The top statistics surrounding the birth of the Internet

With over 2 billion websites and 5.5 billion of the world’s population accessing them, saying that the Internet is busy would be an understatement. However, what was it like in its infancy? What do we know about the birth of the Internet?

Let’s learn by glancing at 12 statistics.

First, we need to understand that the birth of the Internet lies with ARPANET.

Key takeaways:

  • The milestones of ARPANET are so closely tied to the Internet that you can’t talk about statistics surrounding the Internet’s infancy without mentioning stats about ARPANET.
  • The first email address, created in 1971, is tomlinson@bbn-tenexa.
  • In 1974, BBN established the first commercial ISP, known as Telenet.
  • In 1993, the first web search engine, W3Catalog, was created.

What is ARPANET?

ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) most significantly laid the modern Internet’s foundation. The United States Department of Defense’s ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency, now known as DARPA) developed ARPANET in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

ARPANET was conceived as a research project to create a decentralized, fault-tolerant communication network that could withstand a nuclear attack, ensuring that the military could still receive vital information.

Stats from the birth of the Internet

The milestones of ARPANET are so closely tied to the Internet that you can’t talk about statistics surrounding the Internet’s infancy without mentioning stats about ARPANET.

1. The first message

ARPANET realized a significant achievement on October 29, 1969, when it sent the first message between two connected computers. The message was supposed to be “LOGIN,” but ARPANET only managed to transmit the letters “L” and “O” before the system crashed.

2. The first clients

ARPANET initially connected four universities:

  • Stanford Research Institute
  • UCLA
  • University of California, Santa Barbara
  • University of Utah

Over time, it expanded to include more institutions and research centers.

3. The first email address

In 1971, while working on ARPANET, Ray Tomlinson picked the “@” symbol to separate the user’s name from the host computer’s. His email address, the first of its kind, looked something like this:


In this email address:

  • “tomlinson” is the username or recipient’s name
  • “@” is the separator Tomlinson chose
  • “bbn-tenexa” is the name of the host computer

4.     The network speed

In its early days, ARPANET operated at a speed of 56 kbps (kilobits per second), which is extremely slow by today’s standards. A typical household today can have an internet connection speed of hundreds of Mbps (megabits per second), while businesses may reach gigabits per second.

5. The first ISP

The first known Internet Service Provider (ISP) was Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. (BBN), a technology company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. BBN had played a crucial role in developing ARPANET.

In 1974, BBN established the first commercial ISP, known as Telenet. Telenet provided dial-up access to the ARPANET and offered services such as email and remote computing access. Its intended customers were businesses and research institutions.

Introducing the World Wide Web

In the mid-1980s, ARPANET transitioned to the National Science Foundation Network (NSFNET), marking a significant step in the development of the Internet and its expansion beyond military and academic institutions.

While the NSFNET wasn’t directly responsible for creating the World Wide Web, it played a vital role in the infrastructure and development of the early Internet. The Web benefited from the robust network connectivity and funding provided by NSFNET, helping accelerate its growth and adoption among academic and research institutions in the United States and worldwide.

Here are some key insights and notable developments from the early days of the WWW.

6. The first website

The first-ever website, which explained the concept of the World Wide Web, was built by Tim Berners-Lee, This website went live on August 6, 1991.

The URL (Uniform Resource Locator) for this first website was:

7. The first web browser

The first web browser, known as “WorldWideWeb,” was also developed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 1990.

Key characteristics and features of the WorldWideWeb browser included:

  • Hypertext: The browser permitted users to view and navigate hypertext documents, which could contain hyperlinks to other documents. This concept of hypertext is fundamental to the World Wide Web.
  • Editing: Besides browsing, the WorldWideWeb browser also had editing capabilities, allowing users to create and edit web pages. Users could view and modify the HTML source code of web pages directly within the browser.
  • Single platform: This initial browser was not widely available on various platforms.
  • Text-Based: The early web browser displayed web content as text and didn’t render images or multimedia elements. It used a simple interface to navigate between web pages.

8.     The first graphical web browser

Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina’s first graphical web browser, Mosaic, was released in 1993*. Mosaic marked a momentous shift from text-based internet usage to a more user-friendly experience.

* Levlin, Mattias. “DOM Benchmark Comparison of the Front-end JavaScript Frameworks React, Angular, Vue, and Svelte.” 2020,

9. The first domain name

The Domain Name System (DNS) became essential for navigating the growing web. The first domain name,, was registered on March 15, 1985.

By 1993, there were over 100 domain names registered.

10. The first e-commerce transaction

The first secure online transaction occurred in 1994 when the NetMarket platform sold a Sting CD. This event marked the beginning of e-commerce.

11. The number of Internet users in the 1990s

The number of internet users was relatively small in the early 1990s compared to today’s standards. By 1995, there were an estimated 16 million internet users worldwide. As stated at the outset, we have 5.5 billion internet users today.

Bar graph showing the difference between the number of users at the birth of the Internet and now
Image source:

12. The first search engine

The need for effective web searches led to the development of search engines. In 1993, the first web search engine, W3Catalog, was created.

In 1994, Yahoo! was founded as a directory of websites.

Did you enjoy this look at statistics surrounding the birth of the Internet?

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