15 moments that shaped the internet, brought to you by Westnet

The internet turns 52 this year with no grey hairs in sight. Talk about ageing well!

It’s given us half a century of delight and distraction with online shopping, instant communication, viral dance moves, memes, and more – forever changing the way we live, work, and play.

So, in celebration of the invisible information superhighway, we’ve picked out a list of its pivotal moments. Follow along on our nostalgic stroll through the internet’s history and, in the comments below, let us know which events you think we’ve missed.

1936: H.G Wells predicts the ‘World Brain’

Perhaps best known as the author of ‘The War of the Worlds’, futurist H.G Wells foresaw the advent of the internet in a 1936 collection of essays: “The time is close at hand when any student, in any part of the world, will be able to sit with his projector in his own study at his or her own convenience to examine any book, any document, in an exact replica.”

And that wasn’t the only prediction of Wells that came true – he also anticipated genetic engineering, lasers, and Meryl Streep as the next James Bond. Okay, maybe not that last one.

1969: ARPANET is switched on

In an event that is widely regarded as the web’s ‘first breath’, Leonard Kleinrock and his team succeeded in sending the first computer to computer message from UCLA to Stanford on September 2, 1969. The intended message was the word “login” but only the first two letters made it through before the system crashed.

1971: Birth of the computer virus

Written by Bob Thomas of BBN Technologies, Creeper was a self-replicating program that copied itself to computers connected to the ARPANET to display the message: “I’m the creeper, catch me if you can!”. It was eventually caught by Reaper – the first antivirus program.

1985: The first domain name was registered on March 15, 1985. Since then, over 359.8 million domain names have been registered – including, which was sold for a record-breaking $30 million in 2019.

1991: The World Wide Web begins

Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist working at CERN, invents the “World Wide Web” as an easy way to share information. Though we often use the “Internet” and the “Web” interchangeably, they don’t actually refer to the same thing. The Internet hosts the Web, which was Berners-Lee’s breakthrough.

1990: Online searching gets easier

While many of us spent our days at university avoiding lectures and frequenting the pub, Alan Emtage developed a software called Archie, which was the world’s first search engine. Clearly the guy you wish you had for your final group project.

1992: “Surfing The Internet” is invented

Jean Armour Polly coined the phrase in an article for the Wilson Library Bulletin, a monthly magazine for professional librarians. You can still read the original online here.

1994: First Online Order

A large pepperoni, mushroom, and extra cheese pizza from Pizza Hut is ordered online, becoming the first transaction on the Web. No word on how many have been ordered since (but we think it’s at least 5).

2001: Wikipedia opens to the world

The beginning of the end for encyclopedia salesmen. Wikipedia launched with its first edit on January 15, 2001, and fast became the go-to source of information. By 2006, the site had published over 1 million articles.

2004: Facebook makes (a lot) of friends

Before it became a platform for your distant family members to comment on your profile picture, Facebook began as a way for college students to connect with people at the same school. It went live on February 4, 2004, and gained 1,000 registered users in its first night.

2007: Apple reinvents the phone

With 91% of internet use conducted through mobile, we couldn’t have a greatest hits list without mentioning smartphones. The birth of the modern smartphone began in 2007 on a stage in California as Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. It was a revolutionary design, swapping a stylus and keypad with a touchscreen.

2009: The Labor Government announces the NBN

The aim was to replace the nation’s ageing copper network with optic fibre to give Australian’s everywhere a fast, future-proof connection. Here at Westnet, we’re proud to offer great-value broadband plans across all available NBN technologies including Fibre, Wireless, and Satellite.

2014: The ALS ice bucket challenge

The ice bucket challenge was a phenomenon in the summer of 2014 in which people filmed themselves dumping a bucket of iced water over their heads in order to promote awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). More than 17 million people posted photos online and over $100m was raised worldwide in a 30-day period. A great example of the internet as a force for good.

2019: ‘Influencer’ joins the dictionary

The internet has even changed the way we speak. ‘Influencer’ is a term used to describe individuals with a large following on social media. Other words in the dictionary that originated online include ‘selfie’, ‘srsly’, ‘LOL’, and ‘OMG’.


As of November 2020, there were 4.66 billion active internet users worldwide – almost 59 percent of the global population.  Ask any of them what life would be like without life would be like without the net and the answer will likely be either ‘unimaginable’ or ‘very, very boring’. We think both apply.


  1. Neal says:

    As a mid-nonagenarian, I am immeasurably delighted to have been aboard computerland since 1986, courtesy of prodding by my offspring♦️♦️♦️
    It’s such a tragedy that so many oldies simply aren’t at all interested.
    C’mon folks.
    Ya gotta get with it if you want to steer clear of dementia and the like.
    Sure, you can be physically fit, but the grey matter needs taxing as well.

  2. Brienne says:

    Mate, it taint my gray matter wot neeeds taxxxing as much as der gray hairs and muy graaay beeerd dand my spelllling misstakes.

  3. Steven says:

    I have been using computers since 1970 and the internet since 1991. My initial international traffic was at 300bps! I use computers, and the internet, a lot, but my phone is a phone, not a computer. “M8 it can W8” is my motto. When we get so connected to the world wide web that we’re stuck to our phone screens most of the day we lose contact with the reality, and the people, around us. Spend a week without technology, folks, and see what you’ve been missing.

  4. Stuart Walton says:

    There is an error in the second last line of the articale.
    what life would be like without life would be like without the net

  5. There is an error in the second last line of the article.
    “what life would be like without life would be like without the net”

  6. marianne says:

    Neal is correct. The grey matter needs to be continuously challenged to keep it going. Contact with people is also important and in these days of Covid-19 we are lucky to have the internet, with email, Facebook and more, to facilitate keeping in touch and making new contacts. It also provides access to learning and entertainment.

  7. Ray Atkin says:

    Ah yes, in 1972 I sat down in the local TAFE to do 2hrs a night, 2 nights a week for one year to upgrade my Clerk of Works. We were rapt, the mysterious and exciting world of computers had come into the syllabus, the introduction to “Electronic Computing & Computing Administration” stirred us up no end: “It is believed the advent of electronic computers will greatly aid business administration in many fields. The concept of being able to communicate with other computers in distant locations via the telephone system augers well for future business efficiencies”. Priceless. Meryl Streep? Blech!

  8. Mary says:

    At 20 years younger, I find this science is a great time waster, I say that in a good way as it helps to fill in downtime in the day, also informative, esp Dr Google, has been of assistance a few times. However, sitting down most of the day can be a negative for one’s health. Body and eyes need lots of breaks.

  9. Big Red says:

    As a mid-octogenarian, since 1984 for me, prodded by my husband purchasing our first desktop in 1983.

  10. Jennifer Bungey says:

    Yes I agree. I get much pleasure from the internet utube Facebook etc. Also do lots on word. It is a shame but you cannot change old ways to some.I have been with westnet for many years. It was sent when I joined.

  11. Buccaneer says:

    Nokia invented the Smartphone in 1999, but the infrastructure wasn’t around to support it. Their N series, released in 2005 became their flagship smartphone for the next 6 years. This was before Apple joined the race.

  12. Anonymous says:

    “How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?”

  13. My first computer was a Commodore 64,my wife bought it for me as something to do, as we were living in a caravan for five years to save money to buy a house,I had a job a sstoreman and got bored at night that wa back in 1981 since then we have advanced through all types and brands of computers and at the moment have a tower running windows 7,which suits me fine ,my wife has a laptop with latest system and we have both got our Ancestry trees ,which is marvelous.
    We certainly have came a long way I am 88 years old and my wife is 84 years,we both have our minds and well being and a lot of this through keeping the brain going.
    Regards Henry and Patsy . western Australia.

  14. Robin PANKIW says:

    I am in my 70’s and am grateful for the benefits which can come from the internet/www. I got on board because I was fed up with using a typewriter to laboriously make paper and carbon copies of uni assignments. Despite struggling with minimal kb floppy disks, I found a computer was an ever-improving useful tool. All we had to worry about was some occasional simple virus. Pandora’s Box was opened. Despite the nasty things which are now on the internet, I have a positive belief that good will defeat evil – “hope” the one small thing that also escaped Pandora’s Box will spring eternal.

  15. Margaret Blundell says:

    In the mid 1980s, the company I worked for bought a simple computer (it looked like a large desktop calculator) that I could programme using BASIC language to write form letters etc. A cable attached it to an IBM golf ball typewriter that acted as its printer. During the late 1980s & early 1990s the development of programmable typewriters & personal computers was rapid.
    Like Neal, I feel sad that there are still oldies who refuse to learn about the marvels of various kinds of personal computers.

  16. Peter Franklin says:

    Well said Neal! Computers and IT are a big part of what has made our generation the most fortunate in history, notwithstanding two world wars, a depression, some very unwise governments and a pandemic!

  17. Brendon says:

    Despite using a computer for daily work since 1984 (back then, Osborne Executives with floppy disks) and internet I’m thinking since maybe 1993, the speed of progress and advancements in IT continue to amaze me.

  18. john cross says:

    im 83 years old and trying hard to keep my brain active..get a lot of help from the team at westnet/ iinett .. to which i am very grateful thank you team john cross

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