Famous Firsts Of The Internet
1 1971 – First Email
The first-ever email created and sent was in 1971. Ray Tomlinson sent an email to himself. He had sent the email to a computer sitting right next to the one he sent it from. In an interview, he said, “The test messages were entirely forgettable. Most likely, the first message was ‘QWERTYIOP’ or something similar.” Today, there are nearly 182.9 billion emails sent daily.
In just 50 short years, technology has evolved so quickly and efficiently that we can not live without it today. We rely on emails to get information to someone quickly. Whether they respond quickly or not is completely out of the sender’s control, but it is still a tool that allows us to conduct business in an efficient way in today’s world.
2 1973 – First Internet Transaction
Way before the launch of online shopping sites, students from Stanford used ARPANET to sell marijuana to students at MIT. Now, the amount that was sold is still undetermined, but the fact that these ivy league students still found a way to “make money” on the internet is still remarkable.
Even though it may have not necessarily been legal, the item that was sold is not relevant in this case. This happened in 1973, which was long before the invention of internet shopping.
3 1978 – First Spam Email
Just a short 7 years after the first email was sent, the first spam email was sent. On May 3, 1978, Gary Thuerk sent a spam email to 393 people on ARPANET. He invited these users to try out his company’s new product demo. This spam email resulted in some very unhappy recipients since ARPANET was a channel that has serious restrictions and limited usability.
Today, there are around 54 billion spam emails sent daily. They may look a little different from the first one to ever be sent out, but they are just as obnoxious.
4 1978 – First Online Multiplayer Game
Multi-User Dungeon was the first online multiplayer game. It shaped online gaming into what we know it as today. Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle came together in 1978 and launched the MUD1 gaming application. In this game, players would enter a fantasy world where they could use simple commands to play the game.
There was also an option to be able to communicate with other players while inside of the game. The game incorporated the use of text to be able to specifically describe what you wanted your characters to do and explain the scenery. Richard Bartle said “With text, I can talk to the mind. With graphics, I can only talk to the senses.” Fans of this game kept the dream alive and still play it to this day.
5 1982 – First Use Of Emoticons
Scott Fahlman, Computer Scientist, was the first person to suggest that you can use certain keys as facial expressions in 1982. He came up with the idea after tirelessly reading lengthy diatribes from other people who just simply could not understand a joke or sarcasm over text.
While the practice of using symbols to display emotions dates back to the mid-19th century, the use of these symbols today can be directly related to Fahlman. So we can all thank him for what has turned into one of the best ways to display emotion over text. 🙂
6 1985 – First Domain Name
In March 1985, the first domain name was registered. It was “Symbolics.com” and was purchased by the Symbolics Computer Corporation, which was a computer development company. In 2009, an investment group in Texas purchased this domain and still uses it today. The website can still be visited to read all about its history.
They have incorporated an online museum that is completely free and tells you many interesting facts about the internet. One of the coolest features on this website is a world map. When you are on the site, this map will tell you the locations of other visitors who are also viewing the website. Today, it is reported that there are over 272 million registered domain names. Are you in this mix?
7 1987 – First GIF
Is it pronounced GIF or JIF? In 1987, developers from CompuServe created this file format. Their formed CTO says he thinks it may have been an image of an airplane, but no one is 100% sure. GIFs have now become a staple in the social media world.
There are hundreds created daily. You can post them as is or you can use them as stickers for Instagram or Facebook stories, you can use them on Snapchat, as comments, and pretty much everything else. What an incredible start to moving pictures today!
8 1988 – First Chat Room
On October 26, 1988, the first chat message was sent through ARPANET. The person who created the chatroom was Jarkko WiZ Oikarinen while he worked for the University of Oulu in the Department of Information Processing Sciences. The name of the server was “tolsun.oulu.fi.”
In this chatroom, the first message ever sent was between the University of California and the Stanford Research Institute and said “LO” which was supposed to say “LOGIN”, but the connection was lost before the entire message could be completed.
9 1988 – First Cyber Attack
The first cyberattack was in November 1988. A man named Robert Tappan Morris was trying to create an application to check each computer to know if the virus was already present in them. Instead, he unintentionally created a worm that we now know as the “Morris Worm.”
While you may have not encountered a cyber-attack personally, we are all well aware of the risk of computer viruses. We do everything we can to protect our computers from contracting one and inevitably destroying itself.
10 1988 – First Meme
There is a debate on what was actually the first meme. Here is what we know: In 1988, a GIF that had 392 animals dancing was published. The animals were hamsters, mice, and squirrels amongst other rodents moving in a silly fashion. But some people actually argue that the first meme came out in 1921 when Judge magazine published photos with drawings of two people—one drawn well and the other drawn badly.
The caption said “How do you think you see yourself in a picture” vs. “How do you really see yourself.” Since the other one was printed in a magazine, we can argue that it was not the first meme on the internet, therefore making the dancing hamster the first meme online. Either way, the internet is flooded with memes now for practically any situation.
11 1990 – First Search Engine
In 1990, McGill University School of Computer Science launched the first-ever search engine, Archie. This search engine allowed users to find specific files on FTP (File Transfer Protocol) that were connected to the internet. Now, the most popular search engine that people use today is Google.
There are over 45,000 searches that happen each second. That is 2,700,000 searches in just a minute! What are people searching for? The options are literally endless. You can search for virtually anything on Google, but we still recommend that you use the internet safely and responsibly.
12 1991 – First Website
The first-ever website was actually created on August 6, 1991. Tim Berners-Lee created a website that provided information on the “World Wide Web.” This website consists of a set of links that take you to separate documents. He also invented the WorldWideWeb in 1990, which was able to view and edit webpages.
Today, you can find over 1 billion websites on the internet. There is literally a website for anything! Whether you are strictly looking for information or you are merely just online shopping, you can find it on the internet, which we think is amazing.
13 1992 – First Uploaded Photo
The same person who created the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, also was the first person to upload a photo to the internet. Fitting, isn’t it? The photo was of a group of four ladies who were in a comedy band named “Les Horrible Cernettes.” They were assistants and S/O’s of CERN scientists from Geneva.
The original photo had been edited in version one of Photoshop. Today, there are over 1.8 billion photos uploaded to the internet daily. These photos are uploaded on platforms from Facebook to Snapchat. Remember—once you post a photo online, it stays there forever! As you can see from this photo that was uploaded in 1992.
14 1993 – First Instant Message On AOL
In 1993, the first instant message was sent on AOL. The message was sent by a man named Ted Leonsis. He sent a message to his wife saying “Don’t be scared… it is me. Love you and miss you.” His wife responded by saying, “Wow… This is so cool!” Ted later went on to become the Vice Chairman of AOL.
Today, you can still find the aol.com browser. It is still used to search things online and you can also create an email address with the aol.com name. Nowadays, instant messaging is a part of daily life. Almost all applications have some sort of messaging integration built into them.
15 1993 – First Film Streamed Online
The first film to be streamed on the internet was a movie called Wax, Or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees. This movie has quite a few different angles. The character Jacob Maker made weapon guidance systems, and, well, kept bees, as one does. You can still watch this movie today, but we are still going to explain deeper into what this film is about. So, spoiler alert!
While Jacob was tending to his bees, he fell into a reverie and had a pretty ominous experience. Time and space are warped, and the “bees” insert a crystal television into his head. This TV leads him to the “planet of the dead” where animations then take him through the creation of the world. (God’s Eye) He then ends up murdering some people, (also, as one does) and then ends up becoming right with his past and his future is secured. I mean, if this movie doesn’t scream “Thriller,” then I don’t know what does. This rollercoaster of a film was released in 1991 and first streamed online in 1993. (And still can be streamed today, if you so please.)
16 1993 – First Webcam
In 1993, the University of Cambridge created the first webcam. The whole point of this invention was to let workers throughout the building view the break room where the coffee pot was located. Why, you may ask? Well, they wanted to be sure that their trip to get a cup of coffee would be worth it.
They wanted a clear view on if it was busy and if there was still coffee for them to enjoy. Boy oh boy, have we come a long way in the form of video! You can now use webcams to chat with strangers around the world. A little creepy, but still interesting.
17 1994 – First Secure E-Commerce Transaction
August 11, 1994, NetMarket put Sting’s CD Ten Summoner’s Tales up for sale on its website. It sold for $12.48. Since it was the beginning of secure online payments, it was quite a tedious task to spend your money online. People were required to use specific programs that would allow them to transmit billing information over the internet.
But while this was not the easiest when it came to shopping online, it helped advance online shopping into how we know and love it today. Online sales are well over 1.5 trillion in today’s world.
18 1994 – First Banner Ad
In October 1994, Joe McCambley ran the first banner ad online. This ad was created to promote seven art museums on HotWired.com and was sponsored by AT&T. While banner ads are still being used to this day, McCambley has some mixed feelings about being the first person to take this idea and run with it.
But he has 3 reasons as to why he thinks his ad got 44% of users to click on the ad, compared to now when ads only get clicked on by 4 out of 10,000 users who see them. His reasons are: “[…] it was part of an integrated digital campaign; it was a great experience (as opposed to being a mere message); and it was created with only good intentions towards consumers.”
19 1994 – First Blogger
In January 1994, Justin Hall, a student of Swarthmore College, started his own online diary. It was called “Justin’s Links from the Underground” and he used the platform Links.net. In this diary, he would go into detail about his daily life. He started out with what he called “Justin’s Links”, which was a page where he linked to other sites that he found interesting on the internet.
In January 1995, he had around 27,000 daily readers, which was quite a bit for its time. He gradually started to incorporate personal stories, and he had nothing holding him back from posting exactly what he wanted. He said, “The personal stories were [his] contribution to making the Web weird.” And still, to this day, you can find bloggers writing about their personal lives and sharing every detail, weird or not.
20 1994 – First Game App
The first game app was Tetris, which probably doesn’t come as a surprise. It was launched in 1994 by the Hagenuk MT-2000 of Danish manufacture. There wasn’t much technology at this point that allowed for the application to be used. In later years, Apple would launch the first app store, which only had 500 apps at the time.
While there are literally hundreds of games to choose from on the app store now, Nintendo reported in April 2019 that there had still been over 2.8 million accounts that still played the beloved Tetris game.
21 1994 – First Downloaded Song
Gefen Records, in 1994, offered “Head First” by Aerosmith as the first song that was able to be downloaded. Since it was available before the internet could accurately handle that type of file, it took anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes for the song to fully download. Just one song!
Oh, how far we have come! Now, we can download songs in a matter of seconds. Technology has definitely changed, for the better.
22 1995 – First Item Sold On Amazon
On April 3, 1995, the first item was sold on Amazon. The item that was sold was a book by Douglas R. Hofstadter. It was titled “Fluid Concepts And Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought.” This book is about exploring mechanisms of intelligence through computer modeling.
You can still purchase this book for $19.99. Today, Amazon sells around 426 items per second. Since Amazon Prime offers two-day shipping, their sales have definitely gone up. The convenience of purchasing your items online gets better and better.
23 1995 – First Dating Site
In 1995, Gary Kremen was taking a relaxing shower when a thought occurred to him. He wanted something where singles were “more likely to find someone special.” Kremen said “[He] thought it would be really interesting to use the Internet for relationships, and to do it right.” In 1994, he registered the Match.com domain, and by 1995, the site was live.
Match.com is now in over 24 countries and territories. This gives the chance to so many people to truly find the love of their life. This site allows users to express themselves through writing and photos. They can then select preferences for what they feel their ideal partner would have. If you are still single, why not give it a try?
24 1995 – First Item Sold On eBay
Today, online shopping is said to be a necessity. Back in 1995, that was when the online shopping addiction started with the first-ever sale on eBay. Back then, eBay was known as the AuctionWeb, which functioned similarly to how we know eBay to function today.
The item that was sold was a broken laser pointer and cost a whole $14.83. The man who bought this item said that he collected these broken lasers. Today, there are literally millions of items being sold on eBay.
25 1996 – First Social Networking Site
Andrew Weinreich launched the first social networking site in May 1996. Six Degrees was a site that allowed users to have their own personal profiles, friend lists, and school affiliations. But since people had a difficult time being able to connect to the internet, networks were limited, even though there were millions of registered users.
Six Degrees was only open to those who were invited to join the platform, and no, this did not mean that the platform itself would reach out and invite people. People who were already members could send a link to their friends, which allowed them to sign up and be a part of this new site. While the company was sold to YouthSteam Media Networks in 2000, we still have social networking sites that are similar today. I mean, does Facebook ring a bell to anyone?
26 2003 – First Words Spoken On Skype
In April 2003, the first person to ever speak on Skype was a member of their development team. The words were in Estonian and said, “Tere, kas sa kuuled mind?”, which in English translates to “Hello, can you hear me?” Now, people all over the world use Skype to communicate with each other.
You can talk to someone that is quite literally across the world. Skype is used for business ventures or to simply talk with someone that you know. Skype has now become a staple in our everyday lives, especially after the global pandemic that caused everyone to go into lockdown.
27 2004 – First Person On Facebook
So, we all know the Facebook mogul Mark Zuckerburg. Technically, he was the 4th user to join Facebook. but the first three were only used for testing, so they were not actually real users. In 2004, the first person who joined Facebook that was not one of its creators was Arie Hasit.
Arie was actually one of Mark Zuckerburg’s roommates while they attended Harvard. Arie now lives in Israel and studied to become a rabbi. Today, there are over 1.3 active monthly users on the platform. That means that there are posts and statuses being uploaded so often that you wouldn’t be able to keep up!
28 2005 – First YouTube Video
On April 23, 2005, Jawed Karim uploaded the first-ever YouTube video. Karim was a cofounder of the platform. The video lasted for 19 seconds and has been played over 16 million times since it was posted. YouTube is a great way for people to pass time or to learn about things that users upload.
Some of the most popular videos that can be found on YouTube are tutorials. People love to have a real-life visual of the task that they are about to handle. Today, there are over 6 billion hours watched monthly. Since video has become more and more popular in the social media world, we feel like this number will continue to rise throughout the next few years.
29 2006 – First Tweet
On March 21, 2006, Jack Dorsey tweeted the first tweet on the platform. Dorsey was a cofounder for Twitter when it was still known as “twttr”. The tweet read “just setting up my twttr.” Today, there are over 500 million tweets being posted daily.
This social media platform has skyrocketed. While many tweets are comical and satiric, there is still value in tweets put out by other sources. For example, Millenials and Gen-Z use this platform to acquire news happening locally and around the world.
30 2010 – First Instagram Photo
On July 16th, 2010, cofounder Kevin Systrom uploaded the first picture to Instagram. It was a photo of his golden retriever and was said to be taken at a taco stand. As one does, obviously.
Today, there are over 200 million active users on the platform sharing their lives and stories with their friends and followers. In 2014, there were over 20 billion photos that had been shared since the launch of the platform in 2010.