We have compiled a list of some of the most important and influential moments in history which laid the basis for the modern-day web hosting services. These events shaped the industry the way we know it – a constellation of domain and hosting providers, web and email services that make it possible for anybody to start their web presence with ease and reach billions of people from all around the world.

1969 – ARPANET was created

It all started in the 1960s when government researchers decided to link a number of computers in a network to facilitate the exchange of information between them.

The Cold War boosted the efforts to link multiple computers across the USA as fears of a nuclear attack were growing. This way, information would be preserved across the network in case that certain locations were hit. As a result, ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) was created. The first computer was linked to the network in August 1969 at the University of California, Los Angeles. By the end of October, three more were linked at the University of Utah, the Stanford Research Institute, and the University of California, Santa Barbara. ARPANET was decommissioned in 1990 when the US government partnered with telecommunication companies to build a much larger network – the one we call the Internet.

1971 – email was introduced

Nowadays, the option to create an email address with your domain name seems like an integral part of a web hosting plan. Exchanging messages started in the 1960s, but they could be sent only between people using the same computer, or if both users were online at the same time. This changed in 1971 when Raymond Tomlinson, an ARPANET programmer, introduced the first system that could send messages between different hosts connected to the network. In 1973, email communication accounted for 75% of the activity over the network. Tomlinson is officially recognized as the inventor of the email as we know it today. He introduced the modern-day syntax that includes the “@” sign to separate usernames from hostnames. An interesting fact is that he created the system on his own initiative as it seemed a good idea, and not as a part of an ARPANET project.

1983 – the TCP/IP protocol was adopted by ARPANET

On January 1, 1983, ARPANET adopted two of the main protocols the web is still based on today – the Internet Protocol and the Transmission Control Protocol. Initially developed in the 1970s, both are commonly known as the TCP/IP Internet protocol suite and they specify how information is exchanged over the Internet. With some modifications through the years, the suite still defines how data should be broken into small packets and how it should be sent, routed, and received.

1983 – the Domain Name System was introduced

Up until 1983, servers could be accessed across the global network by typing their numeric address (IP address). As the number of servers connected to the network was expanding, it was getting difficult to remember their addresses. The Domain Name System was introduced as an attempt to facilitate the process. It included seven Top-Level domains (TLDs, or extensions) – .com, .net, .org, .int, .mil, .gov, and .edu. By the end of 1986, a total of six domain names were registered. Symbolics.com was the first .com name in existence.

Over 30 years later and .com is still the most popular domain name on the Internet. Check our article on the topic for more stats and details.

1991 – the World Wide Web was born

The NeXT computer that Berners-Lee used at CERN

In 1980, Tim Berners-Lee, an independent contractor working at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research), built a personal database of people and information called ENQUIRE. It was based on hypertext – documents that are interconnected by hyperlinks within the text. In 1989, he made a proposal for a global network of such hyperlinks to be created so as to enable physicists from around the world to find information more easily. Information Mesh, The Information Mine, and Mine of Information were a few of the names he considered for the system, but in the end, he called it the World Wide Web.

By the end of 1990, Berners-Lee had created a number of tools and services that revolutionized the way people would use the Internet. The most important one was the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that was the foundation of data exchange on the Web. He also created the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) that we still use today to display text and images, the first browser named WorldWideWeb that included a web editor tool, and the first web server.

The first web page ever created is actually still available at: http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html.

1993 – Network Solutions became the first registrar

Up until then, anybody could register a domain name for free by simply requesting it, even over the phone. Domains were managed by the National Science Foundation (NSF) on behalf of the US government. As the number of domains increased significantly, NSF hired Network Solutions Inc. to manage them as a private contractor. In 1995, Network Solutions started charging $100 for 2-year registrations, putting an end to the free domain registrations. We have gone a long way from that price. In 2020, anyone can register a .COM domain for as little as $8.38/year

1994 – the first version of the SSL protocol was introduced

Using an SSL certificate is a necessity nowadays

The Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol was introduced in 1994 by Netscape, the same company that created the Netscape Navigator web browser. Due to multiple security vulnerabilities discovered through the years, the SSL protocol was replaced by the Transport Layer Security (TLS) in 1999. Most people still refer to it as “SSL” though.

Even the security certificates that the majority of websites use today to encrypt user-submitted information are known as “SSL certificates”. SSL certificates were quite expensive up until several years ago when Let’s Encrypt was launched. Let’s Encrypt is a certificate authority that provides free SSL certificates which are fully supported and available on all ICDSoft hosting plans.

GeoCities logo 1995-1998

Established at the end of 1994, the company attracted millions of users as it offered an easy and simple way to create content and to become a part of the World Wide Web. The platform started with six web directories, or “neighborhoods”, but soon added other cities. The web address a user would use included the name of the city and a unique “street number”. Although the websites created on GeoCities had a very amateurish layout, they were the first experience many people had with web hosting. The company paved the way for the rapid growth of hosting services in the following years. Some companies such as Angelfire and Tripod followed the same business model that GeoCities had adopted.

Did you know?

GeoCities offered 1 MB disk space, Tripod – 2 MB, while Angelfire offered 35 KB with their plans. These values appear laughable now, but back then sites were usually pure text/html and didn’t need lots of space. With the rising popularity of rich media websites nowadays, hosting plans providing 100 GB, like our Business hosting plan are some of the most popular solutions for starting a website.

1995 – the first version of PHP was released

PHP, a recursive acronym for Hypertext Preprocessor, is one of the most widely used web development languages. It was created in 1995 as a tool to create web forms that would read information from a database. Its original name was “Personal Home Page/Forms Interpreter” or PHP/FI. It was simpler than other languages, so it quickly became popular among the web development community. PHP is used by some of the most popular self-hosted web applications and frameworks – WordPress, Joomla, Moodle, Drupal, Magento, Laravel, Symphony, etc.

If you are interested in the history of PHP, we would highly recommend that you check the video – 25 Years of PHP – a presentation by the creator of the PHP language himself – Rasmus Lerdorf:

1996 – Paid hosting emerged

Many companies had started to offer free hosting packages. 50megs and Hostmonster, both launched in 1996, were the first to start offering paid packages as well. The plans included more features and this turned out to be a game changer in the web hosting industry.

1996 – cPanel was released

This is one of the most widely used hosting control panels today. It was developed as a control panel for the now-defunct provider Speed Hosting. cPanel 3, which was released in 1999, included the Web Host Manager (WHM) – a server management tool. It had two levels – the root WHM was for administrators, while the non-root WHM allowed resellers to create hosting packages and manage them, thus facilitating the growth of the reseller hosting business.

1997 – GoDaddy was founded

GoDaddy is the largest domain registrar today and one of the largest web hosting providers, holding more than 15% of the global hosting market. It was founded as Jomax Technologies in 1997 by Bob Parsons, a Maryland entrepreneur. The company was rebranded to GoDaddy in 2006. With the long history GoDaddy has, there have been many controversies with its operations. They are all well covered at WikiPedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GoDaddy.

1999 – Blogger was launched

Blogger was one of the first blogging platforms and it greatly helped in popularizing the idea of creating a personal site where anybody could write about their own interests. The platform was purchased by Google in 2004 and it is still in the top 50 most popular websites in the world.

2001 – ICDSoft started offering web hosting services

Quality web hosting since 2001

While the company was founded earlier, it started offering web hosting services in 2001. At the time, all hosting providers were offering a pretty mediocre service, with support tickets often taking weeks to be answered, if at all. Our CEO – Dimitar Dimitrov, actually started as a reseller for such a company, but was appalled by the terrible customer service provided. Since then, ICDSoft has been setting the standard in customer service, as can be seen by our Trustpilot Reviews:

https://www.trustpilot.com/review/icdsoft.com

The excellent service and the quality customer support resulted in a constantly growing customer base. By the end of 2002, the company had over 25,000 customers. Quickly customers all around the world started using ICDSoft as their preferred web hosting provider:

Today, ICDSoft offers a number of packages, ranging from shared hosting plans to flexible VPS offerings, like our SmartVPS hosting lineup.

While the plan features have changed through the years, one thing has remained constant – the quality of the hosting service and the extremely high level of customer support.

2002 – Amazon launched Amazon Web Services

By offering scalable cloud computing, relational database services, and cloud storage on demand, the company transformed the hosting industry. There were other companies that offered cloud services before Amazon (both Infrastructure-as-a-Service – IaaS, and Product-as-a-Service – PaaS), but AWS became very popular as it offered a full stack of services, user-friendly management, and a pay-on-the-go business model. Amazon currently holds almost 50% of the cloud services market, placing it way ahead of its competitors.

2003 – the first version of WordPress was released

WordPress is the most popular CMS today

This was a turning point in the web hosting industry as WordPress quickly became one of the most popular platforms out there. It started as a fork of the “b2” blogging software. Several platforms were popular before it, like MovableType, and Joomla (which is still regularly used), but WordPress won with its very easy install process, its automatic updates mechanism, and its welcoming community that helped (and that continues to help) grow the available themes and plugins.

Today, a website can be made in a few hours with WordPress by following a simple guide such as:

With the powerful WooCommerce plugin (developed by the same company that develops WordPress itself), WordPress can also be used to quickly launch an online store:

Today, WordPress powers about 36% of all websites on the Internet and we expect to see this number continue to grow (source: https://w3techs.com/technologies/overview/content_management).

2003 – Xen, the first open-source hypervisor was released

With no license fees for virtualization software, more companies could offer virtual servers at affordable prices. Xen started as a research project at the University of Cambridge, but quickly became a widely used enterprise product developed by the newly-created XenSource, Inc. Other popular open-source hypervisors were developed shortly after that, such as the widely used KVM that was released in 2005.

2013 – the first wave of new generic TLDs was launched

A total of 22 generic top-level extensions were introduced between 1984 and 2012. As the number of domain names was growing rapidly, the Internet Company for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) adopted a new TLD naming policy so as to allow the creation of hundreds of new community-based domains that would cover anything from city names to sports and technology terms – .london, .club, .shop, and .support being just a few examples. A total of 21 new TLDs were launched by the end of 2013. As of March 2020, there were 1235 ICANN-approved new TLDs that were already in use or were about to be launched.

2014 – The number of websites with unique hostnames passed one billion

This seemed like quite a lot of websites, but the number almost doubled by 2017.

Where do we stand today?

The web hosting service helps people from all over the world take their place in the online world. It makes it much easier to launch a website than if you had to host it on your personal computer.
Most of the hosting plans on the market come with a lot of additional features to make them more appealing to customers.
Here are a few numbers that show where we stand today:

  • There are more than 330,000 web hosting providers worldwide. Most of them act as resellers of some larger companies. Reseller webhosting is a popular service, as it allows web agencies and developers to provide additional services along with web hosting, thus helping everyone get a website.
  • Most of the hosting industry is owned by just two entities – GoDaddy and EIG . We recommend checking online to see who actually owns a company before committing to a purchase. ICDSoft is a private company with over 19 years of history.
  • The size of the shared hosting market is about USD 22 billion, while cloud hosting services are estimated at around USD 156 billion.
  • More than 50% of the hosting servers use Apache or Nginx as a web server.
  • Domestic companies dominate the hosting market in many countries.
  • There are more than 350 million registered domain names.

As the number of people with Internet access increases and more businesses are moving online, the demand for hosting services is expected to grow significantly in the coming years.

And here is a short timeline when some popular hosting providers were founded:

Ivailo Ivanov
Author

I started working in the web hosting business in 2004 - 16 years ago. My other interests are mountain biking, fine woodworking and raising my kids to be good persons.