The Evolution of Digital Marketing – The 90’s – Part One

Digital Marketing in The 90’s

Digital marketing has been around for MANY years. There have been numerous changes to the industry, such as the transformation of search engine, web design, email marketing, as well as the rise of social media. I decided to split this topic into two separate blog posts. That being the case, in this week’s topic I will be discussing the history and evolution of digital marketing in the 1990’s.

The Web Era

Computers were once widely inaccessible and very expensive. In the 1970’s, the basic HP Model was around $90,000. It was not until the late 90’s where personal computers were more accessible to the public. More people began purchasing personal computers between 1993-1998, therefore, people using the internet greatly increased (Comen, 2018). According to Statista, internet usage climbed from 15 million to 78 million during that time period.

$95,000 computer from the 1970’s 

The first Internet browser to ever be created was the WorldWideWeb in 1990. This allowed “texts documents to be linked together over a public network.” Take a look at the first website to ever be created here. Limited people had access to WWW, mostly governments, private corporations, and universities (McPeak, 2018).

By 1994, Netscape was founded and released. This was the first widely accessible browser for the public. Additionally, Microsoft launched Internet Explorer in 1995. There was immense competition between the two, both attempting to prove that their products are better and faster. In 1997, Microsoft released Internet explorer 4.0. which occupied 75% of  the market. On the other hand, NetScape went on to create Mozilla, which later becomes FireFox in the early 2000’s. Moreover, other competitors emerged into the market in the late 90’s and early 2000’s – including Safari and Google Chrome (Blitz, 2019).

Netscape browser from 1995 

First Banner Ads

The first banner ads created were placed on, the first digital publication of Wired Magazine. They launched the first ever clickable banner ads for fourteen companies including AT&T, Club Med, and Zima (Lafrance, 2017).

Here are the first banner ads ran by Zima and AT&T:

Zima Banner Ad

AT&T Banner Ad 

During this time, there was no playbook for digital marketing strategies. A majority of brands were just trying new things online. Additionally, analytics platforms did not exist resulting in no audience targeting, A/B testing, accurate session and page view numbers, and so on (Mccullough, 2014).

Email Marketing

Marketing through email was discovered in 1990’s. Brands discovered an opportunity to connect with the audience through instant communication and ability to quickly be shared. The main method utilized was chain email, considered as spam today. Chain emails are emails that ask the recipient, on the subject or body of the message, to forward the email to multiple people. In 1998, Hotmail became very popular obtaining around 30+ million users. This technique was an easy and quick way to communicate to with users as well as access new audiences. This method was disregarded around 2003 (Bael, 2018).

Chain email example

Website Design

Web design from the 1990’s included flash animation and text documents connected by links, and background images inserted in tables.

Microsoft website design in 1995  

Please stay tuned for part two, where I will be discussing the history and evolution of digital marketing from the early 2000’s!






Blitz, M. (2019, April). How Netscape Navigator Won and Then Lost the World Wide Web. Retrieved January  from
Beal, V. (2020, December). What is Chain Email? Retrieved from
Comen, E. (2018, October). Check out how much a computer cost the year you were born. Retrieved from
LaFrance, A. (2017, April). The First-Ever Banner Ad on the Web. Retrieved from
McCullough, B. (2014, October). On The 20th Anniversary, An Oral History of the Web’s First Banner Ads. Retrieved from
McPeak, A. (2018, January). A Brief History of Web Browsers and How They Work. Retrieved from

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