Today there are thousands of ISP’s (Internet Service Providers), but it all started with a handful of dial-up services. Some of the names you will recognize and some of them you will not. All of them played a part in the early beginnings of what is now known as the world wide web.
- Compuserve: Compuserve is one of the oldest and yet, still well-known online service providers. So what became of Compuserve? In 1980, Compuserve was purchased by H&R Block (that’s correct, the tax preparers). Approximately 20 years later they decided to sell off Compuserve. AOL offered a stock trade which wasn’t accepted but eventually it did end up under their umbrella via being purchased by Worldcom instead. The remaining aspects of Compuserve are now clothed within the Verizon Network.
- Mindspring: This early ISP was located in Georgia. In the year 2000 Mindspring merged with Earthlink and has remained underneath their wing ever since. In 2008 Earthlink launched its VoIP under the Mindspring name.
- HE.net: Hurricane Electric launched out of a garage in California in1994. They are now a global network still operating out of Fremont, California.
- PSINet: One of the very earliest ISP’s, PSINet was based out of Northern Virginia. They were definitely a huge part of the eventual commercial aspect of the internet. Their life ran short when it reached its peak in 2001 and was acquired by Cogent Communications a year later.
- UUNet: This ISP also has its origins in Northern Virginia. Its beginnings were as a nonprofit organization that had as its goal to lift some of the traffic burden off the fast growing use of web hubs. Within two years the company moved to a profit making status and was central to move away from government control of the web. UUNet, like Compuserve was eventually acquired by Worldcom.
- the World: This is one of ISP that you can still find providing dial-up internet access under its same name. Located in Boston, MA, the World was the first to offer dial-up internet service back in 1989. Its webpage is simple and unadorned, suitable for its dial-up customers.
- AOL: This is probably the most well-known of the early ISP’s. Their far-reaching marketing strategies moved them up the ladder fast and furious. America OnLine is still alive today.
- Prodigy: This ISP had some big hitters behind it, CBS and AT&T. Those backers were able to put their full force behind its marketing campaigns. It became the first and fastest growing dial-up connections to the world wide web. Prodigy was the third party in the merger with Earthlink and Mindspring.
- DELPHI: This was the first commercial ISP to offer internet access to its customers in 1992. From there the internet literally exploded into what has become known as the world wide web.
- Earthlink: This ISP didn’t come into existence until 1994, but that didn’t stop this young upstart from quickly catching up with the rest. As you have read earlier in the list, the little fish eventually swallowed up some of the others and Earthlink is still around today.
The history of internet service providers is just under 30 years at this time but it has been fast and furious the whole way. Its hard to say where we will be in another 30 years.