The 7 most hated Internet inventions of all time

While the Internet has connected the world, and become a useful tool and always-available distraction, it has also opened the door to a number of less-wholesome elements.

Some of these negative elements, like spam, Captcha, and ads, are mild annoyances.

Others, like online scams and viruses, are created with far more malicious intent.

StudyWeb has put together an infographic of the 7 most hated “Internet inventions”, detailing where the things we despise about the web began.

The infographic is below, along with additional information about the “7 Deadly Internet Sins”.

1. Pop-up ad

Ethan Zuckerman, the director of the Center for Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab, may have claimed (partial) responsibility for creating the pop-up ad, but it was others who perfected it.

Most modern browsers have a built-in popup blocker nowadays, and to circumvent this response to a pop-up window we now have the pop-under, the cascading pop-under, page take-overs, and those annoying JavaScript pop-ups that only appear after you’ve been on a page for a few seconds.

Zuckerman may have received much of the hate for his part in developing the pop-up ad, but whatever he conceived in 1996 or 1997 has evolved into a monster that is only distantly related to his original creation.

2. First virus

There are a number of accounts of “hacks” and programs that exploited security vulnerabilities in early computer systems, but the creation of the first widespread microcomputer virus is credited to Rich Skrenta.

Skrenta created “Elk Cloner” as a practical while still in high school – a virus which was able to infect Apple II computers by floppy disk.

Before Elk Cloner, a virus called Creeper had already done the rounds on the ARPANET: the network that became the technical foundation of the Internet.

Neither Creeper nor Elk Cloner were the malicious viruses we see today, but they foreshadowed what was to come.

3. Captcha

There is some controversy over who invented the image recognition verification tool Captcha.

It is believed that the term was coined by Luis von Ahn, Manuel Blum, Nicholas J. Hopper, and John Langford at Eurocrypt 2003 in a talk entitled “CAPTCHA: Using Hard AI Problems For Security”.

However, the process we call “Captcha” appears to have been patented in 1998 by Mark D. Lillibridge, Martin Abadi, Krishna Bharat, and Andrei Z. Broder while working for the AltaVista search engine.

4. Regional censorship

“This video is not available in your country.”

Messages similar to the above are seen on services such as YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu.

Users have taken to using unblocking services and virtual private networks to fool sites into thinking they are from a supported region.

This is usually against the terms of service, with Netflix and HBO recently making headlines regarding their policies on this issue.

5. Cookies

Since the web is built on stateless protocols, there was initially no way for a website to store information about your visits. Cookies solved this problem.

As with other Internet innovations, the cookie can be useful (logging into a website), but it is also at the centre of a debate over online privacy that has raged since the 2000s.

6. Spam

Where there is person-to-person communications, there are unsolicited advertising messages.

Gary Thuerk is credited with the first spam message, which he said he sent while working for Digital Equipment Corp to promote a new computer they were launching.

Early reports on the grandfather of spam credited him with sending the e-mail to 400 people (based on an interview on NPR). A verification of the recipient list reveals the exact number to be 393.

7. Cybersquatting

Dennis Toeppen’s history with domain name speculation is credited as the earliest case of “cybersquatting”.

On his website, Toeppen said he registered about 200 domain names in 1995 – a number of which corresponded to trademarks – with the intent to sell them like “valuable, undeveloped virtual real estate”.

Panavision and Intermatic took him to court and he lost, setting a legal precedent in the United States for similar cases.

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The 7 most hated Internet inventions of all time