Who created the internet? One might think that such a simple question about such a monumental technology could be answered in one sentence. Now that would make for a short, boring article, wouldn’t it? Of course it would. Indeed, I do have a one sentence answer and I believe it to be the most accurate answer.
But first! Let’s look at who did NOT invent the Internet.
Al Gore did not invent the Internet. Sorry Al. So how did this rumour get started? Did Al have any significant role to play in the development of the Internet?
In an interview Al Gore said that he, “took the initiative in creating the Internet.” That’s not the same as saying he invented it, but of course political pundits jumped all over this, trying to make Al Gore look foolish. What Gore did do was to be instrumental in a number of bills and public policies that helped further the strength and pervasiveness of the Internet in the United States of America.
Some of those bills include the National High Performance Computer Act of 1988 and the Information and Infrastructure and Technology Act of 1992. Good steps towards making the Internet stronger.
Marc Andreesen was the team leader for the group at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) that developed the Mosaic web browser. Again, this was not the invention of the Internet, but it certainly popularized the use of the World Wide Web.
Remember, the Web is only information that is accessible via the Internet. Marc and some friends did go on to found Netscape.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee
Did not invent the Internet. What good Sir Tim did do was to come up with the concept of using hypertext to link documents on various computers or servers, in such a way that they could be browsed from one location. Thus the World Wide Web was born.
Well, it took a few years to develop into that, but what he did was the underlying principle of the Web. Wickedly cool, yes. But the World Wide Web is NOT the Internet.
Think of the Web as being a bunch of libraries and the Internet is the roads connecting them.
Perhaps of any individual credited with creating the Internet, Vinton Cerf arguably comes closest. Vint, as he seems to prefer to be called, came up with the idea of the Transfer Control Protocol and the Internet Protocol. Together, they form the so-called Internet Suite most know as TCP/IP.
By doing this, and implementing it in practice, Vint and his colleagues made the Internet work for the average person. No longer did people have to be hardcore computer geeks to get computers to talk to each other remotely. You could just be an average engineer or smart person.
Don’t let the picture fool you. Vinton Cerf is one cool guy with an eye on the future and the means to create it.
The U.S. Military
Sure there were such things as the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANet) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Both of which Vint Cerf served heavily on. You could argue that because the ARPANet was the world’s first packet-switching network, that this was the birth of the Internet. In many ways, you’d be right.
However, the method of working the network only changed from being based on circuit switching. That’s what drove the telephone network. So you could really go back as far as Alexander Graham Bell as he invented the telephone and the concept of the network which is used to this day to carry data communications. Without that, would we have the Internet as we know it? Maybe not.
So Who Did Invent It Then?
So who created the internet? Well, we’ve certainly looked at some very important key players. There are hundreds of other great minds that contributed to its development as well. Some probably deserve to be mentioned here, some may be forgotten to footnotes or engineering documents. However if I were to give you a one word answer on who invented the Internet, I would say it was you.
You have the innate desire for information and you drove the Internet by putting your personal interest and money toward it. You funded government and academic organizations that did the foot work. You signed up on a bulletin board system or joined AOL when it first started. You put your money where your mind is and that, my friend, resulted in the creation of the Internet we know and love today.
Don’t you agree?