Thailand’s connection to the Internet started at AIT with “AIT.TH"
25th Anniversary of “.TH” Top-level Domain Name
Prof. Kanchana Kanchanasut (center) and Dr. Steve Crocker (second, right) with Prime Minister of Thailand Yingluck Shinawatra. The delegates to 25th Anniversary of .TH presented the prime minister with a copy of The History of the Internet in Thailand.
Twenty-five years ago, Thailand was connected to the Internet for the first time at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT). In the late 1980s AIT was a key hub for the early development of the Internet in Thailand, and was the site of the country’s first email.
In June 1988, AIT’s Professor Kanchana Kanchanasut successfully registered the Internet top-level domain name “.TH”, a move that ushered the country into the world of the nascent Internet. For the first time, email addresses were possible for members of the academic community in Thailand through dial-up accounts to “ait.th”.
Online connectivity began at the Asian Institute of Technology after it received a Sun Unix-based workstation that was used as a server to establish the Kingdom’s first Internet connection, hooking up with regional internet guru Mr. Robert Elz of the University of Melbourne, as well as with the United States.
By mid-1988, Prof. Kanchana received authorization to oversee providing domain name registration services under “.TH”. The domain name was registered by AIT for an experimental network called the Thai Computer Science Network (TCSnet). Through the support of the Australian International Development Agency, ACSnet software enabled AIT to connect with Prince of Songkla University, Chulalongkorn University, and Thammasat University. AIT and PSU were the gateways to the Australian Academic Research and Education Network (AARNet) through which the TCSnet community could communicate with the global TCP/IP network or Internet for the first time.
The domain name registration task was jointly provided by AIT and Chulalongkorn University until 1999, when newly formed Thai Network Information Center Foundation (THNIC) took over. Today .TH remains the Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for the country, and is administered by THNIC.
To mark the historic founding, THNIC Foundation celebrated the “.TH” 25th Anniversary with a one-day conference on 6 June 2013 in Bangkok. The event brought together a who’s who of the country’s Internet professionals who paid tribute to the key innovators involved in the development of the Internet in Thailand a quarter century ago.
H.E. Mr. Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, Minister, Prime Minister’s Office, Thailand, delivered an opening address. Praising the work of the early academic pioneers for their impact on the country, he said the Internet is so much a part of people’s daily lives it is like “American Express” in that, as the saying goes, “you can’t leave home without it.“
In a keynote address Dr. Steve Crocker, Chairman of the Board of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) spoke of how the need to bring people together, to connect work and to solve problems drove American computer scientists' ground-breaking research on networks in the 1960s. Considered one of the Internet’s fathers, Dr. Crocker witnessed its birth. As a UCLA graduate student, he helped create the ARPANET protocols which were the foundation for today's Internet.
At the event, AIT Presidents past and present delivered reflections on AIT’s role in the development of the Internet, and its present work. In his remarks, Prof. Alastair North, who was AIT President at the time, paid tribute to Prof. Kanchana. The computer science research division at AIT has spawned a huge number of internet and ICT professionals across Asia, he said.
Reminding the audience of what work was like in Thailand prior to introduction of the Internet, AIT Acting President Worsak Kanok-Nukulchai said AIT.TH was a prime example of the Institute’s historical role for introducing new technologies that positively impact the country and region.
Prof. Kanchana, currently AIT Acting Vice President for Research, said her work to connect the country online in the 1980s was quite unintentional. “AIT did not have email,” she explained. It was the mode of communication she had grown accustomed to while completing her graduate studies in Australia. Returning to Thailand, she found the country’s lack of connection to be a major drawback, which motivated her to make the Internet a reality.
According to Prof. Kanchana, the TSCnet gateway at AIT was under the care of graduate student Ms. Pensri Charoenchai, and email addresses were provided to academic colleagues both within and outside AIT through dial-up accounts to AIT. The server provided the first online connection gateway out of Thailand, and the main applications used on the network were email for academicians and file transfer protocol (FTP).
From there, the Internet quickly flourished amongst Thai academicians. In 1994, commercial Internet Service Providers (ISP) were born and provided the nation’s general population with access to the Internet for the first time.