The History of The Internet

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A brief history of the internet from WW2 to Blockchain

I’m 100% sure that 100% of you are addicted to the internet, and yet very few of us know where it came from, who made it, or how it works. This piece is part one of my series on the history of the internet. My hope is to show you not only where the internet came from, but in doing so, show you where it wants to go.

The US Government developed the early internet as a technology that could survive a nuclear attack.¹ If any one computer went down, the hope was that information on the network would persist — there would be no central point of failure, everything would be decentralized.²
50 years later, and decentralization is still the lifeblood of the internet. And so, I think it’s fitting we start there.

Napster was the way I found decentralization. I was 19, and music was my symbol of freedom. But music wasn’t free. Albums were very expensive and controlled by a middle-man: the record labels. Each week, I’d go to my local record store, pay $14.99, and return home with a physical album. A CD.

Centralized music distribution
Centralized music distribution

Napster changed all that. In the summer of 1999, my college roommate installed the music file sharing app on my computer. Instantly, I could connect with strangers and share music freely.

Decentralized music file sharing
Decentralized music file sharing

Napster’s decentralization killed the middlemen, or at least significantly shrank their power.

As a result, album sales cut in half over the next decade. The world memorialized the industry’s precipitous downfall, “The Year the Music Dies” (Wired 2003), “The Rise And Fall Of The Music Industry” (NPR 2009), and “Music’s lost decade: Sales cut in half” (CNN 2010).

During the Napster era, I was enrolled in college as a Music Industry major. My life path changed the day I saw Napster. For me, coding, and hacking had become the new rock & roll. That fall I left my music studies, and began to study computers.

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