What Was the First Internet Ad? It’s Not What You Think

Joel Lee 08-10-2015

Advertisements are a huge point of contention amongst modern Web users. At best, ads are inconvenient and unsightly — they can waste valuable mobile data Saving Mobile Data: 5 Clever Ways To Reduce Data Usage If you’re on a limited mobile data plan, you may find opening your bill to be harrowing experience. Is there an overage charge? How much? And why was there so much data used? While the... Read More , slow down page-loading, and pop-ups are just the worst Let's Put A Stop To Pop-Up Browser Ads Once And For All! Pop-ups can catch you off guard, and if you're not careful they can create problems. Learn how to avoid them and how to handle them if they do come up. Read More  — at worst, online ads can be harmful to kids How to Avoid the Dangers of Online Advertisements Targeted at Kids You might think you're smart enough to dodge manipulative advertisements -- and maybe you are smart enough -- but what about children? Online ads are increasingly targeting younger and younger folks. What can we do? Read More .


However, advertisements are necessary. Ad-blocking extensions are harmful Are Ad Blocking Browser Extensions Killing The Internet? One of the reasons for the Internet’s surge in popularity is the cost of most online content – or rather, the lack of cost. That’s not to say the content is free, however. Almost every... Read More because ads are the bread-and-butter of many non-corporate websites. For an Internet that’s free of subscriptions and paywalls, ad-blocking extensions need to die It's About Ethics in Stealing Games Journalism: Why AdBlock Needs to Die A simple, free browser plugin killed Joystiq – and is ruining the Internet. Read More .

But where did all of this start?


If you thought the first Internet ad was a banner, then surprise! You’re wrong. Banners are a relatively new phenomenon in the online world. Pop-ups, pop-unders, search ads, and adware are all recent trends. In fact, for most of the Internet’s lifetime, the main form of advertisement was by…



It’s impossible to know what the very first advertisement was, but the first publicized example is a 1978 email sent by the now-defunct Digital Equipment Corporation to ARPANET users across the west coast of America. Email advertising How Do Spammers Find Your Email Address? Spam is the closest thing we’ll ever find to an Internet plague. No matter who you are, spam will one day find you and you’ll have no choice but to put up with its pestilence.... Read More is so old that it predates the Internet as we know it today!

And if you’re curious, that 1978 bit of spam was an invitation to come see brand new models of the Dec-20 computer.


By comparison, the first recorded online banner advertisement came around in 1994 thanks to If you’re worried about spam in your email, check out these email security tips 8 Essential Email Security Tips You Should Know by Now Everyone should know these essential email security tips and put them in practice to protect their most important accounts. Read More to keep you safe.

Do you remember your first encounter with an online ad? What was it? Tell us about your experiences below in the comments!

Image Credit: Online Advertising Laptop by Aysezgicmeli via Shutterstock, Annoying Popup Ad by Sam72 via Shutterstock

Related topics: History, Online Advertising.

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  1. Saikat Basu
    October 9, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    A good article on the online advertising.

    The ad space was bought for three months at the price of $30,000. It produced a click through rate of whopping 44%.

    • Joel Lee
      October 17, 2015 at 12:30 am

      Wow, 44%... imagine that kind of rate today. That'd be insane, lol.

  2. Anonymous
    October 8, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    I can remember the first time an ad was posted on USENET, IIRC a legal service for US immigration. There were very serious discussions about revoking internet access for the folks who posted the ad. Up to that point, discussion of commercial activity through the internet was studiously avoided because of the origin and government funded nature of most internet activity. In the end I would say that one ad opened a floodgate that destroyed the wide-ranging utility of newsgroups as a tool for discussion.

    I also remember the first time I saw ads on Netscape's home page, the first truly major web site on the internet.

    I now believe that many commercial web sites will wind up at least partially removing themselves from the general-purpose world wide web in favor of locking away access in some kind of special-purpose app where they can control presentation and mandate ad viewing, since there isn't much site owners can do to stop the spread of ad blocker from either a technical or legal standpoint.

    • Joel Lee
      October 17, 2015 at 12:31 am

      Yeah, there's definitely going to be some kind of revolution in the way web content works due to the growing adblock presence. It's going to be weird...