Free Culture Timeline

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= timeline updated and maintained by Strypey

Intro by Strypey

This timeline follows what I see as key milestones in the developments of the internet (see Hobbes' Internet Timeline for more milestones specific to internet development), the web, free code software (see also the interactive linux timeline), open source development methodology, and free culture itself, including the open access and open education movements. Curiously, all of these actually developed in parallel in many ways. CreativeCommons was inspired by the licenses of the free software and open source movement(s), which would not be what it is today without the emergence of the internet and the web, yet the very oldest entry on this timeline is a free culture distribution repository; Project Gutenberg. I could go further back, to the invention of the first digital computers, the telephone, the telegraph, even Gutenberg's printing press or the invention of writing itself, but every historical timeline has to start somewhere, and the Project Gutenberg e-library seems like a suitable candidate. --Strypey (talk) 11:33, 15 January 2019 (UTC)

The Timeline





  • Vint Cerf and Robert Khan develop IPv4, one of the key protocols of the TCP/IP suite which is the basis for the public internet now being slowly superseded by IPv6, which allows for billions more unique IP addresses


  • First release of BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution of UNIX), which became the base for a range of free code operating systems, including OpenBSD, FreeBSD, NetBSD, and as well as providing some components of Darwin, the core of the proprietary MacOSX and iOS



  • Tim Berners-Lee writes Enquire (Within Upon Everything), the hypertext notebook that will become the inspiration for the World Wide Web (HTTP, HTML etc)


  • August: IBM announces the launch of the first IBM Personal Computer (PC). Other computer manufacturers reversed engineered the PC architecture to create "IBM-compatibles" (informally called "clones"), leading to the rise of the Microsoft-dominated "i386" or "PC" platform, and in response, the proposal for the GNU Project in 1985.


  • US National Science Foundation commissions contruction of NSFNET (National Science Foundation NETwork), which becomes the first civilian TCP/IP network
  • October 4: Free Software Foundation (FSF) founded (Laid out the vision for the GNU operating system, which was the genesis of Linux, and authored the GNU General Public License, the first libre software license)


  • Free Software Definition - first version published in first issue of the FSF newsletter 'GNU's Bulletin'




  • July 10: Founding of Electronic Frontiers Foundation announced at National Press Club by Mitch Kapor and John Perry Barlow
  • Dec 25: Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau carry out first successful HTTP data exchange over the internet


  • August 6: Public debut of World Wide Web on alt.hypertext UseNet group
  • August 14: arXiv, the Open Access repository for scholarly articles created by Paul Ginsparg, a professor of physics, computing, and information science at Cornell University, goes online for the first time. "Although only switched to GNU/Linux in 1997, it started using Perl in 1994, and Apache as soon as it was available. Later on, other open source programs were used, including TeX, GhostScript and MySQL." - Glyn Moody
  • September: Release of first version of Linux kernel announced by Linus Torvalds


  • January 23: Marc Andreessen announces the release of Mosaic, the first image and text Web browser, developed at NCSA
  • December: Robert Cailliau launched the call for papers for the first WWW conference (held at CERN in May 1994)


  • May 25-27: WWW1, the first WWW conference held at CERN. "The IW3C2 was founded by Joseph Hardin and Robert Cailliau later in 1994 and has been responsible for the conference series ever since".
  • Oct 20: World Wide Web Consortium (WC3) founded at MIT by Tim Berners-Lee.



  • KDE project founded by Matthias Ettrich to create a user-friendly graphical desktop environment for Unix-like operating systems like GNU/Linux
  • Internet Archived founded by Brewster Kahle
  • IPv6 adopted by the Internet Engineering Taskforce. A 1999 TechWeb article by Bill Frezza expresses privacy concerns about the inclusion of network card manufacturer and address in packets sent over the internet using IPv6, but a 2007 article in Free Software Magazine by Gary Richmond claims that this identifiable address is for secure applications (such as online banking transactions) and another address system is available for anonymous browsing.


  • May 27: Cathedral and the Bazaar essay first presented by Eric Raymond at Linux Kongress in Wurzburg
  • June 16: Software in the Public Interest becomes a registered non-profit org. Initiated by Bruce Perens as a legal umbrella for the Debian project, SPI becomes a funding source for a range of free software projects
  • July 5: Version 1.0 of Debian Social Contract and Debian Free Software Guidelines ratified by the Debian Community
  • August: GNOME project initiated to create an entirely free (GPL) alternative to KDE, which initially depended on a proprietary toolkit called Qt. Qt gradually migrated to free licenses, with all ports finally being licensed under the GPL in version 4.0, released in June 2005
  • Scientific Electronic Library Online (SciELO) is established in Brazil
  • launched using the Slashcode CMS, with the motto "News for nerds, stuff that matters". Later acquired by the company that created SourceForge.


  • Jan: The founders of the Open Source Education Foundation get a computer lab at a school in Arizona (USA) running on free code software.
  • Jan 22: Netscape releases source code of Communicator software - Mozilla Organization formed
  • Feb 9: Open Source Definition announced on
  • Feb: Open Source Initiative formed.
  • March: Nathan Oostendorp launches Everything, an early user-generated article site aligned with Slashdot, and a forerunner to Wikipedia. Later relaunched as Everything2.
  • June 5: DMoz launched as an open replacement for the Yahoo Directory, under its original name "Gnuhoo", which was soon renamed to NewHoo. The project was then acquired by Netscape and renamed the Open Directory Project (ODP), and released under the Open Directory License, making it a forerunner of Wikipedia. The name "DMoz" came from a later domain name, after the directory was handed over to the Mozilla project with the Netscape Communicator code that became the Mozilla browser.
  • July 12: Version 1.0 of KDE announced
  • November 28: Gunther Eysenbach publishes an article in the British Medical Journal describing the need for an online service that allows authors to permanently archive web pages cited in articles, leading to the development of WebCite
  • OpenContent launched by David Wiley. OC was aforerunner of CC. Released 'open content license' and later the 'open publication license'. License work was abandoned when CC took off. OpenContent changed direction to focus on open education
  • (later to become FreeNode) changes its name to the Open Projects Network
  • Google launched. The initial site was only a search page, which people flocked to because it was ad-free, unlike contemporaries like Altavista.


  • March 16: Darwin 2.0 released - this OS incorporates major parts of BSD and GNU operating systems, and forms the base of MacOSX
  • April: LiveJournal launched. Creators of the initial version of OpenID. They released their source code under a free code license for a time, leading to a number of similar sites using the same codebase, including Dreamwidth.
  • June: Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker launch the original Napster, the first peer-to-peer file-sharing system aimed at sharing music in mp3 compression format
  • August: Blogger launched. One of the first blogging platforms where anyone can set up their own blog.
  • Oct: Cathedral and the Bazaar book published by O'Reilly - the first print publication to use the Open Publication License
  • Nov 17: launched - hosting service for open source development projects
  • Nov 30 1999: first site goes live for the 'Battle of Seattle', using free code written in PHP/Perl for activist calendar sites. One of the pioneers of "open publishing", now more commonly known by the corporate term "user-generated content".
  • Drupal CMS project launched. Later used to host a range of free culture sites including some Indymedia sites.
  • WordPress CMS project launched by Automattic. would later become one of the largest blog hosts, and within about 10 years their CMS software would power a huge proportion of independent websites.
  • Joomla CMS project launched.



  • July 19: Sun Microsystems announced the release of StarOffice source code (later to become, and then LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice), initially under GNU Lesser GPL and their own SISSL
  • August: GNOME Foundation launched. GNOME funding no longer managed by SPI.
  • Oct 13: goes live, as the development community for the released StarOffice source
  • Jello Biafra - 'Become the Media' spoken word album. "Don't hate the media, become the media" becomes a slogan of the Indymedia network.
  • Around 30,000 researchers sign the Public Library of Science pledge, saying they won't work with journals that don't engage in delayed open access. The giant journal publishers mostly call their bluff, and "not many of those 30,000 scientists followed through on their pledge to boycott titles, and the whole exercise turned into a rather embarrassing failure." - Glyn Moody, ArsTechnica
  • DeviantArt launched as a hosting platform for user-generated artwork.


  • Feb 11-13: Meeting of software developers at The Lodge at Snowbird Ski Report produces the Agile Manifesto
  • April 4: MIT launches Opencourseware with an April 3 announcement in a NY Times article
  • July 2: The first working BitTorrent client is announced on a public message board by inventor Bram Cohen
  • December: A meeting of open access activists, gathered at Budapest, drafts the Budapest Open Access Initiative
  • Wikipedia launched, in response to online Britannica being limited to subscribers. Adopts the GNU Free Documentation License for its articles
  • CreativeCommons US launched
  • Public Library of Science incorporated as a not-for-profit academic publisher
  • OpenCola recipe released


  • releases version 1.0 of Ogg Vorbis, an open alternative to mp3
  • OpenDocument Foundation launched (now defunct, not to be confused with the OASIS standards organisation which maintains the OpenDocument standards)
  • Open Projects Network is renamed FreeNode, and the Peer-Directed Projects Centre is founded as a not-for-profit corporation to support its ongoing development.


  • June 20: Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing released
  • June 23: David Wiley joins CreativeCommons and closes OpenContent Project
  • July 10: Wikibooks launched by Wikimedia Foundation "for creating a free library of educational textbooks"
  • July 15: Mozilla Foundation formerly registered as a non-profit. Later that year they relicensed large portions of the Mozilla software codebase under the GNU GPL and GNU Lesser GPL
  • October 22: Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities released
  • October 31: Science journal publishes an article 'Going, Going, Gone: Lost Internet References', which leads to the revival of WebCite. According to Wikipedia, "Lawrence Lessig... used WebCite in his amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court case of MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd."­
  • November 21: The Pirate Bay launched by the Swedish hacker activists Piratbyran (Piracy Bureau)
  • December: "UK's House of Commons science and technology committee launched an inquiry into scientific publishing, including the question whether the government should support open-access journals." - Glyn Moody
  • Swarthmore Coalition for the Digital Commons is formed. SCDC will become the first chapter of Students for Free Culture
  • MySpace launched, and becomes a major self-promotional platform for independent musicians. As MySpace lost ground as a social networking site to FaceBook, this role was later taken up by YouTube and SoundCloud.
  • 4Chan launched. One of the earliest English-language "Chan" boards, often cited as the origin point of the Anonymous hactivist network that became famous for targeting the Church of Scientology.


  • July: Steve Coast Founds OpenStreetMap
  • July: UK's House of Commons science and technology committee recommends government funding agencies require open access to publicly-funded research through "institutional repositories" ("green open access" - Stevan Harnad), and study funding the publication in open access journal ("gold open access" - Harnad).
  • August 28: First Software Freedom Day
  • Lawrence Lessig publishes 'Free Culture' book
  • October: Android Inc founded to develop software for mobile phones ("smartphones")
  • October: Jurispedia founded - law research wiki inspired by Wikipedia
  • October 7: CIA seize servers from UK ISP RackSpace, affecting 20 open-publishing Indymedia news sites runs by affiliate groups of the global network of independent media centres
  • October 20: Canonical Inc. release first version of Ubuntu - a Debian-based distribution of GNU/ Linux with a focus on user-friendliness
  • Digg launched. A forerunner of Reddit and, this was one of the early link-sharing/ news-sharing sites, along with
  • FlickR launched as a host for user-generated photographs. They included CreativeCommons licenses so users could choose a license for their images, and became the host of the FlickR Commons. They were later acquired by Yahoo, and then by photography social network SmugMug.


  • May 1: OpenDocument (.odt) approved as a OASIS consortium standard
  • June: Research Councils UK, the largest research funding body in the UK, announced it would require open access to all research it funds.
  • June: Version 4.0 of Qt released, with all ports (Unix-like, MacOSX, Windows etc) licensed under GPL. All components of the KDE desktop are now free software according to the FSF definition.
  • June: Development begins on the Pure:Dyne multimedia linux distribution, initially a fork of Dyne:bolic, then of Ubuntu, which received funding from Arts Council England. Funding ended, and the project folded, releasing its last version in 2010. However, their work has been continued by the official Ubuntu derivative, Ubuntu Studio, which released its first version in 2007, and is still actively developed.
  • July 8: non-profit Ubuntu Foundation announced - Ubuntu now legally independent from Canonical Inc.
  • 17 August: Android Inc acquired by Google. The team start working on an OS for mobile phones based on the Linux kernel.
  • August: First BarCamp held at SocialText offices in Palo Alto California
  • October 1: The open access requirements announced by both Research Councils UK and the privately-funded Wellcome Trust, take effect.
  • UK's Open University puts OpenLearn website online
  • One Laptop Per Child project launched
  • Libre Manifesto published in Free Software Magazine
  • Reddit launched. Following on the heels of Slashdot, Digg, and 4Chan, Reddit was founded by a team that included Aaron Swartz, and added the innovation of allowing users to create moderated "subreddits" on the topics of their choosing.
  • YouTube launched. One of the first gratis video-hosting sites. Many CreativeCommons licensed videos and music albums have been uploaded here, although the license is not always clearly stated.


  • February: WikiEducator launched by Dr Wayne Mackintosh, as a collaborative platform for professional educators releasing their course designs and other learning tools as Open Educational Resources (OER)
  • March 20: First inclusion of OpenStreetMap image on Wikipedia
  • April 26: WikiHow launched as separate site from its commercial antecedent eHow
  • May 31: Pirate Bay and PiratByran servers seized by Swedish Police
  • August 10: The entire editorial board of the academic journal Topology resigns, in protest at the publisher Elsevier's high subscriptions charges and opposition to open access, and the effects of this on the reputation of the journal.
  • August 22: OpenStreetMap Foundation registered
  • November 30: OpenDocument (.odt) published as ISO standard
  • December: Public Library of Science launches PLoS ONE journal
  • Twitter launched, based on software developed by Indymedia volunteers for sending news updates via SMS to a newswire.


  • March: CERN proposes the creation of the “Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics” (SCOAP), which would fund an open acess model for the main journals publishing high-energy physics papers
  • April 7: Git version-control system released by Linux founder Linus Torvalds.
  • May 11: Ubuntu Studio releases its first version, based on Ubuntu 7.04.
  • June: "The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, one of the largest endowed medical research foundations in the world, announced an open-access requirement for the research it funded." - Glyn Moody
  • August: Peer-Direct Projects Centre (FreeNode stewardship body) shifts its administrative base to the UK, where it is incorporated as a limited liability company
  • September 25: NZ Police Act put online for public submissions in wiki form
  • 30 September: Engagemedia Launched, beginning the ongoing development of the Plumi free code video-sharing platform
  • 5 November: Open Handset Alliance announces Android OS, and their aim to bring the open architecture of x86 ("PC") desktops and laptops to handhelds ("smartphones").
  • December: Open Data Commons created by Jordan Hatcher


  • February 8: GitHub launched (under the name Logical Awesome LLC) as a public free code software forge for people who wanted to use Git as a version-control system, instead of the software SourceForge and other existing code forges used.
  • March: First open data license launched by Open Data Commons, a project of the Open Knowledge Foundation. The Public Domain Dedication and License (PDDL) was written by Jordan Hatcher and Dr Charlotte Waelde
  • July: Aaron Swartz releases the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto
  • October: First Peer-to-PeerUniversity info site goes online
  • 'Libre Culture: Meditations on Free Culture' published by Libre Society
  • Harvard University becomes the first major US university to make all its research available as open access by default.
  • Former editors of Topology academic journal launch their own open access journal, 'Journal of Topology'
  • SoundCloud launched to host user-generated music. A number of musicians have released music under CreativeCommons licenses there.


  • Flat World Knowledge launched: commercial open content text book publisher
  • March: CrisisCommons launched
  • May 24: Satoshi Nakamoto published 'BitCoin: A Peer-to-peer Electronic Cash System'
  • August 13: Peer-to-Peer University launched
  • September 17: Official launch of the Open Educational Resources Foundation (OERf) as a governing body for WikiEducator
  • October: International Network of CrisisMappers launched



  • January 16: First Haiti Earthquake CrisisCamp held at Sunlight Foundation in Washington, DC


  • February 23: Inaugural meeting to create protocols for the Open Educational Resource University (OERu - renamed to OER Universitas on December 18 2013), a project spearheaded by the OER Foundation. The goal is for learners undertaking courses of self-study using OER to be able to apply for formal academic credits from existing educational institutions.
  • 18 April: Vince D releases NameCoin, software for operating a distributed Domain Name Service using the BitCoin protocol - released under the MIT license, as part of the Dot-Bit project.
  • 25 July: Dr. Andreas Gal, Director of Research at Mozilla Corporation, announced the "Boot to Gecko" Project on the mailing list, a project which would eventually become the FirefoxOS operating system for mobile devices.
  • September: Sci-Hub established by Alexandra Elbakyan as a guerilla open access repository of academic papers in any field.
  • October: UK government sets up a "working group on expanding access to published research findings", chaired by Dame Janet Finch, and informally known as the "Finch Group".


  • May:, a free database of information about food products, launched under the ODBL.
  • June: Finch report published, concluding that "the UK should embrace the transition to open access, and accelerate the process in a measured way which promotes innovation but also what is most valuable in the research communications ecosystem."
  • June: PeerJ open access journal launched, backed by "open source" advocate and publisher of free software manuals under ARR copyright, Tim O'Reilly. Researchers who pay a one-off lifetime subscription to the journal can publish one article a year with no further fee.
  • June 6: World IPv6 Launch Day results in a massive increase in the number of internet servers supporting version 6 of the Internet Protocol (IP), created to allow a massive increased in the number of unique addresses which can be connected to the public internet.
  • July 2: "Boot to Gecko" renamed FirefoxOS, and "Device manufacturers TCL Communication Technology (under the Alcatel One Touch brand) and ZTE today announced their intentions to manufacture the first devices" for it.
  • October: Official launch of SCOAP (Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics) open access funding initiative
  • October: Ubuntu releases version 12.10, including the first part of an adware system called "Scopes", the Amazon Lens, described as spyware by FSF founder Richard Stallman. Despite a massive outcry from software freedom advocates, the Amazon Lens remains a part of Ubuntu until 16.04.
  • Cost of Knowledge open access pledge site set up by Tyler Neylon goes live, inspired by the pledge by mathematician Tim Gower not to work with journals owned by academic publisher Elsevier. Gower will later go on to found the Discrete Analysis open access journal in 2015.


  • February: directive on open access issued by the US Office of Science and Technology Policy, saying it "hereby directs each federal agency with over $100 million in annual conduct of research and development expenditures to develop a plan to support increased public access to the results of research funded by the federal government." This directive still allowed a 12 month embargo on open access.
  • November: founding of bioRxiv, an open access "pre-print" respository similar to arXiv, but for the biological sciences.


  • November: NASA announces it will deposit academic papers resulting from its US$3bn annual budget in the US National Institute of Health's article database, PubMed Central.
  • SCOAP (Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics) open access funding initiative goes into effect


  • November: Following the example of Topology, the entire editorial board of prominent academic journal Lingua resign en masse in protest against the publisher's attempts to stymie full open access, planning to set up their own open access journal.
  • November 30: Mozilla announces plans to pass off desktop email client ThunderBird to another steward organisation.
  • December 8: Mozilla cans FireFoxOS, giving up on its web-native mobile OS in the face of stiff competition from other open source mobile OS including Android, UbuntuPhone, and SailFish.
  • December 10: mathematician Tim Gower, an early signatory to Cost of Knowledge, an Open Access pledge, announces the launch of Discrete Analysis. This is an open access, peer-reviewed mathematics journal, novel in that "it will be purely an arXiv overlay journal. That is, rather than publishing, or even electronically hosting, papers, it will consist of a list of links to arXiv preprints."
  • Canonical announces that Ubuntu 16.04 will have its Scopes adware turned off by default, although still installed by default, so many software freedom advocates remain hesitant to endorse Ubuntu.