Since its inception in 1989 the World Wide Web has gone from "never heard of it" to "can't live without it". It took off because of its instant user appeal, but also because it’s open and free. From HTML to hacktivism, the W3C to MP3s, lolcats to LulzSec, from one website to over 180 million, here are its defining moments.
The internet is the domain of technologists and academics, of early adopters living on AOL, Compuserve and bulletin board systems. At the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland, a computer scientist named Tim Berners-Lee notices that researchers are struggling to share information globally...
With so many new websites popping up, Stanford graduates Jerry Yang and David Filo set up a directory - eventually settling on the name Yahoo!. The first web giant is born. Match.com launches in 1995. Now, research suggests as many as one in three recently married couples first met online.
September: Stanford University students Larry Page and Sergey Brin register the google.com domain. Originally based in a friend’s garage in Menlo Park, California, Google hit one billion monthly visitors in May 2011, earned $55 billion in 2013 and now handles more than five billion searches a day.
The HTML 4.0 standard, with better multimedia support, is published by the W3C. Netscape and Internet Explorer are locked in the “browser wars”; controlling the gateway to the internet was the prize. 1999’s Internet Explorer 5 makes Microsoft the clear victor – but the company is locked in an antitrust battle with the US Department of Justice, following a Netscape complaint.
The first decade of the web was about publishing. Fuelled by greater bandwidth, the second sees a shift to a more personal, conversational style. By 2000 more than half of US households have internet access, with an estimated 360 million people using the web worldwide - and they're not all passive consumers.
January: Collaborative encyclopaedia Wikipedia ('wiki' is the Hawaiian word for 'quick') launches. Blogs - aka web logs - are becoming popular, with two-year-old blog publishing service Blogger gaining fans fast. Podcasting starts with news service MyAudio2Go.com, targeted at users of new portable MP3 players.
Google launches webmail service Gmail, offering a whopping 1 GB of free storage (with competitors like Hotmail offering around 2-4 MB). Web 2.0 poster-child Google Maps arrives in 2005, marking the start of interactive location-based services on the web.
While Flickr had been around since 2004, photo sharing really takes off with smartphones (and their built-in cameras). Instagram and Pinterest launch, and in 2013 the 'selfie' is voted the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year - defined as "a photograph that one has taken of oneself".
Founded in 2006, Wikileaks – a site dedicated to publishing confidential data anonymously - hits the headlines by releasing footage from a US airstrike in Baghdad. When PayPal refuses to process donations to Wikileaks, it’s attacked by hacker group Anonymous, costing the company £3.5 million.
Everyone in the world gets the opportunity to broadcast live on the web via apps such as Periscope and Meerkat. Meanwhile, the first generation of vlogger superstars is born, with YouTuber PewDiePie earning an estimated $7million a year. On the 6th September his channel became the first to hit 10 billion views.
With almost two billion people using Facebook every month, social media continues to grow. Seismic political events prompt many to wonder whether their personalised newsfeeds are trapping them in a ‘filter bubble’ filled with posts that align with their existing views. Meanwhile, fake news stories – written to deliberately mislead readers, capitalise on advertising revenue, or both – spread quickly within these filter bubbles thanks to their sensational appeal. Web giants are left scrambling to identify what’s true and what’s fake online.
Major organisations around the world – including the UK’s National Health Service – find themselves in the midst of an IT crisis as a global ransomware attack renders their computers useless. Ransomware, which encrypts a user’s data and demands payment for its release, has never been used on this scale before and the ‘WannaCry’ attack brings the issue firmly into the public eye. Businesses and consumers worldwide look to patch their computers to prevent further breaches.