Akamai (a Hawaiian word for intelligent, clever and cool) was created by people from the MIT who had been working on algorithmic networking designs that could be used to relieve Internet traffic load: the idea is to constantly monitor the state of the Internet network and to dynamically distribute contents between different servers and locations so that content retrieval by Internet users would be done cheaply with an acceptable quality of service.
The MIT project started in the mid 1990's, and the company was created in 1998, after it had obtained from MIT an exclusive licence to use the developed technology for commercial use. The first clients were signed in April 1999 among which Apple that used Akamai's content delivery services to support the distribution of streaming video on its web site, and Yahoo! Most of Akamai's clients are web sites with a large audience from the media side like Yahoo!, CBS, Reuters, and from the e-commerce side like Barnes and Nobles, JCPenney, etc. They may use the service on a regular basis (recurring customers) or on a per-event basis: some web sites may administer their own web site on a day by day basis, but would not want to go into unnecessary investments if a traffic overload is planned for a particular day (lingerie show that is only broadcasted once or twice a year, charity concerts, etc.).