Understanding Big Tech: Internet Life from 1980 to the Present Day

The Internet is a vast place, teeming with information. But the funny thing about the Internet is that most people genuinely don’t understand that power that this vast network holds. The truth is, the Internet has helped many to achieve great triumphs, while it has also helped others to amass followers for causes not always linked to noble intentions.

But the Internet wasn’t developed overnight. In fact, these developments can be traced back to the 1960’s when the United States and the former Soviet Union were engaged in the Cold War.

Today, the Internet is a place that anyone can visit. But this wasn’t the case in its early form. In fact, from the 1980’s up to the early 2000 era, the Internet was a strange place.

Here, we’ll explore Internet life from 1980 to the present day, and all of the changes that made this digital landscape we know today possible.


In 1979, Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis developed Usenet. This ultimately became the very first online message board which allowed a user to post messages or information online. Additionally, this also became one of the first chatrooms, though the format was far from what we know of instant messaging platforms today.

Usenet laid the groundwork for other applications to come after it. And in January of 1983, the Internet was officially born.

The United States Military had developed most of the ech for the Internet in the late 1960’s through its program ARPANET, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. But Usenet used a different approach with a dial-up connection and Unix proxy servers, creating a new method of online communication.

Today, Usenet is still functioning as a separate network from the Internet. And you can still access the network using a Usenet service provider.


In 1985, America Online, or AOL launched its promotional packages enticing consumers to sign up for its service. And it was this development that allowed the general public access to the early Internet.

In 1992, AOL offered access and access to Usenet. Prior to 1992, Usenet was largely a network frequented by academics. But after Tim-Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web with his developments in Hypertext and HTML in 1989, the Internet began to take form and it became much easier to source information.

As such, Usenet became a gold mine for users who wanted to share information online. And the web started to grow. Though at the time, search engines were largely missing from Internet architecture altogether.

The Rise of Search Engines

In 1990, the first search engine launched, and this was dubbed Archie. This was the tool used by journalists to seek out information online for the most part but was available for the general public during the same year when “Gopher” came along and made the indexes searchable.

A year later in 1991, Tim-Berners Lee set up what came to be known as the World Wide Web Virtual Library, or VLib. At the same time, the CERN webserver began to host web servers in a list, making it easy to allocate servers, websites, and information.

After this point, several search engine efforts took hold. And many of these lasted for only a few years as the technology was rapidly advancing. In fact, most search engines that were developed no longer exist today.

However, in 1998, Google was born and stole the scene in the search engine marketplace. For the first few years, Google had direct competition with Yahoo and MSN search, Northern Lights, and Ask Jeeves. But after 2004, Google developed algorithms for indexing websites that changed the game entirely.

Today, Google stands as the most dominant search engine in the world, and entire businesses are built around marketing due to Google’s indexing algorithms.

The Internet is truly an interesting place. But its vastness is only dwarfed by its users. We humans still don’t fully understand the power of information sharing. And it is our shortsightedness that has made Internet progress difficult over the years.

Nathaniel Villa
Nathaniel Villa