History of Digital Marketing

Throughout the centuries there are key events that have shaped our definition of marketing and this unique form of communication between company and consumer.

Although not a new concept, marketing has evolved significantly since the start of the digital age. With the internet boom and the creation of different online mediums, digital marketing has either accompanies or has entirely replaced traditional, offline marketing.

Take a read through our interactive MintTwist Digital Timeline and discover more about these pivotal moments.

The Rise and Rise of Social Media    

With the explosion of content marketing and access to create new and exciting platforms, the social media medium was born. Channels such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram presented new opportunities for brands to engage and entertain customers. 

Dot-Com Bubble Bursts    

On March 11, 2000, technology shares began to fall as the dot-com bubble burst. The dot-com boom lasted only 3 years, from 1997 to 2000. Silicon Valley had a 17% declination in high-tech industries and lost 85,000 jobs.

Google AdWords Is Launched    

Google AdWords launched with just 350 customers. The self-service ad programme assists Google in monopolising search engine rankings, by providing advertisers with specific keyword targeting and performance feedback.

Kodiak Is Introduced    

In September 2000, Apple introduced Mac OS X Public Beta, internally named ‘Kodiak.’ It was the first publicly available version of Mac OS and could be purchased by users for $30. 

“Blog” Becomes A Used Word    

Prior to 1999, the word “blog” didn’t exist as a colloquial, used word. However, it officially became defined in 1999. 

Blogger.com Is Launched    

On August 23, 1999, Blogger.com was launched by Pyra Labs. As one of the earliest dedicated blog-publishing tools, it is credited for helping popularise the “diary-esque” blog initiative. 

Couch Potatoes Rejoice! Netflix Is Launched    

Two software engineers, Reed Hastings and Marc Rudolph founded Netflix to rent movies on DVD. However, with the potential of streaming videos and TV shows, the service adopted a monthly subscription model: unlimited rentals for a single monthly rate. 

Victoria’s Secret Debuts    

In 1999 the underwear industry changed for good with the release of the Victoria’s Secret website. In the same year, Victoria’s Secret’s 30 second Super Bowl advertisement led to one million visits to the company’s website within an hour of airing.

The First Online Shop    

You’ll never need to leave your couch again. Zappos.com, an online shoe and clothing shop based in Las Vegas, Nevada, was founded in 1999 by Nick Swinmurn. Swinmurn’s initial inspiration came when he failed to find a pair of brown Airwalks at his local mall. 

Web Feed Formats Are Launched    

RSS is the first version of the web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works in Netscape. RSS feeds enable publishers to populate and publish information automatically. Additionally, RSS feeds provide users with to-the-minute updates from favoured websites. 

The Battle For Ecommerce    

Google and Yahoo, two leading search giants, begin their own eCommerce subsidiaries. Yahoo’s eCommerce store is called Yahoo Stores.

PageRank Is Introduced    

The first of many Google metrics to be introduced is PageRank, an algorithm used by Google Search to prioritise websites in their search engine results. Named after Larry Page, one of the founders of Google, it works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is.


The Data Protection Act, the priority piece of legislation that governs the protection of personal data in the UK, is amended to provide a way for individuals to control searchable information about themselves. 

Electronic Postage    

In January 1998, snail mail stamps give way to electronic postal stamps, that can be purchased and used in replacement of traditional stamps. 

And Then There Was PPC    

Can you remember where you were when PPC came into existence? In February 1998, Jeffrey Brewer of Goto.com, a startup company, presented a concept that would evolve to become PPC advertising at the TED conference in California. 

Ask Jeeves    

Who can forget Jeeves? In April 1997, Ask Jeeves was launched as a “natural language search engine.” It used human editors to try to match search queries and was powered by DirectHit, which aimed to rank results based on their popularity, but that technology proved to easy to spam. In 2006, Ask Jeeves was became Ask. 

Online Ads Take Another Leap Forward    

DoubleClick, an online ad-services providing agency provided online advertising, creating a way to track banner ad clicks and consumer behaviour so that return-on-investment (ROI) could be properly reported. 


Who Can Forget Hotmail?    

In 1995 Hotmail co-founders Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith pitched their idea of a free email service to the venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurveston. The first praised the idea, but couldn’t fathom how this service would attract users and be profitable. However, HoTMaiL (with HTML in upper case letters) was launched to much fanfare. The unlimited storage was one of the main USPs.


Amazon Is Launched    

On May 28, 1996, Amazon was launched and online shopping and streaming was never the same. The company has matured over the years and is now a homebase for purchasing products. 

eBay Is Created    

Back in September 1995, Pierre Omidyar launched a site called ‘Auction Web,’ which evolved into the eBay we know and use today. From the beginning, Omidyar conceived of the site as a marketplace for the sale of goods and services. 

AltaVista Is Launched    

Being an early and popular web search engine, AltaVista was the first to allow for natural language queries for its users. However, it declined in popularity due to Google and was purchased by Yahoo! in 2003. 


Released in 1995, Internet Explorer was one of the most used web browsers, hitting an all time usage share of 95% during 2002 and 2003. On March 17, 2015, Microsoft released ‘Microsoft Edge,’ which replaced Internet Explorer. 

CLASSMATES.COM Hits The Scene    

Created by Randy Conrad, Classmates.com is a social media website that assists its members find, connect and keep in touch with friends and acquaintances from school life. In early 2008, Nielson Online ranked Classmates as no.3 in unique monthly visitors amongst social media channels. 

The First Third Party Payment Service Is Born    

In 1994, the first third party payment service for processing online credit cards was released. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) also became the first security technology to establish an encrypted link between a web server and browser. This link ensured that all data that was shared between the server and browser remained confidential. 


Netscape Navigator is a discontinued proprietary web browser. In the 1990s, it was one of the most widely used web browsers. However, by 2002, web users had moved onto other browsers, such as Microsoft’s ‘Internet Explorer.’ 


Coining ‘Banner Advertising’    

In October 1994, the founders of Hotwired were brainstorming ways to pay their writers when they lit upon the idea of selling ad space in large quantities. Thus the term ‘banner advertising’ was coined. AT&T were one of the first companies to purchase ad space to promote themselves in the web magazine. 


Welcome Yahoo    

Yahoo! was founded in January 1994 by Jerry Yang and David Filo, who were Electrical Engineering graduate students. They created a website named “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web”. The Guide was a directory of other websites.  In April 1994, Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web was renamed “Yahoo!”. The yahoo.com domain was created on January 18, 1995.

The First Blog Arrives    

Credited to Swarthmore College student, Justin Hall, currently an American journalist and entrepreneur, the blog begun as a web-based diary. 

The World Wide Web Is Made Public    

On 30 April 1993 CERN made the world wide web a public entity by releasing the software into the public domain. 

The Birth Of The Online Ad    

Global Network Navigator was the first commercial website to sell a clickable ad. Sold to the law firm Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe, the ad linked to a news centre and product catalogue. 

The Digital Age Has Officially Arrived    

In the 1990s, everything changed for marketers. With the popular rise in computer usage and, most significantly, the dot-com bubble, marketers shifted focus from traditional mediums like television, print media, and direct mailing to their online equivalents. 

The First Search Engine Is Created    

The original implementation was written in 1990 by Alan Emtage, then a postgraduate student at McGill University in Montreal, and Bill Heelan, who studied at Concordia University in Montreal and worked at McGill University at the same time. It is a tool for indexing FTP archives, allowing people to find specific files. Due to limited space, only the listings were available and not the contents for each site.

The First Website Is Launched    

On 20 December, 1990 Tim Berners-Lee launched the first website, which was hosted on his NeXT computer. It described the basic features of the web; how to access other people’s documents and how to set up your own server.

Buy Your Groceries Online    

In 1989 Peapod, based in the US, launched the first online grocery store. Two brothers, Thomas and Andrew Parkinson, were developing a new way to shop. With DOS programming software, dial-up modems and floppy disks, they created Peapod.com, and shopping from a computer for home-delivered goods was born. 

World Wide Web Is Born    

In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist at CERN, invented the World Wide Web (WWW). It was originally developed for meeting the demand for automatic information-sharing between scientists in universities and institutions around the world.

Windows 2.0 Is Released    

Windows 2.0 is a 16-bit Microsoft Windows GUI-based operating environment that was released on December 9, 1987. Compared to Windows 1.0, Windows 2.0 allowed application windows to overlap each other and had more sophisticated keyboard-shortcuts.

The First Tablet In The World    

The Linus Write-Top, released in 1987, allowed users to write directly on the screen with the included stylus. It is not a touch screen but a touch screen in which a voltage is applied to the screen edges, and a stylus detects the voltage at the touched location. 

Windows 1.0 Is Released    

Released on November 20, 1985 as the first version of the Microsoft Windows line, the Windows 1.0 is a personal computer. Its development was spearheaded by the company founder, Bill Gates, after seeing a demo of a similar software suite known as Visi On at COMDEX.

The First Online Community    

Being the first online community, the WELL (Whole Earth “Lectronic Link) started with a dialogue between the fiercely independent writers and readers of the Whole Earth Review. This set the tone for the intellectual and social gathering that continues to this day. 

The Mac Is Introduced    

Directed by Ridley Scott, Apple introduced the Apple Macintosh personal computer in a commercial that’s only national airing was during the third quarter of the Superbowl XVIII. English athlete Anya Major performed as the unnamed heroine. She represented the coming of the Macintosh as a means of saving humanity from “conformity”. The theme of the commercial was an allusion to George Orwell’s noted novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The Minitel Service Is Invented    

The Minitel was a Videotex online service accessible through telephone lines. It is considered one of the world’s most successful pre-World Wide Web online services. The service was first rolled out in Britanny and then throughout France.

The First B2B Electronic Transaction    

Thomson Holidays submitted the first B2B electronic transaction using the technology developed by Michael Aldrich, who invented online shopping. 


The first IBM personal computer, formally known as the IBM Model 5150, used Microsoft´s MS-DOS operating system. The IBM PC revolutionised business computing by becoming the first PC to gain widespread adoption by industry.


MicroSoft Disk Operating System, MS-DOS,  was an operating system for x86-based personal computers mostly developed by Microsoft. It was the most commonly used member of the DOS family of operating systems and was the main operating system for IBM compatible personal computers during the 1980s and the early 1990s.

Online Shopping Created    

Michael Aldrich, an English inventor and entrepreneur, invented online shopping, known originally as teleshopping. Aldrich’s system connected a modified TV to a real-time processing computer via a domestic telephone line. It enabled online transaction processing between consumers and businesses, or between one business and another, a technique that evolved into eCommerce. 

The First Mass Marketing Email Is Sent    

In 1978, Gary Thuerk sent an email promoting DEC machines to 400 users via ARPANET. It resulted in $13 million worth of sales for DEC machines (and a few complaints!). From the start, email launched itself as an effective channel for direct marketing.

The First Email    

While working on ARPANET, the precursor to the internet, Raymond Tomlinson invented email. Initially messages could only be sent and read on the same computer. It is believed the first email message Tomlinson sent was the top row of keys on the keyboard – QWERTYUIOP.


The original specification for the FTP, ‘File Transfer Protocol,’ was written by Abhay Bhushan and published on 16 April, 1971. It, as a standard network protocol, helps to transfer computer files between a client and server on a computer network.

Ecommerce Is Invented    

In 1970, eCommerce was invented. The magic behind this is ‘Electronic Data Interchange’ (EDI), an electronic communication method that provides standards for exchanging data via any electronic means. This allows companies to carry out electronic transactions.

The Foundation Of The Internet    

On 1st October 1969, the first ‘Advanced Research Projects Agency Network,’ the precursor to today’s internet, communications was sent between Kleinrock’s lab at UCLA and the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) under the direction of Elizabeth Feinler. It was an early packet switching network and become the foundation of the Internet.

First T.V. Ad In The U.K.    

Television advertising in Britain began on 22nd September, 1955. The first commercial was for Gibbs SR toothpaste. It featured a tube of toothpaste, a block of ice and a commentary about the product’s “tingling fresh” qualities.

Here Comes SEO    

The first recorded use of the term ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ was by John Audettes. The meaning of SEO has evolved and changed over the years to now refer to webmaster-provided information like meta data, keyword density, technical SEO and other on-page factors.