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How Did The Net Become Free In The First Place?

Cliff posted more than 13 years ago | from the knowing-your-history dept.

The Internet 12

An Anonymous Coward seeks historical information on the following: "Maybe it's just time for me to brush up on my geek history, but I find myself wondering more and more each day, how it was possible for the Internet to escape government AND corporate rule. These days, record companies are trying to tell me that I own the plastic CD, but not the material on it. I can purchase DVDs, but am only able to watch them in certain countries (read: Regions). Consumer software seems to be switching from flat-rate fees to subscription based services. Media providers are merging with mediums (MSNBC and AOL-Time Warner come to mind..) Therefore, it amazes me that the fundamentals of the Internet were able to avoid all of this. How did that happen? Was there just a different mindset back then? Did anyone predict the dotcom explosion (and ultimately, denouement?) How did this medium come to run itself? And how can we create another medium like it when every last bit of control is eventually squeezed out from this one?"

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12 comments

Becoming Free (3)

h0h0h0_ (180368) | more than 13 years ago | (#418875)

In a very general and to some people, not so accurate statement:

Originally the "Internet" was an aggregate of mostly Academic and Military organizations. The NSF (National Science Foundation) provided the backbone support until 1994 I believe (I may be wrong). Basically that means that the NSF controlled it and the organizations who paid for the net were the organizations that used it, Academic and military. Along the way it grew into something that could financially benefit (or in other words be abused) commercial interests. The comercialization of the net has sprouted new technology (Voice over IP) and grew technology that was originally never intended for "internetworking" (Java).

The cook report [cookreport.com] has monitored the economic aspects of the net since 1994.

Here's something [davesite.com] that gives you a techy rundown of the physical aspect of the net and how the powers that be controlled it up until 1996.

You've got to understand too that it would have never become this popular unless a browser, Mosiac, came to be. Mosiac turned into Netscape after some time. Without this tool, you'd be limited to gophering around places (which wasn't bad in and of it self).

I dunno man, I can't see where you are going with the CD/DVD stuff. Of course you don't own the material on it. Just like you don't own my home page [media-mixer.com] -- you can view it all you want, but is it yours? Can you copy it and say it's yours? No. The fundamentals of the Internet have behaved exactly as they should given the current owners and the like. You still have the capability to put up a page and you still have the ability to play on a level playing field with anyone who decides to use the internet as a tool for whatever -- it's not just banner ads out there, it's the information. You watch TV shows right - not TV commercials.

And I think that Personal Area Networks will over take the Internet as most important technology in lives -- only cause it will be so god damn fun to interact with your environment. There I predict it.

Damn, people haven't even intergrated spell-checkers into HTML elements -- there's still a long way to go with the current set up.

The Face -= o_O

hm (1)

Alatar (227876) | more than 13 years ago | (#418876)

The internet was run by (funded by) the government. The concept of paying a monthly fee for admission to this network, as the question asker cannot evidently envision a network without, did not exist.

Sorry but... (5)

ooze (307871) | more than 13 years ago | (#418877)

Just read internet histories [isoc.org] . There are so much out there.
In the time the internet developed it's community status was a time when it was dominated by educational and academic solidarity. And this is something that still values knowledgesearch and personal development higher than commercial and control issues.
The fact that it was missed so long by the "manager" type is, that this type of people mostly just have a lack of imagination. And there was a too small market until 1993.
And after that time the net was simply too fast and too big to control and keep track of. So it is very hard to keep a monopol or a dominanation on content (but it is possible).
And you can see that the big companies are handicapping themselves with the introduction of standardized control mechanisms. An interaction between companies with lawyers and contracts to standardize something is far too slow to be the first in the net. And the first in the net is the best known in the net, and until the first one doesn't make serious mistakes, he will stay the best known and the biggest.
So the "I just wanna do something, and I just don't care about money" will always be faster and more innovative than management driven efforts. Though they mostly have less continuity, but as long as the character of the net is a lack of continuity (with all advantages and disadvantages) there will be no instance that can control the net. Of course, there are several instaces that can seriously harm the usability of several services in the net, but there is always someone to fill the gap. The merely presence of some open standard protocols and the network lines are enough to enable anybody with access to the network to be potentially available to anyone.

So, that was enough of text you can read in any internet hype aricle.

Dead Tree Answer (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#418878)

Find a copy of "Where Wizards Stay Up Late" -- it's a great history of the formation of the Internet, from the first inklinkgs of an idea, to the buildout at BBN. After that, it gets a bit fuzzy, but it gives great coverage of the first 25 years.

Re:hm (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#418879)

The internet was funded by the governments of the respective countries. In my country it was run by the universities, which received some funding for the internet from the government. Some large companies also had internet access and were therefore running and funding part of the internet. At that time, unless you were a student or employee at one of the few companies, it was practically impossible to have access to the internet. "Internet Providers" didn't exist at that time and your only possibility was to lease a line to the next university (not that cheap).

it was free but in a different way (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#418880)

You couldn't just anonymously post garbage on usenet or irc, because there were no anonymous email providers. You had to use your real email address and IP (which could be seen by everybody). There was no Yahoo, no Hotmail, no proxies and no weblogs where the identity of the participants is only seen by the site maintainer. The net was not anonymous and nobody wanted it to be anonymous (except for "anonymous ftp" which wasn't anonymous because of logging and which was basically a means to give access to a large number of people without having to create ftp accounts for everybody). The "anonymous" thing startet with the appearance of the WWW, where people *thought* they were surfing anonymous (which wasn't the case as IPs were logged). Soon, some people started BS-ing around and the "anonymous" thing became a necessity.

Catenet (2)

Detritus (11846) | more than 13 years ago | (#418881)

What made the Internet possible was the concept of the catenet (concatenated networks). It didn't matter if you were running X.25, SNA, DECnet or any other proprietary network, you could always use it to transport IP packets. It might not be pretty or efficient, but no one could stop you. The network can drop, duplicate and reorder packets. That's OK, IP was designed for the lowest common denominator. See IEN 48 [dec.com] .

In part, you can thank Al Gore (3)

frankie (91710) | more than 13 years ago | (#418882)

He didn't invent it (and never claimed that [salon.com] , either), but he did advocate a fast open network from the late 70s on, and got a bunch of funding for it [zdnet.com] in 1991. Universities and researchers had built a free internet from the beginning -- giving them a fat backbone helped keep it free after business got involved.

How did it stay free? (1)

PhunkySchtuff (208108) | more than 13 years ago | (#418883)

Well, it became free as it was primarily universities and government departments funding it to start out with and businesses just weren't online because there was no reason for them to be.
One major factor in why it stayed free is that Microsoft completely ignored it for way too long, then tried to set up their own MSN in competition instead of focussing on taking it over and trying to get controls put on it
-- kai

Verbing Weirds Language.

Plastic CD ownership (1)

invisik (227250) | more than 13 years ago | (#418884)

Hey,

If we own the plastic CD and not the material on it, shouldn't they cost $8 for 10 of them?

-m

Re:In part, you can thank Al Gore (2)

unitron (5733) | more than 13 years ago | (#418885)

If post #9 is correct about him advocating a fast, open network back in the late 70's, that's before many, if not most, Slashdot readers were born (if one can, on average, infer chronological age from the maturity levels displayed in posts).

The Internet wasn't free in 1993. (2)

Nonesuch (90847) | more than 13 years ago | (#418886)

When I first started in the ISP industry, on June 2, 1993, the Internet was primarily intended for non-commercial use.

Our first upstream provider, UUNet, requested that we sign an AUP for access to the 'educational purposes' part of the internet, stating that we would not use those portions of the backbone for commercial purposes.

We refused to sign this statement. We informed our customers of the situation and that they might encounter issues with certain educational networks being unreachable, but it never was a problem.

Over the next couple of years more providers came onto the scene, and the 'educational purposes' restriction fell by the wayside.

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