internet wouldn’t be the same without memes and, surprisingly, we owe it all to British evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, who intended for it to be used in terms of evolutionary biology. But, ya know, the world had other plans.
2. Spam became more than a canned meat product.
The rise in email usage brought with it a rise in electronic junk mail. From fake lotteries to pharmaceutical scams, to Nigerian Princes asking for money — spam emails are still kind of the worst.
3. Amazon changed…everything.
Online retail behemoth, Amazon, launched July 1995. Kind of hard to believe everyone’s go-to marketplace started as an online book store. And now it’s changed the way we all shop.
4. eBay became a thing, and everyone started hoarding Beanie Babies.
eBay launched as AuctionWeb and quickly became a treasure trove for collectors of all kinds. People were selling Beanie Babies for ten times the price. There were even counterfeit Beanie Babies being sold for profit. What a time.
5. Online dating stepped up to the plate.
First came ominous chat rooms and the beginnings of Match.com. Then came the swiping apps: Tinder, Bumble, and more. We can’t promise the prospect of swiping will improve the years ahead, but we can promise that what you write about yourself will always matter.
6. Craigslist sparked creativity…and oddity.
All things were possible in the first widely-known classified site, started by Craig Newmark in 1996 — find a free lawnmower, score an acting gig, or buy a human-sized hamster wheel.
7. Google morphed into the tech giant it is today.
The household name. The myth. The legend. What started as an idea for an internet search engine out of the minds of two Stanford students quickly grew into the multi-billion tech conglomerate it is now. (How did we know how much Google is worth? We Googled it.)
8. WiFi launched. Wait, there was a time WiFi didn’t exist?
WiFi was released in 1997. And the phrase that would forever be a staple “What’s your WiFi password” was born.
9. Remember Napster? Artists sure do.
Napster launched in 1999 and suddenly anyone could download any album for free. It was awesome for listeners but obviously, not-so-awesome for artists. Especially since it had 80 million users at one point.
10. Wikipedia was released, and our encyclopedia books gathered dust.
Wikipedia launched in 2001 and is still our favorite way to dive down an information rabbit hole.
11. The way we listened to music changed again, this time with iTunes.
Apple released iTunes in early 2001, which made it possible to organize your music library, buy digital copies of songs, and create a playlist in about half the time it took to record a mixed cassette tape. The iPod was launched later in 2001, paving the way for digital devices.
12. MySpace united the youth online.
The year was 2003. You had shaggy bangs. Your best friend AND your crush were in your top 8. And some guy named Tom was there too. MySpace was the largest networking site in the world until 2008, and what a time it was.
13. Facebook shook things up in a whole new way.
Before people used Facebook to share cat memes and argue with family members, this social media giant started as an online directory for college students during its launch in 2004.
14. Youtube came along and it was love at first watch.
We owe a lot to Youtube. It gave us Keyboard Cat, video game streaming, Bad Lip Reading, the Ice Bucket Challenge, better music videos, and endless footage of people failing at stunts and everyday tasks. Fun fact: it was launched in 2005 by three PayPal employees.
15. Then, more videos went viral. Being viral went viral.
With social media taking off and the entire Youtube library at our fingertips, it was a race to see what videos would gain the most views and go “viral.” And it was anyone’s guess at this point. From Liam Kyle Sullivan’s “Shoes” video to the “I like turtles” zombie boy, to baby shark, we never knew what was coming.
16. Buzzfeed helped everyone find which Disney princess they were.
Media and entertainment company based on pop-culture references officially launched in 2006. The next thing we knew, we were all sucked into their quizzes and countdown lists. There was just something comforting taking those quizzes and finally knowing what Power Ranger and character from The Office we were.
17. Twitter flew in and made a space for punchy, bite-sized content.
Twitter launched its microblogging site in 2006 and proved that the world could accomplish a lot while sticking to 140-characters or less.
18. Netflix opens up its online streaming platform.
It’s wild to think that Netflix was once a place to rent physical copies of DVDs via mail. Physical. Copies. Of DVDs. When was the last time you heard those words in a sentence? They launched their online streaming service in 2007 and less than a decade later, dominated Hollywood with their own Netflix Originals. We see you, Netflix.
19. Kanye made a Swift appearance at the VMAs.
During MTV’s 2009 Video and Music Awards, rap artist Kanye West made headlines for jumping on stage and interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video Award.
“Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you. I’mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!”
It was an awkward moment for every corner of the internet.
20. Instagram joins the big leagues.
In the early 2000’s we discovered image-based blogs that quickly became fan favorites among a narrow, but influential swath of internet users. They deliberately eliminated the need to actually say anything with words and inadvertently hinted at the appeal of scrolling ceaselessly through time. The next thing we knew, Instagram opened in 2010 for Apple users only. It would later open its doors to all mobile devices and get bought by Facebook, showing how valuable endless scrolling really is.
21. Brandon Stanton wowed us all with Humans of New York.
Photographer and writer, Brandon Stanton, showed the world his creative side by taking professional photos of New Yorkers and sharing their personal stories with the world.
22. Vine introduces their 6-second video platform. (Long live Vine)
Vine was a short-form social network that hosted a robust collection of user-generated content. For lovers of home-spun comedy skits, Vine was a goldmine. While it was later bought by Twitter and then discontinued, it will always live on in our hearts.
23. The great dress debate threw us all for a loop.
The multicolored dress that broke the internet. In 2015, a photo of a striped dress surfaced across the internet and the debate of whether the dress was blue and black or gold and white started…and never ended.
24. Pokémon Go got everyone outside, temporarily.
In 2016, Pokémon fans around the world were treated with this augmented, real-life version of the original game, and the next thing we knew, crowds of people were walking around outside, hitting virtual Pokéstops and catching all the creatures.
25. TikTok brought millennials and Gen Z together, kind of.
TikTok launched in 2016 and despite the controversy over its privacy, became the main platform for short, user-generated videos. It’s the essence of micro-entertainment and short bursts of distraction on an enormous scale.
26. We started ordering restaurant food at home, thanks to online delivery.
Doordash, UberEats, and Grubhub appeared and made it easy for introverts and busy people to order, purchase, and get food delivered all in one online portal.
27. Spotify came to America to rock and roll.
In 2017, Spotify launched in the U.S. and took off with major success and reached 133 million premium users by the end of last year. Spotify’s 2020 Wrapped playlist featured some positive highlights from a difficult year (to say the least).
“This year, the brand has centered the effort on two themes: gratitude and resilience. “No one knew what was going to happen in March so there had to be a shift, and that shift meant that we had to be very intentional with our tone, knowing that this year has been incredible in terms of its challenges but also has shown incredible strength in communities around the world,” said Spotify VP-Global Executive Creative Director Alex Bodman during a virtual press conference on Monday.
“…The campaign pays homage to the artists, podcasters, playlist creators and avid fans who helped users endure, find comfort, and be entertained during months of lockdown and turmoil. While giving thanks to all the creators, this year’s “Wrapped” also “tells the story of a resilient world, made of resilient communities, who powered through unprecedented challenges in a year that seemed to never end,” Bodman added.
28. We started working and schooling from home.
In 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic started and many of us swapped our business clothes for our home office jammies. While it made for some awkward Zoom calls, we learned that the internet truly had our backs as far as keeping many work and school duties afloat.
29. The Tiger King gives us all something to be amazed (and disgusted) about.
Right as we’re all in lockdown, Netflix suggests a new documentary mini-series that would forever change the way we feel about tigers, mullets, and flower crowns.
30. Disney+ brings a sense of wonder to homes all over America.
During the pandemic, Disney launched their online streaming platform, Disney+, promising almost every Disney movie ever for a small monthly fee. And it did not disappoint.
What are your most memorable moments in internet history? If you want to connect to people and things you care about with an internet provider that actually supports everything you love, reach out to us and we’ll help you get started. Chat with us to learn how easy it can be to support all your internet needs.