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Emergence of the Internet and the Web

Did you know the Internet started as an entity called ARPAnet? ARPA, which stands for Advanced Research Projects Agency, operated as part of the Department of Defense. The agency was started about a year after the former Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957 - a technological embarrassment for the United States.

One goal of ARPAnet was to design a communications network capable of sustained communications in catastrophic times. The designers came up with such a network around 1969 based on a multi-path, packet-switching concept.

The multi-path component delivered on the promise of sustainability - loss of a path or two did not cause complete communication loss. The packet-switching factor capitalized on the multi-path environment. In packet-switching, the entire message is broken into pieces called packets for transmission. The packets may take the same or different routes as they travel to the destination and they may arrive in or out of order. Because the packets are numbered they can be reassembled properly and missing ones can be resent.

By 1990, ARPAnet had grown to roughly 300,000 hosts and was interconnected to other developed networks, bringing the word "Internet" - but what caused the explosive growth during the 90s?

The answer lies in three significant events. First, in 1991, the restriction on commercial use was lifted setting the stage for e-commerce, while across the globe in Switzerland the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) was created. Creation of HTTP along with documents formatted in HTML gave birth to the World Wide Web. The third event happened around 1993 with the release of Mosaic, which was the first graphical Web browser making access to the Web easier.

How much as the Internet grown? According to Comscore, the Internet now has 694 million users worldwide. For more information, visit comscore.com/press/release.asp?press=849

Ron Poland is a professor in the Computer Information Systems AAS program at Clinton Community College. Poland is certified in company repair and networking by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). He is also a Cisco certified network assistant. Questions may be sent to him via e-mail at ron@ronpoland.com.

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