Internet culture has a longer history than you might think

By Daniel Tutek

The history of the internet is difficult to explain, due to the fact that the early days of the internet weren’t properly archived.

We can only base it off from other people’s experiences back in the early days of computers. Actually, we have to go back before the internet, and dive back all the way to 1969, when the ARPANET was created.

ARPANET was program that was used to send messages to certain computers, unlike the current World Wide Web.

In 1985, the first domain was registered, under the name of It was hard to access at first, until the World Wide Web came into existence in 1991, which allowed for the internet to be fully functional with HTTPS and HTML codes, which helped create a secure and visual internet.

An example of web pages in 1991. (Source: Business Insider)
Early Days of Internet Culture

The early days (1991 – 1999)

In the extremely early days of the internet, there wasn’t really much to it, other than companies showing off their new products. It was an exclusive platform that few used or knew how to use.

But in 1994, the internet took off with the launch of Yahoo, the first internet search engine. Regular Americans started to order dial-up internet from AOL, also known as America Online. The internet started to gain popularity, day by day, thanks to chat rooms and email. Americans were quickly addicted, even if the internet tied up the phone line.

In late 1994, Geocities was created, which made it so anyone could create web pages, and publish them on their service for other people to look at.

An example of an old GeoCities website. (Source: Lovely Old Tree)

The internet started to be used a lot, with Google joining Yahoo as the internet giants. The introduction of 2channel, known in Japan as 2ちゃんねる, and more known as 2ch in 1999 led to early social networking, which would explode in the next decade.

The “Middle Ages” (2000-2007)

Unlike the actual Middle Ages, this time period of the internet wasn’t really that dark. In fact, it was incredibly popular, with new games such as Club Penguin, at the time known as Experimental Penguins, coming into existence. Games that used social features such as chatting, allowing people to hang out with their friends online, gave players the ability to role play, and had a large community were called MMORPGs, or a massively multiplayer online role-playing game.

By 2004, Roblox was under development as DynaBlocks. In 2005, it was released, and had a fairly small community, with it being one of the first MMORPGs to be in 3D.

Roblox in 2005. Notice how simple the games were back then. (Source: Roblox)

Meanwhile, social media was getting increasingly popular, with Myspace being the most popular website at the time, along with FC2 and a smaller one known at the time as “The Facebook.”

Websites such as YMTND, fully known as “You’re The Man Now, Dog,” spawned the first popular memes. The first video-sharing website, YouTube, didn’t require the need for users to convert a video to a .fla file, making it easy for anyone to upload videos.

In 2007, Nico Nico Douga, now known as simply Niconico, was a Japanese video-sharing website, meant to be a Japanese mirror of YouTube, with a unique twist.

YouTube’s video servers were blowing up because of it, and it had to be shut down, until custom video servers were purchased. Soon, it became its own unique site, with completely different things that inspired websites such as DailyMotion and Vimeo.

Niconico in 2007 (Source: TechCrunch)

Creative Era of the Internet (2008 – 2016)

During the creative era of the Internet, “pastas” such as creepypastas and copypastas took off. A creepypasta is a story posted on the internet usually based off of a creepy photo, video, or in general just a scary story on the internet. Notable examples include Smile Dog, The Wyoming Incident, and sm666. Google introduced iGoogle, which was a way to access YouTube on a cell phone or mobile device. Mobile-friendly websites started to be created, with phones being commonly purchased. Yahoo started to become less popular, with Google becoming more popular, ending the era of Yahoo’s legacy as king of search engines.

The History of Search Engines - A Timeline
Google in 2008 (Source: Technologizer)

Videos on YouTube started to be published with higher quality, with channels using paid video editing software such as Sony VEGAS Pro, Final Cut Pro X, and AviUtl. Internet subculture exploded, with celebrities from the internet getting “stans,” or people that usually are big fans that want to be the same as their idol. Even with the issues of the internet from then to today, the way webpages were being made were becoming more modern.

Drama Era of the Internet (2017-2020)

This era of the internet is an incredibly drama-filled time, where people engaged in arguments with one another on websites such as Twitter and Facebook.

With more people spending chunks of time online, some looked for new ways to gain attention, oftentimes by doing insane or dangerous things. An early example of this was the Tide Pods Challenge, which was a joke that went way too far and spawned other dangerous challenges that left doctors questioning the intelligence of the average person.

2 thoughts on “Internet culture has a longer history than you might think

  1. Daniel T. – I came across your website on accident and ended up reading your story. It was very good, Daniel. I’m a former librarian in Denver, Co and enjoy student journalism.


  2. How interesting, I was not aware of how the internet truly has evolved. Thank you for sharing!


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