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Wiring the World
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Open for Business

During the first twenty years of operation, the Internet was a restricted club of scientists, engineers, and administrators. Official policy for the Internet forbid anyone from using the network for personal gain or anything that didn't have a job-related function. That didn't stop the real hackers, though. Online recreations were a common menace for the network, filling up capacity with starship combat and menacing wizards. Traffic for the Web, gopherspace, WAIS, and hytelnet was taking the majority of the Internet's backbone, and little of it was essential to government research.

Commerce was still taboo for everybody on the Internet. Hackers and bureaucrats were in complete agreement that any commercialization of the Internet would only lead to its demise. However, the power of the Net was no longer a secret, and the business world was beginning to wonder if there was a profit in the Internet.

Rep. Rick Boucher

However, U.S. law was standing in their way. Like the sooners crossing the borders of the Oklahoma territory, some business was sneaking across the network, but it was still illegal. U.S. Rep. Frederick Boucher, from the 9th district of Virginia, proposed to drop the restrictions and give the Internet over to the citizens. In 1992, Boucher proposed an amendment to the National Science Foundation Act of 1950 that "authorizes NSF to support the development and use of computer networks which may carry a substantial volume of traffic that does not conform to the current acceptable use policy."

Nobody had a real plan for making money on the Internet, but business dunked a toe to test the digital water and dove in. Soon everyone either had a Web site or was thinking of getting one. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Online Services (like Compuserve and AOL) were outgrowing their capacity with new members. Providing a connection to the Internet was a very profitable business, but online commerce wasn't as profitable as the predicted.

It took a few years before business on the Web began to show a profit. Online companies like Amazon.com and Excite.com were created just for the Internet, based on revolutionary business models. Entreprenuers had to look at business in a new way, and sometimes only the younger minds could grasp the new concepts. The Internet has forced us to rethink more than how we conduct business.

The Future of the Internetarrow


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