You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Announcing techPresident's "Politics and the Internet" Timeline

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, August 14 2012

We're happy to announce techPresident's "Politics and the Internet" timeline, a living archive tracking how technology has started to change politics, government and civic life in the United States, worldwide and online, from 1968 to present. (U.S.-related events are color-coded blue, international events are in purple, and online developments are in green*).

The timeline starts with the first vision of the "networked society," as described by J.C.R. Licklider and Robert W. Taylor, in early 1968, and the release of "Request for Comment-1," the first of many open standards planning documents that created the protocols of the Internet, in early 1969. And then it slowly unfolds, from the invention of email and the rise of the first online communities, to the release of the first web browser, the creation of the first congressional website, and the first major legislation governing online speech. And then in the mid-1990s history starts to accelerate, as political activists start organizing online and bloggers start getting arrested for their online activities. And that's just the first 30 years.

It wasn't until 1998 that Mozilla, Google, and ICANN were all founded; 1999 for the first recorded "cyberwar" between nation states; 2000 that a U.S. presidential candidate raised more than a million dollars after a primary victory; and 2001 that protesters in the Philippines used SMS text messaging to topple the government.

From that point forward, the pace of events thickens. Repressive governments from Afghanistan and China to Iran and Saudi Arabia start clamping down on online speech--and soon thereafter activists start popularizing circumvention tools like Tor. Meanwhile, in democratic countries we see a flowering of political hubs from left (DailyKos, MyDD) to right (Powerline) and the rise of new platforms for social engagement like Between 2002 and 2004 we mark the first major political impacts of the net in the United States, with bloggers toppling national figures like Senator Trent Lott and Dan Rather (and smearing Rick Santorum), and presidential candidates beginning to experiment with blogging (Gary Hart was the first) and two-way conversation with voters (Howard Dean was the first).

For anyone who spends most of their time online immersed on platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the HuffingtonPost, the timeline shows how young these platforms really are. And for anyone in the thick of current fights over internet freedom, user rights, and online privacy, it shows how long those issues have been with us.

The timeline is an eclectic list of people, ideas and events that our editors have compiled according to our own sense of what has mattered most. It is a work-in-progress. If you would like to suggest an important development that we may have missed, or make a correction to the record, please use this form.

We were assisted in this work by four talented and hardworking research assistants: Becky Kazansky, Andrew Seo, Kristina Redgrave and Diane Chang. Partial research support was provided by the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

*Note: Some events that are dated on the first of a month occurred during that month but the exact date is not recorded.