Where Did Community Originate?
We owe much to history's relentless pursuit of better ways to learn and communicate. Our best online communities wouldn't be successful without the accomplishments of the past. We decided to put together some of the most memorable moments that may (or may not) have contributed to the success of community, especially in a digital age.
Read on, comment, hack it and tell us what you think. The timeline is alive and ever-changing - please help us build it out! To look through the timeline, click on the dates above, and toggle back and forth in time using the arrow buttons to the right and left of the timeline. Enjoy!
Carrier and Homing Pigeons
Pigeons as a means of communication has been around for nearly 3,000 years. As a sport, pigeons were used to proclaim winners during the Olympics. As early as 1150, the city of Baghdad and ruler Genghis Khan had pigeons as messengers.
Movable metallic types were invented in Korea to print Jikji, the oldest extant movable metal print book around 1377. Johannes Gutenberg introduced print to the western world, creating a printing system with movable metal types and adapted screw presses around 1440. Historian Elizabeth Eisenstein posited that the printing press changed how information was collected, stored, retrieved, criticized, discovered and promoted.
Royal Society of London
July 15, 1662
A group of elite intellectuals gathered for knowledge sharing, forming an official society in 1660, followed by a second, formal royal charter in 1663. The society has a very interesting motto, "Nullius in verba," meaning "Take nobody's word for it".
February 21, 1804
The world's first railway journey commenced with a steam locomotive hauling a train in South Wales.
1830s and 1840s
Samuel F.B. Morse, among others, revolutionized long-distance communications by transmitting electrical signals over a wire laid between stations. Morse is responsible for inventing the single-wire telegraph system and co-inventing Morse Code.
Ada Lovelace, First Computer Programmer
Lovelace published an article translation with notes considering the first computer program and algorithm for a machine. She was a self-described "analyst and metaphysician". She also worked on Charles Babbage's early mechanical general purpose computer, the Analytical Engine.
The first telegraph cable was laid in 1858; more successful attempts were completed in 1865 and 1866.
The Pony Express
April 3, 1860
A 2,000-mile trail service opened in Midwest America.
March 10, 1876
"Mr. Watson, come here, I want you." Alexander Graham Bell said these words over an experimental telephone in 1876.
The theory of electromagnetism developed and was published in 1873. Guglielmo Marconi (arguably) invented wireless telegraphy in 1895 and subsequently attempted trans-Atlantic communication. Reginald A. Fessenden was the first person to send audio with electromagnetic waves in 1900.
John Logie Baird employed the Nipkow disk in his prototype video systems and gave a public demonstration of televised silhouette images in motion on March 25, 1925. Phil T. Farnsworth successfully demonstrated the principle of video in a lab in San Francisco on September 7, 1927.
Alan Turing published a paper on computable numbers introducing the Turing Machine, capable of computing anything that was deemed computable. It was a central concept for the modern computer.
Allegedly popularized by computer scientist and Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper in 1947.
October 4, 1957
The first artificial Earth satellite launched.
The Automatic Digital Network System was the Department of Defense's first computerized message switching platform. The fastest messages could be delivered around the world within two minutes of sending - especially impressive since they used second generation computers with semiconductors and no integrated circuits.
Before email, collaborators at MIT created documents labeled "To NAME" and saved them to a "common file" directory. Users then logged in and searched for files addressed to them. As they progressed, they created individual, private "mail boxes" where people could share files privately to another person. That was the very beginning of email.
ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) marks the beginning of the internet. Before ARPANET, people could only share files between computers on the same network (like MIT's MAILBOX). Rather than "inventing" the internet, Ray Tomlinson, who created ARPANET, found a hack around this problem - creating a network of un-connected computers.
Personal Computer Kits
Before the Altair 8800, if you wanted a computer, you had to scrounge for parts and work off of blue prints from computer magazines. Ed Roberts and Forrest M. Mims III, scientists based out of New Mexico, changed all that when they created a kit Ð complete with all parts and instructions Ð so anyone could build their own personal computer for only $439.
Once ordinary people could buy computers, and connect to computers on different networks, larger communities began to form. Usenet was a place where people could go to chat and post messages in topic specific categories. It was the beginning of listervs and online groups, like Google Groups or Yahoo Groups. Since Usenet was only text based, it was also where ASCII art really took off.
Written by MIT students between 1977-1979, Zork was one of the first interactive fiction computer games. Set in the ruins of an ancient underground empire, this game was only text based - no graphics. Instead, players navigated with instructions, called "leaflets." (Fun fact: "zork" was hacker slang for an unfinished program. It was originally named "Dungeon," but that was too close to "Dungeons and Dragons.")
America Online (AOL)
America Online, otherwise known as AOL, connected millions of Americans to the internet via their dial up service. At it's height, AOL bought Time Warner, but began losing ground as broadband services took off in the early 2000s.
The term was first coined by author William Gibson in his 1984 short story, "Burning Chrome." Twelve years later John Perry Barlow, Greatful Dead lyricist and cyberlibertarian, used the term in his now infamous manifesto, "A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace."
January 24, 1984
Although the first Macintosh cost $2,495 ($5,682 today), when Macintosh 128K was released, it made computers accessible to more people than ever before. The iconic computer was encased in a monitor and came with a keyboard and mouse. Apple announced the computer's arrival with their now famous Super Bowl XVIII television commercial, "1984."
The Well (The Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link)
The Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link was one of the first - and now oldest, continually run - online communities. Started in 1985, it became a revolutionary community, encompassing a vast range of topics and bringing together people from around the globe. It's even where Harold Rheingold fist coined the term, "virtual community."
Internet Relay Chat (IRC)
Created by Finnish man Jarkko Oikarinen, Internet Relay Chat was the first instant messaging platform. It included private messaging, a chat function, data transfers and file sharing, kicking off a new era in for internet.
Match.com brought personal classified ads to the internet, revolutionizing how we date. Today, roughly one in 10 Americans has used at least one online dating service.
January 2, 1993 (online publications by 1998)
The magazine that coined the terms "the Long Tail" and "crowdsourcing" launched in 1993, and went online in 1998.
September 4, 1998
What started as a research project for two Stanford Ph.D. students turned into the most widely used web-based search engine.
March 18, 1999 (earliest dated entry from November 1997)
Brad Fitzpatrick, an American programmer, started LiveJournal as a way to keep up with high school friends. It grew into a blogging and community platform, particularly popular in Russia.
January 15, 2001
Wikipedia took the idea of a wiki - a website where users could edit in real time - to a whole new level. Millions of people have contributed to Wikipedia articles, making it one of the top viewed websites in history.
An early virtual community, originally only for people in San Francisco. Users created groups, or "tribes," to interact with each other.
February 4, 2004
It definitely wasn't the first social media site, but, with 1.19 billion daily users, Facebook is the world's largest social networking site. Mark Zuckerberg famously started the site with his Harvard roommates while still in college.
June 23, 2005
Known as "the internet's front page," Reddit allows users to post comments and interact in different groups, or "subReddits." As of summer 2015, Reddit had 36 million users and 234 million monthly unique visitors.
February 14, 2005
Today, the video sharing website is now the 3rd most visited website in the world and 2nd most used search engine. Started by the founders of PayPal, it was originally a video dating website called "Tune In Hook Up." However, when one of the founders had trouble finding a video of Janet Jackson's Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction on the internet, they realized the full potential for their site. Later renamed YouTube, Google acquired it in 2006, calling it "the next evolution in the internet."
March 21, 2006
Founded on the need for people to send SMS messages to large groups of people, Twitter was originally called "twttr." It was first used as an internal communications tool for the company Odeo, but rapidly grew. In 2013, it was one of the 10 most visited websites and dubbed "the SMS of the internet."
June 29, 2007
Steve Jobs' mission was to reinvent the phone, which he did. He got rid of all the buttons, made a giant screen and introduced the touch screen.