2013-10-11 / Columnists

Your Life And Privacy

Who Invented the Internet?
By Gille Ann Rabbin, Esq., CIPP/US

By now, everybody knows that Al Gore did not invent the Internet. But where did it come from?

It is challenging for those of us who are not computer scientists to understand fully how the Internet developed. There are so many Internet developmental stages that are most accurately explained in complicated scientific terms.

Simply put, the launch of Sputnik by the Russians during the Cold War, coupled with the stunning realization that the Russians had beaten the U.S. into space, resulted in the creation of U.S. scientific and technology programs. One of these programs, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), was established to develop communications technology that could withstand a nuclear attack that would destroy our telephone network.

The military was concerned that an attack by just one missile on the nation’s telephone system would result in the incapacitation of the entire system, rendering communication impossible. A communications system was needed that would allow world and U.S. government leaders to communicate even if the telephone system was destroyed.

ARPA launched the ARPAnet in 1969. The ARPAnet was the precursor of our present day Internet. It was used by engineers, scientists, and technologists to transfer files between users.

ARPAnet also provided the precursor technology to email. It allowed members of its community to exchange communications through newsgroups.

A significant factor in the ARPAnet’s growth was the development of “transmission control protocol/Internet Protocol,” called TCP/IP. TCP/IP was developed in 1983.

TCP/IP works by breaking up a message into packets. The packets are then routed through various parts of the network to the message’s destination.

If one part of the network is not available, with the result that a packet does not get through, that packet is re-routed through another network pathway to its destination. TCP/IP resulted in a much more reliable communications network.

Another significant step was the development of HTML, or hypertext markup language, which debuted in 1991. HTML produced a system of embedding links in text, which link to other text. The development of HTML resulted in the Internet’s transition from a network used by the scientific community into a web of every kind of information that anybody can retrieve worldwide.

The last major stage in the Internet’s development was the creation in 1993 of the Mosaic browser by students and researchers at the University of Illinois. Mosaic, which later became Netscape, allowed users to search and navigate the web. Internet usage, including for commercial purposes, exploded. Online scams, spam, privacy issues, pornography, and social networking quickly became part of our daily lives.

And while Al Gore certainly did not invent the Internet, he did back legislation that promoted growth in the early stages of the Internet.

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