June 17, 1997
A group of users organized over the Internet cracked the Data Encryption Standard — the strongest legally exportable encryption software in the United States — after five months of work. The United States bans stronger encryption software out of fear that it would be used by terrorists, but companies designing the software say such restrictions are worthless because foreign countries offer much stronger programs.
June 1, 1999
Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker release the filesharing service Napster. The service provides a simple way for users to copy and distribute MP3 music files. It becomes an instant hit, especially among college students. Just over 6 months later, on December 7, 1999, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) will file a lawsuit against the service, alleging mass copyright infringement. Eventually this lawsuit will force the shutdown of the company on September 3, 2002, but not before the popularity of downloading digital music is firmly entrenched in a generation of Internet users.
May 28, 1987
CompuServe releases the Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) standard as a new computer graphics file format. Due to color limitations, the GIF format is unsuitable for reproducing color photographs, but it is well-suited for more simple images such as graphics or logos with solid areas of color. This made it probably the most popular graphics format for the early Internet, until the famous “GIF licensing controversy” soured many designers to its use. The PNG format was developed in response as an alternative to GIF to get around the licensing issues. However, all relevant patents have since expired and the GIF format may now be freely used. Today it still sees widespread use, especially when simple animations are needed.
April 30th, 1993
At the urging of Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web protocol, the directors of CERN release the source code of World Wide Web into the public domain, making it freely available to anyone, without licensing fees. The decision to make the World Wide Web software and protocols freely available is considered by some as possibly the single most important moment in the history of the Internet. In fact, some historians mark this as the birth of the Web.
April 29, 2004
The Sasser worm is released into the wild, infecting over 1 million Windows computers worldwide. Looks like 1 million PC users stepped into a big pile of sassy!
April 28, 2003
Apple Computer launches the iTunes Music Store. The store sells music for 99¢ a song for use with the Apple iPod and iTunes software. It is not the first service to sell digital music, but it will become the first to gain widespread popularity. The service will be an instant success, selling over one million songs in its first week and going on to change the music industry forever. The iTunes Music Store is now the #1 music retailer in the United States, surpassing Wal-Mart in 2008.
April 25, 1996
Yahoo! begins advertising its web-based search service on national television, featuring the tag line “Do You Yahoo?”. The ads first air during Late Night with David Letterman, Saturday Night Live, and Star Trek. This was a very early example of the Internet entering into the mainstream.
April 22, 1993
Version 1.0 of the web browser Mosaic is released by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. It’s the first software to provide a graphical user interface for the emerging World Wide Web, including the ability to display inline graphics. The lead Mosaic developer is Marc Andreesen, one of the future founders of Netscape.
My first experience with the World Wide Web was in 1993 using Mosaic on a Mac in my dorm’s computer lab. I had no idea what I had discovered until a few months later.