History of online marketing
From (D)ARPANET to Internet
History of online marketing is quite interesting. But to understand the history of online marketing correctly, we need to start with the basis for it’s existence. The start of online marketing was the 3rd of May 1987, with the first email promotion. It has been declared this also was the start of SPAM as well! But I am disputing this conclusion.
But the online marketing did not take flight until the emergence of the Internet. So let’s have a look on this development.
DARPA-net or ARPA-net
The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), was In the 1960’s experimenting with a communication network. This network was based on computers connected together. The computers were located in geographically separate areas. Several name changes were seen. From DARPA to ARPA and back again.The current name is DARPA.
DARPA reports directly to the Department of Defense in US.
Universities and Technology Companies
Several University scientists, and engineers from technology companies were involved in these experiments. The conceptual basis for shared networks was developed. This concept was based on using packets of information.This concept is still used today. But the final break through came in 1969 when the first router was built. The router used the concept of shared networks.
Concepts and Technology
The conept of shared networks and the router made ARPANet operational in 1970. The University scientists took this concept to the civilian world quite immediately, as they always want to have the latest toys and technologies!
Technology we take for granted today, like the touch screen, the mouse and the router, were developed during these trials. Darpa, and the people involved have had a significant impact on the development of technology used by the Internet.
Modest start for ARPA or NSF net
The scientific community and the Net
In the introduction they say that “the purpose of NSFNET is to support scientific research and education in and among academic institutions in U.S. by providing ….”
In other words the “scientific research and education” had priority for the use of NSFNET. This was termed the backbone of the networks in U.S. Below is a screen shot from the NSFNET Use Policy for their Internet “backbone”, financed by NSF (as a continuation of ARPA net).
Science in charge
Note point 7 above. It states: “Use for commercial purposes by for profit institutions is generally not acceptable…” The science community calls the shots.
Access and Tim Berners-Lee
In the early days access to Internet was not an easy task. You had to know how to use Unix. This was the operating system used by most scientific computers connected to the Internet at the time.
The protocols of connection were also quite cumbersome. Often it was the local talent who wrote the interface. This frequently resulted in problem(s) logging in and sharing content. Because there were no standard protocols.
Tim Berners-Lee proposed to make a browser in early 1989. The work was done when he served at CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire – The European Nuclear Research Organization).
The first successful test, using Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), connecting computers over the Internet was done in late 1989. He called his system: the World Wide Web. Later the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was established. He is the Director of W3C, who is controlling the further development of the Web.
Today Internet and W3C is one and the same thing. But in the early days the Internet was the interconnected hardware (computers, wires and routers),. The World Wide Web was the protocols and information management systems. Now these two are one and the same – the Internet.
Tim’s Editor — WorldWideWeb. Ref: http://www.w3C.com/tims_editor.html
The first web browser was WorldWideWeb, developed by Tim Berbers-Lee and published in 1990. It was written on a NeXt computer, developed by Steve Jobs. This computer had a user friendly windows interface, with powerful development tools. The user interface was a windows interface. But Steve Jobs were too early with this powerful concept and the company folded.
The WorldWideWeb browser was developed for the Unix. It is shown in the screenshot to the right. Many elements of a modern browser can be seen. However, it could not display inline graphics.
Tim Berners-Lee believed that a true graphical browser would make access to the Web easier. He asked several Universities in the world to propose for their students to develop a browser with inline graphics. Four students at OTH -the Finnish Technical University – took this on.
Erwise was developed for Unix by 4 students at OTH in 1992. The browser is the first to show inline graphic, had a word search box and could load several web pages, opening in new windows. The name is a pun on the name of the University – OTH-Erwise or otherwise! Unfortunately the development of the browser stopped when the 4 students got their diploma and left the University for their new jobs. A screenshoot is found here.
This was also a graphics browser. Here is how it was presented on the homepage at the time (1993): “Viola is a toolkit for hypermedia development, publishing, and browsing. It is basically a toolkit consisting of a scripting language, a graphical user interface, and an object-oriented data storage system. ViolaWWW is an application of the Viola toolkit.” .
As ErwiseWWW this was also developed by students, based on the Viola toolkit from University of California at Berkley. A historical database exists, even though the browser is no longer active. A screenshot of the main browser is here.
The Midas browser was the third browswer developed for Unix. It was published in the summer of 1992. The purpose was mainly to distribute the physics research from the Stanford Linear Acceleration Center (SLAC). The Center is tasked with research on physical response of matter using X-rays, high energy light. SLAC report to the Department of Energy
The Lynx browser was a text only browser and it is still maintained and are in use.today. This browser was used for fast access to information from the Internet. It can be used on old hardware like the 286 and 386, and still provide excellent results from the search.
The Lynx text browser of todaybe used on old hardware like the 286 and 386, and still provide excellent results from the search.
From the Lynx manifesto (1998/08/23) the introduction state:
“Enough’s enough. The World-Wide Web promises a new way to let people communicate. But too many Web designers are being bewitched by “multimedia” – they load their sites with gigantic graphics, embedded sound clips and animation. There’s nothing wrong with that, as far as it goes. But increasingly, these Web designers are forgetting to include Lynx, one of the first Web browsers, in their HTML code.”
My comment: include text for the alt-tag as well as a brief description of the image, as they are teaching in the training from Wealthy Affiliates. But not all web designers seem to follow this advise.
Mosaic was not the first graphical browser when it was introduced in 1992, and it was not even the best. But it could be freely downloaded from the servers of National Center for Super Computing (NSCA), and it was easy to install. In addition the developers gave 24 hour support, meaning that any question posed would be answered within 24 hours! (Some service providers can learn from the oldies!)
This resulted in increased use of graphics on the websites. The first version of Mosaic was for Unix, but it was soon ported to Windows and Mac computers.
Due to the intuitive interface and the graphical capabilities it becane a very popular browser. It made it easy for anybody to go online, so this increased the content online. And when the versions for Windows and Mac cane out this increased online activity exponential. A screenshot of Mosaic.
This was the basis for the commercial NetScape browser. But this is a different story, and I will in a later post review the history of browsers and the browser wars.
Commercial network enters Internet
Commercial network providers like MCI, Prodigy, AOL and Compuserve entered the ARPA-NSF net in the early 1990’s, and thus Internet was established. The Internet became a main stream phenomenon when the browsers made it easy for anybody to connect to the Internet. This happened in the early 1990’s.
These commercial networks had, since early-mid 1980’s, offered electronic messaging services, Bulletin Boards and Newsgroups. Some of them, like AOL, Compuserve and Podigy also offered email services.
Private users could register an account (around $ 100-200 per year). But they could only send messages to members of their network, not across to other networks. This improved when the commercial networks entered the internet, where they got access to the HTTP protocol. We could say that the history of online marleting started with email services, but unfortunately the first attempt on email marketing was SPAM! Or was it?
The fact: An email were sent, targeting 400 of the 2600 users of the ARPA net directory the 3rd of May 1987. The email was sent by Gary Thuerk, and was quite relevant for the target audience.
Gary was a marketer for Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), and the email was an invitation to attend the open house when DEC launched their new DEC System 20 family of computers! No hard sell, only information about an upcoming ‘open house’ event where they could try the products and get more technical information.
Some of the recipients, however, were annoyed by the receipt of the email. But was that based on their understanding of the “Acceptable Use Policy” sited earlier. rather than being annoyed becase they did not ask for this information?
Then there were others that contacted Gary back and asked for more information – they kind of opted in – according to the rules today! Therefore, in my opinion we should at least consider this a tie – especially since the ground rules were not laid down at that time.
Gary tried to provide these people with relevant technical information! And some of the recipients kind of opted-in by asking for more information. I will therefore argue that email marketing really started the history of online marketing!
Another question is: “How did Gary get hold of 400 names from the ARPA net user list?” It is a mystery, as this was one of the best guarded secrets online – because it was mil-spec!
The history of online marketing
It did not start immediately due to lack of marketers!
The history of online marketing did not start quite yet (except for email marketing), even if the commercial networks were connected to the Internet. This is likely because most marketers seemed to ignore the commercial networks, and their services. They believed that online services can not help promote the products or services from their companies!
This belief was even held by Microsoft. They focussed on their Windows operating system and the Office programs. Thereby dramatically neglecting the impact of the Internet. They did not see how the history of online marketing would pan out.
The first online publication was: “The Whole Internet User’s Guide and Catalog”, published by O’Reilley & Associates in September 1992. This introduced enhanced features like formatting, scripting, graphics and embedded applets, based on using the ViolaWWW browser and HTML, described earlier.
If you go to O’Reilleys website of today you will find a print book that is called – you guessed it: “The Whole Internet User’s Guide and Catalog, 2nd Edition!”
Global Network Navigator (GNN) and HotWired
O’Reilley & Associates launched Global Network Navigator (GNN) in early 1993, as the first information and online market place.
The website had the following headlines: GNN News (free), GNN Magazine (ads), The Online Whole Internet Catalog (free), The GNN Marketplace (or GNN Direct) and Navigator’s Forum.
The free web catalogue was a forerunner for directorty services like Yahoo that came later. The first advertisment on the GNN marketplace was done by the lawfirm Heller, Ehrman, White and McAuliffe from Silicon Valley, a timely and appropriate endorsement!
HotWired introduced the first rotating and clickable banner ads online in October 1994.
This started a veritable rush of visitors to these sites. GNN had 150,000 visitors and more than 30,000 registered subscribers weekly in 1994. The subsccribers seemed to increase by approximately 10,000 per month.
At the end of 1994 GNN had more than 45 companies that were selling their products and services online – the mainstream history of online marketing was started!
GNN become very successful and was sold to AOL in 1995. AOL at the time had 2 million subscribers, and GNN was one year later closed and the subscribers were given included in AOL.
A watershed moment in the history of online marketing is the introduction of technology or services that impacts the view of online marketers and customers alike. This often changes their behavior!
In the following I will try to point out what I think are the main watershed events in the history of online marketing. This will not be based on experience but mainly on my own limited research in relation to the topic.
The basic events are listed below. A bried explanation will be given for each event. Some that occured the same year will be treated under a main heading.
email marketing – 1983
HTTP & HTML – 1993
Yahoo – 1995
MSN – 1995
Amazone – 1995
Google – 1998
Dot com bubble – 2000-2001
Google Adwords – 2000
Facebook – 2004
iPhone – 2007
Facebook Open Graph – 2010
Email marketing – One of the pillars in the history of online marketing
I have already discussed the start o f email marketing in 1989 with Gary’s email to the 400 in ARPA net members. Weather or not SPAM was born I leave as an open question. But email marketing’s power was illustrated at that May day in 1989.
And to this day email marketing is still one of the cornerstones in online marketing. Therefore, it is any online marketers duty to ensure that he / she start building their email list as soon as they start to get traffic to their website or blog. “The money is in the list” as it goes.
HTTP and HTM – Central for the history of online marketing
Tim Bernes-Lee’s contribution to the Internet revolution cannot be fully understood. But without the development of the Hypertext Transfer Protoco; (HTTP) and Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) the conncetion of computers that were the Internet, became an operationa unit that could be used for commercial purposes. Without these break through technologies the history of online maketing would have been totally different and there wiold likely not have been a unified world wide web. And the history of online marketing would have beed quite short.
Amazone – Leading the way in the history of online marketing
Amazone started their affiliate marketing network in 1995. But, as a matter of fact Flowers and Gifts.was started in 1989 on the Prodigry network, by Tobin. He had conceptualized the idea of affiliate marketung and in his model he paid a percentage to the network he were hosted by. That earned Prodigry 5 mill dollar by 1993!
The way Anazone do business online has been a main influence on all online marketing. The history of online marketing would not be the same s without the impact of Amazone. Many online marketers earn their full time income as affiliates, or Associates, as Amazone calls them.
Amazone started selling ebooks, but soon expanded into consumer gods. Amazone has also made an integrated model where the buyer get next day deli
the product he/she buys delivered.
Yahoo – In the history of online marketing
Yahoo has been primarily a directory serve, and being listed in Yahoo in the early days of online marketing was very important. This gave prestige to your site, and wwhen visitors found you listed there they would often click trhrough to your site.
You had to post a request to Yahoo for a review of your site. Then a review was done manually by a person from Yahoo. If you passed their criterion of content quality your site would normally be registered, even if your internal structire was not top notch. Being listed with Yahoo was very prestigeous, and it normally gave you a lot of free traffic from Yahoo.
Their importance has dwindled lately, as they have had problems all the changes of online marketing, with the social contract between Social Media sites have with their visitors.
MSN – Microsoft’s failure in the history of online marketing
MSN is a web portal for different online services for Windows and Windows devices. It was launced at the same date as Windows95 as an online support to the Micresoft Windows products.
Because Microsoft had their eyes mainly on their Windows products they did not follow up the online marketing activities during the early years. MSN has been linked with Hotmail (now Outlook), messenger (now Skype), search (now Bing), news, sports and entertainment.
Here is how Microsoft presents MSN in search now: “The new MSN, Your customizable collection of the best in news, sports, entertainment, money, weather, travel, health, and lifestyle, combined with Outlook”
They still seem to run in all directions at the same time! That’s probably why they are playing cath-up online now.
Google and Goggle Adwords – a break through in the history of online marketing
PageRank and backlinks in the history of online marketing
The founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergei Brim started their PhD researchat Stanford University in 1995. The theme of their research was to explre the mathematical properties of the Internet, thereby how to classify the relevance of a website (an URL)..
Their hypothesis was that number of backlinks from other relevant sites would be a good measure of a sites relevance. This is merely analogue to what is done with academic papers – the more your aricle is cited the more relevant and prestigeous it get!
The results they got seemed to confirm their hypothesis. The web page with the most backlinks would be the most relevant for a given search. Search engines at the time only counted how many times the search term were found on the page. The delivered result could be highly irrelevant since the “author”often stuffed the site full of keyword. This make the content totally irrelevant for people.
To classify pages relevance they wrote an algorithm they called PageRank, based on backlinks. Early tests started i 1996, from the home page of Stanford as google.stanford.edu. It soon turned out that the searches from their site got more relevant results than other search engines at the time. The domain name google.com was purchased on 15th of September 1997, but the company was not incorporated until September 4th 1998, in the garage of one of their friends from University, Susan Woijciki.
The algorithms for PageRank have had many updates since this start, mainly to fight back against ‘black hat’ SEO procedures, so today most of these shady methods will not work. Or there will be an update of the algorithms to eliminate the methods if they should be successful.
This were the start of content marketing.
Adwords in the history of online marketing
When Adwords was introduced in 2000 it was a revolution for on;ine marketers. Together with the search engine Google could deliver customers searching for the keywords your website built around, in real time! AdWord has become Google’s largest source of revenue.
With Adwords it means that you get targeted visitors to your site, and this will give much higher conversion than other type of traffic. Because of this Adwords is a very competitive medium. Since you pay for your ads you need to be very careful when you start a campaign, or else you can loose your shirt!!
Adwords come in many flavours: pay per click or cost per click (PPC or CPC), cost per action (CPA) or cost per thousand (mille) impressions (CPM) advertising.
In the start the ads were only text, with a headline of 25 characters, and two lines with 35 characters each in addition to a display of the URL of the website promoted. This was to keep fast loading times for the website. Later Google has added images and banners that can be used in the ads.
YouTube in the history of online marketing
YouTube was established in Feburuary 2005 by three prior emplloyees of PayPal, Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim. They provided a site were people could easily up;oad videos to share with the world. I became immensly popular and relatively shortly were ranked as the 5th most popular site by Alexa! There were all sorts of videos, silly, fun, surprising as well as serious information.
With the massive number of visitors it quite rapidly became a target for online marketers, so YouTube has become THE website to present any marketing video. This became an important step in the history of online marketing.
Due to the massive traffic Google purchased YouTube in 2008, keeping it as a separate brand outside the Google environment, but it still contributing to Google’s revenue.
Facebook in the history of online marketing
When Mark Zuckerberg was a student with Harvard he made a website called Facemash. It was a site where students could put two pictures side by side and then decide whe where the ‘hottest’ of the two. To populate the site with photos he hacked into Harvard’s server and downloaded the face photos used by the University for the stidents identificatio
He was nearly expelled for this stunt, but nothing came off it, and he continued to develop a website for students at Harward to keep in touch. He called it theFacebook.com. When the site went live it was posted to one of the fraternity houses at Harvard, and within 24 hours there were 1200 sign ups. Within a couple of weeks nearlyThis new all students at Harvard ha d registered.
The site was then opened for students from other Unverisites and soon all Universities in US and Canada were members. The site was later opened for the general public, and now they have more than 1.5 billion registered users. On a daily basis they have more than 1 billion user on aaverage, with 80% of these on SmartPhones!
The most significant contribition from Facebook to the history of online marketing is the introduction of the like button. This has made people less reluctant to express their like for posts and pages of their friends and aquaintances. They also expresses their like for company pages on Facebook. This has established a social contract between the users and Facebook, allowing Facebook to use this information in later promotions.
iPhone and Smart Phones in the history of online marketing
When the iPhone was launched in 2007 it was an event that opened the Internet to users that earlier did not have online acess. This is espcially true in Africa. The phone was powerful and easy to use and people could do many of the things a laptop or a desktop machine was needed for earlier.
After the launch of the iPhone there came a flurry of other phones with similar capabilities, most of these phones were run of the free Android operating system from Google. But Micreosoft launched their own phones, after purchasing the phone production from Nokia, and powered these with Windows – and called it a Windows phone. All the other phones are jointly called smartphones.
Also users with prior online access changed their behavior, with many of them accessing Internet using theur smat phone or tablet rather than the desktop or laptop computers. marketers.
This channel will increase in importance as the smartphones and iPhones get more processing power. This will result in a shift towards the smart phone as the main device used to go online, see the statistics from Facebook mentioned over.
Our websites must therefore be tailored for the smart phone revolution, so the consumer, the visitor will have a positive experience on our website. If you are using a WordPress template for your website it will normally be OK.
The most significant effect of the introduction of the iPhone and Smart Phones is the new sales channel that has been introduced.
Also worth noting is that according to Nilelsen data online consumption on the Smart Phones are today higher than for PC’s. Tjis is a significant trend marketer need to n0te!.
In a leter post I will discuss the Smart Phone development and some of the current best sellers.
Facebook Open Graph in the history of online marketing
Open Graph is actually building on the concept of the like button, but now any website, being a company or a personal website can include a like button of their site.
The like information goes back to Facebook where they actually can build a profile of your likes, both related to personal and company websites. A marketer can actially place a like button on all his products and in this manner can determine what is the most popular product, all in real time!.
This will over time change how we will do marketing online and it will become one of the most powerful marketing tools for the future!
Summary and Conclusion
It started with the development of military communication networks (DARPA – ARPA net) in the early sixties, that morphed into the Internet in late 1980’s, over a period of twenty years.
There you have it! – The history of online marketing started with the first unwanted (SPAM??) email in 1989, and really took off after the HTTP protolcol and HTML were introduced in 1991.
A couple companies GNN and HotWired, now defunct, were instrumental in starting the massive growth of the Internet, and they are key components in the history of online marketing. HotWired was also instrumental in introducing measure of effectiveness of ad campaigns.
The Dot Com bubble that burst in 1999 to 2001, resulted in many of online companies that were established on speculation went banlrupt. The companies that survived this onlaught, like Cisco, Amazone and Google anchored to the Internet, while Microsoft and Apple also had a rough time although their main assers were not on the Internet.
After the dot com bubble we have seen an exponential growth on the Internet, and the history of online marketing has been following this trend. We see that the Internet has become more open and this allows serious individuals to take part in the trillion dollar industry the Internet has become. And we can compete even with the big companies, if we apply smart marketing strategies and ensure we focus on the “low hanging fruit” in the search sengines.
The companies leading the further development of online marketing will be Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple from the US while companies like Baidu from China will become more prominent as they enter the markets in the west.
For the future development of online marketing, however, it is believed that the ‘Open Graph’ from Facebook may be the most significant asset going forward.
Finally I have left a video from the mid 1990’s, showing how the Internet was evaluated then. Grab a cup of coffe or any other brew you like and take your time looking trough this — it is a stepping stone in the history of online marketing!
If you have any questions or comments please leave them below, and I will get back to you!
To YOUR success!
Rolf K Bratli (rolfkb)
I’m on a journey to online success! Will you follow and we travel together
If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the box below.