Depending on how you calculate it, the popular web has been around for between 15 and 17 years – and although it's changed dramatically in that time, it's still an awkward teenager growing toward maturity.
Yet it already has a long and storied history (and some prehistory). We've decided to chronicle its 15 greatest moments here. So here, in chronological order, are the events we think have shaped the internet.
Oct 29, 1969 - First packets over the web
Before the web was born, there was simply the internet, and before the internet came ARPAnet. Though plans for ARPAnet had been brewing since the early 1960s, it wasn't ready for prime time until autumn 1969 - and even then things didn't go exactly as planned.
Late on the evening of October 29, Professor Len Kleinrock linked a mainframe computer at UCLA to one at the Stanford Research Institute over a dedicated phone line. To test the connection, Kleinrock had arranged for students at UCLA to transmit the word 'LOG', after which the computer at SRI would respond with 'IN'. Researcher Charley Kline managed to send the L and the O, but before he could send the G, the system crashed. (Some things really haven't changed all that much.)
The next attempt was successful, but 'LO' marks the moment the internet sent its first word - as significant an utterance as Alexander Graham Bell's "Watson, come here, I need you."
June 23, 1983 - Domain name system is born
Thank Paul Mockapetris, Craig Partridge and the late Jon Postel for the fact that you didn't have to type in an IP address to get here. Together they created the domain naming system, replacing numerical internet addresses with English-language domains and introducing the non-geek world to joys of the backslash key.
Instead of having to memorise a 12-digit number for every host they wanted to visit, users could simply type the machine's name and domain. Servers set up across the network would then translate the words into numbers.
On that June day 24 years ago, a DNS packet first crossed the network and elicited a response, Mockapetris reports. "That's my best estimate," he adds. "Nobody thought it was important, so no cameras were present or plaques made."
Back then - eight years before the introduction of the World Wide Web - a few hundred machines were connected to the internet. Today more than 130 million are. Without an easy-to-use naming scheme, the web as we know it would not exist.
Dec 25, 1990 - The web comes online
Stop us if you didn't see this one coming. Perhaps the greatest moment in the web's history has to be the instant of its own creation. On Christmas morning 1990, Tim Berners Lee and Robert Cailliau of the CERN research lab in Geneva communicated with the world's first web server - presenting all of us with a Christmas gift that keeps on giving.
According to the Living Internet site, Berners Lee originally developed a hypertext system to keep track of the hundreds of projects, software, and computers in use at CERN's High Energy Physics department. Using a NeXT computer, Berners Lee developed a rudimentary browser in the fall of 1990. He and Cailliau then created the first web content: the CERN phone directory.
The following August, Berners Lee unveiled his creation to the world (or at least, to the portion of the world that logged on to the alt.hypertext newsgroup). By the end of 1992, the Net hosted 50 web servers. By the end of 1994, that number had grown to 2500. The Big Bang had already begun.
The earlier development of the internet gave us the infrastructure computers needed in order to communicate, but this provided the web's most important cargo - what today amounts to more than 135 million websites, connected by rat's nest of hyperlinks and growing at a steady 5 percent per month, according to Netcraft. No aspect of our lives remains untouched by the web. The fact that you're reading this on your computer screen - not on paper - says it all.