The Data Explosion | The History of the Internet, Part 3

Giant companies like Google and Facebook and
Amazon dominate today’s internet, with hands in just about everything you can do online
— from search, to advertising, to storage. And love them or hate them, those companies’
websites get more than six hundred million visitors a year, with hundreds of millions
more seeing their ads or using their apps. But it wasn’t always like this. We last left our history of the internet series
in the mid-nineties, when the U.S. government had just given up control of the internet
that they’d been in charge of since 1969, and Tim Berners-Lee’s World-Wide Web was
starting to get popular. The internet was finally open to the public,
and it seemed like a new frontier where anything was possible. Just twenty years later, the internet is an
essential piece of the modern world, with the public side mostly commanded by a few
powerful companies. Getting from then to now took a little bit
of economics, a lot of fast computers, and a couple of fundamental changes in what we
expect when we come online. With society still figuring out how it feels
about that last one. The Web of the mid- to late-nineties was a
little bit like the Wild West. It was a huge new world of people and companies
popping up everywhere you looked, and it seemed like there was plenty of room for everyone
to have a piece of the pie. Rich investors started piling money into companies
without worrying about whether they were making a profit — or even whether they had many
customers. They figured that on the internet, old rules
for being cautious about investing in young companies didn’t apply any more, and that
all anyone with a good idea needed was enough money to reach an audience. But the honeymoon didn’t last, and what’s
known as the dot-com bubble started bursting in March of 2000. Stocks in tech companies plummeted for the
next couple years, and over half of them declared bankruptcy, eventually losing trillions of
dollars in total. And while stocks were falling, a couple famous
court cases against Microsoft and the music-downloading service Napster put new boundaries on what
companies could do with the internet. Napster had been one of the fastest-growing
businesses in history, but it went bankrupt paying back musicians for copyright infringement. And Microsoft narrowly avoided being broken
up after violating antitrust laws. The internet might’ve been a whole new world
back then, but the turbulent early 2000s left a tamer, steadier Web in its wake, where a
few well-run companies could quietly become empires. One of the dot-com bubble’s casualties was
GeoCities, one of the first social networking sites. Today’s Web is flooded with social networking:
Just about every website constantly encourages everyone to use their personal profiles and
share everything they see with everyone they know. But things were different back in 1994, when
GeoCities first came online. The first websites mostly had a clear divide
between creators and users. Creators — well, created. They wrote the computer code and assembled
the different documents and files and hyperlinks and pictures that made the website what it
was. The users just visited the website and looked
at whatever the creators had put on there. But GeoCities worked on a different model. Anyone and everyone could make a GeoCities
account and create their own website, with all their own stuff and formatting and backgrounds
and interests. GeoCities mixed together users and creators,
because everyone with an account was both at the same time. Users could also send each other messages
and join communities — or “neighborhoods” — of pages with similar topics and interests,
creating whole sections of the site that focused on just about everything imaginable. Its nineteen million users made GeoCities
the third-most popular site on the Web in 1999, behind AOL and Yahoo!. Yahoo! bought GeoCities that year for 3.6
billion dollars, but it fell on hard times after the dot-com bubble burst and never managed
to regain its former glory. Yahoo! finally shut down most of GeoCities
back in 2009, when it had long-since been surpassed by other sites that took the idea
of social networking and ran with it. Now, we’ve spent a lot of time in these
last couple videos talking about things you might never have heard of unless you worked
with them directly: ARPANET, TCP/IP, CompuServe — all that stuff. But GeoCities gave way to some sites that
pretty much everyone recognizes, whether you used them or not. Friendster launched in 2002, giving each user
their own profile and a way of seeing different networks of friends on the site. It quickly became enormously popular, with
three million accounts in its first three months. But it was plagued by technical troubles,
and after only a couple of years, it had fewer users than MySpace, which was itself passed
in 2008 by a blue-themed site started in a Harvard dorm. You … might’ve heard of it. Facebook now has almost two billion active
users, and that number just keeps going up. But it’s far from the only social networking
site out there. There’s Reddit, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn,
YouTube — and that’s not even counting all the Disqus comments sections and Digg
share buttons and WordPress blogs sprinkled all over the Web. All those sites, big or small, are descended
from GeoCities: the first site to mix users and creators in a completely new way of using
the internet. Most people still used dial-up to get online
in the heydays of GeoCities and Friendster. But by the time Myspace took over around 2005,
there was something new on the market. Instead of using dial-up, most people had
switched over to broadband. See, dial-up has a built-in speed limit. Because of how phone lines were made, the
fastest dial-up connection could only receive or transmit about 56 kilobits per second. That’s 56,000 ones and zeros in or out of
the computer every second. Which might sound like a lot, but on dial-up,
downloading a single song off Napster would take about ten minutes, even at top speed. And downloading a whole movie could take days. Even just loading a site with a few images
took forever. So once the internet started getting more
popular, companies came up with better ways of getting online that weren’t so limited. Like DSL, which transmits digital data along
phone lines instead of analog signals like dial-up does; and cable, which uses the wires
for a cable box to connect to the internet. These and a bunch of others all came to be
known as broadband, which is really just a broad term — get it? — for all the ways
of getting online that aren’t dial-up. Depending on the type of broadband, the connections
can be tens or hundreds or even thousands of times faster than dial-up is. People started using broadband in the early
2000s, and in 2005 it overtook dial-up for the most popular way Americans got online. With more people on faster connections, it
wasn’t as big a deal for sites to have a bunch of images, or even video. But all the data on those sites needed to
be stored somewhere. Another legacy of the dot-com bubble is the
place of data centers in today’s internet, where hundreds of computers work together
for a single company to give users a better, faster experience. The earliest computers could be big enough
to take up entire rooms, but those dedicated computer rooms stuck around in a lot of places
even as computers got smaller and faster. Eventually, they’d have something like ten
computers in them, all connected together to act like one big computer with the combined
speed and memory of all ten. These computer rooms or even computer buildings
became known as data centers, and lots of tech companies had them in the eighties. But a lot of companies would also rent computers
in a data center nearby. And that model became really popular as the
dot-com bubble inflated. Lots of those startups needed computer space
to store all their data, and computer speed to handle all the users on their websites
— at least, the lucky ones who had lots of data and users. And data centers were perfect for the job. Instead of owning, powering, cooling, and
maintaining your own computers, and reliably connecting all of them together and to the
internet, you could just pay a data center to do it all for you. And even after a lot of those startups went
bankrupt, data centers held onto their role in handling a lot of the traffic for the big
Web companies. Today’s websites have more than a hundred
and fifty times as much data on them as they did in 1995, and a lot of that information
comes from rooms or buildings or whole complexes full of computers. After all, Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t keep
everyone’s Facebook status on his own personal computer. They’re on an army of Facebook’s computers
that are all working together — and the same goes for Google, or Amazon, or your bank,
or your email provider, or even your college. Today’s Web relies on these huge collections
of computers to work like we all expect it to. And with all that speed and storage available,
today’s websites can do things they couldn’t dream of in 1995. Just think about going on a site like YouTube. Even if you’re not signed in, you’re the
only one in the world who sees that exact YouTube homepage, with those exact recommended
videos. Because no one’s watched the same videos
you have, in the same order, for the same amount of time, from the same places in the
world — all stuff that YouTube uses to choose what to recommend. Or think about Facebook, where it seems like
you only ever see pictures of weddings and babies and puppies instead of the hundred
other status updates people have posted. Or when you see banner ads everywhere for
products you were just looking at on Amazon. Just about everywhere on the Web has this
sort of algorithmic filtering, where the website decides what you’re probably interested
in and shows you more stuff like that. This is somewhere else those data centers
come in. They don’t just store all the website’s
data; they run special programs to look through that data and use information that they have
saved about you to decide what you want to see next. Sometimes, that might be a video that has
four views but is exactly the sort of video you’d like to see. And sometimes, it’s the kind of Facebook
status that gets lots of likes and comments, like wedding and baby photos. And in a lot of ways, this is great. I mean, who hasn’t binge-watched YouTube
when those recommended videos are just what you’re looking for, and who doesn’t love
pictures of babies and puppies? But just like any technology, there are tradeoffs
to this new responsive Web. Facebook ran a study on some of its users
and found that what people see on their News Feeds can strongly affect their moods, which
means that algorithms are helping determine how we feel about the world without us even
knowing it. And figuring out what you want to see can
involve tracking you around the internet. So a lot of people are worried about their
privacy — especially because some companies aren’t shy about selling what they learn
about people to the highest bidder. And it can seem like every day there’s another
news story about governments tracking people around the internet in a similar way. Or maybe it seems like there’s never a story
about government tracking. Whatever the algorithm decides to show you. ….Which just about brings us to the present. In fifty years, the internet’s grown from
four computers to billions, and from the western United States onto every continent and even
into outer space. But it’s still pretty new, and it’s still
evolving. No one knows what pieces of today’s internet
are going to keep being central to the story when we look back in a few decades — or
in a few centuries. Will it be remembered for all the amazing
communities who do things like the Project for Awesome, where millions of dollars are
raised by people who just want to decrease worldsuck? Or will today’s communities and social networks
fade into the footnotes to bigger stories about privacy concerns and government influence? Ultimately, it’s up to us. The citizens of the internet get to decide
what our priorities are, and we get to choose what kind of internet we want to be a part
of — now and in the future. Because it might not be the Wild West anymore,
but the largest collection of knowledge and ability in human history is still just getting
going. Thanks for joining us on our journey through
the history of the internet! This mini-series wouldn’t have been possible
without our patrons on Patreon. If you want to help support this show, just
go to And don’t forget to go to
and subscribe!

Comments 100

  • algorithmic filtering is the one of biggest reasons i moved from facebook to twitter (aside from making 150+ tweets a day is more acceptable than making 50+ statuses a day). like it's so boring not seeing a chronological log of everything. unfortunately twitter is starting to do a similar thing with recommended tweets, though you still see all the other tweets.

  • this video title makes me feel really old… im 19 btw

  • well, fb algorithms aren't doing a very good job, always recommending stuff I don't look at or am interested in and blocking out the stuff I actually do.

    on the other hand youtube in recent times seem to have it pretty nailed, though it does tend to over recommend the same channels over and over sometimes.

  • You guys gonna do a bit about how asshats like Ajit Pai and other corporate sellouts in government are trying to kill Net Neutrality and fuck up the internet?

  • "150 times more data than in 1995"? Moore's law not confirmed. Shouldn't it be something like a million times more? Or Moore?

  • I love scishow! 😀

  • Thanks for avoiding cats

  • I'm not part of a college.

  • I am a CCIE Data Center watching this video…
    Google "CCIE Data Center" if you didn't get it 😀

  • I guess as long as there's all today's SciShow videos in my Recommended feed, I'm okay with it. But it is sometimes annoying when you watched something that just hasn't anything to do with your usual YT habits and then you get similar videos all the time. I wonder why YT still hasn't implemented a button "don't include this video for my recommendations". Instead you have to ban it from your feed after you get it. Who doesn't love kittie-porn – but I don't want my feed overflowing with it. 😀

  • Search algorithms probably explain the rise of conspiracy theories in the US. Once upon a time an idiot searched for a conspiracy theory. Google bots saw that and showed them more. And more. And more. So much more that after a few years, they became what they are now – people jumping at shadows, convinced that everyone is out to get them.

  • So that's why all those wedding posts appear in my feed and make me feel things. Damn you facebook, one day I'm going to scare the bajeebus out of my boyfriend.

  • Where are the first two videos?

  • So are you going to talk about the first coffee maker on the internet or the internet soda machine, the precursors to the IoT?

  • Hi SciShow, I got 3 questions. 🙂

    What will happen if a big solar flare shots down the electricity that we desperately needs to menage all nuclear reactors all over the globe?

    Who, and how hard it can be for someone to get inside our beloved smartphones. For what purpose, do we have to trust every app?

    What will happen if a gamma ray burst hit our sun?

  • Geo cities sounds like proto reddit

  • Does cardio kill gains?

  • why your daydreaming something it is also your dream while asleep

  • You guys should explain why lightning bolts go off in different directions off of the main bolt……… for reference watch lightning in slow motion

  • I like the targeted ads. I'm tired of all the spam I get for penis pumps and boner pills.

  • why we cant kill all colorado beetles?

  • Why does the shower get hot when you flush the toilet?

  • I bet computers back then would've needed a lot more detotated wam to server

  • I like this guy.

  • lol, When has a video with only 4 views ever been recommended to anyone? I've NEVER had that happen, even back when Youtube actually cared about smaller creators.

  • This is bringing up so many memories.

  • I better dont comment on the thumbnail…

  • fuck the internet

  • You forgot how it murdered blockbuster

  • was geocities that bs site where everyone just had the dancing babies and flying toasters in the background that they thought it made them cool?

  • 4CHAN , 4CHAN

  • one of Google's main data centers is in Seattle, Washington, in a hotel. I think it's a La Quinta.

  • why do i have red hair in my beard?

  • Sorry SciShow, but GeoCities was a webhost, not a social media platform. Lunarstorm was the first social media platform.

  • I do NOT like pictures of babies….

  • They should live the Internet alone. If they regulate it we are screwed. The Internet must be freedom. It is all we have left, the rest they took it from us. A resource based economy as defined by the Zeitgeist movement, TZM, would give it back to us; Everything.

  • Wow! This video is great. Keep it up, maybe you'll be worth something some day. Fucking nerd.

  • is there internet in the outer space?

  • Shit HaNK looks different without glasses

  • Loved this miniseries.

  • What do you mean at 0:20 that Google, Facebook and Amazon get "600 million websites a YEAR"? They probably get that much every hour!!

  • I just realized that I trust Hank and John with my donations more than any other organization. I always look to see how many cents on the dollar go to the actual cause, but with you guys I just assume is 110%

  • This is wrong… Al Gore invented the internet and we all need to thank him.

  • I miss GeoCities.

  • Part 4 soon? 😜

  • This series was excellent, thanks!

  • It's not called Google it's called Alphabet. Google is a web search engine. Used to be called Google, not anymore.

  • "Using a cable link or a digital phone line connection."
    In Europe and The Far East, we have optic fibre. You Americans have some shit internet.
    "We don't know what the internet will be like in a few centuries."
    We won't have internet in a few centuries, when the Muslims and/or communists take over and take us all back to the dark ages.

  • great mini series!

  • Y'all gunna talk about porn? Not trying to be crude or anything, but the porn industry has been a huge player in the development of the internet.

  • On a scale of one to ten, how ironic is it that the last of this mini series on the internet recently uploaded right before century link managed to load the first of this series for me?

  • Ten minutes for a song on Napster on Dial-up? Man, mine took more like two or three hours. I left it running overnight while I slept for a couple of songs.

  • R.I.P. GeoCities and the website I made for a school project on Ernest Hemingway xD

  • people are like id prefer hank but ill settle

  • Excellent piece Michael. Keep it up!

  • Anyone else get distressingly nostalgic when they started talking about geocities? Ah, the early days of fandom….

  • Oh man, dial-up. Ugh. I have some fond memories of geocities, but AOL – no. Slow, noisy, and tech support sucked. "Have you tried turning your computer off and on?" was no more helpful back then, then it is now.

  • I think my Geocities page was in Area 51, but I got so into anime so fast, all the pages I visited were Tokyo/Shrine.

  • That's not where the term broadband came from.  It comes from the fact it uses a wider range
    of the electromagnetic spectrum versus a narrow band such as the 64k limit of
    phone channels.

  • GeoCitities was a social networking site. Social networking today in the larger sites is primarily focused on showing personal info and advertiser friendly content like compulsory games and "location check in" features whereas a social networking like GeoCities is now rare where the focus is about anyone being able to create web content about anything not just about themselves or in a constricting "profile" easy for data mining. The two big primary turns for social media after GeoCities was blogging which you can clearly see in Twitter and Facebooks makeup and less obvious is the profiling and data mining model actually comes from dating websites. So today we have social media hyper focused on vanity blogging and having an appealing dating profile that anyone can stalk instead of social media being focused on connecting people with common interests and giving them creative tools for expression that defined GeoCities albeit on an earlier web.

  • "Like DSL, which transmits digital data along phones lines instead of analog signals like dial-up does…" This is pretty much entirely wrong and is also misleading. Both Dial-up and DSL are digital in the same way wifi is digital. It uses modulation, hints the name modem to transmit information. In the case of dial-up the modulation was restricted to the public switched telephone network which meant tones must be used as well as requiring to be routed on the telephone network into the network you wanted hints dial-up while DSL doesn't have this requirement because it bypasses the PSTN. A DSL provider must hook a subscribers telephone line into a data network before its hooked into the PSTN. This means DSL does not go through the PSTN like Dial-up does. It''s a higher bandwidth connection without the routing or modulation restrictions of the PSTN. Instead only the phone line going from the network center to the premises carries the dual data of voice and data. Hints the name Data Subscriber Line (DSL). This did mean DSL used sub-audible frequencies or close enough and then used a filter to make sure you couldn't hear it.

  • Rarely are YouTube's recommendations what I want to watch. I usually either search for videos or channels I want to see or the YouTube creators themselves recommend me something I'm interested in. Pretty much the only situation where related videos have been useful is with music and even then it take listening to many of them before i find something I like.

  • crap, thats the end 🙁

  • yeey, relevance selection for specific person 🙂 made such stuff for my diploma project(it was pretty simple ofc), all this series brings up the nostalgic memories from the past days! greetings for all Computer Science guys and girls out there! 🙂

  • I feel confident in predicting that cat videos will never die.

  • Net Neutrality?

  • That's why VPN is so important when Government track you or hold the metadata.

  • I'm surprised they only mentioned AOL and not really say anything about it.

  • Facebook is a cancer that needs to die already

  • Or what if we kill ourselves off and the internet breaks down due to aging infrastructure with no maintenance workers.

  • Memba when they would pay you to browse the web ?

  • I don't get weddings and babies on my fb wall, I get memes

  • Computers use Dick sucking lips to run? Wow, who knew?

  • I wish YouTube's algorithms understood that I pretty much NEVER want them to recommend a (non-music) video that I've already seen. Like seriously, I've already seen part 2 of this series, and now part 3, YouTube should NEVER recommend them again, and they should have figured out by now that I always ignore videos I've watched or click away from them right away if I don't realized I've seen them.

  • As I recall, wasn't the top speed limit on dial up 53,000? Even though it was marketed as 56K, as I recall 56k could interfere with voice so it was limited by the phone companies to 53k

  • I'm fine with buffer.
    I'm fine with ads.
    But why is this ad in Spanish.

  • or maybe if you in perh you have to watch youtube with a 56kb/s internet connection YEZZ

  • hehe geocities. id say most on here just cant understand lag until you've loaded a jpeg heavy website on win95 with a 56k connection.

  • This video reproduces a common misconception about the Facebook emotional contagion experiment. The Facebook experiment did not show that adjusting people's news feeds STRONGLY affected anything. In fact, the Cohen's D effect sizes were NEGLIGIBLY SMALL (between .001 and .02). The only reason it was statistically significant was because it was such a massive sample size.

    On top of that, what was being measured were numbers of emotionally valenced words posted by the subjects–hardly a measure of mood.

    This study was ridiculously overblown.

  • Wish they wouldn't wave their arms about so much. Like fish outta water.

  • 9:35 no ultimately it's up to the US government's decisions on net privacy and net neutrality which are currently under attack we have no say so in this once the government decides to take it away

  • I love this series! Very informative. But i wonder why they left out the darknet, bitcoin, and sensorship especially in china and north korea.

  • nice history sharing

  • Why do you think a person is on Google+ ?  All of us heard it but we all seem loyal.  You think it might all flip and everybody goes there?  I can imagine some stock person making the most of it.

  • A series about the history of operating systems and the capabilities they had at those times would be um… scitastic, scirific, scishow? Lol

  • mmm progapanda

  • Oh the poor soul that has to monitor my computer…

  • I'm going to cry due to nostalgia from Geocities and Msn Groups :'(

  • No intelligent man wears that hairstyle. This one’s definitely getting all his knowledge from the prompter.

  • Maybe Facebook, google, amazon should focus more on education than just putting stuff out there…

  • Sextillions of years ago…
    Before Google himself.
    There was a thing called…
    "The Internet" or "The Web"
    It was a big planet first.
    Then it evolved…
    Every million years it became bigger and bigger.
    But then it split…
    Into a bigger one…
    It's 500 times bigger then the world you live in now…
    "The Deep Web"…
    Legends say it was so dangerous it had to be destroyed…
    But there were other people.
    Different people…
    They had a war what we call "The Ancient War"…
    The other people were so powerful that the humans gave up and went home…
    But then one warrior found things called "Memes".
    He stole them and ran away…
    He closed the gate to the Deep Web…
    Memes were so expensive that they fought for it…
    Nowadays Memes are still very expensive but humans make their own and sell them…
    No one still knows about The Deep Web that much…
    They haven't been a threat for a thousand years…
    Or are they?

    Pls continue this story

  • Great series. Please make one-time donations an option for supporters that don’t want to opt-in to monthly donations (outside of patreon?)

  • This is the thing which helps me escape from the guilt of wasting time watching cat videos on youtube🤣🤣🤣🤣😂😂😂😂

  • They should of included history of dark Web within this
    Also y is this in my suggested 1 Yr late

  • I like the video.

  • Oh my I had no idea Disqus was an alternative spelling of “discuss” I always pronounced it “discus”

  • i don't like babies ;-;

  • Digg lol

  • my mom had a friendster account back in 1999!

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