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Net History in Brief

(First written and posted summer of 1989, some additions since then)

Here's a list of topics for a history of the net. Not all these are in the right order. I haven't included everything here. If you know an event that's not super-specific to a group, and you think was of prominent importance to the structure of the net, MAIL that to me.

  • The human-nets digest on the arpanet (and sf-lovers)
  • Plato and CBBS
  • The uucp program
  • Notesfiles at U of Ill.
  • Compuserve and The Source
  • The A-news system (Bellovin, Truscott of Duke)
  • Usenix 1980, Duke invites sites to join usenet.
  • Bell labs 'research' creates first cross country links
  • The first newsgroups
    • "NET." groups (uppercase)
    • "fa" groups
    • "net." groups (renamed)
    • The mistake of net.general
    • First nontech groups, net.jokes, net.rumor
  • Creating groups by typo or whim - net.joke, net.bizarre, net.flame, net.gdead, net.wobegon and others
  • Net goes international (Canada) (Spencer, Templeton)
  • The B news software (Horton, Glickman)
  • Pathalias software (Bellovin)
  • Decvax and Bill Shannon's contribution
  • Imminent death of net predicted
  • Chain letters over the net.
  • AT&T's contribution (allegra, ihnp4 etc.)
  • Widespread net growth and international growth
  • Forged article critical of Unix (1981)
  • K News (proposal)
  • Domain style naming (Postel et al)
  • The net.jokes.q creation and deletion
  • Formation of the "Backbone"
  • net.women.only experiment
  • Arpa mailing lists merge with usenet groups. (Erik Fair & UCB)
  • Subgroups to divert traffic: net.startrek, net.abortion, source code discussion
  • Imminent death of net predicted
  • Hoaxes etc. (kremvax, walldrug) -- Landon Noll
  • The re-emergence of mailing lists
  • UUCP Map project (Horton et al)
  • net.columbia and naming debates
  • The emergence of voting for creating newsgroups
  • Notesfiles users join in with USENET.
  • RN & Kill files (Wall)
  • News batching and compression
  • Checkgroups messages (Spafford)
  • THe problems with the old releases of B news
  • Line Eater Bug
  • Moderated newsgroups:
    • mod.announce
    • mod.newprod and commercial information on the net
  • netnews software implemented on VM (IBM Mainframes)
  • Stargate (Weinstein)
  • NSA Baiting in messages
  • Imminent death of net predicted
  • Big Net personal fights
    • some result in lawsuit threats (Mark Ethan Smith)
    • some result in people being bounced temporarily from the net (Maroney)
    • some result in people being removed permanently.
  • The great renaming (Adams, Von Rospach, et al)
  • The merging of moderated groups into the hierarchy.
  • The decline in propagation for groups outside of "comp" and "news"
  • Creation of rec.humor.funny (first ultra-moderated non-mailing-list) (Templeton)
  • Battle over the expiry dates on rec.mag.otherrealms. (Von Rospach)
  • The attempt to form comp.protocols.tcp-ip.eniac. (Webber)
  • Monthly postings, newuser group, commonly asked questions.
  • Imminent death of net predicted
  • The misnaming of soc.culture.china -> 30 day voting time.
  • Attempt to remove talk.bizarre from the net for the "VOLUME,VOLUME,VOLUME" game.
  • "jj@portal" (Rob Noha) begs for money on the net.
  • General problems with Portal, and the issue of pay-for-access net sites.
  • Attempts to form groups for drugs and sex.
  • Creation of the "alt" hierarchy. (Gilmore, Reid, Gordon Moffett)
  • UUCP project and .US domain. (Gilmore, Horton)
  • Arbitron news statistics (Reid)
  • Imminent death of net predicted
  • Telebit releases the Trailblazer.
  • UUNET arrives (Adams) (Seismo fades)
  • Internet & TCP/IP begins to pervade the net. The backbone begins to fade. (Later the backbone mailing list even goes)
  • NNTP causes news to propagate too fast.
  • PC-Pursuit (Telnet) flat rate off-peak modem calls
  • Reliable links to Europe
  • Crazy creation of groups in the alt hierarchy. (Weiner)
  • alt.gourmand kept rather than being renamed. (Reid)
  • AT&T decides not to forward mail.
  • "biz" and "inet" hierarchies. "Gnu" hierarcy.
  • Imminent death of net predicted
  • violates voting rules
  • AT&T complains about source code on Killer, shuts it off temporarily(?)
  • goes to 8 megs/month, gets moderated in first (and only) moderator election. (Dhesi)
  • The forming of comp.society.women (proposed as comp.women) (Roberts)
  • Oct/88 Internet Worm (perhipheral to usenet)
  • Nov/88 The battle over rec.humor.funny (Templeton, Richmond)
  • C News (Spencer, Collyer)
  • NN (actually started earlier)
  • B News 3.0 (Raymond)
  • alt.fusion, sci.physics.fusion
  • More rec.humor.funny -- Jokebook, Expansion to GEnie, Denninger's vote
  • Aquaria alt, rec, sci (sci.skeptic?)
  • Battles about naming, Australian voting etc.
  • shareware on usenet
  • flow mapping (Reid)
  • bitnet merging into USENET, more newsreaders etc.
  • more moderator copyright (telecom,
  • June 89/ClariNet (the first dot-com)
  • In Moderation Network (Goodfellow)
  • Posting of this history coins phrase, "imminent death of net predicted."
  • More forgery
  •, and "Cindy's Torment" -- cutoff at U of T, etc.
  • AlterNet, NYSERNET/PSI, NSFNet, FARRnet
  • Confiscation of USENET sites involved with phrack.
  • EUNet and its policies (pay for feed, limit feed, not all groups)
  • rec.arts.erotica (which later became dormant)
  • Alt explosion, more alt bannings, rise of
  • trial newsgroups
  • USENET over 10 megs/day
  • BIFF and further use of forgery, multiple biffs, serious forgery
  • Talk of a secure net
  • becomes #1 read USENET group (falls back to #2 one month later)
  • comp.unix.sco -- debate over corporations and the net (yet again)
  • June 90/"Internet Porno Ring"/Houston Chronicle
  • TRN threaded version of RN newsreader
  • Dynamic usenet feeding
  • Founding of EFF
  • ANS & More on commercialization of the internet
  • Newsgroup reorganizations (mac, unix, ibm)
  • Mar 91/misc.activism.general, political groups
  • Mar 91/C news cracks down on headers
  • May 91/AT&T reader gets fired for posting confidential info to comp.dcom.telecom
  • A real kremvax
  • Usenet over 20 megs/day
  • May 91/Trial hierarchy in trouble
  • Aug 91/sf-lovers reorg fails, claims of vote interference, counter campaigning
  • Aug 91/Question on large (one megabyte) articles and their validity.
  • Aug 91/Net has small role in Soviet Coup
  • Sep 91/Trial hierarchy change vote
  • news.answers group
  • More software prloliferates -- trn, trumpet for PCs, bbs gateways.
  • Jan/92 Internet commercializations battles, ANS vs. others
  • Early92 Sterling offers net archives via CD Rom, NetGems
  • Jun/92 banned UManitoba, elsewhere
  • Jul/92 Globe and mail does long feature on
  • Jun/92 Somebody posts hundreds of bogus cancels, anything crossposted.
  • Jul/92 Copyright model of USENET battle flares again
  • Oct/92 Somebody e-mails almost every usenet poster
  • Nov/92 Postings of gifs of children, FBI investigation at Cornell
  • Mar/92 Steve Jackson BBS case against secret service won.
  • Mar/92 General anonymous posting server for all groups
  • Mar/92 Auto cancel for anon postings AARM (Depew), buggy software
  • Dec/92 Attempt to move into mainstream fails resoundingly [Brader]
  • Apr/93 Gene Spafford withdraws from many active years on the net
  • ??/93 War with moderator of comp.dcom.telecom group over moderation, new
  • group defeated, then wins on appeal.
  • Usenet over 100 megs/day, over 51% of it is ALT
  • Jan/94 Christ is coming -- posted to every newsgroup (first spam)
  • Apr/94 Student at MIT runs alleged pirate BBS, charged with conspiracy
  • Mid/94 The World Wide Web starts to grow as internet browsing application
  • Apr/94 Canter and Siegel post immigration ad solicitation to every newsgroup
  • May/94 Media continues to write a lot about the net.
  • Aug/94 US hierarchy proposed and stamped on
  • Nov/94 Canter and Siegel publish book on how to guerilla market on the net
  • Dec/94 Microsoft buys Catholic Church hoax gets attention of real world
  • Dec/94 Publishers of NetChat robo-post to market their book.
  • Jan/95 Web readers like netscape become decent newsreaders
  • Apr/95 News.admin is reorganized
  • Apr/95 Usenet is over 200 megs/day

This only touches some groups. Other groups all have their histories of battles, common questions, hoaxes, problem users and attempts to split the group. Groups that probably deserve a section are:

  • sf-lovers (with drwho and startrek)
  • women
  • men
  • sources (of various sorts)
  • binaries (of various sorts)
  • unix groups
  • music.misc
  • politics, philosophy and religion
  • .. and many others ..
  • news.*

A history of the net should also have chapters on...

  • Groups that never made it
  • UUPC, Xenix and the arrival of small machines
  • Acroynyms, Culture and smileys
  • Usenix and USENET