Internet Artifacts
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A map of ARPANET, the precursor to the internet, showing the 111 computer terminals connected to the network in 1977.

ARPANET was created by the Department of Defense to allow researchers to share information and resources. The network was initially limited to universities and research institutions.

By 1983, ARPANET had over 4,000 connected computers and a growing number of e-mail users. The ARPANET completion report concluded that "the full impact of the technical changes set in motion by this project may not be understood for many years."

A complete map of the ARPANET as it existed in 1977. More...
First SPAM Email

The first spam email was sent by Gary Thuerk, a marketing manager for the Digital Equipment Corporation. Thuerk sent the email to 320 recipients on ARPANET, advertising a product presentation of the new DECSYSTEM-20 mainframe computers.

The reaction to the email was overwhelmingly negative: one user claimed it broke his computer system, and the US Defense Communications Agency called his company to complain. Thuerk claims he sold $13 to $14 million worth of mainframe computers through the campaign.

The term "spam" would not be used until years later, after being inspired by a Monty Python sketch.

The first spam email was sent by Gary Thuerk to 397 recipients on ARPANET to promote a new computer system. More...
First Smiley

The first recorded use of a smiley on the internet came in 1982, when computer scientist Scott Fahlman proposed the use of :-) and :-( to distinguish between jokes and serious posts online.

The proposal came in response to a post on the Carnegie Mellon University bulletin board, where a student joked that there was a mercury spill in the physics department’s elevator. Other students missed context for the joke and thought a spill actually occurred.

The smileys were slowly adopted throughout Carnegie Mellon and later to the broader internet.

The first recorded use of a smiley on the internet was posted by computer scientist Scott Fahlman to help distinguish between jokes and serious posts online. More...
The Hacker's Dictionary

The Hacker's Dictionary—also known as The Jargon File—was a collection of hacker terminology, jokes, and folklore from the early internet. It became an essential reference for hackers and computer scientists, and helped shape early online culture.

First created in 1975 by Raphael Finkel at Stanford's AI lab, the dictionary quickly spread to MIT and eventually to the broader internet community. It became a collaborative effort as hackers and computer scientists crowdsourced new editions of the dictionary to reflect the ever-changing culture.

The Hacker's Dictionary was a collection of hacker terminology, jokes, and folklore from the early internet. More...
Usenet Newsgroups

Developed by Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis, Usenet was dubbed the "poor man’s ARPANET" because it was more accessible to the average person. The network allowed users to post messages and articles in different topic-specific newsgroups.

Usenet had no central authority, instead news servers exchanged articles with each other at set intervals. The platform quickly evolved beyond its initial focus on technical topics, expanding to host newsgroups ranging from music to philosophy.

By 1985, around 375 articles were posted a day on Usenet to over 100 active newsgroups. The network helped shape early Internet culture, popularizing terms like FAQ, flame wars, and spam.

Usenet was a more accessible alternative to ARPANET, allowing user's to share articles in topic-specific newsgroups. More...
First MP3

The first ever MP3 was the a cappella version of "Tom's Diner" by Suzanne Vega. Karlheinz Brandenburg, who worked on the MP3 format, used the song as a benchmark to see how the compression algorithm would handle the human voice.

Instrumental music had been easier to compress, but Vega's voice sounded distorted and unnatural in early versions of the format. Brandenburg would end up making hundreds of tweaks to the MP3 compression algorithm to make Vega's voice clearer. He would later even get to meet Suzanne Vega and hear the song performed live.

The first ever MP3 was of "Tom's Diner", the song was used to benchmark and test the MP3 format. More...
Morris Worm

On November 2nd, 1988, a computer worm was released onto the internet. Created by Robert Tappan Morris, a 23-year-old Cornell University graduate student, it was designed as an experiment to measure the internet's size, but a programming error caused it to propagate wildly. Within 24 hours, close to 10% of the 88,000 computers on the internet were disabled.

After learning that his experiment had gone awry, Morris asked a friend to anonymously relay an apology and instructions for removing the worm to internet users, but ironically those most impacted didn’t get his message because of the damage the worm did to the network. Morris became the first person convicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

The Morris Worm was one of the first computer worms to spread on the internet. More...
Dave Rhodes Chain Letter

One of the earliest chain letters to spread on the internet was titled "Make Money Fast." It promised readers that they would receive $50,000 in cash after sixty days if they followed the given instructions.

The letter worked like a pyramid scheme, where each person had to pay those before them. It quickly spread through email and Usenet groups after being posted by an unknown creator in 1988.

Many variations of the letter also spread with titles like "Make Beer Fast", making it an early internet meme.

One of the earliest chain letters to spread on the internet, created by an unknown author in 1988. More...
Internet Relay Chat

Created by Jarkko Oikarinen as a side-project while working at the University of Oulu in Finland, IRC, or Internet Relay Chat, is a text-based communication protocol that lets users chat in real-time group conversations, known as channels.

The initial IRC server consisted mostly of Jarkko's friends, but the protocol slowly spread when others started hosting their own servers. Other schools, like Oregon State University also started using the protocol. By mid-1989, around 40 servers existed worldwide, and IRC was adopted by early internet communities as a chat alternative to message boards.

An early chat protocol that allowed users and online communities chat in real-time. More...
Earliest LOL

The acronym "LOL" made its first documented appearance on the internet in a FidoNet newsletter. FidoNet was a network of BBSs - or bulletin board systems. Messages were transferred over phone calls during off-peak hours to minimize toll costs.

This edition of the FidoNet newsletter attempts to catalog the increasing number of emoticons and acronyms that were spreading on the network at the time. It also contained conventions that never really caught on - like ODM for "On De Move".

The acronym "LOL" made its first recorded appearance on the internet in a FidoNet newsletter. More...
AOL Dial Up

America Online debuted in 1991 and quickly became the largest dial-up service provider. The start screen and iconic dial-up sound became many people's first introduction to the Internet.

Dial-up internet worked by using the existing telephone infrastructure. Modems connected in a way similar to phone conversations, with the dial-up sound serving as a handshake between machines. The dial-up sound was a choreographed dance of beeps and boops that exchanged all the information needed to connect to the network.

America Online debuted in 1991 and quickly became the largest dial-up service provider. More...
First Website

In March 1989, Tim Berners-Lee wrote the initial proposal for the World Wide Web, envisioning it as a "universal linked information system" to help researchers share information.

In December 1990, he launched the world’s first website, The site featured details about the WWW project, including an explanation of hypertext and instructions for setting up a web server.

Tim Berners-Lee created the first web browser, called WorldWideWeb, to display the site. He hosted the first website on a NeXT computer, attaching a handwritten note to the computer: "This machine is a server. DO NOT POWER IT DOWN!!"

Created by Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, the first ever website describes the web in detail. More...
Early Web Photo

One of the very first photos uploaded to the World Wide Web was of Les Horribles Cernettes, an all-female band founded by employees at CERN. The band—whose name pays homage to the world’s largest particle accelerator—sang parody pop songs with lyrics like "You never spend your nights with me… you only love your collider."

The band was based out of the same lab where the Web was invented, and Tim Berners-Lee was such a fan that he uploaded this photo to the first website. The band later said the picture "was one of those that changed the web, from a platform for physics documentation to a media for our lives."

One of the very first photos uploaded to the World Wide Web was of Les Horribles Cernettes, an all-female band founded by employees at CERN. More...
First Webcam

The first webcam was set up in the Trojan Room of the Computer Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, its lens focused on a coffee pot. Researchers created the feed so they could check the coffee pot's status without leaving their desks.

Initially, a program called XCoffee had to be downloaded to watch the stream, but in 1993, the black and white feed – which only had a frame rate of 3 frames per minute – was made available on the web. Millions of people ended up watching the coffee maker online throughout the 1990s.

The first ever webcam monitored a coffee pot at the University of Cambridge, so researchers could see whether there was a fresh pot of coffee brewing. More...
Severe Tire Damage

On June 24, 1993, Severe Tire Damage became the first band to livestream a concert on the internet. The little-known rock band performed on the patio at Xerox PARC in Palo Alto, California, using the Mbone (Internet Multicast Backbone) to broadcast video that was watched live as far away as Australia. As one viewer remarked, "To quote all the people who said of Woodstock, ‘I was there’ (remotely)."

The band subsequently began live streaming every Wednesday night. Viewers of the weekly streams could change the camera angle, adjust the audio mix, and even control a fog machine in the band’s basement.

The first band to livestream a concert on the internet. More...
What is internet, anyway?

In 1994, on the TODAY Show, anchors Katie Couric, Bryant Gumbel and Elizabeth Vargas pondered the nature of the Internet, debating the meaning of the @ symbol and asking, "What is internet, anyway?"

At the time only 20 million people worldwide were using the internet, with less than half of that having an email account. Just 10 years after this news segment aired, the number of internet users would reach more than a billion.

TODAY Show anchors discuss what the internet is in 1994. More...

Launched by PizzaHut in 1994, PizzaNet was the first online pizza delivery website and was only available to those in the Santa Cruz area. It was responsible for one of the first online web purchases - A large pepperoni and mushroom pizza, with extra cheese.

Despite making a cameo in the 1995 Sandra Bullock movie The Net, PizzaNet grew slowly. After customers ordered food and drinks on the site, the nearest Pizza Hut would still confirm each one by phone, leading the LA Times to dub the idea as "half baked."

The first pizza delivery website, launched by PizzaHut in 1994. More...
Justin's Links from the Underground

Created by 19-year-old Justin Hall, Justin's Links from the Underground was one of the earliest blogs. Initially started to post cool links he found online, Justin began sharing intimate details of his life, including stories about his childhood, drug experiences and love life.

Within a year, the blog had 27,000 daily readers—more than the publication HotWired, where he was an intern. He became an early internet celebrity and blogged about the struggles of internet fame.

Justin also became an early advocate for blogging - creating free tutorials on HTML so others could make their own blogs.

One of the first blogs on the web, created by 19-year-old Justin Hall. More...

Yahoo! was created by Jerry Yang and David Filo, two Stanford graduate students. Initially just lists of interesting links called "Jerry's Guide to the World Wide Web", it took off when they created a program to combine them.

Once the guide started getting 50,000 daily hits, they realized it needed a better name and rebranded to Yahoo! (an acronym for Yet Another Hierarchically Organized Oracle).

Initially the two programmers manually added links, but as the web grew they hired full-time "surfers" to browse and categorize the internet. Eventually 1,000 sites were being added a day. They later pitched the site to investors as a "TV Guide for the internet."

The original Yahoo! website, created by two Stanford graduates. More...
White house page

In 1994, the Clinton administration launched the first-ever White House homepage. The pioneering site featured a guest book, an option to email the President, and virtual tours of the White House.

The rollout was successful, although initially delayed to find images and audio of Socks the Cat, the First Family's pet. Although only 1 in 10 Americans had access to the Internet at the time, the number of visitors to the White House website more than tripled annually throughout Clinton's tenure.

A mock-up of the White House homepage was allegedly handed out by Clinton himself to put pressure on agencies lagging behind in the digital space.

The first White House homepage, launched by the Clinton administration in 1994. More...

Launched in 1994, Geocities was a website hosting service with a unique twist. Instead of just hosting websites, the site consisted of virtual "neighborhoods" that let users decide where to setup their page. There was the "Hollywood" neighborhood for fan and celeb sites and "Area51" for science fiction and fantasy. Geocities had an interactive 2D map, allowing users to navigate through these virtual spaces.

For new internet users, this virtual representation of the real world helped make the complexities of the internet more understable and fun. It created an easy way to discover new content and people, and gave many their first virtual "home" on the internet.

Geocities was a web hosting service that allowed users to create their own sites in virtual "neighborhoods". More...

Created by two graduate students at San Francisco State University, FogCam is celebrated as the longest-running webcam. Originally set up as an experiment to provide slice-of-life views of the campus, it quickly became a beloved fixture of the early internet. At one point, the webcam even had a chat room where users could discuss the weather.

The webcam was almost shut down in 2019, but a public outcry kept it alive. It has now been streaming for 29 years.

The longest-running webcam, created in 1994 by two graduate students at San Francisco State University. More...
First Amazon Order

On April 3rd, 1995, John Wainwright ordered the first item from—Douglas Hofstadter’s book Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies. A friend of his, the first Amazon employee, had invited him to a beta launch of Wainwright thought the items would be free and was surprised when "they took my credit card and charged it!"

Amazon would later name a building after Wainwright on their corporate campus to commemorate the sale; he still has the packing slip.

The first ever item ordered on was the book Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies. More...
Ebay AuctionWeb

Created by 28-year old Pierre Omidyar, AuctionWeb was an early e-commerce platform that let people list items for sale to the highest bidder. Omidyar wanted to create a platform that allowed people to be producers as well as consumers. The very first item sold was a broken laser pointer, which sold for $14.83.

AuctionWeb was soon generating $10,000 a month, but the site’s large traffic also prompted an increase in web hosting fees, leading Omidyar to leave his day job and begin taking a percentage of each transaction to fund the site that became Ebay.

The first version of Ebay, then called AuctionWeb. More...
Space Jam

The website used to promote the 1996 movie Space Jam included games, coloring books, quizzes, and even a 360-degree tour of the "Jordan Dome".

A rag-tag group of five New York City-based designers and producers were charged with creating the movie's website. Most executives at Warner headquarters in California didn't understand or particularly care about the Internet, giving the team free rein to experiment with little oversight.

The five-person team initially didn't know HTML and had purchased the book Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML in 14 Days to get started.

The website used to promote the 1996 movie Space Jam. More...
Dancing Baby

One of the biggest early internet memes, the Dancing Baby was the unintentional result of a plugin demo for 3D Studio Max that could animate two-legged creatures. Created by applying the plugin's Cha-Cha dance animation to the 3D model of a baby, the resulting animation was first discarded for being too "disturbing."

The animation found a second life when it was recreated from the same files and posted as a GIF to a CompuServe forum. It found its way into company-wide emails and exploded in popularity after being set to the song "Hooked on a Feeling". It became endlessly remixed, and even appeared as an hallucination on the show Ally McBeal.

One of the first internet memes, the Dancing Baby spread through emails and forums. More...
McDonald's Page

The first McDonald's homepage featured a McTrivia Quiz, jingles and an interactive world tour. was originally purchased by Joshua Quittner, a writer for WIRED, who was researching a story on domain squatting when he realized was available. He reached out to McDonald's media relations to ask why they hadn't bought it, only to discover that nobody at McDonald's seemed to understand the internet. He told the company they could reach him at [email protected] if they ever wanted the domain - which they eventually did.

The first McDonald's homepage launched in 1996. More...
Apple Homepage

The earliest surviving copy of Apple's homepage is from 1996, during its most turbulent time. Apple was grappling with an all-time low financially, resulting in widespread layoffs and a loss of faith among shareholders and customers alike.

Later that year, Apple decided to acquire the company NeXT and its operating system for $429 million, bringing Steve Jobs back into Apple for the first time since 1985.

The 1996 Apple website before the return of Steve Jobs. More...
Beanie Babies

Beanie Babies were an early internet sensation. Created by Ty Warner in 1993, the plush animals were priced between $5 and $7 and slightly understuffed with plastic pellets. The plushies were only sold in specialty shops, and different characters were frequently retired, making them highly collectible.

The website URL was placed on the hangtags of the beanie babies, an unusual move at the time but one that paid off. The mania began when a group of suburban moms near Chicago started calling stores nationwide to track down the rarest characters. By May 1997, Beanie Babies accounted for 6% of eBay's total annual sales ($500 million), before the bubble finally burst at the turn of the millennium.

One of the earliest internet fads, Beanie Babies were a line of plushies created by Ty Inc. More...
Heaven's Gate

Heaven’s Gate was a UFO-centric cult that believed salvation lay in departing the planet aboard a spaceship. Comprised mainly of computer programmers, the group operated a cutting-edge web design firm called "Higher Source" that offered a wide range of services.

On March 26, 1997, the 39 members ended their lives, convinced that the passing Hale-Bopp comet concealed a spaceship. Since then, their space-themed website has remained frozen in time, featuring a star-dotted background and a final message proclaiming that "our 22 years of classroom here on planet Earth is finally coming to conclusion."

Heaven's Gate was a UFO religious cult that funded itself by offering web design services. More...
Pepsi World

In 1996, Pepsi launched its first website, "Pepsi World," featuring web design that was cutting-edge for its time. The site explained that it aimed to "rev up the nerve center of your imagination to a degree never before experienced".

The chaotic site featured a series of Flash mini-games in a section titled "Lab Rats". It also, for some reason, hosted a section devoted entirely to astrology and dedicated an entire page to promoting Shaquille O’Neal’s new album, "You Can’t Stop The Reign."

The 1996 Pepsi website was a chaotic blend of flash games and bold web-design. More...
First Emoji Set

Japanese companies took the first steps in the late 1990s to develop emojis for mobile devices. The first set of 90 emojis was released by J-Phone (now SoftBank Mobile) on the SkyWalker DP-211SW phone in November 1997.

The phone did not sell well, and emojis could only be shared between users of that specific model, limiting their spread. Despite the sluggish start, a later version of SoftBank's emoji set became the foundation for Apple's emojis that appeared with the release of iOS 2 in 2008 and that led to the their standardization by Unicode in 2010.

The first known set of emojis was released by J-Moblie on the SkyWalker DP-211SW phone in 1997. More...
Year 2000 Bug

Early computer programs only stored the last two digits of the year to save on expensive storage space. With the year 2000 approaching, there was a frenzied effort to fix programs that would break when the new millennium started.

Alarmists predicted failing banks, plummeting airplanes, and nuclear plant disasters. Some people stockpiled gas masks and food. To cushion against a potential financial crisis, the Federal Reserve pumped an extra $50 billion into circulation. But when the new year rolled around, the world breathed a collective sigh of relief as the proactive work of programmers had paid off, averting widespread catastrophes.

A computer bug that was predicted to cause widespread problems when the new millennium began. More...
Ask Jeeves

Appearing in 1997, Ask Jeeves revolutionized search by allowing users to make queries with natural language. Co-founded by Garrett Gruener and David Warthen, the duo started with $250,000 and named the site after P.G. Wodehouse’s all-knowing butler. The search engine rapidly gained traction, handling over a million queries daily within two years of launching.

Unlike traditional search engines, Ask Jeeves used semantic analysis to sort questions into one of about 10,000 basic templates. A team of human reviewers curated and verified the responses, ensuring the database remained up-to-date.

Ask Jeeves was a search engine that allowed users to ask questions with natural language. More...
The Hampster Dance

Created by Deidre LaCarte, a 37-year-old art student and martial arts instructor from British Columbia, the Geocities webpage was a tribute to her pet hamster, affectionately dubbed "Hampton the Hampster". The page was created as part of a competition to see whose website could garner the most views between her friends and sister.

By the end of 1999, an estimated 17 million people had visited the page. The site's popularity spawned a wave of imitators, including websites featuring dancing cows, fish, and amoebas. An official Hampster Dance song was released in 2000 and reached #1 on the Canadian charts.

An early internet meme created by Deidre LaCarte in 1998 for her pet hamster. More...
Google Homepage

Originally called BackRub, Google began as a research project by Stanford PhD students Larry Page and Sergey Brin aimed at crawling the 10 million websites on the web at the time. In March 1996, they pointed their crawler at a Stanford webpage and let it crawl the internet outward from there.

Their main breakthrough was the PageRank algorithm, which measured the quantity and quality of links to and from a site. The duo quickly realized that their search results outperformed existing engines like AltaVista and Excite. Working initially from their dorm rooms, they continually expanded the service, at one point consuming nearly half of Stanford’s network bandwidth.

The beta version of the Google homepage, launched in 1998. More...

Founded by 19-year-old Shawn Fanning, Napster was a revolutionary peer-to-peer service that allowed users to share MP3s. Fanning conceived the idea in his dorm room at Northeastern University after hearing his roommate complain about dead MP3 links. By 2000, Napster had grown to more than 20 million users, with about 14,000 songs downloaded every minute.

Napster's rapid rise terrified the music industry. The RIAA, or Record Industry Association of America, started sueing individuals for downloading songs from Napster. Metallica was the first individual band to sue, with Dr. Dre following soon after. The legal onslaught led to Napster ceasing operations in 2001.

Napster was a peer-to-peer file sharing service that allowed users to share MP3 files. More...
Netflix Homepage

With fewer than half a million DVD players sold worldwide, Netflix launched in 1998 with an initial library of more than 900 movies. They were able to target early adopters of DVDs since most video stores didn't stock them yet.

The idea for Netflix came while co-founders Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph were carpooling. They initially thought of letting people rent VHS tapes online, but VHS was too expensive and delicate to ship. A few months later, they read about a new format called DVD and dusted off the idea. They mailed a used CD to Hastings’s home and realized idea could work when it arrived intact.

The first version of the Netflix homepage, launched in 1999 with over 900 movies. More...
1999 is a website where you can do anything. The only limit is yourself. Welcome.

Created by Josh Levine in late 1999, the site was a parody of the flashy and pointless introductions in web design during that era. When visitors land on, they are greeted by a simple blinking pinwheel and a deep voice that lavishes them with promises of limitless possibilities. The Guardian labeled it as the "least useful website" on the Internet. is a website where you can do anything. The only limit is yourself. More...
Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music

Created by Kenneth Taylor, also known as Ishkur, Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music was an interactive flash-based guide to electronic music from the 90s. "I told a friend I could categorize any electronic music genre within an 8- bar radius. He dared me to prove it, so I did." Ishkur would later say.

Launched on October 21, 2000, Ishkur built the site in just two weeks, with the majority of his time spent looking through his vast collection of mp3s for the perfect samples. New versions of the guide were created over time, with new subgenres and tracks being added with each release.

An interactive guide to electronic music from the 90s. More...
Homestar Runner

An iconic flash-animated series, Homestar Runner took the Internet by storm in the early 2000s, charming viewers with its unique humor and memorable characters. Created by Mike and Matt Chapman (also known as The Brothers Chaps), the series originally started as a parody of a children’s book.

The website’s popularity soared with the introduction of the "Strong Bad Email" series, a feature where the character Strong Bad responds to emails from fans. The interactive element captured the potential of the Internet at the time, and the segments grew so popular that they were eventually released on DVD.

An iconic flash-animated series, Homestar Runner took the Internet by storm in the early 2000s. More...

In 2000, founder Jimmy Wales enlisted graduate student Larry Sanger to develop Nupedia, an online encyclopedia reliant on scholarly contributions and a stringent seven-step review process. After a year, the platform had only produced 21 articles.

Understanding the need to pivot, in 2001 they launched Wikipedia, a collaborative and open wiki. Within a month, Wikipedia had 600 articles—and 20,000 a year later. Contributors started calling themselves "Wikipedians", and a community of mostly anonymous users coalesced with the goal of creating a free online encyclopedia. One of the most radical ideas of Wikipedia was that everyone could contribute equally, "I don’t care if they’re a high-school kid or a Harvard professor" Jimmy Wales said.

Launched by Jimmy Wales in 2001 as a collaborative and open wiki. More...
Helicopter game

Designed by David McCandless and released in 2002, the Helicopter Game was an early addiciting flash game. Using just a single mouse button to ascend, you guide a helicopter through a tunnel, dodging obstacles along the way.

It was originally created for, a website that existed within the fictional universe of the BBC TV series Attachments. The site was a fictional blog about the fictional startup "See Thru". The show and its corresponding website served as early examples of "in-universe" interactive media.

The Helicopter Game was an addicting early flash game with simple controls. More...

Launched by Jonathan Abrams in 2003, Friendster became an early social media sensation, quickly amassing three million users. Its rise came after several failed attempts in social networking during the late ’90s, like Six Degrees. Serving as a blueprint for future platforms, Friendster attracted notable early users like Matthew McConaughey and even Mark Zuckerberg.

However, as it grew in popularity, the platform faced significant technical challenges, like unbearable load times. Only a few months after Friendster launched, MySpace came out with many of the same features, taking away Friendster's momentum.

Friendster was an early social media sensation, quickly amassing three million users. More...
MySpace Tom

In the spring of 2003, Tom Anderson saw the rise of platforms like Friendster and felt that it was a missed opportunity to create a more creative platform. He conceived of MySpace as a place where users could express themselves, even allowing custom HTML and CSS on users' profiles.

The platform first gained traction in the Los Angeles music scene, where bands used the site to promote their songs. As the site grew, it started launching the careers of bands, like Panic! at the Disco. Tom became a celebrity himself, since he was everyone's default first friend on MySpace. By October, the platform was adding 10,000 new users a day.

A social media platform that focused on self-expression and music. More...
The Facebook

After the Harvard administration shut down Facemash, a "Hot or Not"-style website to rate students, Mark Zuckerberg launched Unlike MySpace, the site was based on real-world connections, requiring users to have a Harvard e-mail and to use their real name. It was the first time many students used their real names on social media.

The platform was an instant hit, with two-thirds of the Harvard student body signing up within a few weeks. A simple directory at its core, most mainly used it to check relationship statuses and see who shared classes. The site quickly expanded to other colleges, and by the end of 2004, it had over one million users.

Launched by Mark Zuckerberg, focused on real-world connections on campus. More...
Club Penguin

Club Penguin was created as a safe, fun space for kids to play and hang out online. From the town square to the dance club, the game featured meticulously designed virtual rooms where kids could chat and play mini-games like Puffle Roundup and Cart Surfer. Players were given their own personal igloo that could be decorated with items purchased in the game.

The site hosted much beloved monthly virtual parties along with annual Halloween celebrations that changed the entire map. By 2006, Club Penguin had over 2.6 million users in the U.S. and Canada. For many young users, it was their first introduction to social media.

Club Penguin was created as as a safe, fun space for kids to play and hang-out online. More...
You Wouldn't Steal a Car

In 2004, the Motion Picture Association of America and the Federation Against Copyright Theft launched the "You Wouldn’t Steal a Car" campaign, an anti-piracy public service announcement displayed before movies on DVDs. Aimed at deterring online movie piracy, the initiative coincided with Hollywood’s first-ever lawsuits against individuals suspected of sharing movies online.

Despite its serious intent, the ad became the subject of widespread mockery through memes and parodies. It was also later found out that, ironically, the ad’s music was used without the creator’s permission.

An anti-piracy public service announcement displayed before movies on DVDs. More...
Numa Numa

In December 2004, 19-year-old Gary Brolsma uploaded a webcam video titled "Numa Numa," featuring himself lip-syncing to the Romanian song "Dragostea Din Tei" by O-Zone. Hosted initially on, Brolsma created the video after watching a cartoon about Japanese cats.

Even before the existence of YouTube, his video exploded one night after Newgrounds featured it on their front page. A couple days later, Brolsma woke up to find news vans from all the major networks parked outside his house, forcing him to explain his sudden Internet fame to his surprised mother.

An early viral webcam video featuring Gary Brolsma lip-syncing to a Romanian song. More...
Million Dollar Homepage

In 2005, 21-year-old Alex Tew from Wiltshire, England, devised a unique way to pay for college: The Million Dollar Homepage. Tew sold 1,000,000 pixels on the page for $1 each or $100 for a 10-by-10 pixel block, turning them into tiny digital billboards for advertisers.

The ads ranged from mainstream outlets like The Times of London to more niche sites, like online casinos. The site received 200,000 unique visitors daily within the first month. The last 1,000 pixels were auctioned off for $38,100, earning Tew a total of $1,037,100 from the stunt. Tew ended up dropping out after his first semester, saying school wasn't for him.

Created by Alex Tew as a clever way to pay for college. More...
Me at the Zoo

YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim uploaded the first YouTube video, "Me at the Zoo," on April 23, 2005. The 19-second clip features Karim discussing the long trunks of two elephants at the San Diego Zoo. Though not groundbreaking in content, the video set the tone for a new era of user-created videos.

Initially conceived as a dating site, YouTube pivoted to online entertainment just as conditions became ripe for widespread video sharing, like the emergence of widespread broadband access. By its official launch on December 15, 2005, YouTube was already serving over two million video views per day.

The first YouTube video, uploaded by co-founder Jawed Karim. More...
Reddit Homepage

In the summer of 2005, two college students joined the first cohort of Y Combinator with $12,000 of seed money. They pivoted from their original idea of a phone-based food ordering system to create Reddit, envisioned as the "front page of the Internet." The site consisted of a simple list of links that users could vote on, making it a collaborative popularity contest.

The founders initially created fake posts under fake profiles to make the platform appear livelier. At first, there were no subreddits and all posts were mixed together. They eventually created the first subreddit to separate NSFW content from the main page.

Envisioned as the "front page of the Internet," Reddit launched in 2005. More...
The Ultimate Showdown

Released on December 22, 2005, The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny is a parody song and video that took the Internet by storm. Created by Neil Cicierega under the pseudonym "Lemon Demon", with Flash animation by Shawn Vulliez, the animation showcases a fantastical, century-long battle in Tokyo.

Featuring an eclectic mix of both real and fictional pop-culture icons from Shaquille O’Neal to Batman, the video was viewed over 13 million times on Newgrounds.

A parody song and animation that took the Internet by storm. More...
First Tweet

Co-founder Jack Dorsey sent the first-ever tweet—"just setting up my twttr" on March 21st, 2006. Twitter was initially designed as an SMS-based platform for friends to share status updates. It was called "twttr," since it was cool at the time remove vowels from company names.

In its early days, amidst a world dominated by flip phones, Twitter took time to gain traction. Its significant breakthrough came during the South by Southwest Interactive conference in March 2007, where the platform saw a massive surge in usage.

Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, posted the first-ever tweet. More...
Line Rider

Created over four months and released in September 2006 by Slovenian university student Boštjan Cadež, the online game Line Rider quickly gained a cult following, becoming one of the most popular flash games of all time and even appearing in a 2008 McDonald’s Snack Wrap commercial.

Initially introduced on the deviantART site, the interactive "toy" allows users to draw ramps, hills, and slopes, sending a virtual sledder with a red scarf on a physics-based joyride. Fans started syncing their elaborate levels to music, uploading over 11,000 track videos to YouTube by 2007.

Created by Boštjan Cadež, the online game Line Rider became one of the most popular flash games of all time. More...
The Impossible Quiz

A 2007 Flash game created by deviantART user Splapp-me-do, the Impossible Quiz gained notoriety for its absurd questions and humor. Featuring 110 bewildering, riddle-like questions, the game frustrated players with its warped logic, making it one of the earliest viral rage games.

The game became a classroom sensation, with students competing and collaborating to memorize the game’s nonsensical answers during free time in computer labs.

A Flash game created by deviantART user Splapp-me-do, the Impossible Quiz gained fame for its absurd humor. More...
An Internet Communicator

On January 9, 2007, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone as a "widescreen iPod," a "revolutionary phone," and a "breakthrough Internet communicator". Although the crowd didn't seem as excited about the internet communicator part, it ended up becoming by far the most revolutionary feature—the device would re-shape the internet.

It forced a redesign of web interfaces to become responsive and minimalistic. Flash began a slow death as it wasn't supported. Social media went mobile-first, and became all-encompassing. An era of the internet had ended, and a new one began.

The launch of the iPhone in 2007 started a new era of the internet. More...
Internet Artifacts
Created by Neal Agarwal