History of Internet

Without a doubt, the Internet is undergoing a major transition as it
experiences a tremendous influx of new users. Due to the anarchic,
distributed nature of the net, we cannot even begin to enumerate the
population of the Internet or its growth. As more of the world's
population moves on-line, new concerns will arise which did not
confront the earlier generations. The new culture will demand
different resources, services and technology than the old
generations expected and used. Already we can witness a clash
between the emergent culture and the entrenched culture. The
largest conflicts occurring now are about sharing resources, the
impending commercialization of the net, and the growing problem of
computer crime.

The Internet was born in the union of government and researchers,
and for two decades afterwards remained mostly the realm of those
two groups. The net began as ARPANET, the Advanced Research
Projects Agency Net, designed to be decentralized to sustain
operations through a nuclear attack. This nature persists today in
the resilience of the net, both technologically and in its culture.
ARPANET was phased out in 1990 and the net backbone was taken
over by NSFNET (National Science Foundation). Since 1969 the
main users of cyberspace have been involved in research or in the
university community as computer experts or hackers, exploring the
limitations and capabilities of this new technology. These people
formed a cohesive community with many of the same goals and
ethics. In addition to the homogeneity of the net, the small size
contributed to a strong feeling of community. There has been some
conflict between the hackers and the researchers over sharing
resources, and philosophies about security and privacy, but on the
whole, the two groups have co-existed without major incident.

The newest of the members of the so-called old generation are the
university users who are not involved in research work on the net.
Generally these are the students using the net for email, reading
netnews and participating in interactive real-time conversations
through talk, telnet or irc. This wave of people integrated smoothly
with the community as it existed. Still sharing the common research
and education orientation, the community remained cohesive and
the culture did not change much, perhaps it only expanded in the
more playful areas. These users did not compete with the
researchers for resources other than computer time, which was
rapidly becoming more available throughout the eighties.

It is only in the past year or two that we have begun to see the
explosion of the new generation on the Internet. Businesses have
begun connecting themselves to the net, especially with the
prospect of the NSFNET backbone changing hands to permit
commercial traffic. Public access nets run by communities or
businesses are springing up in cities all over the world, bringing in
users who know little about computers and are more interested in
the entertainment and information they can glean from the net.
Commercial providers like America Online and Compuserve are
beginning to open gateways from their exclusive services to the
open Internet, specifically allowing their users to access email,
netnews and soon ftp and telnet services. The explosion of BBSs
and the shared Fidonet software has brought many users who were
previously unable to get an account through a university to the
world of email and netnews. At this point, anyone with a computer
and a modem can access these most basic services. Several state s,
such as Maryland, have begun efforts to connect all their residents
to the net, often through their library system. The city of Cambridge,
MA now offers access to the world wide web for short segments of
time in its public libraries, and even several progressive
coffeehouses in the San Francisco Bay area and soon in the Boston
area are offering public net access.

In the last 20 years, the net has developed slowly, adapting
comfortably as its population grew steadily and shifted the culture
to more diverse interests. But as the net faces a huge increase in its
users in a short time, the reaction is bound to be more severe, and
debate will center around several key issues that were irrelevant in a
small homogeneous community. The establishment of new customs
concerning these issues will define the culture of the future Internet.

Most resources on the net currently are not designed to handle the
amount of usage that will occur within the next six months. Sites
which offer access to ftp archives are particularly worried about the
massive influx of new users from commercial services opening
access soon. America Online administrators addressed this issue in
a recent piece of email to ftp sysadmins where they recognized the
perceived problem and stated