1988 – Robert T. Morris, a graduate student at Cornell, unleashed the first widely known computer "worm" (or virus that spreads over the Internet). Morris said it was a benign experiment gone awry but prosecutors said he caused hundreds – if not tens of thousands – of dollars in lost productivity for each computer affected.
He was sentenced to three years' probation, community service, and a fine of $10,000 plus legal costs. Despite his run-in with the law, he went on to great success, eventually joining a startup that was bought out by Yahoo.
Now, he's a professor in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at M.I.T.
1989 – Quantum Computer Services, which is now AOL, introduces America Online. The service included games and chat services. By 1994, it had reached 1 million users, or about a third of the consumer online population, Bank said.
1990 – Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist, coins the phrase the "World Wide Web." Though digital denizens now may use the "Internet" and the "Web" interchangeably, there are actually not synonymous. The Internet hosts the Web, which is Berners-Lee's breakthrough.
While working at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, he devised the Web as a way to organize, address and link information on the Internet.
1990 – The non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is founded by Mitch Kapor, John Gilmore and John Perry Barlow, three technologists who were part of the WELL (Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link) community. David Weinberger, a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, pointed out the importance of this group that, since its inception, has advocated for the public interest in digital rights issues.
1993 – Mosaic, the first Web browser to display images with text, is released by Marc Andreessen and his colleagues at the University of Illinois.
1994 – Some of the founders of Mosaic launch Netscape, the first commercial browser.
1994 – Stanford Ph.D. students David Filo and Jerry Yang found Yahoo.
1995 – Jeff Bezos brings Amazon.com online, helping to revolutionize online retail.
1998 – Larry Page and Sergey Brin, computer science engineers who met at Stanford, incorporate Google (named for "googol," a mathematical term for the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros).
1999 -- Three friends launch Blogger, a user-friendly, free blogging platform. Although Weinberger emphasizes that the blogging movement can't be traced back to one particular moment, he said that in terms of the popularization and rise of blogging, "the creation of Blogger was really important."
1999 – Craig Newmark incorporates Craiglist.org as a for-profit online classifieds site. It started in 1995 as an e-mail list for friends and co-workers about San Francisco Bay Area events. As of August 2009, it had expanded to more than 700 cities in 70 countries.
2005 – YouTube is launched and helps drive user-generated content to the mainstream.
2006 – Facebook expands to include anyone over college age. Although Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook (initially called thefacebook.com) in 2004 while a student at Harvard, it didn't become an online force until it expanded beyond college students.