The World Wide Web is officially in its thirties now. March 12 marks three full decades after the World Wide Web (or WWW) launched. Developed by engineer and scientist Tim Berners-Lee, the web went from a humble beginning to literally changing the world in just thirty years.
To celebrate its 30th anniversary, we've gathered some of the "firsts" of the web and the internet. From the first image uploaded to the web to the first spam email ever sent, here are some of the first things that helped make the web what it is today. Continue reading to learn about some of the internet's most historical "firsts."
The First Uploaded Image
Back in 2017, it was estimated that an average of 1.8 billion photos were uploaded to social media every day. But what was the very first photo ever uploaded to the World Wide Web? In fact, the first image to ever grace the internet was the one above.
The year was 1992, and Tim Berners-Lee and his team were busy developing the World Wide Web. After updating the platform to support photos, the team decided to test it out with a picture of Les Horribles Cernettes, a comedy rock band based. The image itself was snapped by an IT specialist backstage at one of the band’s shows.
The First Web Page
The first ever web page on the web was, in fact, a page about the World Wide Web. Long before the web became the cornerstone technology that it is today, it was a so-called “hypermedia information retrieval initiative aiming to give universal access to a large universe of documents.”
You can still view the OG web page here. It was also strikingly simple, containing only texts and hyperlinks. It’s been thirty years since the launch of the World Wide Web, and it is now the primary tool that people use to interact with and on the internet.
The First “.com” Website
The .com domain name has long been synonymous with many of the popular websites that we visit. But, originally, the domain was derived from “commercial,” meaning that it was intended for businesses. And, in fact, the first ever .com domain name was registered by a business.
On March 15, 1985, a Massachusetts-based computer manufacturer named Symbolics, Inc. registered symbolics.com — what is now the oldest domain name in history. While Symbolics is a defunct company, the domain name still works. It now leads to a simple page declaring the “world’s fist and oldest registered .com domain name.”
The First Google Search
With a few keyboard taps, you can find just about anything on Google (as well as some little-known secrets). But way back when, the site was just one of several search engines. At the time, it was actually named BackRub. So yes, the first Google search was made before it was named Google.
Shortly after its inception, BackRub founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin pitched the platform to computer scientist John Hennessy. During the meeting, Hennessy typed “Gerhard Casper” (then the president of Stanford University) into the search engine. He was impressed by the results and the rest, as they say, is history.
The First GIF
No matter how you pronounce it, GIFs are central to the internet experience of many (if not most) people. But the Graphics Interchange Format is actually quite a bit older than the social media platforms on which it is popular. Its history can be traced all the way back to 1987.
It was developed by a team of programmers at CompuServe, who largely considered it to be the most versatile and overall best image format. The first GIF was created in 1987, though unfortunately, it didn't survive. No one is quite sure what the first GIF depicted, but some former CompuServe employees think it was an airplane.
The First Live Stream
Necessity is the mother of invention, or so they say. And there are few things that prove that point better than the first-ever live stream. And despite what you might think, it had nothing to do with influencers or chatting with your parents. Instead, it had to do with coffee.
Back in 1993, researchers at a computer lab at the University of Cambridge set up a camera in front of the office coffee pot. Why? So they could see whether or not there was any coffee left without having to get up and check. Interestingly, that “live-stream” itself went viral, with people form around the world tuning in to see whether there was coffee in the pot.
The First Emoji
The very first winky face emoticon may have appeared in an 1862 New York Times transcript of a speech by Abraham Lincoln. Though, some argue that it may have just been a typo. But it’s clearer that the first time an emoticon was actually used on the web was on Sept. 19, 1982.
It was on that fateful day that a computer scientist named Scott Fahlman made what was likely the first documented use of typed characters to express emotion on the internet. “I propose the following character sequence for joke markers: :-),” Fahlman wrote.
The First Transaction
These days, you can buy just about anything on the internet. Factor in the deep web, and that becomes even more true. That’s why it’s fairly amusing that, long before Craigslist or The Silk Road, the very first transaction made on the internet was a drug deal.
Sometime between 1971 and 1972, a group of Stanford students used ARPANET (an internet precursor) to help set up and carry out the sale of some weed to students across the country at MIT. Though it’s not a strictly web-based transaction, it’s still likely the first purchase made facilitated by the web.
The First Instagram Post
If puppy pictures are one of your favorite types of post on Instagram, you may be happy to know that the first ever post on Instagram was a image of a dog. In fact, the picture appeared on the platform a full three months before it went live.
In July 2010, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom posted an image of his pup with the caption “test.” If you like to geek out over small tech details, just look at the image’s URL: instagram.com/p/c. While originally an independent platform, Instagram was purchased by Facebook in 2012 to the tune of $1 billion.
The First YouTube Video
YouTube is the world’s dominant video sharing platform, but it had to have started somewhere — and it did. On April 23, 2005, site cofounder Jawed Karim posted a 19-second clip of himself in front of some elephants at the San Diego Zoo.
To date, the rather unimpressive video has garnered nearly 64 million views. For comparison’s sake, the most-viewed video on YouTube is currently the music video for Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito ft. Daddy Yankee” with more than 6 billion views as of the writing of this article.
The First Thing Sold on Amazon
You may not remember this, but long before Amazon became the e-commerce giant that it is, the website was strictly a bookseller. It would take several years after its founding for Amazon to being selling other products.
Because of that, the first item bought on Amazon was, of course, a book. On April 3, 1995, John Wainwright purchased Douglas Hofstadter’s Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies. Nearly 14 years later, Amazon now sells basically everything under the sun (and there's a building on the Amazon campus allegedly named after Wainwright).
The First Piece of Spam
Spam is one of those things that seems to have been with the internet since the beginning. But, in fact, it took a full seven years after the advent of email communication for the first spam email to be sent and received.
That spam email was sent on May 3, 1978. At the time, there were actually only a few hundred people who were using the internet. And on that day, every single one of those people received an unsolicited message inviting them to a pair of tech presentations held in Los Angeles and San Mateo, California.