Scott Elliot Fahlman, 1982How can people distinguish serious posts from jokes? Computer scientist Scott Fahlman thought of this problem and is credited for using the first emoticon online in 1982. The word ‘emoticon’ is a portmanteau word of ‘emotion’ and ‘icon’. A portmanteau, in case you didn’t know, is a combination of two words into a new word ;-). Though Fahlman may have been the first to use it online, he was not the first ever emoticon user. A similar marker appeared in Reader’s Digest in 1967. Also, Abraham Lincoln used an emoticon in his speech in 1862. People are still debating whether this was just a typographical error.
Steve Wilhite, 1987
GIF is short for Graphics Interchange Format. From a technical standpoint, the huge success of .gif (since its introduction in 1987) is a bit of a mystery. It only supports 256 colors; its compression is inefficient; it doesn’t support sound; the last specification was published more than twenty years ago. Yet it’s still thriving. The reason, of course, is convenience. On the Web, the GIF, and especially the animated GIF, is the only video format that runs everywhere, runs automatically, and loops.
Shawn Fanning, John Fanning, Sean Parker, 1998
Napster has often been called the fastest-growing business in history. It was co-founded in 1998 by Shawn Fanning, his nephew John Fanning and Sean Parker as an independent peer-to-peer file-sharing service. Napster was named after Shawn Fanning’s nickname, which he got for his nappy hair under his baseball cap. Within a year the service had ten million users. Napster allowed them to easily share MP3 files with each other. In 1999 the company was sued by metal band Metallica for copyright violations. But because of the huge publicity, Napster grew even bigger. In 2011 Rhapsody acquired Napster and restructured it completely.
Mark Howard Gorton, 2000
LimeWire is a free open-source program for downloading and sharing files through a p2p network. You probably used it a zillion times before a US federal court issued an injunction forcing LimeWire to prevent “the searching, downloading, uploading, file trading and/or file distribution functionality, and/or all functionality” of its software. With that, the judges successfully put an end to the downloading of illegal files on the Internet. Eh, hold a second…
Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu, Jaan Tallinn, 2003
Skype is a ‘Voice over Internet Protocol’ (VoIP) service and software application. It sounds complicated, but it’s not; it all comes down to you, a headset, a webcam, a computer, the Internet, stuff to talk about and, of course, someone to talk to. Skype allows you to send messages, share files and make phone calls with or without video. Free of charge! For the first time people can communicate like they do in science-fiction movies. Or as some have described Skype: it’s like chatting with sound.
Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, Jawed Karim, 2005
If you have never heard of YouTube, you either live under a rock or you simply hate videos. The video-sharing Web site was created by three former PayPal employees in 2005. Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim invented YouTube out of a garage in Menlo Park, California. It caught on almost immediately. In 2006 there were 100 million videos in YouTube’s searchable archive. YouTube is still immensely popular and most of the content is uploaded by individuals. Me at the zoo was the first video on YouTube and shows co-founder Jawed Karim at the San Diego Zoo.
Park Jae-Sang, 2012
PSY, whose real name is Park Jae-Sang, has become a global sensation since Gangnam Style’s release on July 15, 2012. The video clip pokes fun at the consumerism of Gangnam, an upmarket neighbourhood in Seoul, South Korea. On December 21, 2012, “Gangnam Style” (Korean: 강남스타일), reached more than a billion (!) views on YouTube. We bet all the ladies try to get a lasso around this guy now. The energetic Korean musician certainly has the perfect dance moves as though he’s riding on a horse. “Gangnam Style” holds the Guinness World Record for the most “liked” song ever on YouTube.