DES Cracked

EncryptionJune 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 to that point — after only five months of work. The United States at the time banned the export of stronger encryption software out of fear that it would be used by terrorists, but companies designing the software claimed such restrictions were worthless because foreign countries offer much stronger programs. The US eventually relaxed certain restrictions but to this day still claims to exert authority over encryption technologies under the commerce clause.

The Day the Music Industry Changed Forever

NapsterJune 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.

GIF is Not Peanut Butter

Newton's Cradle AnimationMay 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.

The First Mass Unsolicited Commercial E-mail, i.e. Spam

May 3, 1978

Gary Thuerk, a marketing representative for Digital Equipment Corporation, sends out an e-mail promoting an open house for the company’s latest computer systems to 393 recipients on the ARPANET, a precursor to the modern Internet. While this number sounds small by today’s standards, this was all the ARPANET users on the west coast of the United States. Given that this was an unsolicited commercial e-mail, it is now considered the first of its kind. In other words, the first spam message well before the term was coined. It brought a quick and negative response from many users and Thuerk was warned by ARPANET administrators that mass mailings were not an acceptable use of the network. The backlash notwithstanding, the open house was largely successful with over $12 million dollars of DEC equipment being sold. I guess it was better to ask forgiveness than permission in this case! 

World Wide Web Made Public Domain

Tim Berners-LeeApril 30, 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.

Sprechen Sie Sassy?

Sasser WormApril 29, 2004

The Sasser worm is released into the wild, infecting over 1 million Windows XP and Windows 2000 computers worldwide. Although the worm did not have an intentionally destructive payload, it caused many computers to slow down or crash and reboot repeatedly along with clogging up network traffic. Among the effects of the worm, the British coast guard had to resort to paper maps for the day, a French news agency lost satellite communication for hours, Delta Airlines had to delay or cancel many flights, and the University of Missouri had to disconnect its network from the Internet. Looks like 1 million PC users stepped in a big pile of sassy!

Ironically it has been speculated that the author of Sasser, a German computer science student Sven Jaschan, reverse engineered Microsoft’s patch for the LSASS vulnerability that was released earlier in the month in order to create the worm. Knowing that most computers would not have been patched and that it would spread quickly, he released the worm on this day, his 18th birthday. Lucky for him the German government determined that he had actually written the worm while he was 17, so while he was found guilty of computer sabotage, he was tried as a minor and given a 21 month suspended sentence. He now works as a security expert and consultant. Now that’s Sassy!

iTunes Music Store Launched; Record Execs Wet Themselves

iTunes Music StoreApril 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.


Do You Yahoo?

Do You Yahoo?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.


First YouTube Video

Me at the ZooApril 23, 2005

The first video uploaded to YouTube, “Me at the zoo,” is posted on April 23, 2005 at 8:27 PM by co-founder Jawed Karim. For now being a piece of history, the video is actually pretty dumb.

Note to future entrepreneurs: what you do may be for posterity. Choose wisely.

Mosaic 1.0

Mosaic LogoApril 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.