The History of the Internet, but more importantly where it is going (April 2018)

Published April 2018

The History of the Internet, but more importantly where it is going:

Jean-Pierre Murray-Kline - Internet & Social Media Specialist

It is important to know where the Internet is going to be, or better yet, what it is going to be; because I believe it will be profoundly different to what we know it to be today.

So let’s get into this!

The first PC arrived in the 1950s. Then almost 20 years later, in 1969, the concept of the Internet was born, in a very raw impression in a USA government program, which consisted basically of four computers. These old-school legends, the size of entire rooms, sent the first message, which by the way, had an error and only delivered 2 letters from a two word transmission.

From the USA, we then added the island of Hawaii to this network in 1971, and soon after followed London, in the year 1973, and then Norway joined. Email was the first recognisable use of the Internet. It is interesting to think that the ‘@’ symbol came before the ‘www’ symbol … Actually looking at my computer keyboard now, I find what most people would, which is the ‘@’ symbol as a standard button. You won't find one for ‘www’.

It is worth mentioning that the Internet, as we know it, was the child conceived and then born for the purpose of research and collaboration between organizations and universities. I do, however, also believe that there was a twin baby born as well—kept secret—which had military applications or ambitions.

Moving on…

Jean-Pierre Murray-Kline - Internet & Social Media Specialist

On the 1st of January 1983—the year I was born—researchers created a “network of networks” which became the Internet, but without normal access for the person at home. I am not certain how correct this date is, because who starts work or a project after a new year's party?

Commercial Internet service providers (ISPs) emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with a record 20 000 computers connected in the USA in the year 1987. Please bear in mind, by the year 1989 there was still no such thing as an actual website. Regardless, the Internet continued to grow and by the year 1990, there were half a million users.

Jean-Pierre Murray-Kline - Internet & Social Media Specialist

In 1991, Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web – which is basically the method of access to the Internet. This is when the real Internet was born. The first website was launched on the 6th of August the same year. The website was and still is live: https://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html

Please remember, the Internet is not the same thing as the World Wide Web. The Internet is a network of hardware. The World Wide Web is access to information and communication on the network of hardware. So obviously the Internet came before the World Wide Web.

In 1992, the first Internet Browser was truly born. This is important because before then, the Internet was a jumble of information, and the Browser is what made access to the information far easier, and therefore, promoted use of the service. Back then, it was called Netscape and some of its DNA can be found in today's modern Firefox. Mostly Internet was accessed through dial-up phone lines and was extremely slow. There are still over two million people in the states using dial-up Internet.

1992 arrived and a law was passed, allowing commercial use of the Internet in the USA – before that, it was information sharing only… no products, no charging, etc. Now that people could make money off the Internet, it was going to explode! It took only two years for the concept of online shopping to materialize and in 1994, while South Africa was being liberated, Pizza was the first thing ever purchased on the Internet!

Jean-Pierre Murray-Kline - Internet & Social Media Specialist

With that said, I have also read reports that as far back as 1972, some students from Stanford University in California (where I will be next month) did the first online transaction ever, by using the Arpanet (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) account at their artificial intelligence lab and sold a tiny amount of marijuana.

Back to business; in 1995 the I.S.P. (Internet service providers) got 100% control of the Internet. In the same year the Internet was fully commercialized in the USA. I have written prior articles and included in them my opinions on the obvious links between booming economies and a common fact that they all have an advantage of Internet access. I would like to point out here that the strongest country in the world… is where the Internet was born.

The first South African IP address was granted to Rhodes University in the year 1988, but Africa got its foot firmly in the door for usage in 1995 when a privately held firm in Kampala, now known as Clear Channel Satellite, established Africa's first native high-speed satellite Internet services.

Between the 1990s to early 2000s we have had what we called Web 1.0 – the product of all of the above, allowing emails, e-commerce, websites, online shopping, online forums, blogs and e-chatting. Over the period of 1997 to 2001 we had a boom of .com companies.

"Web 2.0" was first conceptualized in 1999, which is basically the move from static and passive content on the Internet to interactive use of the Internet; for example, social media to apps, responsive, dynamic and multiple devices and networks. This shifted the use of the Internet from research and business, to a social aspect. This made the Internet fun and, in turn, boosted its growth further and led on the mobile cell phone Internet revolution, which then supported the first Internet link in space, using satellite via low earth orbit satellite in January, 2010.

In 2011, the Internet, or more specifically, uncensored Internet was declared a human right that requires protection, by the United Nations. This is a good thing and we are currently on about 4 billion users, bearing in mind that there are about 8 billion people alive today.

Jean-Pierre Murray-Kline - Internet & Social Media Specialist

Not that it’s relevant to the Internet, but let me share it regardless: the earth’s population capacity is 10 billion before we run out of food. That means if the Internet usage grows more than twice… we might have Internet, but no food… and that year is predicted to be 2050

Ironic: the lifespan of humans are improving because of the Internet, which is radically improving our health industry.

So, assuming we solve the food crisis, let’s quickly talk about what we can expect the Internet to look like in the future?

One has to assume it will get bigger… because that’s what it has done so far. It is reasonable to believe bigger in context of the Internet means access to more people. In order to have access for more people, we need to think about devices. How we access the web. This creates a second tier of growth, and perhaps an even bigger one. This tear is called the Internet of Things, where devices use the Internet as well as people. Growth chart per year of devices:

Jean-Pierre Murray-Kline - Internet & Social Media Specialist

So how big will the Internet be? Let’s paint a picture. We currently have 4 billion people on the Internet and about 10 billion connected things or devices.

Roughly 47 % of our population. It is expected to be 90% by the year 2024. That is less than 6 years away! That is a monumental growth spurt.

While there are lots of conflicting articles, it is safe to say the Internet will more than double in the next 10 years. Very, very safe to say.

So the Internet will have at least 30 billion connections. If that sounds amazing… then you need to look at yourself, because you're amazing yourself. That little computer in your head called a brain has 100 billion neurons. That is roughly 100 trillion connections! Still more connections than the Internet!

In order for the Internet to grow, there are a few challenges, and devices are not the problem. One can also assume we will find a clever way to keep up with demand… and make money off it. After all, the Internet is currently valued at 19 trillion USD … that is 228 742 900 000 000.00 South African rand. South Africa’s entire GDP is under 300 billion USD.

Yes, the Internet is richer than South Africa, and at 21 % consumer growth currently being achieved it will soon be richer than all the counties together! Mark my words! I think communication and data companies might actually become richer than some countries very soon if you think about the fact that mobile Internet is growing three times the pace at 60% per year – that is more than 6 times faster than most counties' economic growth.

Moving forward on the subject of growth and before it can be fully achieved, there are challenges, and in my opinion they are fivefold:

  1. How we transmit ever growing amounts of data information?

    Satellite? Cell Towers? Cables? Magic? Or how about li-fi (data being sent by light signals).

    Jean-Pierre Murray-Kline - Internet & Social Media Specialist

    The majority of data will be used on streaming, for example, videos.
    I think 5G networks will help a lot in Africa. They are 1000 times faster and it’s easier to create access.
  2. How do we store the information?

    Data held by some of the big companies like Google, Microsoft and Facebook are estimated around 1200 petabytes. That is 1.2 million terabytes. One terabyte is the same as 1,000 gigabytes. This is going to grow at least 10 times in the next 10 years, spearheaded by cloud, storage and artificial intelligence.
  3. How do we protect the Information and data?

    With the boom in cybercrime and intellectual property sharing or leaks, this is a major problem. We want everyone to be connected and that will not happen if they don’t feel protected or have freedom.
  4. How do we power the information?

    In the states, the annual power bill is around 7 billion USD.
    Innovation in uninterrupted power supply and cooling systems is key. While it costs less to power the networks, to keep them cool is another story. We will see data centres under the sea or on top of mountains to use the natural environment to cut costs.
  5. How do we manage the information? More importantly, who gets to manage it?

    A lot of these challenges are going to come down to war between governments and private companies. In the end, the use and access to the Internet needs to be free, and governed by a global unbiased organization, which promotes information sharing and communication as a basic right. Until this organization is established the growth and potential of the Internet will never be fully achieved. We need Internet neutrality and it should be a concern to us that the Law protecting this in our founding Internet country was just scrapped.

    Let’s remain positive.

    Once achieved, or perhaps during the process, commercial enterprise and business in general is going to experience the most memorable evolution the human race will likely ever experience.

    Memorable not only because of how many people it will influence, but it will also be the most recorded.

    I also predict major changes for government institutions because the Internet is going to vaporize country boarders as we know them. There will be a commercial and government revolution … online, in the next two decades.

Published April 2018

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