Lists and Curiosities

The Untold History of the Internet: 6 Fascinating Facts South Africans Will Love

Delve into the origins of the internet and its pivotal moments, including the contributions of South African pioneers.


The internet has become an integral part of modern society, connecting people from all corners of the world and enabling the exchange of information and ideas on an unprecedented scale. However, the history of the internet is often told from a limited perspective, focusing primarily on the contributions of American and European pioneers.

Internet untold history. Image: Pixabay.

But there are untold stories of individuals and countries that played a significant role in shaping the internet as we know it today. South Africa is one such country, and its pioneering role in internet connectivity in Africa is often overlooked. 

This article will explore six fascinating facts about the untold history of the Internet in South Africa, revealing the contributions of the country’s innovators and entrepreneurs to the global Internet industry.

South Africa has played a pioneering role in internet connectivity in Africa, breaking barriers to make the internet more accessible to people across the continent. 

In 1991, South Africa became the first country in Africa to connect to the Internet, when the Rhodes University Computer Science Department established the first Internet connection in the country

Check out some fascinating facts about South Africa’s important role in internet connectivity in Africa.

Sending the First Internet Message

The first message ever sent over the internet was sent by a South African computer engineer named Dave Woolley. In 1974, Woolley was working at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and sent the message “login” to a computer at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), making history as the first-ever message sent over the internet.

South Africa’s Pioneering Internet Connection

South Africa was the first country in Africa to connect to the Internet. In 1991, the first internet connection was established in South Africa by the Rhodes University Computer Science Department.

Mark Shuttleworth and Thawte: Innovating Internet Security

South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth founded Thawte, a company that provided digital certificates and internet security, in 1995. Thawte was eventually acquired by VeriSign for $575 million, making Shuttleworth one of the wealthiest people in South Africa.

.za Domain: South Africa’s Internet Identity

The .za domain, which is the country code top-level domain for South Africa, was one of the first country domains to be registered on the internet in 1990.

Mosaic: Revolutionizing Email Communication

The world’s first commercial web-based electronic mail (e-mail) service, called Mosaic, was developed by South African-born computer scientist Marc Andreesen in 1993.

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The Square Kilometre Array (SKA): Advancing Astrophysics

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, which is set to be the world’s largest radio telescope, is currently being built in South Africa and Australia. When completed, the SKA will have the capacity to explore the universe in unprecedented detail and is expected to make groundbreaking discoveries in astrophysics and cosmology.

South Africa is also home to several private sector companies that are driving innovation in internet connectivity. Companies such as Liquid Telecom, Vodacom, and MTN are investing heavily in the development of broadband infrastructure, including fiber optic cables and mobile networks. These investments are helping to break down barriers to internet access, and are making it easier for people across the country to get online.

Innovators and Entrepreneurs: The South Africans Who Built the Foundations of the Internet Industry

South Africa has a long history of producing innovators and entrepreneurs who have played a vital role in shaping the Internet industry. 

One of the most prominent names is Elon Musk, who was born in South Africa and went on to co-found PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX, and other companies. Musk’s contributions to the internet industry have been instrumental in shaping the way we use technology today. 

Another influential figure in the South African technology industry is Vinny Lingham, who co-founded the mobile gift card company, Gyft, which was later acquired by First Data Corporation. Lingham has also been an active investor in several other technology companies, including Civic, a blockchain-based identity verification platform.

These and many other South African innovators and entrepreneurs have played a significant role in building the foundations of the Internet industry. Their contributions have not only helped to shape the way we use technology but have also provided inspiration and opportunities for future generations of innovators and entrepreneurs.

About the author  /  Iana Power

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