18 Famous Internet Milestones You’ll Find Interesting [INFOGRAPHIC]

The WebFX team is made up of more than 450 subject matter experts in digital marketing, SEO, web design and web development, social media, and more. Together, they've helped WebFX's clients earn more than $3 billion in revenue from the web — and that's just in the past five years.

Want a quick summary of 10 Internet milestones? We have a video for that below.

In 1971, Ray Tomlinson sent the world’s first email, a message passed from one computer to another placed directly beside it. Now, more than 50 years later, we send and receive approximately 306 billion email messages each and every day.

Email is just one example of the explosive growth experienced by the Internet and its features.

Since its development in the late 20th century, the Internet has quickly evolved into a necessity for our daily lives. Not long ago, Internet access was considered a luxury, and it certainly wasn’t fast. In our graphical representation of the Internet, we’ll explore a series of famous Internet milestones you may not have known about, including the first spam email, the first item purchased securely online, and the creation of cryptocurrency.

Famous Internet firsts infographic

1. The birth of the Internet

There’s not really one main date you can pin down as the creation of the Internet.  Some sources say the Internet started in 1983 with the establishment of a communication protocol known as Transfer Control Protocol/Internetwork Protocol (TCP/IP). This protocol made it possible for computers on different networks to communicate.

Other sources trace the Internet back to the 1960s with the development of ARPANET. ARPA was the U.S.

Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the purpose of their network was to connect different computers so information could pass between them.

2. The first email

You can thank engineer Ray Tomlinson for your email inbox. In 1971, Tomlinson figured out how to send a message from one computer to another, leading to email as we know it today.

In interviews, he shares that the contents of the first email were probably a random selection of letters and does not recall exactly what he sent from one computer to another.

Today, Statista estimates that we send and receive 306 billion emails around the world each day. We also have around four billion email users around the world.

Those numbers will likely continue to grow.

3. The first spam email

Around 400 people received the first spam email in 1978. Now, around 89 billion spam emails are sent daily. The good news, however, is that the number of spam emails is decreasing.

Gary Thuerk, the “father of spam,” sent out the first unsolicited email to an audience of about 400 on ARPANET in 1978. The message was meant to promote Digital Equipment Company’s (DEC’s) new product demo on the west coast of the United States.

As ARPANET was, at the time, a channel with limited usability and serious restrictions, this resulted in some backlash.

4. The first registered domain name

The first registered domain name ever was symbolics.com in March of 1985. It was purchased by the Symbolics Computer Corporation, a computer development company. They retained the domain in 2009, until it was sold to an investment group that continues to preserve its legacy online.

As of Q4 2021, Verisign reports a total of 341.7 million registered domain names.

The number of registered domains increased by 1.6 million — or 0.5% — from Q4 2020. The top-level domains (TLDs) .com and .net saw am 8.2 million — or 5.0% — increase, reaching 173.4 million registrations.

5. Invention of the World Wide Web

Tim Berners-Lee changed the course of Internet history in 1989 when he invented the World Wide Web.

Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web while working at CERN (the European Council for Nuclear Research) to help scientists and universities share information all over the world on devices that use the Internet.

As written on the first website, the World Wide Web is a “wide-area hypermedia information retrieval initiative aiming to give universal access to a large universe of documents.” Basically, the web uses a bunch of interconnected links on the Internet to help you access websites, videos, and anything else you need online.

6. The first website

Not long after Tim Berners-Lee proposed the World Wide Web, we also got the first website.

In 1991, a website explaining CERN’s World Wide Web project launched.

Fun fact: You can still view the website to this day (or at least at the time of making this video). It’s definitely not as complex as the websites you’re used to now, but it was revolutionary when it was created.

Today, you can find about 1.7 billion websites on the Internet, with more than 500,000 new websites launched each day.

7. The first photo on the Internet

You’re going to hear the name Tim Berners-Lee again. The man behind the World Wide Web is also responsible for uploading the first photo to the Internet in the early 1990s.

The image features a group of singers associated with CERN, known as Les Horribles Cernettes, photoshopped onto a blue background.

Berners-Lee got the photo from his colleague Silvano de Gennaro, who had no idea that his image would be a piece of history.

8. The invention of Wi-Fi

What’s the Wi-Fi password?

Wi-Fi uses an Internet-connected transmitter to send radio signals to different devices, which then allows you to stream movies, share memes, and spend your paycheck on things you don’t need.

Many smaller milestones led to Wi-Fi’s popularity today. In fact, a very early contributor to the technology that makes Wi-Fi possible was actress Hedy Lamarr, who worked with fellow creative George Antheil to develop a “frequency hopping” system. This system allowed transmitters and receivers to move to new frequencies in a way that prevented others from intercepting radio waves.

That was back in the 1940s.

Fast forward to the 1990s, and a team at CSIRO invents the wireless local area network (WLAN), which lets your devices connect to a network using radio waves.

In 1997, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) approved the 802.11 standard for how Wi-Fi should work, marking the official creation of Wi-Fi. This standardization led to more Wi-Fi-compatible devices, including the one you’re probably using to read this blog post.

9. The first search engine

If you thought Google was the first search engine, think again. In the 1990s, just like today, people wanted a way to search for specific files. Enter Archie, the first search engine.

A student at McGill University in Montreal named Alan Emtage created the Archie index for a school project in 1990. That’s some project.

Many different search engines began to pop up after Archie. You had Gopher in 1991, Excite in 1993, and Yahoo! and WebCrawler in 1994. A few years later, in 1998, the search engine you know as Google came to be.

Today, Statcounter reports that Google holds about 92% of the search engine market share. According to Internet live stats, there are more than 3.5 billion searches every day.

10. The first banner ad posted

AT&T sponsored the first online ad in 1994.

Joe McCambley, then a creative director for an interactive agency named Modem Media, pitched the idea of a banner ad — then a brand new concept — to one of the agency’s clients, AT&T. The agency and AT&T worked together to create an ad that was hosted on Hotwired.com.

Instead of promoting AT&T, the ad urged viewers to click on the banner (using the clever call to action “you will”) to see a total of seven museums containing great works of art from around the world.

According to Modem Media founder GM O’Connell, the first banner ad had a 44% clickthrough rate. Although the ad didn’t reach that many people — the Internet was still in its infancy in 1994 — it received a lot of press attention, and helped AT&T secure its position as an industry innovator.

11. The first secure ecommerce transaction

While there’s some debate as to who sold the first item securely on the Internet — securely meaning they used encryption technology to protect credit card information — this ecommerce transaction occurred in 1994.

Some say that the first item sold securely online was a Sting CD, at the cost of $12.48. Dan Kohn created NetMarket, the website that sold the CD.

Another company also lays claim to the secure ecommerce throne. The team at the Internet Shopping Network says they used the Internet to sell computer equipment a month before NetMarket sold its CD.

No matter who sold what first, both NetMarket and Internet Shopping Network paved the way for online marketplaces like Shopify, Alibaba, and Amazon to succeed.

Ecommerce as a whole keeps growing, with one report sharing more than 27% growth globally.

12. The first item sold on Amazon

Founded in Jeff Bezos’ garage in Washington in 1994, Amazon.com sold its first item — a book — on April 3, 1995. The book was Douglas R. Hofstadter’s Fluid Concepts And Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought. The book is still for sale on Amazon.com and has a 4.5-star rating.

From September 1, 2020 to August 31, 2021, Amazon selling partners in the U.S.

sold 7,400 products every minute. Not bad for a company originally started in a garage selling a few books!

13. The first social media platform

Before TikTok. Before Facebook. Before Tumblr.

Before YouTube. Before even MySpace… we had Six Degrees.

Referred to as the first social media platform, Six Degrees operated on the same basic principles as modern social media companies. You would create a profile, connect with friends, and communicate with people in your network.

This platform was founded in 1996 by Andrew Weinreich and had millions of registered users at its peak.

Now, Facebook holds the title of most popular social network with 2.9 billion users worldwide.

14. The first person on Facebook (who wasn’t a co-founder)

The first few accounts created on Facebook were reserved for testing, Mark Zuckerberg, and his co-founders.

But the first real user to join the site was Arie Hasit, a friend of the co-founders and roommate of Mark Zuckerberg, who joined the site in early 2004.

Hasit, whose account ID is 7, currently lives in Israel and works as a rabbi.

Currently, Facebook’s parent company — Meta — boasts 3.64 billion monthly active people using its family of products, including Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and Whatsapp.

15. The first Tweet ever Tweeted

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey made the first tweet on March 21, 2006, when the site was still known as Twttr:

  • just setting up my twttr — Jack (@jack) March 21, 2006

According to Twitter’s earnings release, the company had 217 million monetizable daily active users (mDAU) in Q4 2021.

16. The first YouTube video uploaded

YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim uploaded the first video to the site on Saturday, April 23, 2005. The video was a 19 second clip of Karim at the San Diego Zoo talking about elephants.

Today, more than 2 billion logged-in users watch content on YouTube every month. Not only that, but people watch more than one billion hours of video each day.

17. The first Instagram photo posted

Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom posted the first photo on Instagram on July 16, 2010, a few months before the app’s initial launch on iOS in October. The photo was of a golden retriever.

According to Hootsuite, 1.22 billion people use Instagram every month, and it’s the second most-downloaded app worldwide, falling right behind TikTok.

18. The first commercial transaction using Bitcoin

Strap in. This section covers the rollercoaster that is cryptocurrency.

In 2010, the first commercial transaction using Bitcoin occurred when a man in Florida, USA bought two pizzas from Papa John’s for 10,000 BTC (Bitcoins). This transaction assigned a value to Bitcoins.

Bitcoin entered the scene in 2008 when the domain name bitcoin.org came to be.

A white paper on Bitcoin was distributed to a cryptography mailing list shortly after, published by either a group or a single person using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. No one really knows who actually published the white paper to this day.

Bitcoin may be an important part of Internet history, but it wasn’t the first form of cryptocurrency.

Computer scientist and cryptographer David Chaum used his own privacy-focused formula to create DigiCash in 1995, which is regarded as one of the first versions of digital money. Other versions of decentralized currency came into existence after DigiCash, but none became as popular as Bitcoin.

Bitcoin’s value has seen its highs and lows since it gained popularity, and many other forms of cryptocurrency have come into existence.

You’ve got your Ethereum, Litecoin, and — of course — Dogecoin.

There are many other options out there for investors, but we’re not going to give you investment advice.

These are just a few of the famous firsts on the Internet

From the first website to the first photo to the first Tweet, these services and now-common functions have come a long way.

While it’s entertaining to look back, just imagine how many more Internet milestones you’ll experience in the future.

WebFX Careers

Join our mission to provide industry-leading digital marketing services to businesses around the globe - all while building your personal knowledge and growing as an individual.

We’re Hiring! View 30+ job openings!