- Published: November 12, 2022
- Updated: November 12, 2022
- Language: English
- Downloads: 40
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
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 that they would “ request that AOL
members limit their FTP traffic to off-peak hours for sites” and “ work
with administrators to help manage load problems.” They offer to set
up mirror sites for easier access to these resources. Unfortunately,
this may not be adequate — it is certainly agreed by now that
Internet users will need more patience in the future when accessing
the information they want. Many net users have been complaining
recently about the influx of AOL users onto Usenet. Of course,
perceptions of these new posters were not enhanced by a bug that
caused their messages t o be reposted eight times. Newsgroups
(such as alt. aol-rejects) were created specifically with the intent of
insulting AOL users and resenting their entrance onto Usenet. As
the net becomes more crowded, we can expect more animosity and
rivalry for “ rights” to access resources.
As the NSFNET backbone changes hands to allow business traffic,
we will see even more of a business presence than that which
already exists. At the present time the ethics of business on the net
are very unclear. The perception of commercial use as inappropriate
use of the net still exists among many segments of the net
community. Incidents such as the mass advertisements from the law
team of Canter&Siegel have made many people fearful of the
potential of abuse of access in cyberspace. On the other hand,
useful services are coming on-line, especially with the advent of
fill-out forms on the World Wide Web. With technology
advancements like authentication and digital money, commercial
activity will become even more widespread.
Computer crime becomes a much more immediate problem as the
net’s population expands without control. The old and new
generations on the net have different security and privacy needs,
and different views of what constitutes a computer crime. Even as
this conflict plays out on the net, the print media sensationalize
every story of computer break-ins and computer pornography rings.
Often crimes that only incidentally involve the net are promoted as
being symptomatic of the destructive anarchy that exists on the net.
This attitude towards news about the net will eventually bring with
it stricter laws governing cyberspace. Major concerns in net crime
now involve break-ins, data theft, privacy violations and
When the net was new, it existed solely for the purpose of
cooperation and collaboration between researchers. Thus, resources
were shared regularly and uncomplainingly. There were few enough
users that one could take the resources one needed without
disturbing other people’s use of the net. Of course, there was not as
much available then for which users would compete.
A few years ago, the idea of commercializing the net was a thought
anathema to most of the users, but slowly and surely, businesses
are establishing themselves on the net and will soon form a large
portion of the traffic. The old generation fears the abuse of the
anarchy of the net for advertising. Most people oppose intrusive
methods of advertising, such as junk-mailing lists and “ spamming”
Usenet, or posting messages to many newsgroups as Canter&Siegel
did. Individual choice in viewing promotional material is important to
the older generations because this is not intrusive, and in fact
supplies a desirable service. Word of mouth is an important factor in
deciding to view information about a product or a service.
On the smaller net of the past, there was less crime, less reason for
crime, and less vulnerability to major damage. The net was a
homogeneous community, dedicated to collaboration, and the
information stored on the net was hardly as sensitive as the
information soon to be spreading across the net like credit card
numbers, driver’s records, medical histories, proprietary information
and sensitive financial information. The action most frowned upon
by members of the old generation was misuse of resources. Most
realized that their systems and accounts were not very secure and
tolerated some exploration by curious hackers (though not
destruction of data). However, the old generation received a rude
awakening in November 1988 with the Internet worm. As the worm
spread to machines all over the nation, bringing down computer
systems by the dozens, the net community began to realize that the
security of the net would help them protect their data and their
resources. Although the worm was not a malicious invent ion, it was
easy to conceive of a recurrence of the worm with destructive
In the early beginnings, many systems were open to all who wished
to come and share data or read documents. Computer experts
enjoyed exploring systems and finding entrances just for the
knowledge to be gained from these activities. This “ breaking in” to
systems was not a major concern for users. Over time, though,
people began to feel a right for privacy and security of their
information and hackers fell into disfavor. Data theft was also not a
big concern, as the purpose of the net was to share data, not to
restrict information. There was very little personal or private
information stored on the net. The small community only included
users with legitimate research concerns at the beginning, and
cyberspace was not as anonymous as it is now, so harassment was
not a concern.
The new generation has heard of the infinite resources of the net
and the hundreds of communities established on-line. In the last
several years the news media have been trumpeting the magical
things that the Internet can do for our society. Tantalized by these
reports, thousands of people unaffiliated with research institutions
or the government are streaming onto the Internet to access these
resources. This influx is causing a monumental change in the
direction and the culture of the Internet.
We are seeing the beginning of commercialization of the net. This
definitely represents a trend away from the old attitudes, as
commercial activity has been frowned upon for years. Now the
people of the net demand commercial services, information about
products, and companies demand access to consumers. It is unclear
to me what the new generation of net users want in the form of
advertising. Within the last year, however, we have seen a
frightening example of the potential of abuse of the Internet by
advertisers with the law team of Canter and Siegel. Their message
which was posted to almost all newsgroups was considered very
invasive and extremely inappropriate, yet the duo states that they
considered the advertisement a success, and are willing to repeat it.
Is this the kind of advertising the new generations want to see? Do
we want our inboxes filled with junk email and our travels on the net
interspersed by advertising?
Because more of us will be on-line, and more of our commercial and
business transactions will be taking place on-line in the future, crime
will rise in cyberspace, and people will need to be protected.
Currently the net operates mostly in an anarchic state with
sysadmins and government officials patrolling the borders. There
may, however, be a call for greater security on the net. Because of
the existence of much proprietary and personal information on the
net in the future, access to sites will be restricted severely, and
breaking into systems will become a more serious crime. Many
people are willing to let the government install our safeguards, but
there has been recent controversy about what kind of access the
government should have to our information. Computer crime has
been sensationalized recently in the media, especially crimes linked
to sex offenders or pornography distributers. I believe that this kind
of reporting is detrimental to the future of the net because it may
incite unnaturally stringent lawmaking in cyberspace.
As the Internet grows to encompass a larger segment of the world’s
population its diversity will increase until it begins to mirror the
external world. We are beginning to see breakdown in the previously
homogeneous characteristics of economic status and educational
background. In the San Francisco Bay area there are coffeehouses
with cheap access to an on-line chat area that even homeless people
can afford and indeed, many homeless people have come to find that
these chat areas give them a sense of community and “ home.” Local
library systems across the nation are providing net access.
Maryland’s Sailor project is a good example – they provide gopher
access in the libraries and through toll-free dialup, and individual
libraries will begin to offer full access with mail, ftp and telnet. With
the coming of the National Information Infrastructure, net access
may become as common as telephone access. It will cease to be
merely a useful toy and tool for the research community and will be a
simple fact of life, a point of access to a wealth of information and a
meeting place for dispersed communities. We can easily expect
conflict to arise in this nascent world net community simply because
of differences in needs and visions for the net.
An old attitude that makes it difficult to create harmony between the
old generations and the new is the behavior of more experienced
users towards `newbies’ on the net. In the past, one could expect
other users to be somewhat familiar with computing environment.
People who asked too many `stupid’ questions were ostracized and
`flamed.’ Now the net must handle a gigantic influx of users with less
computer experience, who will ask thousands of questions in their
exploration of the obscure operations of the Internet.
People come to the net with great expectations of the vast resources
available to them, and they do make use of them. Unfortunately, not
all sites are able to accommodate the increase in traffic, especially
with services like Compuserve and America On-line opening their
gates to the Internet. In a letter to ftp sysadmins, Robert Hirsh of
AOL states that AOL will request that its members limit traffic to
off-peak hours and that AOL will work with administrators to
manage load problems, specifically by providing local mirror sites for
AOL users and for Internet users. One Internet user from the
University of Massachusetts voiced his fears in a post to the
newsgroups alt. aol-sucks: “…careless actions by AOLers could
seriously jeopardize access and availability on sites already
overloaded and restricted.” and“ Those who depend on the Internet
for legitimate information retrieval/sharing and communication will
find themselves swamped in a sea of curiosity seekers, net. sex
geeks, and those who are convince d that `telnet’ is synonymous
with `Information Superhighway.’ ” The old generation perceives the
new generations as overtaxing the resources and resents the
Conflicts are inevitable in the commercialization of the net. Simply,
the old common philosophy was opposed to commercial activity on
the net because the net existed solely for research purposes. The
new generations see the net as the center for many services and
operations, and thus will require heavy commercialization of the net.
Commercialization does promise to bring more advancement in
technology and more investment in the net. The old generation is
being forced to accept commercialization, and there has been little
outcry over the appearance of commercial WWW sites. More than
anything else, the old generation fears the intrusion of advertising,
but this may become commonplace as people join the net through
commercial providers and access commercial servers.
Beyond resource management and commercial use, the area of most
concern policy-wise and legally is that of computer crime. The older
generation were used to an anarchic Internet and some would like to
continue this experiment in the spirit of freedom, but new users are
demanding protections similar to those we enjoy in the physical
world. I believe that the need for security is justified, though,
because of the expanding and changing nature of the Internet. In
particular, breaking in for exploratory purposes will be frowned
upon. As our cyber-dealings gain importance and we begin to think
in terms of our cyber-personae as being extensions of ourselves into
the realm of cyberspace, privacy violations, data theft and other
crime will become more serious.
We will spend more time in cyberspace handling our business
correspondence, purchasing products, disseminating information
and interacting with other people. Through these activities we will
gain identities in cyberspace that will be as important to us as our
identities in the physical world. We will need to have easily available
forms of authentication of people’s identities, probably through a
digital signature. Will we need to ensure that people only have one
identity in cyberspace? This may seem logical at first, just as in the
physical world we are only one identity by the government for
purposes of the law and finances. However, I believe that imposing
too many restraints in cyberspace will fail, because there is a
tradition of working around the technical solutions of authority to
access greater freedom. Perhaps it will work in the business world,
because fair dealings involve authentication of identity.
The net will become increasingly supported by commercial services,
and many of the resources we now have free of charge will become
commercial because they cannot serve the increasing population
without funding. Advertisement will become a commonplace
occurrence on the net, though I hope that by convention it will
remain unobtrusive. I fear that as more information about ourselves
become available on-line, marketers will not resist the opportunity to
use this knowledge to their advantage by targeting us for specific
Cyberspace will be policed in the future. I envision an agreement
between nations regarding illegal actions occurring in cyberspace
on a international scope not unlike the current law of the sea. We
will see the most control occurring where people get their access to
the net. Walls will go up in cyberspace, information will be hidden
and restrained. We will still have hackers working their art on the
net, finding ways around our technological barriers, and they will
become more dangerous as we have more sensitive information on
the net. Crime stories on the net will be sensationalized because
there will still be fear and misunderstanding of cyberspace, and
because of the increasing importance of on-line security.
The diversity of the emerging cultures will segment into like-minded
communities. Information on the net is oriented towards serving
interests and not uniting diverse interests. Thus, I fear that the
division between the older generations and the new ones will
become institutionalized as each culture builds the part of
cyberspace in which they wish to exist, and there will be little
communication between the parts culturally.
As we progress into the information age, everyone will move into
cyberspace, just as most people have adopted telephones and
integrated them into their homes and businesses. Thus, the on-line
culture will slowly begin to duplicate the physical world in its
inequalities and segmentation, its diversity and opportunity.
Restrictions will go up and walls will be built in cyberspace. There
will be laws and regional police to enforce those laws and monitor
security in their regions.
We are undergoing a transition perhaps on the same scale as the
transition to literacy several hundred years ago. For many centuries
after writing began, this skill was left in the hands of the educated
elite – mainly the church servants. When literacy finally came to the
majority of the middle class and some of the lower class, the
Renaissance began. Similarly, we are witnessing the opening of a
new medium of information to the general populace, and we can only
guess at the outcome.
1. Brandt, Daniel. Cyberspace Wars: Microprocessing vs. Big
Brother. NameBase NewsLine, No. 2, July-August 1993.
2. Response from Canter&Siegel’s net access providers April
3. Dern, Daniel. “ Myth or Menace? A History of Business on
the Net.” Internet World July/August 1994 pp 96-98.
4. Elmer-Dewitt, Philip. “ Battle for the Soul of the Internet.”
Time Magazine, July 25, 1994 pp 50-56.
5. Hardy, Henry. History of the Net
6. Hirsh, Robert. AOL FTP Access Oct 13, 1994.
7. US State of MD gopher site
8. Meyer, Gordon. The Social Organization of the Computer
Underground. August 1989
9. Otto, Justin. post to alt. netcom. conspiracy Aug 9, 1994.
10. Townson, Patrick. MCI Employee Cearged TELECOM Digest
11. Taylor, Roger. “ Brave New Internet.” Internet World,
September 1994 pp 36-42.
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