The history of web hosting
The advent of the Internet has created many new opportunities for business and information gathering. One example of this is web hosting, which has allowed people to distribute content and communicate with each other globally. The development of web hosting is an important part of Internet history, and the periodic advances in web hosting illustrate how the Internet has progressed over the years.
Here is a timeline of all the major events in the web hosting history.
1965 – Scientists at MIT lay the foundation for the Internet by having two computers communicate with each other successfully.[i]
1973 – The dawn of the Internet begins, as two European organizations are able to connect to ARPANET, the U.S. Defense Department’s predecessor to the Internet.[ii]
1974 – The First Internet Service Provider (ISP)
Telenet becomes the first ISP by providing a version of ARPANET for the public. Also, Vinton Cerf and Bob Kahn make their design for Transmission Control Protocol, or TCP, public.[iii]
1979 – Network Solutions is Founded
Though it was founded as a engineering consultancy company, Network Solutions eventually became the first company to handle the Domain Name System (DNS) and distribute domain names to websites.[iv]
1983 – TCP/IP
ARPANET begins using the Internet protocol suite, or TCP/IP, which is still used today to connect networks through the Internet.[v]
1983 – DNS
The DNS (Domain Name System) is introduced, establishing the standard method for locating where the websites are hosted.[vi]
1984 – Cisco
Future technology giant Cisco Systems, Inc. is founded by Stanford University staff. By 1987, Cisco won the rights to sell their own routers after negotiating royalties with Stanford University.[vii]
1985 – The first domain (symbolics.com) is registered.[viii]
1987 – By this time, there are almost 30,000 hosts on the Internet.[ix]
1988 – Hosting Companies Emerge
1&1 Internet (now known as 1&1 IONOS) is founded in Germany. This makes 1&1 one of the first web hosting companies.[x]
1989 – The World Wide Web is Invented
While working at CERN, Tim Berners-Lee develops a global, interconnected “World Wide Web.”[xi]
1989 – The First Commercial Dial-up Services
ISPs such as World.std.com[xii] in America and DIALix and Pegasus Networks in Australia[xiii] begin offering commercial dial-up Internet.
1990 – Launch of HTML
Berners-Lee develops HTML, a programming language that allows documents to be displayed in web browsers.[xiv] Today, HTML is still one of the building blocks of the web.
1991 – Linux
TheLinux operating system launches, providing a cheaper, near-identical alternative to Unix. This enabled Linux hosting providers to offer their services for cheaper than previous Unix hosting providers.[xv]
1992 – The Beginnings of Colocation Web Hosting
Metropolitan Fiber Systems (MFS) becomes a pioneer in colocation web hosting through their Internet exchange point known as MAE-East. A few ISPs decide to connect their networks through MAE-East, and MFS provides colocation facilities for them.[xvi]
1993 – There are now 623 websites on the Internet,[xvii] and government organizations such as the UN now have their own websites.[xviii]
1993 – Mosaic
Marc Andreesen and Eric Bina create and release Mosaic web browser, which becomes a major part of the 90s Internet boom.[xix]
1994 – Register.com, Netscape, & EarthLink Launch
Peter Forman founds Forman Interactive. Forman Interactive eventually grows into a major web hosting provider and domain name registrar, changing their company name to Register.com.[xx] The ISP and eventual web hosting provider EarthLink is also founded this year.[xxi] Netscape is founded under the name Mosaic Communications Corporation and the Netscape web browser is released.[xxii]
1995 – Free Web Hosting, AIT, Inc., and the Launch of Internet Explorer
Sites such as Geocities and Tripod introduce free web hosting, in hopes of generating revenue from banner ads.[xxiii] Advanced Internet Technologies, Inc. is also founded this year.[xxiv] AIT is known for being the first to develop and offer VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting (not to be confused with virtual hosting)[xxv] and for being one of the largest privately owned web hosting companies in the world.
1996 – Verio is Founded
Verio Inc. is founded, becoming one of the earliest and most prominent dedicated hosting companies. Verio amasses resources and infrastructure elements by purchasing many smaller ISPs and hosting companies and consolidating them under the Verio brand name.[xxvi]
1996 – Microsoft Releases ASP
Microsoft releases the server-side script engine ASP (Active Server Pages), which lets users create compelling interactive pages.[xxvii]
1997 – GoDaddy Launches
The domain registrar and web hosting company GoDaddy Inc. is founded under the name Jomax Technologies.[xxviii] By 2019, they became the largest web hosting provider in the world.[xxix]
1997 – Virtual Web Hosting
LexiConn becomes one of the first companies to offer virtual web hosting, [xxx]
1998 – Content Delivery Networks (CDN), Rackspace, and Hostway Launch
Akamai Technologies, Inc. is founded. Akamai is one of the first and largest content delivery network (CDN) providers in the world.[xxxi] Rackspace, one of the biggest giants in the cloud computing industry was also founded in this year.[xxxii] Hostway, one of the oldest dedicated hosting providers, also begins their business in 1998.[xxxiii]
1999 – Yahoo! purchases Geocities.[xxxiv]
2000 – Domain Name Registrars
More domain name registrars start to pop up. Domain.com starts conducting business and goes on to become another prominent player in the domain name registry and web hosting fields.[xxxv] Namecheap, Inc. is also founded this year.[xxxvi] In the 2010s, Namecheap becomes known as one of the best domain registrars and web hosting companies.
2001 – Linux VPS Hosting
RoseHosting is founded, becoming the very first company to offer commercial Linux VPS hosting to the masses.[xxxvii]
2001-2002 – New TLDs Launch, Including .info and .biz
During this time period, ICANN introduces seven new top-level domains (TLDs) including .biz, .info, .name, and .pro. These were intended to give users more options, due to widespread use of the .com domain name.[xxxviii]
2002 – HostGator Launches
HostGator, one of the world’s leading providers of shared, virtual, and dedicated web hosting is founded by Brent Oxley in Florida.[xxxix]
2003 – WordPress, Name.com and BlueHost Launch
WordPress is released by developers Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little.[xl] WordPress was developed for hosting blog sites, but it would go on to become a hosting service for other types of sites as well. Name.com[xli] and BlueHost,[xlii] two other major web hosting services, were also founded in 2003.
2004 – SquareSpace and Flickr Launch
Anthony Casalena develops his software for website hosting and founds the company Squarespace,[xliii] which is currently the fifth-largest web hosting company in the world.[xliv] Ludicorp creates Flickr as an image and video hosting service, and many bloggers use Flickr to host the images they post on their blogs.[xlv]
2005 – Yahoo! purchases Ludicorp and takes control of Flickr.[xlvi]
2006 – Cloud Hosting
Amazon Web Services is launched. AWS popularizes cloud computing with the Amazon Elastic Computing Cloud, or EC2.[xlvii]
2007 – Hostway acquires Affinity Internet and all of its affiliated hosting brands, such as ValueWeb, Gate.com, and BigStep.com.[xlviii]
2008 – Google Cloud Platform is Launched:
Google launches App Engine, which is developed further over the decade and renamed Google Cloud Platform[xlix]. Google Cloud Platform gives users access to cloud hosting on one of the largest networks in the world.
2008 – Rackspace Acquires Smaller Hosting Companies
Rackspace acquires cloud storage company Jungle Disk and the VPS provider SliceHost.[l]
2009 – GeoCities closes down on October 26th.
2010 – Hostwinds is founded
Hostwinds will go on to be named PC Magazine’s Editor’s Choice for best website hosting in 2018, and FindMyHost.com’s Editor’s Choice for client support.[lii]
2011 – The SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) Bill is Introduced
U.S. Representative Lamar Smith proposes a law that will allow copyright holders and the U.S. Department of Justice to seek court orders against websites with copyright infringing material. A number of major web hosting companies spoke out against the bill for several reasons. The bill would have required them to monitor all of the sites they hosted, it would have exposed them to many unjustified lawsuits, and it would have allowed their domains to be taken down based on one piece of offending content. The bill was eventually declared dead in 2012.
2011 – Web.com acquires Network Solutions.[liii]
2012 – A New Generic Top-level Domain System is Instituted
The new system allows users to submit new gTLDs for approval.[liv] These new TLD names tended to be very specific, such as .bike, .clothing, or .plumbing. There were 1,930 applications for new domain names by the end of the year.[lv] Also, HostGator is purchased by Endurance International Group, bringing it under the same management as Bluehost.[lvi]
2013 – Snowden Leaks NSA Surveillance Documents
American whistleblower Edward Snowden exposes the NSA’s surveillance and collection of private data from civilians. Some web hosting providers felt that the Snowden leaks made business more difficult, because potential customers became more concerned with privacy and transparency when dealing with U.S.-based companies, resulting in them seeking web hosting providers overseas.
2014 – FCC Considers New Rules for Net Neutrality
Controversy erupts as the Federal Communications Commission announced plans to allow broadband ISPs to give faster connection speeds to certain companies or customers willing to pay a higher price. Web hosting providers such as DreamHost opposed these plans, because they would make the Internet less open and interfere with business, because they would mean more censorship of hosted sites, more expensive web services, and unwanted variance in site speeds. The rules surrounding net neutrality have been in flux since 2014, and the current FCC enforces no regulations that stop ISPs from favoring certain types of traffic.
2015 – North America Runs Out of IPv4 Addresses
The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), which allocates IP addresses to the United States, Canada, and a number of islands in the Caribbean and the North Atlantic Ocean, runs out of IPv4 addresses.[lvii] IPv4 has been the dominant Internet Protocol since 1983, and IPv4 address exhaustion marked a shift to more widespread use of IPv6 addresses.
2016 – ICANN’s Contract with the U.S. Government Expires
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which has played a vital part in coordinating the Domain Name System and IP address numbers since 1998, finishes its contract with the U.S. government. The private sector is now responsible for ICANN’s IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) functions, such as IP address allocation and DNS root zone management.[lviii]
2017 – Rackspace signs an agreement to acquire Datapipe, a worldwide leader in the cloud computing, colocation, and managed hosting industries.[lix]
2018 – 1&1 Internet merges with cloud computing company ProfitBricks and changes their brand name to 1&1 IONOS.[lx]
About the Author
Pierre Zarokian is a digital marketing consultant and CEO of Submit Express, an SEO company for over 20 years and Web Design Express, a web design company in Los Angeles. Zarokian also writes for the Search Engine Journal publication.