It's hyped as a hive of innovation, where celebrities, companies and brands trend or tank, but this view of the internet is fast becoming outdated. The World Wide Web now resembles a series of "walled gardens" run by embedded brands such as Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook, which have been busy attaching their online platforms and services to smartphones and tablets; this year has seen the arrival of Amazon's Fire Phone and Fire TV, the Apple Watch and a bevy of fitness devices governed by Google's Android Wear operating system. Facebook might not have any hardware, but it's busy expanding into fast-developing areas of the world, and buying up apps; it now owns WhatsApp, which just about every Hongkonger uses, for example. Competing with the big tech brands is now virtually impossible, but it wasn't always like this. Remember Napster? The pioneering peer-to-peer file-sharing application that popularised the easily transferrable and ubiquitous MP3 file format, Napster only existed in its original form for a couple of years. From 1999 until 2001, its 24 million users downloaded and uploaded music from and to each other to such an extent that it dominated web traffic and changed perceptions of what the internet could do. After several lawsuits filed by bands, artists and record companies, it was shut down by court order for violating copyright, but its existence shocked the music industry into eventually accepting the internet and remodelling itself. What's it up to now? It's not the same company, but the Napster brand was reborn as Napster 2.0, a legal music subscription service, and also used to sell MP3 players. It's now owned by Rhapsody, the first subscription music service on the web, which uses the Napster name for its revamped online music streaming service in Europe. Social media is now a pillar of the modern internet but it hasn't always been. Before Facebook (2004), Twitter (2006) and Weibo (2009) came the likes of Friendster, Bebo and MySpace. Launched in 2004, MySpace was a pioneering social media platform that became a place for "personal branding" and blog posts. It was - and still is - popular with musicians and bands as a way to reach their audience for free and showcase music and videos. Such was its success that it was bought just 18 months after its launch by News Corp for a staggering US$580 million, and dominated social media until 2008 when Facebook caught up. The end was nigh, but there was a rebirth. In 2011 it was acquired by brothers Tim and Chris Vanderhook, along with singer Justin Timberlake for about US$35 million, and relaunched with a tablet-friendly design late in 2012. Having left MySpace in 1999, co-founder Tom Anderson (aka "MySpace Tom") became a landscape photographer, posting his work on Instagram and Facebook. Co-founder Chris DeWolfe's company SGN creates mobile games. Friendster shrank and swapped to being a social gaming site, too, while Bebo followed a similar trajectory to MySpace. Bebo had 40 million users back in 2008, convincing household name AOL to pay founder Michael Birch US$850 million for it. Birch bought the Bebo brand back last year for just US$1 million, and is about to use it to launch Blab, a "video walkie-talkie" app. AOL (or America Online), meanwhile, went from being the way many people in the US and Europe first got online to a loss-making sub-division of TimeWarner. Spun off in 2009, AOL remains a reasonably big fish behind the scenes, owning Huffington Post, Engadget, and TechCrunch. AOL may be forgotten, but it's far from gone. Facebook, Weibo, Apple, Google and the rest might be the arbiters of the internet for now, but which brands will be the next to sink into obscurity? Digital archaeologists already have a lot of data to dig through to uncover the origins of what underpins the internet as we know it today.