Timeline of .uk internet usage

It is difficult to overstate the impact which the internet and in particular the World Wide Web have had on British society over the last three decades. Here are some of the key moments…


1969 Three computers in California (one at UCLA, one at Stanford, and one at UCSB) connect with one at the University of Utah to form ARPANET, the precursor to today’s internet, as part of a project by the US Department of Defence’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). The first message sent over the internet was “lo” — the system crashed halfway through typing the word “login”.

The 4 nodes of the ARPA

1973 Peter Kirstein’s research team at UCL activates one of the first non-US connections to ARPANET. By this point there were around 40 academic and government computers linked up to the network.

1976 The Queen sends an email while visiting an army base

1983 JANET launches, connecting UK universities over a high-speed network; it forms the British part of the global internet for most of the next decade; this year (roughly) marks the point at which different national networks across the world, including ARPANET and JANET, became the modern interconnected internet we know today.

John Postel less than impressed that Britain didn’t use .gb Photo by Irene Fertik, USC News Service. Copyright 1994, USC.

1985 .uk domain name created; the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, led by Jon Postel at UCLA, is annoyed that the British didn’t use .gb (just like for car license plates). British computer scientists point out that Northern Ireland exists, and stick to .uk.

1991 World Wide Web introduced at CERN by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, making it easy to view and navigate between “websites” hosted on servers, using “hyperlinks”.

Tim Berners-Lee Photo: Silvio Tanaka

1992 Demon Internet launched in the UK — a “low-cost” ISP which for £10 a month gave you unlimited email and newsgroup access, and “full internet access to the desktop”.

1994 The Telegraph’s online edition, the “Electronic Telegraph”, becomes the first British newspaper website.

1996 Nominet was established as a private, not for profit membership company to run the UK namespace.

The first BBC News website

1997 The first BBC News website appears.

2000 Mark Bush, in Basildon, becomes the first person in the UK with a home broadband connection as part of a trial of the service. Goldsmith Road in Gillingham, Kent becomes the first street with Telewest’s broadband in March 2000.

2005 One billion users are connected to the internet worldwide, and for the first time over 50% of GB households have internet access. ITV buys FriendsReunited, while Facebook is launched in 21 UK Universities after a successful first year in the US.

2006 There are estimated to be more than 100 million websites online. Facebook is now open to everybody in the UK, not just those with a valid university email address.

The first version of the BBC iPlayer

2007 On Christmas Day the BBC iPlayer is officially launched, transforming the way Britain watches television online. The Queen’s Christmas message is on YouTube for the first time, and Lost becomes the first TV show that UK viewers can purchase through Apple’s iTunes; the iPhone launches the same year, bringing mass mobile web browsing to the world for the first time.

2008 Sussex Police make a prominent domain name gaffe — instead of suggesting local residents visit sussexpolice.org.uk, they suggest sussexpolice.co.uk, which offers (among other not-safe-for-work content) police-themed strippers.

2009 50% of households in the UK have broadband, and Rage Against The Machine score the UK’s Xmas #1 after an internet campaign was launched to keep that year’s X Factor winner (Joe McElderry) off the top spot.

Internet connectivity in space

2010 Astronaut T. J. Creamer tweets from the International Space Station, as internet connectivity is available for the first time in space.

2012 Tim Berners-Lee appears during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, tweeting “This is for everyone”. During the games visits to the official website from mobile phones outnumber those from desktop machines.

2013 The British Monarchy opens an Instagram account.

2014 New shorter .uk domain names are made available by Nominet. Actor Stephen Fry is among the first to register one.


This story is one of 30 celebrating the launch of .uk domain names in 1985. To read the others visit our 30 Years of .uk hub. To start your own .uk story check out www.agreatplacetobe.uk.

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