The Internet evolved over time into what it is today, but it began as a US government-funded computer network. It was intended to provide a non-localized, redundant means of communication between military, scientific, educational, and government entities, should a nuclear strike occur. Ideas for the Internet developed at around the same time in many places, and it involved many visionaries, only a few of which are named here.
In 1962, Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider (1915 - 1990), an American computer scientists at MIT, envisioned a worldwide network of computers that could easily communicate with one another. Licklider soon moved to the US Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to oversee its development. From this point forward many people were involved in the developing the Internet at its various stages.
In brief, Leonard Kleinrock of MIT was instrumental in devising packet switching, the means by which data moves across the Internet. Another person active in the origins of the Internet was Lawrence Roberts, also of MIT. In 1965, he used dial-up to connect a computer in Massachusetts to one in California. Though he did not use packet switching, it became evident this technology would be required over the inadequate circuit switching used by the telephone company.
Roberts joined DARPA in 1966 to help develop the first packet switching network under the newly named Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET). ARPANET is considered synonymous with the origins of the Internet. Other people were also involved in this endeavor and made significant contributions to the technology.
The fledgling ARPA network, consisting of four nodes (computers), was connected successfully on 5 December 1969. Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) developed throughout the 1970s, was implemented fully on New Year’s Day in 1983. These protocols opened the network to commercial entities and allowed local area networks (LANs) to connect to wide area networks (WANs), critical within the evolution of the Internet.
There were many other significant developments in the early years that involved other protocols separate from the Internet, but ran within it. These included email and the network news transfer protocol (NNTP), which allowed users to exchange information in newsgroups over a user network (USENET). Telnet and file transfer protocol (FTP) were two other protocols in use, and Internet relay chat (IRC) was implemented in 1988.
The Internet in its early days was far from user friendly, however. Tim Berners-Lee of CERN would change that by proposing hypertext language, implemented in 1991. This introduced the World Wide Web and opened the world to graphical browsing and point-and-click navigation. In November 1992, Delphi made its mark by being the first nationwide commercial provider to offer their clients Internet access.
By October of 1994, early Internet users were treated to the initial release of Mosaic Netscape 0.9, the first widely successful graphical Web browser. Pioneered by Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark, the browser would eventually become Netscape Navigator. Microsoft soon released Internet Explorer®, though Netscape Navigator held favor until Microsoft began integrating its browser into the ubiquitous Windows® operating systems.
In 1995, the National Science Foundation (NSF), which had been funding the Internet backbone for non-commercial purposes, ended their sponsorship. Private services like CompuServ, AOL, and Prodigy offered pipelines to the Internet, and commercially available software allowed anyone to automatically configure their computer for Internet use.