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How did the internet begin? In the 1960's, the U.S. Department of Defense created a system that would maintain military communications in the event of a nuclear attack. The computer network was decentralized and spread across the country so that if any section was damaged, the rest of the network could still function. The DoD agency that created it was ARPA - Advanced Research Project Agency, so the network was named ARPANET.

The computers that comprised this network were located at U.S. universities with defense funding. The scientists at these universities began using ARPANET to exchange research findings, and the network was extended and developed for this purpose during the 1970's and 80's. The administration of the system was transferred from ARPA to the National Science Foundation, and became NSFNET, a national service free to U.S. research and educational institutions.

In the late 1980's, Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau of CERN (The European Institute for Particle Physics) used the concept of "hypertext" to design a formatting language that allowed him to jump from page to page on his computer using keyword hyperlinks. HTML - HyperText Markup Language - was developed based on this concept. It lets users find related information on different computers throughout the network by clicking on hyperlinks. HTML is the basis for the world wide web within the internet.

Then in the 1990's, a group of students and staff at the University of Illinois led by Marc Andreessen developed the web "browser" Mosaic, a graphical interface that enabled anyone with a personal computer to point and click their way around the web. Andreessen and Jim Clark founded Netscape Communications Corporation in 1994, marketing the Netscape Navigator web browser. Microsoft's Internet Explorer and other browsers soon followed.

At the same time, telecommunication corporations were building their own networks, which were linked to NSFNET. As these and other regional network providers took over the operation of major internet arteries, NSF created the InterNIC service, which registers all addresses on the internet so that data is routed to the correct addresses. Network Solutions, Inc. now works with InterNIC and the NSF to maintain addresses, and the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) generates HTML standards for web designers and browser manufacturers to follow. While these and other groups help to "oversee" the internet, no one actually owns, operates, or controls it directly.

For a more detailed timeline, click here.

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