The Early History of File Sharing
The history of file sharing began in 1971, when the first floppy disk drive became commercially available from IBM. At a size of 8 inches, this massive disk has a formatted storage capacity of just less than eighty kilobytes. This was effectively the first time that widespread file sharing could occur because it was the first time a format that allowed for relatively simple file transfer was available. In 1976, a company called Shugart Associates created the first 5 and a quarter inch floppy disk. Other companies adopted this standard and began to build five and a quarter inch drives of their own.
While floppy disks allow for sharing of files for those who could physically exchange media, Ward Christensen opened up a new gateway for file sharing in 1978 by creating the first online bulletin board system. This allowed users to share files online, although this was not part of the Internet as we know it today until the 1990s. Bulletin board systems were in fact accessed through phone lines, so users were often local.
In 1979 yet another method of online file sharing, Usenet, was created. Usenet was not created with file sharing as a goal, but it was a feature that users increasingly took advantage of as modem speeds increased.
The next major milestone in file sharing was the creation of FTP in 1985, or File Transfer Protocol. FTP allowed users to exchange files over a standard TCP/IP based network. It is still used today as one of the most popular methods of file sharing among both individuals and corporations. This was followed in 1988 by another still popular program, IRC. While IRC was created to host chat rooms, it allowed user-to-user file transfers, a feature many embraced.