From invention to reinvention.

From the first e-mail, to the billionth video streamed today, we are straining the network’s bandwidth more than ever. Scroll to see how we got here and learn about the network solutions that will keep up with our appetite for connection.

In collaboration with

Wired Brand Lab

1988

1988

The first transatlantic fiber cable is laid.

The first transatlantic cable to patch into the network is TAT-8, which goes into operation in 1988.

1991

1991

The world's first webcam is used in the Cambridge University science department.

The first rudimentary webcam debuts in a shared online forum.

1995

Match begins making love connections.

Old-fashioned love in the internet age.

1996

1996

The 3D-rendered “Dancing Baby” becomes the internet’s first viral hit.

1997

Wi-Fi becomes standardized, allowing us to connect without cables.

2000

2000

Party (Online) Like It’s 1999

2002

2002

A blogging revolution takes place.

In the May 2002 issue of Wired, pioneering blogger and author Andrew Sullivan explores the tsunami of first-wave blogs and distribution platforms reshaping the relationship between content creators and publishers.

2004

YouTube is launched by three ex-PayPal employees.

Creating the “new” celebrity, one viral video at a time.

2007

Facebook's population reaches 50 million users.

2009

2009

The network rush hour emerges.

Millions of people simultaneously flocking to the network results in a battle for bandwidth.

2011

2011

Social media demonstrates it can save lives.

2016

A Vietnam Vet's time at war is redeemed when the network connects him with the son he never knew.

2017

2017

Two women who'd never met ignited a global movement through the network.

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2011 2011
2011

For many, social media has become a vast sandbox for sharing news, opinion and perfectly timed reaction GIFs. But for organ transplant recipient Paul Hain, the potential reach of social media was instrumental in saving his life.

After four years of waiting for a functional liver from the organ transplant list, Paul Hain’s daughter, Heather Hain, decided to take matters into her own hands. She didn’t storm the doctor’s office or petition her local legislature—she went on Facebook.

The Facebook page she created—“Help Paul Find an Organ Donor”—launched in September 2011. Its first post was simple: “Welcome! Thank you for joining this Facebook Page dedicated to helping Paul find his ‘match’ and supporting him through this process.” Before the year was over, Heather Hain received a message from a woman she hadn’t spoken to in more than a decade.

“I was on Facebook a lot just because I had moved to a new city and didn't know anyone yet, so I used it to feel connected to people elsewhere,” Kathy Kurth, Heather Hain’s high school bandmate, explains. Kurth posted a link to Paul Hain’s page in hopes of expanding its audience. Soon, she got tested herself and discovered she was a perfect match. Paul Hain had found a donor.

Heather Hain isn’t the only one (nor the first) to use social media as a means to connect patients with potential donors. Beyond individual outreach, social media has also become a tool to increase the national pool of registered organ donors. While 955 of Americans support organ donation, less than half are actually registered donors.

In 2012, Johns Hopkins Medicine partnered with Facebook to promote organ donor registration. In just 24 hours, nearly 13,000 new organ donors registered, more than double the national daily average of new registrations at the time. Dr. Andrew M. Cameron, a transplant surgeon from Johns Hopkins, has explained the amazing potential social media can have on the organ donor shortage: “If we can harness that excitement in the long term, then we can really start to move the needle on the big picture. The need for donor organs vastly outpaces the available supply, and this could be a way to change that equation.”

2009 2009
2009

Millions of people simultaneously flocking to the network results in a battle for bandwidth. The UK’s telecom regulator Ofcom commissions a study showing that average throughput speeds during peak usage hours drop as much as 30% due to the gridlock. Thus, the Internet Rush Hour is born, beginning an exponential increase in data usage that, in the twenty years since the launch of the World Wide Web, has now grown by 440,000 times.

2007

In 2007, author Fred Vogelstein gets an inside look at the early stages of Facebook’s foray into humanizing personalization in the September issue of WIRED: “To that end, Facebook has always emphasized two qualities that tend to be undervalued online: authenticity and identity. Zuckerberg saw that if he could successfully map the social graph, he'd create a powerful new model of communication — a giant word-of-mouth engine.”

Facebook made its initial splash with the college set three years prior. While users are learning how to share their first photos, status updates and likes, founder Mark Zuckerberg has his sights set on a larger prize. The young developer is busy cracking the code of human relationships: how we chat, who we spend time with, and even how we make and receive recommendations. In time, teaching the platform to anticipate our basic habits will allow it to predict even bigger trends – like global data flow and network traffic schedules. The race to Facebook’s AI-powered personalization and smart recommendations is officially on.

2004

Creating the “new” celebrity, one viral video at a time.

Depending on your age, you may not have any idea who Ian Andrew Hecox and Anthony Padilla are. But they're two of the biggest celebrities on the planet.

The founders of Smosh, a YouTube sketch comedy channel, were ranked two of Variety’s most influential celebrities among Americans aged 13 to 18, trouncing more established Hollywood A-listers and household names.

Though the duo recently went their separate ways, they were able to get noticed amidst the massive amount of content streaming to YouTube daily. The internet’s second largest search engine sees 300 hours of video uploaded to its site every minute. So how do these creators rise to the top of a massive heap of video? In a word: community.

What content creators like Smosh capitalize on is a platform where they can directly connect with their audience—commenting to viewers’ messages in real time and even crowdsourcing their next webisode. Of course, this only sparks a flurry of even more comments and clips. On YouTube, fostering meaningful relationships with viewers has never been easier.

"There's a digital intimacy that doesn't exist [with television stars]," says Rich Greenfield, an analyst with Boston-based research firm BTIG. “You may love Modern Family, but you don't have a relationship with Sofia Vergara, whereas with a YouTube star, you can absolutely have that digital relationship, whether it's commenting on a post or getting feedback."

2002 2002
2002

In the May 2002 issue of Wired, pioneering blogger and author Andrew Sullivan explores the tsunami of first-wave blogs and distribution platforms reshaping the relationship between content creators and publishers. Its biggest potential, Sullivan argues, lies in its power to foster and share thought between global communities around a range of niche topics:

"In the beginning – say 1994 – the phenomenon now called blogging was little more than the sometimes nutty, sometimes inspired writing of online diaries. These days, there are tech blogs and sex blogs and drug blogs and onanistic teenage blogs. But there are also news blogs and commentary blogs, sites packed with links and quips and ideas and arguments that only months ago were the near-monopoly of established news outlets. Poised between media, blogs can be as nuanced and well sourced as traditional journalism, but they have the immediacy of talk radio. Amid it all, this much is clear: the phenomenon is real. Blogging is changing the media world and could, I think, foment a revolution in how journalism functions in our culture."

Blogging's gradual takeover of traditional newspaper reporting set off alarm bells across the media industry. With a lightweight and simple publishing platform sitting atop the broadband infrastructure spreading across the world, the network was poised to change the format and distribution methods of news and opinion forever.

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2000 2000
2000

For thousands of IT professionals, "party like it’s 1999" took on a very different meaning at the turn of the new millennium. Instead of reveling in an epic New Year’s celebration, thousands around the world were stuck at work as their respective clocks struck midnight, monitoring computer systems just in case the worst Y2K bug fears came true.

But Marc Camm, then VP of marketing at tech company BindView had an idea: reward the IT pros’ sacrifice and heroism by throwing them an online virtual party. Camm recalls, “We had a large number of people turn out, somewhere between 500 to 1,000. People appreciated the fact that they were at work and we had this party going.”

The virtual Y2K get-together featured music, movies, video games and chat rooms, allowing the computer-bound IT pros a chance to celebrate together even if they were isolated in high-rise conference rooms. At midnight, Camm says, the East Coast contingent in the chat rooms let their brethren across the country know: "We’re still here."

1997

Engineer Vic Hayes (aka “the father of Wi-Fi”) chairs the groundbreaking IEEE standards workgroup that brings the 802.11 wireless protocol to the masses. Broadcasting on the common 2.4GHz band, this newly minted way for consumers to wirelessly transmit data, opens the floodgates for the next wave of mobile devices and their data-hungry users. Being connected no longer means being tethered by a cable. The coming Internet of Things, and its promise of devices sharing reams of data, finds a common language.

1996 1996
1996

"Dancing Baby" Animation provided courtesy of Autodesk, Inc. © 1999

1995

Old-fashioned love in the internet age.

Looking for love? It’s not at a local bar or coffee shop anymore—it’s online. Thanks to the recent boom in mobile dating sites and apps, love is now literally at anyone’s fingertips.

Today, most people rely on the wide-reaching power of the network to make a love connection. A 2016 Pew Research study found that 15% of US adults have used online dating sites or mobile dating apps. Within the 18 to 24 age group, the number almost doubles to 27%. And nearly 5% of Americans in a marriage or committed relationship say they met their significant other online.

While this shift has started to impact how people meet, interpersonal communication experts say the reasons why people meet are still largely the same. Yes, the network has exponentially widened the pool of potential love mates, but once people come together in a quest for love (either online or in a café), the behavior doesn’t change much – even if the location of the pool has.

"It's amazing to see how we as humans cluster in the virtual world exactly as we cluster in the real world," says Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals, sociologist and author of Exposure, a book that explores subcultures through a sociological lens. "It's like cliques in high school."

As new technologies continue to emerge – like algorithms that can tell us with greater precision who we are compatible with and DNA sequencing that can genetically source the perfect match – some experts still believe that finding love will eventually come full circle. But with a technological twist.

"I think this digital-native generation will cycle around back to that sort of culture,” Tibbals says. “You will see a digital-native version of an IRL [in real life] experience, however that turns out to be."

1991 1991
1991

The first rudimentary webcam debuts in a shared online forum. Like all innovations, this was inspired by a human need. In this case, the need to know exactly when fresh coffee is ready. The poor souls at the science department of Cambridge University would often arrive to the coffee pot across the building only to realize no coffee was left. Now with this webcam, all teams would know exactly when to fetch more coffee.

Learn more about Cloud-based Virtualization

1988 1988
1988

The first transatlantic fiber cable is laid.

The first transatlantic cable to patch into the network is TAT-8, which goes into operation in 1988. This incredibly sturdy, submarine, high-speed fiber-optic cable proves crucial to growing the capacity and reliability of the network as more people come online. With its vital “express lane” in place below the sea, the network is now poised for a massive injection of bandwidth. Thirty years later, 99% of international data will still be transmitted by an expanded version of this same network. However, this physical connection is vulnerable to dropped anchors and even curious sharks looking for a snack.

Learn more about Cloud-based Virtualization