A Library Journal Best Book of the Year
Tech-guru Brian McCullough delivers a rollicking history of the internet, why it exploded, and how it changed everything.
The internet was never intended for you, opines Brian McCullough in this lively narrative of an era that utterly transformed everything we thought we knew about technology. In How the Internet Happened, he chronicles the whole fascinating story for the first time, beginning in a dusty Illinois basement in 1993, when a group of college kids set off a once-in-an-epoch revolution with what would become the first “dotcom.”
Depicting the lives of now-famous innovators like Netscape’s Marc Andreessen and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, McCullough also reveals surprising quirks and unknown tales as he tracks both the technology and the culture around the internet’s rise. Cinematic in detail and unprecedented in scope, the result both enlightens and informs as it draws back the curtain on the new rhythm of disruption and innovation the internet fostered, and helps to redefine an era that changed every part of our lives.
About the Author
Brian McCullough is a two-decade veteran of the internet industry and the founder of various web-based startups. Host of the Internet History Podcast, he was named a 2016 TED Resident. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Brian McCullough vividly recounts the brilliant hunches, happy accidents, and fortuitous timing that converged to create the first 25 years of the internet era. Even for those of us who lived through it, it's astonishing to step back and realize the scale of the changes in human habits, communication, and society as a whole that have occurred in just one generation.
— Chris Anderson, head of TED
Mr. McCullough takes a broader view, showing how a handful of powerful companies—all of them American, in his telling—came to dominate web technology. In his story, the internet didn’t happen only because of wizardly coding and cheaper computers. It also happened because of serendipity, failure, friendships and blood feuds.... Such historical tidbits help us see that today’s tech titans didn’t arrive on the scene as superhuman.
— Jon Gertner, Wall Street Journal
For those of us who’ve grown up with computers and the Internet, McCullough offers an insider’s look at the unplanned and undirected romp that enabled the web to infiltrate our lives. He provides fresh perspectives on the famous names – including Gates, Page, Jobs and Zuckerberg – but, more entertainingly, introduces the lesser-known geniuses, like Sean Parker with Napster and Plaxo, as well as the academic godfathers, such as J.C.R. Licklider of ARPA. McCullough sprinkles his well-told tale with trivia nuggets, such as the first web advertisement being for a Silicon Valley law firm, and he shows how success resulted from some combination of timing, brilliance, and an uncanny awareness that consumers want unlimited selection and instant gratification. How the Internet Happened is a fast-paced and enjoyable perspective on our lives, as well as a compelling exploration for how humanity and computers came together in profound ways.
— Richard Munson, author of Tesla: Inventor of the Modern
How the Internet Happened is destined to become the definitive text on how the web became big business—and came to dominate every facet of our lives, from communication to commerce. Painstakingly researched and deftly written, McCullough gives us a comprehensive guide to the startups and CEOs who ushered in the internet age.
— Brian Merchant, author of The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone
Along with profiling the internet’s key players, from Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg, McCullough provides an entertaining and informative technological history which computer geeks and readers interested in everything from sociology to business and media will relish.
— Carl Hays, Booklist
The internet was not meant for the likes of us—and yet we have it, through means that tech historian McCullough capably recounts in this wide-ranging history of the internet era. . . . Most of the individual components of McCullough’s story, which closes with the arrival of the “completely, conceptually perfect” iPhone in 2007, are well-documented, but few other histories of modern technology connect them so fluently. In this, the narrative resembles Steven Levy’s by now ancient Hackers (1984) and John Markoff’s more recent What the Dormouse Said (2005); it compares favorably to both. A tasty, educational treat for tech heads and other web denizens.
— Kirkus Reviews, starred review
A detailed and highly insightful overview of the influencers and ideas that have shaped the everyday technologies we take for granted, showing how the Internet has infiltrated our homes and lives to the degree it is today. . . . Tech enthusiasts and students of business, marketing, and ecommerce will benefit from the detailed chronicling of the early Internet days. Readers will delight in being reminded of long-forgotten platforms and in understanding how Internet evangelists, Wall Street, and the moneyed elite have shaped our online lives.
— Library Journal, starred review