20 Years Since the First Photo on the Internet

Content on the internet today has stretched to the limits of what can be stored digitally. We can share entire movies in minutes, video chat in almost perfect quality without any lag and take self-paced virtual tours through cities.

It doesn’t sound impressive at all, but when you consider that just two decades ago, the internet was yet to be introduced to commercial markets and we could just share raw text data, it give you some perspective. Then a scientist at CERN uploaded to first ever photo onto the internet, and changed the scope of the medium forever.

The History

The internet had earlier beginnings but in 1982 an internet protocol suite was released that governed how computers communicated. This was known as TCP/IP. The scientific world was beginning to see a standardisation of how these computers interacted. It was paving the way for a much wider use of the technology, beyond sharing data between scientific institutions and governments.

Then in 1992, at the laboratories of CERN (The institute primarily responsible for the recent investigation into the Higgs Boson particle), computer programmer Jean-François Groff uploaded the internet very first photo: A poorly shopped picture of a science parody girl-band called Les Horribles Cernettes (LHC). A somewhat famous group, in physicist circles.

Move from Science to Entertainment

The choice of image wasn’t really important, although it has been subject to gossip. Tim Berners-Lee, known as the inventor of the World Wide Web, just wanted to show his superiors that the web had value in entertainment and media communication to the world rather than just scientific collaborative data across proprietary networks. Essentially moving it from a small network to the global internet (originally internetwork) we know today.

No one really saw it and it gained almost zero publicity but true to its purpose, three years later the internet was commercialised. It was an anthropological and technological revolution that paralleled the introduction of the light bulb.

Potential for Economic Growth in Africa

It’s such an important tool that economists even say that an increase in Internet penetration leads to a proportional increase in GDP. This was based on a study made in India where Internet access is growing the fastest in the world.

Many say that South Africa, and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa for that matter, can also use this model to stimulate economic growth across the region. The growth in internet penetration in South Africa is almost entirely mobile so infrastructures must be built to accommodate these volumes.

A director at the GMSA association of mobile operator said that by introducing the 2.6 GHz digital dividend band to mobile broadband, a net GDP growth of $68 billion could be realised by 2016 in sub-Saharan Africa.