The other day I saw a joke on Twitter that started with the premise that the Internet had turned 20 years old that day. That isn’t true. It was the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web’s release into the public domain (h/t Robert Anderson), but the Web is not the Internet, right?
However, Twitter is full of people taking a joke and “um, actually”ing it to death, so I felt kind of bad for thinking that. How unnecessarily nerdy was it of me to quibble about the age of the Internet, especially because most of the population really wasn’t aware of it before 20 years ago anyway?
But I couldn’t quite let it go. Nerdy sticklerism may be uncalled for in most contexts, but the Internet is the result of layer upon layer of nerd efforts, stretching back decades. You don’t have to know the history, but if you get it wrong, I’m absolutely going to correct you.
To that end, I put together a quick chart of the most notable projects to which Twitter owes its existence. Each one represents a concerted effort by one or more top-tier nerds, from the 60s to today. Every time we jump on Twitter to share no more than 140 characters of insight, we are standing on the shoulders of giants. (And for what it’s worth, I would consider the “birth of the Internet” to be the introduction of TCP/IP, circa 1982.)