How To Time Travel Through The Brief History Of The Internet

Dave Parrack 07-08-2013

However old you may be, you’ll no doubt remember your ‘firsts‘. The memorable firsts will be different for everyone, but your first kiss, your first day of school, your first girlfriend or boyfriend, and your first time being given responsibility are all prime examples of these firsts that stay with us through the years as we (hopefully) grow old gracefully.


The Internet also has its firsts. But they can sometimes get lost in amongst the cacophony of digital noise created by the emergence of new websites, new services, and new ways of doing things that continuously flood the online world. It’s for this reason that it’s important to highlight and track the Internet firsts that act as the origin of our Internet-enabled species.

Then, from their humble beginnings to the immensely popular properties they are today, websites evolve to take in new trends,new design sensibilities, new programming languages, and new voices. Or they die, in a fine example of Charles Darwin’s survival of the fittest evolutionary theory.

It’s extremely interesting to chart the history of your favorite website(s) from their origin point, all the way through their existence, and right up until the present day. And it’s entirely feasible too thanks to just a few key resources. In other words, time travel is entirely possible, as long as you only travel within the confines of the Internet.


How To Time Travel Through The Brief History Of The Internet firsts internet

In September 2012 Yaara wrote a fascinating article about various Internet firsts Go Back In Time: The First Ever YouTube Video, Tweet, Image, Website, Email, & More What was the first website to ever be published? What was the first Amazon item ever ordered? What is the first line to ever be tweeted? Curious? So was I. After several hours of extensive... Read More . These included the first website ever created, the first tweet ever sent, the first YouTube video ever uploaded, and the first image posted online (as seen above).


This is a truly fascinating subject, because while we’re all happily browsing the Web, reading Twitter, watching cat videos on YouTube, and looking through huge albums of photos of our friends on holiday, we likely never give a thought to how we arrived at this point. Or, more accurately, how the Internet became what it is today.

So let’s explore the brief history of the Internet using just three key resources…

This Was First

How To Time Travel Through The Brief History Of The Internet this was first banner

This Was First is a website dedicated to memorializing some of those all-important Internet firsts. More specifically, the first posts on some of the world’s favorite websites. Included are the granddaddies of e-commerce such as Amazon and eBay Shop Like a PRO: 7 Tools to Crack eBay Read More , tech blogging royalty such as TechCrunch and Engadget, and entertainment powerhouses such as Reddit The Awesome Guide to Reddit Wonder how your friends always find cool stuff on the Internet before you? They're probably using Reddit, the self-proclaimed "front page of the Internet". Read More and 9GAG.


The data is presented very simply, with a wall of logos which, once clicked on, reveal the information behind the origins of that particular website. The date and author of the first post are revealed, with a little textual context added for good measure.

How To Time Travel Through The Brief History Of The Internet this was first websites

One website that This Was First hasn’t yet got around to adding to its hall of fame is MakeUseOf, which is, I’m sure, a mere oversight on their part, and not an intentional slight on our position in the pecking order of popular websites. Thankfully we can point you to the first post on MakeUseOf, a short article discussing a Post-It Note app called Memento that was published on the site in July 2006.

The Wayback Machine

How To Time Travel Through The Brief History Of The Internet the wayback machine


The Wayback Machine is an extremely well-known resource for all budding retronauts, and for that reason it’s unlikely to be new to most of you reading this. However, for the select few n00bs who have never heard of it, the Wayback Machine is busy archiving the Web and has been since 1996. This means it offers snapshots of the Internet as it existed at various times throughout its (short) history.

You simply type a domain name into the searchbox and the Wayback Machine will whisk you through the timeline of that website’s existence. So, taking MakeUseOf as an example — as Ryan did when he took a detailed look at the Wayback Machine The New Wayback Machine Lets You Visually Travel Back In Internet Time It seems that since the Wayback Machine launch in 2001, the site owners have decided to toss out the Alexa-based back-end and redesign it with their own open source code. After conducting tests with the... Read More in 2011 — the first snapshot was taken in 2006, and others have been taken regularly ever since. Clicking on a date will open the archived version of the site from then, allowing you to see old-skool logos and formatting.


How To Time Travel Through The Brief History Of The Internet screenshots homepage

Screenshots takes a similar approach to its job of charting the evolution of the Web as the Wayback Machine. Every time the software powering this site notices that significant changes have been made to the homepage of a popular website, a screenshot is taken and archived.


The result is a visual timeline of each individual website’s distinct style. Screenshots has, at the time of writing, taken 23 screenshots of MakeUseOf, the first being captured in November 2006.

Screenshots also includes some extra details to add context to each search. By using the DomainTools API, Screenshots reveals who owns the domain, when it was first registered, and other sites that feature similar content to the one you’re currently exploring.

A Brief History Of Time (On The Internet)

How To Time Travel Through The Brief History Of The Internet timely reminder

This all acts as a timely reminder of how young the Internet is in the big scheme of things. The first website ever created didn’t appear until the early-1990s, and most of the websites that are popular today were conceived in the past 10 years. Including the one you are reading right now.

The Internet is evolving at an alarming rate, and this means that what is popular now may be dead within a few short years. MySpace isn’t quite dead yet but it’s a specific example of a website which grew incredibly quickly and then sank as fast as it had risen.

This Was First, the Wayback Machine, and Screenshots are charting the history of the Internet, capturing its essence at various points over the last few years. This may not seem important now, but as the Internet evolves and the story grows longer, the first few chapters will become crucial to understanding the overall plot.


Are you as intrigued by this subject as much as I am? Is the Internet old enough to have a “history” as we understand the term? Which websites, if any, will you now go trawling the archives of in order to view their earliest posts? Were you aware of This Was First, The Wayback Machine, and/or Screenshots before today? Let us know your thoughts on the subject at hand in the comments section below.

Image Credits: Kiran Foster, Robert Anthony Provost

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  1. Ron
    August 11, 2013 at 1:13 am

    The link to the "fascinating article about various Internet firsts" doesn't work.

    • Saikat Basu
      August 11, 2013 at 3:09 am

      Thanks, it has been fixed.

  2. Lisa O
    August 8, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    I'm aware of the wayback machine and I keep a google cache bookmarklet in my main browser. Internet isn't very old, but looking at the 'history' of big websites are fascinating. That 'firsts' site is interesting. Even the internet big-shots were started from a single post.

    • Dave P
      August 9, 2013 at 5:51 pm

      Exactly. I find it fascinating that no matter how huge a website ended up as, they had to start somewhere, and most of them have less than auspicious beginnings.