The Department of Defense first created the Internet in the late 1960s as a way of making sure communications between different facilities could withstand a war. It was originally called APRAnet, and in time this network came to link corporations and educational institutions as well. As this system developed, its aptitude for commercial applications became more and more apparent. The introduction of the first Internet browsers, along with the development of domain names—the names used by their owners to identify specific Internet addresses (e.g. www.gale.com)—and hypertext transfer protocols (HTTP), hastened this changeover. By 1995, when the National Science Foundation finally stopped supervising the Internet and Netscape introduced the first commercial Internet browser, it was clear that the Internet was going to become something big.
Since that time, companies offering various commercial services have popped up all over the Internet. Amazon, E-Bay, and Yahoo are the most widely known of the thousands of retail companies that have taken advantage of the Internet’s lack of overhead and its ease of use. Internet commerce exploded from less than $100 million in 1995 to $33 billion in 2001.
But with this tremendous increase in trade has come concern for the rights of consumers who use the Internet to buy everything from soap to cars. Because the Internet has grown so fast in a relatively short while, many unusual consumer issues have arisen that have required both regulatory agencies such as the FTC and the legislative branches to pass new rules and laws specifically adapted to the situation.