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The net that never existed.

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Assigned keywords: Computer, Foreign Language, Gesellschaft, Weblog

In this article, the author of Arachnophilia complains about the loss of the "olde tymes" of the Internet - before the dark times, before the Empire. The tale of the Old Internet is often invoked by people because of frustration with the current state of the Internet - one that is seen as dominated by spammers and copyright lawyers, by adware and commerce. The Old Internet was free. The Old Internet was good.

The problem is that the Old Internet Lore has little in common with past reality. Back then, 1993, when some of my friends had access to Bulletin Board Systems (those with the modem), the Internet was partly myth, at least here in Germany. When I asked a teacher of mine if he could get something of the Internet for me, he asked me about the IP address of the site - apparently, he had stopped regular use of the Internet before the advent of DNS. He told me about having an account at some University he only had gotten because he knew someone there and made some deal about still being somehow loosely attached to some project there. The old internet surely was not free as in libre. It is unlikely that he enjoyed the anonymity we take for granted today - his mail address was linked to his person. There was no hotmail or gmx back then.
A friend that got internet - ridiculously expensive - in 1994 had a fixed IP address everytime he dialed in. I'm sure that he did not enjoy that much privacy either. Speaking of price, the Old Internet surely was not free as in free beer. At least not for those who actually paid for the physical infrastructure. And I'm sure that those administrators which tended the Internet from it's dawn to it's "downfall" surely have not worked for free.

Some people tend to mistake "free Internet" with "free downloadz". My friend was indeed deep into the Warez Scene back then, but he was a fanatic who downloaded tons of software with his 28.8 modem to hoard it on CDs which were priced about 7.5 € - ONE CD. His first burner had the size of a reasonable brick and cost about 1000 €. I won't talk about his monthly phone bill (no flatrate back then).
Copyright was not that much of an issue for years. Why should it? Piracy was severely limited by bandwidth and target audience. Lawyers did not have to send out Cease & Desist letters because back then, there was mostly nothing to send a Cease & Desist letter to. How many private Homepages existed before 1993? How many people could access them?

I could go on, but in the end, there is a simple solution to revive the Old Internet, the one that was free and wild. Just lease lines and set up servers, build a closed network that is only free to those who follow the ideals of the Old Internet. Nothing stops people from doing so - but then they have to work and pay for it. But actually working and paying for a dream is so much harder than recounting Old Internet Lore.


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