The Chronology of New Media: The 1990s

By | January 7, 2000


  • Tim Berners-Lee creates a hypertext GUI (graphic user interface) browser and editor under a program he calls “WorldWideWeb.” (Rejected names for this project include Information Mesh, Mine of Information, and Information Mine.) A demonstrable WWW program is working by Christmas.
  • Mitch Kapor founds the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a free expression action group.
  • Mike Godwin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation makes a memetic observation: The longer a Usenet discussion grows, the more likely it becomes someone will make a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler. This axiom becomes known as Godwin’s Law.
  • Adobe Photoshop is released.


  • The first crude WWW browsers are released over the Internet.
  • In February, Quantum Computer Services launches a DOS version of its America Online service.
  • In September, Quantum officially changes the name of its business to America Online.
  • In October, Microsoft demonstrates Windows NT to the public at COMDEX.
  • Also in October, Linus Torvalds posts the first version of his Linux OS, available for free over the Internet.
  • Adobe Premiere is released.


  • AOL goes public on Nasdaq.
  • Campus-wide e-mail and Internet accounts begin using SLIP (modem) access to the Internet.
  • Apple’s QuickTime digital video technology debuts.


  • America Online launches a Windows version of its online service in January.
  • On April 30, CERN’s directors declare WWW technology will be freely usable by anyone with no fees being payable to CERN.
  • In August, Windows NT 3.1 is released.
  • In November, Mosaic 1.0, a graphical WWW browser created by Wisconsin native Marc Andreessen, is released.
  • Intel introduces the Pentium processor.
  • Adobe Acrobat is released.
  • Wired magazine begins publishing.


  • The dot-com gold rush begins; markets begins an unprecedented climb fueled partly due to increased efficiency and partly due to hype about the Internet’s potential.
  • Marc Andreessen and colleagues leave NCSA in March to form Mosaic Communications Corp. The company is soon renamed Netscape Communications.
  • Stanford graduate students Jerry Yang and David Filo create Yahoo! to catalog Web sites. Yahoo! incorporates in March 1995 and goes public in April 1996.
  • On August 16, AOL reaches 1 million users.
  • In October, Tim Berners-Lee founds the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
  • By December, Netscape Navigator 1.0 is released to the public.
  • During this year, the Web edges out telnet as the second most popular service on the Internet (e-mail remains first).
  • The videogame Doom motivates many home PC users to upgrade in order to play the game.
  • GNN and Hotwired being putting banner ads on their Web sites.
  • Broderbund releases the CD-ROM game Myst which goes on to sell more than 6.3 million copies.
  • Apple announces plans to make PowerMacs based on the PowerPC chip.


  • Netscape Navigator 1.1 released in April.
  • Also in April, the first public release of the Apache Web server is introduced. The software is soon the most popular Web server on the Internet.
  • On May 23, Sun Microsystem’s Java is launched as a cross-platform programming language.
  • Internet Explorer 1.0, Microsoft’s first WWW browser, is released in August and is soon followed in November by IE version 2.0.
  • Windows 95 is released on Aug. 24, causing consumer riots at software stores nationwide.
  • In December, Digital Equipment Corp. creates the Alta Vista WWW search engine.
  • Also in December, Bill Gates announces Microsoft strategy is shifting to focus on the Internet.
  • RealAudio introduces streaming audio to the Web; streaming video soon follows.
  • Disney and Pixar make Toy Story, the first feature-length movie totally comprised by computer graphics. (The 77-minute film takes four years to make and 800,000 machine hours to render.)
  • Macromedia begins marketing “Shockwave-enabled” software for creating Web-friendly content.
  • Rasmus Lerdorf creates a script on his Web page which leads others to create the PHP scripting language (from “Personal Home Page”).
  • Sony Playstation game system introduced.
  • Jakob Nielsen begins posting his Alertbox column on the Web (


  • In February, President Clinton signs the Telecommunications Act of 1996 mandating new television sets must be equipped with V-Chips. The signal-blocking chips will allow parents to screen-out programs rated by the shows’ sexual, indecent and violent content.
  • Netscape Navigator 2.0, which introduces HTML frames, released in March.
  • In April, debuts when Dickinson College economics student Jennifer Ringley begins posting pictures of herself on her Web site. The pictures are later automated to update from cameras in her home every few minutes.
  • On July 17, TWA Flight 800 crashes off the coast of NYC’s Long Island. Richard Russell, a retired United Airlines pilot living in Florida, sends out a hoax e-mail message saying a U.S. Navy missile is to blame. ABC reporter Pierre Salinger suffers disgrace by later reporting the story from the e-mail and insisting “the truth must come out.”
  • Electronics companies Sony and Phillips debut WebTV as a joint venture.
  • Netscape Navigator 3.0 and Internet Explorer 3.0 are both released in August.
  • AOL version 3.0 for Windows launches.
  • Opera, another WWW browser for Windows, released in December.
  • MCI upgrades its Internet backbone by adding 13,000 ports and bringing the effective speed from 155 to 622 Mbps.
  • U.S. Robotics introduces the Palm Pilot.
  • In December, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warns the so-called new economy may be overvalued on “irrational exuberance,” but the dot-com gold rush continues anyway.
  • Adobe PageMill is released.
  • Internet 2 creates a network reserved for universities.
  • Debut of MSNBC, a joint venture between Microsoft and NBC.
  • Affordable digital cameras become widely available in the United States.
  • WRAL-HD in Raleigh, North Carolina, becomes the first commercial high-definition TV station in the United States.
  • DVD video is introduced.
  • In late December, Apple Computers announces plans to acquire NeXT; Steve Jobs returns to his former company.


  • In June, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) finalizes the initial standard for wireless LANs, IEEE 802.11. This standard will later evolve as the WiFi movement gains popularity.
  • In August, former Silicon Graphics executives Michael Ramsay and James Barton found TiVo Inc. to market a personal video recorder service.
  • In September, the Web site Slashdot launches “news for nerds.”
  • In October, the U.S. Justice Department sues Microsoft, alleging it violated the 1994 consent decree by forcing computer makers to sell its Internet browser as a condition of selling Windows software.
  • In December, programmer Jorn Barger coins the term “web log.” By early 1999, the term is shortened to just “blog” by blogger Peter Merholz.
  • Macromedia buys FutureWave Software and begins producing the company’s FutureSplash Animator program under a new name, Macromedia Flash.
  • Microsoft buys control of WebTV.
  • 3Com buys U.S. Robotics and takes over production of the Palm Pilot.
  • Mosaic 3.0, the last version of this browser, released in January.
  • AOL opens its chat rooms to advertisers in March.
  • Netscape Navigator/Communicator 4.0 released in June.
  • America Online announces plans to acquire CompuServe Online Services.
  • Internet Explorer 4.0. released in October.


  • On Feb. 2, AOL completes its acquisition of CompuServe.
  • On March 12, the FCC accepts the Industry Video Programming Rating System and adopts technical requirements for the V-Chip.
  • In May, U.S. Justice Department and state attorneys general sue Microsoft, charging it illegally thwarted competition to protect and extend its monopoly on software.
  • On June 15, Time magazine and CNN report about U.S. soldiers alledgedly dropping nerve gas on American defectors during the Vietnam war. The story is retracted after criticism from the U.S. military and veterans groups, many mobilized through the Internet.
  • On June 28, Windows 98 is released.
  • Netscape Navigator/Communicator 4.5 released in October.
  • In September, Larry Page and Sergrey Brin found Google Inc. to develop their Web search engine.
  • On Sept. 11, the Starr Report is released online allowing millions of Web users to read the uncensored details of the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal.
  • In November, America Online announces plans to acquire Netscape and form a strategic partnership with Sun Microsystems.
  • In November, Cameron Barrett publishes, the first list of blog sites.
  • WorldCom merges with MCI Communications, Brooks Fiber Properties, and CompuServe in deals totalling more than $42 billion.
  • Apple iMac released, creating a fashion for all types of small electronics. Phones, paper shredders, clothing irons and more gadgets become available sporting blue-tinted translucent plastic covers.
  • Adobe ImageReady released.


  • In January, Northwestern University freshman Shawn Fanning develops the original Napster application for sharing MP3 files. Napster Inc. is founded in May.
  • In March, The Matrix revives the model of science-fiction virtual reality with innovative special effects, lots of firearms, lots of martial arts and lots black leather outfits.
  • In August, Pyra Labs launches Blogger, a service which helps bring blogging mainstream and vastly expands online self-publishing.
  • On Nov. 5, U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson issues preliminary findings declaring Microsoft a monopoly whose actions are “stifling innovation” and hurting consumers.
  • America Online announces plans to acquire MovieFone, a movie listing and ticketing service.
  • Internet Explorer 5.0 released in March.
  • On March 9, during an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Al Gore says: “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.” Blitzer never questions Gore’s statement during the interview, but later many others do – Gore was a 21-year-old law student when funding for ARPANET was commissioned.
  • Sony launches Everquest, a fantasy adventure game played online.
  • Five U.S. cities reach 50% Internet penetration: Washington, D.C. (59.9%); San Francisco (56.1%); Austin (55.5%); Seattle/Tacoma (53.3%); and Salt Lake City (50.0%).
  • Film producers use a documentary-like Web site to build up hype for The Blair Witch Project movie.
  • By year’s end, AOL has topped 20 million subscribers.