20 years of the internet in Ireland (timeline)

15 May 2012

Twenty years ago today Barry Flanagan began Ireland On-Line in his house in Galway, kick starting the internet as a consumer phenomenon in Ireland. We look back at some of the pivotal moments in Ireland’s internet history.

Today is an important line in the sand and an opportunity to look back on 20 years of frenetic activity as the internet emerged and grew in Ireland. Nothwithstanding doomed IPOs, frustrations with rolling out broadband and the ebb and flow of job creation, Ireland has emerged as one of the leading digital economies in Europe with some of the biggest names in the internet space choosing the country for their international headquarters.

As such, we thought we’d provide a timeline of the last 20 years of the internet. If we missed anything don’t hesitate to get in touch.


  • Barry Flanagan establishes Ireland On-Line in his house in Galway – Ireland’s first consumer-focused ISP is up and running


  • Netscape’s browser comes on the scene and the internet as we know it today is born


  • ISP Indigo launches on the Irish market


  • The Irish Internet Neutral Exchange (INEX) comes into being when Irish ISPs band together


  • Mergers and takeovers – An Post’s network division PostGem buys IrelandOnline for IR£2.5m and Eunet is bought by Esat Telecom for IR£3.2
  • The Irish Internet Association (IIA) is established
  • The Internet Service Provider Association of Ireland (ISPAI) is formed with Cormac Callanan as its first president
  • Eircom enters the ISP business with Telecom Internet (Tinet)
  • US President Bill Clinton and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern sign a strategic joint communiqué on e-commerce using a digital signature from Baltimore Technologies


  • Deregulation of the Irish telecoms market commences


  • NTL buys Cablelink for £538m; Global Crossing installs £70m hub at CityWest; An Post sells IrelandOnline and PostGem to Esat Telecom for £115m
  • Esat Digifone unveils first iteration of mobile internet with WAP (wireless application protocol) services
  • Digital Hub project unveiled to establish a digital quarter in Dublin’s Liberties district
  • Eircom floats on Nasdaq. At this point the company is profitable, has no debts and employs 12,000 people


  • Draft E-commerce Bill published
  • Dot.com meltdown begins in US – Europe and the rest of the world carry on regardless
  • Some 23 data centres built in Dublin involving an investment of IR£500m


  • Eircom restructures multimedia division with loss of 5,000 jobs
  • 9/11 tragedy in New York and Pennsylvania


  • Half of the 23 data centres in Dublin go out of business as ravages of dot.com downturn continue
  • 3G licences awarded to O2, Vodafone and Hutchison Whampoa
  • As telecoms downturn rages, European telcos ask for return of €160bn worth of 3G licence fees; European Union says no


  • Commercial launch of 3G services by Vodafone


  • Google, eBay, Yahoo! select Dublin as a location for their respective European operations – Ireland begins to take centre stage in the internet world
  • Facebook is born in a dorm room in Harvard University


  • Ryanair is named the most popular airline on the web by Google as www.ryanair.com continues to be the most-searched travel website in Europe
  • MediaLab Europe, part of the prestigious Boston MIT, closes with the loss of 35 jobs and €35m in Government money; Amazon establishes European headquarters in Dublin


  • Vodafone, O2 and 3 reveal plans to launch HSDPA (high speed downlink packet access) 3G broadband services, speeds up to 3.6MB available
  • Ireland ends the year with 430,000 broadband subscribers
  • Digiweb reveals plans to invest €8.5m in rolling out Metro broadband to 20 locations


  • Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveils the first iPhone
  • Bebo begins working with police forces to curb cyberbullying. Irishwoman Rachel O’Connell becomes head of internet safety at Bebo
  • Magnet begins offering 12Mbps services
  • Microsoft launches Windows 7
  • Vodafone buys Irish ISP Perlico for €80m


  • Limerick brothers Patrick (19) and John (17) Collison become overnight millionaires when their start-up Auctomatic sells to Live Current for just under US$10m
  • WordPress parent Auttomatic buys Sligo-based internet firm PollDaddy.com formed by David Lenehan and Eoin Gallagher
  • Social network Facebook chooses Dublin for its European headquarters
  • Magnet unveils 50Mbps fibre broadband service


  • Apple reaches 1bn apps milestone
  • BT and Vodafone enter into joint venture – plan involves BT transferring its consumer and business ISP business to Vodafone and plan revealed to unbundle 58 new exchanges


  • Apple launches the first iPad
  • Microsoft launches first Kinect sensor – welcome to the world of hands-free gaming
  • Google embarks on a ‘Mobile First’ strategy
  • Microsoft builds massive US$500m cloud data centre in west Dublin
  • Google launches Street View in Ireland
  • LinkedIn opens Dublin office
  • Google creates 200 new jobs in Dublin at major new ops centre
  • Dublin Web Summit brings Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, YouTube founder Chad Hurley, Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom and Bebo founder Michael Birch to Dublin


  • Twitter chooses Dublin for its international HQ
  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seen strolling around Dublin
  • LinkedIn creates an additional 100 jobs in Dublin
  • Google locates major US$75m data centre in West Dublin
  • Bioware locates major operation in Galway with 200 new jobs to support launch of online Star Wars game, The Old Republic


  • Eircom goes into Examinership with debts of €3.4bn, 5,000 employees
  • Patrick and John Collison’s latest start-up Stripe earmarked as a potential US$1bn valuation company
  • Government and major telecoms CEOs publish Next Generation Broadband Taskforce report
  • Facebook IPO
  • Rumours of an Apple television on the horizon

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years