Happy birthday, internet: 25 years of milestones

The internet turns 25 today – we look back over its long and storied history
25 years of internet milestones

Some of us are old enough to remember life without the internet – and what a boring life it was, devoid of the wonders of memes, free music downloads, unspeakable filth, trolls and social media.

Well, now the internet is officially edging towards middle age: today it turned 25 years old, and to celebrate we thought we’d take you on a skip through some of its most important milestones.

The world's first web page

August 1991

Tim Berners-Lee (pictured at the top of the page) makes the world's first website, info.cern.ch, publicly available on the internet.

January 1993

The University of Illinois releases Mosaic, the first browser capable of displaying images on the same page as text.


Excite, Lycos and Yahoo! allow people to search the full text of web documents, and web surfing is born.

Netscape logo

December 1994

Netscape Navigator launches and quickly becomes the most popular browser – in large part because of its innovative approach, rendering the text of web pages before all the images had downloaded. The codebase is later used by Mozilla for the development of Firefox.

August 1995

Microsoft includes Internet Explorer as part of an upgrade for Windows 95. The browser wars begin, and Netscape ultimately loses.


January 1996

Sergey Brin and Larry Page begin work on a new search technology called PageRank. Google starts here.

July 1996

Hotmail (now Outlook.com), arguably the world’s first widespread web-based email service, is launched by Microsoft.

November 1996

a/s/l? ICQ becomes the first modern instant messaging service, although IRC had been around since 1988.

Ultimate Online

September 1997

Richard Garriott's Ultima Online, the first subscription-based graphical MMORPG, launches. In 2007, Garriott becomes the sixth space tourist. The two events are not unrelated.

June 1999

Shawn Fanning creates Napster, a hub for sharing songs with strangers. The music industry hasn't recovered.

March 2000

Tech stocks on the NASDAQ Composite Index reach a record high. Days later, the dotcom bubble bursts: they fall 10 per cent.

March 2000

Mark Bush becomes the first person in the UK to have broadband installed at home – a Telewest ADSL connection. Before that, Bush had been spending £300 a month on dial-up internet.

April 2001

Bram Cohen releases the BitTorrent protocol onto the web, making file sharing faster and harder to track.

October 2001

First 3G service launched by NTT Docomo in Japan. Smartphone shipments overtook desktop PCs at the end of 2010.


February 2004

Mark Zuckerberg launches Facebook. It's not the first social network, but it soon becomes the definitive one.

November 2004

Blizzard Entertainment launches World of Warcraft, which quickly established itself as the world’s most popular and best known MMO. As of July 2013, WoW had over seven million subscribers, and Blizzard claims it has generated US$2.3 billion in subscriber revenue since launch.

February 2005

Inspired by the difficulty of finding clips of Janet Jackson’s infamous Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” online, three PayPal employees launch a video sharing site called YouTube. Here’s the first ever video posted there.

The first ever Tweet

July 2006

Twitter goes live. By 1st January 2011, a record 6939 tweets per second are sent.

September 2008

Google launches the beta version of its own web browser, Chrome. Chrome was the first browser to unite the address bar and search bar into a single “Omnibox”, saving us all a lot of time.

November 2010

WikiLeaks releases a tranche of American diplomatic cables, including documents marked "Secret" and "Confidential."

January 2011

The last IPv4 addresses are assigned.

Edward Snowden

May 2013

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden alerts the world to the widespread use of internet surveillance programs by US government agencies.

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