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Brief History of the Internet: 2016-2024


Release of Oculus Rift

28 March 2016: Oculus Rift was one of the first high-quality consumer virtual reality (VR) headsets to be released. It offered immersive VR experiences with high-resolution displays, precise motion tracking, and low latency, allowing users to feel fully immersed in virtual environments. Meta acquired Oculus VR, the company behind the headset, for approximately $2bn.

2016 Release of Oculus Rift
2016 Britain Votes for Brexit

Britain Votes for Brexit

23 June 2016: Brexit had implications for the UK’s tech and internet businesses. Uncertainty surrounding trade agreements and regulations impacted investment and recruitment in the tech sector. Companies faced challenges related to talent acquisition, data protection regulations, and market access, prompting some to relocate or reassess their UK operations.

SoftBank Acquires ARM Holdings

5 September 2016: Japanese conglomerate SoftBank acquired ARM Holdings, a British semiconductor and software design company whose chip designs power most of the world’s smartphones and many other devices, for £24.3bn. The acquisition showed the value of British technology expertise and innovation on a global scale.

2016 SoftBank Acquires ARM Holdings
2016 Yahoo Reveals Huge Data Breach

Yahoo Reveals Huge Data Breach

22 September 2016: In 2013 and 2014, Yahoo was subjected to two of the largest data breaches in internet history, although this didn’t come to light until 2016. The breach compromised sensitive information, including user accounts, email addresses, and hashed passwords, and affected around 3bn customers.

Mobile Dominates Web Access

1 November 2016: StatCounter, a web analytics company, announced that mobile and tablet devices had surpassed desktops in internet usage for the first time. This transition marked a significant change in how people accessed and interacted with the internet, influencing website design, digital marketing strategies, app development, and overall user experience design.

2016 Mobile Dominates Web Access
2016 Siemens Launches MindSphere

Siemens Launches MindSphere

15 November 2016: The launch of Siemens’s MindSphere platform was a significant milestone in efforts to provide cloud-based IoT solutions for industrial applications, enabling industrial companies to connect their machines and physical infrastructure to the internet, collect real-time data, and leverage advanced analytics and machine learning capabilities.


Wannacry Causes Global Damage

12 May 2017: The WannaCry ransomware attack spread quickly through a vulnerability in Windows systems, encrypting files and demanding Bitcoin ransom payments. he attack crippled organisations worldwide, including the UK’s National Health Service, causing widespread disruption. It also affected companies in various sectors, causing significant financial losses.

2017 Wannacry Causes Global Damage
2017 Equifax Discovers Massive Hack

Equifax Discovers Massive Hack

29 July 2017: Equifax, a credit reporting agency, discovered a massive data breach in which hackers exploited a vulnerability in its systems to access sensitive information, including Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers. The breach affected 140m people, making it one of the world’s most significant data breaches.


Tesla Hits the Road

17 March 2018: The Tesla Roadster was one of the first high-performance electric vehicles to hit the market, showing electric cars could be environmentally friendly and exciting to drive. Tesla disrupted traditional carmakers and accelerated the shift towards electrification. More than 4m Tesla cars have been produced since the company’s inception.

2018 Tesla Hits the Road
2018 Introduction of GDPR

Introduction of GDPR

25 May 2018: The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) had a significant impact on businesses, imposing strict regulations on data privacy and protection and affecting how companies collect, store, and use customer data. Many businesses had to overhaul their data management practices and ensure compliance.

AT&T Buys Time Warner

15 June 2018: AT&T’s $85bn acquisition of Time Warner was a landmark deal that reshaped the media landscape by combining one of the largest telecommunications companies with a major content provider. The merger created WarnerMedia, which merged with Discovery Inc. in 2022 to create Warner Bros. Discovery, a company with estimated revenues of around $50bn.

2018 AT&T Buys Time Warner
2018 Apple Buys Shazam

Apple Buys Shazam

24 September 2018: Apple acquired Shazam, a British music identification service, for around $400m in 2018. Shazam’s technology allows users to identify songs by listening to short audio clips, and the acquisition bolstered Apple’s music streaming and discovery capabilities. The deal also showcased the value of British tech startups to global tech giants.

Business cyberattacks exceed one every minute

6 November 2018: Beaming has analysed cyberattacks in real-time targeting thousands by UK-based companies since the beginning of 2016 to understand their nature and origin better and help customers protect themselves. In November 2018, the average volume of internet-borne cyberattacks experienced by businesses surpassed one every minute for the first time.

2018 Business cyberattacks exceed one every minute


2019 Start of Starlink

Start of Starlink

24 May 2019: Starlink, SpaceX’s satellite internet constellation, launched its first batch of 60 satellites in 2019 with the promise of providing high-speed, low-latency internet access to remote and underserved areas worldwide. Starlink has surpassed 2m customers globally as of the latest available information.

Launch of 5G (in the UK)

30 May 2019: The rollout of 5G wireless technology promised faster speeds, lower latency, and support for a wide range of new applications, from autonomous vehicles to the Internet of Things. 5G can handle a massive number of devices simultaneously, supporting better logistics, smart factories, telemedicine, emergency response, public safety, and smart cities.

2019 Launch of 5G (in the UK)
2019 US Fines Facebook 5bn for Privacy Failings

US Fines Facebook $5bn for Privacy Failings

12 July 2019: The US Federal Trade Commission approved a record $5bn fine on Facebook to settle an investigation into its privacy practices, following allegations that British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had accessed data of up to 87m Facebook users. In 2018, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office fined Facebook £500k for its role in the scandal.

Conservatives Promise Nationwide Gigabit Internet

24 November 2019: The UK Conservative Party’s General Election included pledges to cover the UK with gigabit-capable broadband services by 2025 and to spend £5bn to help cover the hardest-to-reach areas. In 2022, the target was revised to make gigabit broadband available nationwide by 2030, with ‘nationwide’ meaning at least 99%’ of premises.

2019 Conservatives Promise Nationwide Gigabit Internet


2020 BT Announces Copper Network Switch-Off

BT Announces Copper Network Switch-Off

11 March 2020: BT’s announcement that it plans to switch off its traditional copper network was a significant milestone in efforts to transition to full-fibre broadband services. By replacing copper with fibre-optic infrastructure, BT aims to provide faster, more reliable internet connectivity to its customers, and also customers of other providers using its infrastructure.

Covid-19 Boosts Global E-Commerce

23 March 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated e-commerce growth as lockdowns and social distancing measures led to increased online shopping. Before COVID-19, global e-commerce sales totalled approximately $3.5tn in 2019. As of 2023, the global e-commerce market is estimated to be worth $6.3tr.

2020 Covid-19 Boosts Global E-Commerce
2020 SolarWinds Cyberattack Discovered

SolarWinds Cyberattack Discovered

8 December 2020: US software company SolarWinds suffered a cyberattack that compromised its software supply chain and distributed malicious updates to 18k organisations. It allowed attackers to infiltrate various networks, exposing vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure, government agencies, and private companies, and cost over $100bn to contain and fix.

UK E-Commerce Sales Pass £100bn in Year

12 December 2020: In 2020, UK e-commerce sales surged past £100bn for the first time, reaching a reported £105bn by year-end. Online shopping accounted for approximately 30% of total retail sales in the country that year and is projected to reach £147bn in value during 2024.

2020 UK E-Commerce Sales Pass £100bn in Year


2021 Deliveroo Suffers Worst IPO in London’s History

Deliveroo Suffers “Worst IPO in London’s History”

31 March 2021: When the food delivery company Deliveroo went public, it generated significant attention due to its status as a prominent player in the gig economy. Despite fast growth during the pandemic, the stock plunged when trading started, and one of the company’s bankers told the FT it was “the worst IPO in London’s history”.

Facebook announces Metaverse plans

28 October 2021: As one of the largest and most influential technology companies in the world, Meta’s vision for building the next iteration of the internet focused on virtual and augmented reality experiences gave endorsement and promotion of the metaverse concept to a wider audience and spurred other tech companies to focus further on this area.

2021 Facebook announces Metaverse plans


2022 Beeple NFT Sells for 69m

Beeple NFT Sells for $69m

11 March 2022: When digital artwork ‘Everydays — The First 5000 Days’ by Beeple sold at auction house Christie’s for an astonishing $69m, it marked a significant moment in the NFT (non-fungible token) world and garnered widespread attention. NFTs certify ownership and authenticity of digital assets via the blockchain and surged in popularity during 2020 and 2021.

5 Billion People Now Online

21 April 2022: Social media management specialists Hootsuite and We Are Social, a social media agency, published a report revealing that the number of internet users had surpassed five billion for the first time. This represented some 63% of the world’s total population and was an important milestone towards universal internet accessibility.

2022 5 Billion People Now Online
2022 Musk Buys Twitter

Musk Buys Twitter

28 October 2022: Elon Musk purchased Twitter (now known as X) for a whopping $44bn in 2022, paying a 38% premium over the social media company’s standalone valuation at the time.  Many believe Musk’s decision was largely politically motivated and that he wanted to ensure free speech. Others suggest there is an opportunity to create a Western WeChat-style Superapp.

ChatGPT Research Preview Launched

30 November 2022: When ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, was released as a research preview, it democratised access to powerful language AI and allowed everyday users to harness the power of AI. ChatGPT became a viral sensation, reaching an estimated 100m monthly active users within two months, making it the fastest-growing consumer application in history.

2022 ChatGPT Research Preview Launched


Amazon Confirms Mass Layoffs

5 January 2023: Amazon’s confirmation that it would cut 18k jobs was the first major layoff announcement in what became a significant retrenchment for tech companies in 2023. Tech giants like Cisco, Meta, Microsoft, Google, IBM, SAP, and Salesforce, along with smaller firms, enacted sweeping layoffs. The cause: pandemic-era hiring sprees followed by revenue declines in 2023.

2023 Amazon Confirms Mass Layoffs
2023 US Takes Google to Trial Over Search

US Takes Google to Trial Over Search

12 September 2023: The US Department of Justice began its antitrust trial against Google, alleging that the company maintained a search monopoly through deals making it the default on many devices. This is the largest tech antitrust case since the 1990s when Microsoft was accused of bundling Internet Explorer with Windows illegally.


EU’s Artificial Intelligence Act Becomes Law

13 March 2024  The EU’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act was the world’s first standalone law governing AI. This landmark legislation provides a framework for regulating AI systems, including safety, security, transparency, fairness, accountability, and governance, balancing consumer rights, privacy, and innovation.

2024 EU’s Artificial Intelligence Act Becomes Law
2024 Bitcoin Hits All-Time High

Bitcoin’s Hits All-Time High

14 March 2024: Among asset classes, Bitcoin has had one of the more volatile trading histories and has undergone several rallies and crashes since it became available. The cryptocurrency, which began trading at $0.06 in July 2010, reached an all-time high of $75,830 in March 2024.

New Internet Speed Record Revealed

26 March 2024: Scientists from Aston University set a new world record by achieving a data transmission speed of 301 Terabits Per Second – 4.5m times faster than the average broadband speed. The speed, enough to download every movie made in just one minute, was achieved on a single, standard optical fibre, but with specific wavelength bands that are not yet used.

2024 New Internet Speed Record Revealed
2024 Cryptocurrency CEO Convicted of Massive Fraud

Cryptocurrency CEO Convicted of Massive Fraud

28 March 2024: Sam Bankman-Fried, former chief executive of now-bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX, was convicted of fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering and sentenced to 25 years in prison for one of the largest financial crimes in crypto history. He was accused of taking $8bn from customers and using it for property, political donations and other investments.

Darktrace Sold to Thoma Bravo

26 April 2024: It was announced that US private equity firm Thoma Bravo would acquire British cybersecurity firm Darktrace for £4.3bn. Darktrace has been hailed as a UK tech darling due to its cutting-edge AI capabilities and global impact. It uses AI algorithms to identify anomalies and potential security breaches within corporate networks.

2024 Darktrace Sold to Thoma Bravo
2024 AI Startup Secures Biggest European VC Investment

AI Startup Secures Biggest European VC Investment

7 May 2024: Driverless car company Wayve raised £837m in funding, the biggest venture investment in a European AI startup yet, to develop ‘embodied AI’, which impacts how machines understand and learn from human behaviour. Wayve has developed foundation models for autonomy that enable vehicles to perceive their surroundings and navigate diverse environments.

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