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History of the Internet

The World Wide Web (abbreviated WWW, W3 or simply ``the Web'') is less than 10 years old but it enjoyed a rapid development. It is based on the infrastructure of the Internet, a world-wide network of computers whose origins date back to the 1960s.

The concept of a global network and its influence on social interactions were first described in a series of memos by J.C.R. Licklider of MIT in August 1962. The vision of his ``Galactic Network'' resembled already many aspects of today's Internet. In October 1962 Licklider became the first head of the computer research program at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). [Lein97,Tapp95]

The technology necessary for computer networking was also developed at MIT by Leonard Kleinrock. He published the first paper on packet switching theory in July 1961. This type of network has no central hub and no central control centre. Packets containing small amounts of data are forwarded from place to place until they arrive at the proper destination.

In 1966 a first concept for ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency NETwork) was developed at DARPA. At the same time research groups at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in Teddington, UK, and at the RAND Corporation worked on packet networking. The RAND group had published a paper on packet switching networks for secure voice in the military in 1964. This might be the source for all rumour claiming that the ARPANET was somehow related to building a network resistant to nuclear war, but this was never the main goal.

In 1969 ARPANET was founded and initially connected four sites: Stanford Research Institute , University of California at Los Angeles , University of California at Santa Barbara and University of Utah . At that time only telnet and ftp services were available. Soon, the network started to grow as NASA , Department of Defense (DoD), National Science Foundation (NSF), and other governmental institutions became interested in this project. No earlier than 1972 this new network technology was demonstrated to the public. Then the ARPANET developers invented a new tool for coordinating their work: email. It became the largest network application for over a decade. In 1973 a new communications protocol for the network had to be developed to allow the connection of more computers and overcome resulting reliability problems. Robert E. Kahn and Vinton G. Cerf created the new standard, the Transmission Control Protocol /Internet Protocol (TCP/IP). DARPA supported the University of California Berkeley in incorporating the new protocol in their Unix operating system. These releases proved to be a critical element in dispersion of the protocols to the research community. On January 1, 1983 all hosts connected to ARPANET had to convert to the new protocol simultaneously. This can also be said to be the day when ARPANET ceased to be and the Internet came into being. In 1981 IBM founded a network of its own, BITNET (Because Its Time NETwork). BITNET was a store and forward network, which is also indicated by its name, designed to allow email and mailing lists. This meant that first users could not get a real time connection over a BITNET link. The development of Local Area Networks (LANs), PCs and workstations in the 1980s allowed the nascent Internet to flourish. Ethernet technology, which defines physical and electrical standards for small networks, was developed by Bob Metcalfe at Xerox PARC (where also the ``mouse'' was invented) in 1973. Today it is probably the dominant network technology used by the Internet.  In 1983 Paul Mockapetris of the Information Science Institute (ISI) at the University of Southern California (USC) developed the idea of the Domain Name System. In order to establish communication with another host on the Internet, its host name has to be converted into its IP address which uniquely identifies any computer connected to the Internet. In the early days, the host name to address mappings were maintained by the Network Information Center (NIC, today InterNIC) in a single file which was sent to all hosts. As the Internet grew, this technique became slow and inefficient.

The Domain Name System specifies the design of a distributed database for converting host names into IP addresses. The mappings are not kept in a single database but the Internet is divided into different zones and for each zone there are at least two authoritative name servers. Within its zone a name server is responsible for an up-to-date host name database. In addition it may save resolved host names of other zones in a local cache. If it receives a request to resolve a host name from outside its zone it can either use information from its cache or it has to return the address of another name server which is closer to the desired zone and can return the required information or the address of a third name server even closer and so on.

In 1984 the National Science Foundation founded five super computer centres, linked them via backbones and also to the Internet and funded connections to these super computer centres. Soon the network had to be upgraded with T1 lines, transferring 1.5 Mbps (Megabits per second) which was twenty-five times faster than the old 56 kbps lines. As a consequence network traffic started to increase by as much as fifteen percent per month as more sites were coming online. They had been attracted by easier access and the new speed.

In 1989 the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) connected to the Internet and by 1990 it had become the largest Internet site in Europe. That was also the year when Tim Berners-Lee launched his ``Hypertext Project'' which led to the development of the World Wide Web.

In 1991 new T3 lines (45 Mbps) were introduced. There were 4,500 different networks connected to the NSF backbone, as opposed to 170 in 1986.

On October 24, 1995, the Federal Networking Council passed a resolution defining the term Internet.

Resolution: The Federal Networking Council (FNC) agrees that the following language reflects our definition of the term ``Internet''. ``Internet'' refers to the global information system that - (i) is logically linked together by a globally unique address space based on the Internet Protocol (IP) or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons; (ii) is able to support communications using the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) suite or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons, and/or other IP-compatible protocols; and (iii) provides, uses or makes accessible, either publicly or privately, high level services layered on the communications and related infrastructure described herein.

Figure 1: Exponential growth of the Internet
\includegraphics [scale=0.7]{}\end{figure}

Table 1: Distribution by Top-Level Domain Name by Host Count (Jan. 1998)
Domain Abbrev. Hosts
Commercial com 8201511
Networks net 5283568
Educational edu 3944967
Japan jp 1168956
US Military mil 1099186
United States us 1076583
Germany de 994926
United Kingdom uk 987733
Canada ca 839141
Australia au 665403
Organizations org 519862
Government gov 497646
Finland fi 450044
Netherlands nl 381172
France fr 333306
Sweden se 319065
Norway no 286338
Italy it 243250
Taiwan tw 176836
New Zealand nz 169264
Spain es 168913
Denmark dk 159358
South Africa za 122025
South Korea kr 121932
Brazil br 117200
Switzerland ch 114816
Austria at 109154
rest of the world   1117456
total   29669611

The Internet is just over fifteen years old, but growing at an unprecedented speed. It has reached almost all countries in the world and the Internet Domain Survey of January 1998 counts almost 30 million hosts forming the Internet. This survey uses the Domain Name System to count the number of hosts in each domain. The old survey counted the number of domain names that had IP addresses assigned to them. Since there are restrictions to the access of domain data, a new technique has been developed. The new domain survey is the reverse of the old survey. It counts the number of IP addresses that have been assigned a name. The results of the latest survey are available at the Network Wizards' Web site .

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Werner Scholz