The Internet originated as a system used for research by the military in the USA. Universities were the next group to connect to the system. The Internet started to develop as commercial system in the late 1980s and by the mid-1990s, home users were starting to connect to the Internet in significant numbers. Internet usage is still growing quickly and the number of hours we spend 'on-line' is rising sharply. The United States still leads the way in Internet usage, but Europe is catching up. It is difficult to predict such a fast-growing area, but at the end of 1999, it was estimated that between 13 and 14 million people in the UK, about one fifth of the population, had access to the Internet. World-wide, at least 100 million people are connected to the system. E-mail is the simplest application of the Internet, but it is also the most popular both among businesses and personal users. E-mail is a straightforward and cost-effective way
of communicating using the Internet, falling somewhere between the phone and the facsimile in terms of formality and speed. E-mail is cheap and it only takes a few seconds for a message to reach the Internet. At the moment, the computer is the most common way people connect to the Internet, followed by mobile phones, but in the future, television sets will have Internet capabilities.