It is generally agreed that the Internet broke into the public's consciousness in the United States in the mid-late 1990s, during the boom and subsequent bust of its economy, and well before the recovery and sustainable growth which has propelled it from 2001 to the date of this article in mid 2009. But which event was seminal? Perhaps there was no specific one, as "The Web" gained currency in various communities at different times. I arrived in Boston in late 1993, when technophiles of the area had access to The Internet through the first consumer ISP, "The World", run by a company called Software Tool & Die (world.std.com). Similar providers were available in the SF Bay area ("The Well") and New York (mindvox.phantom.com). New ISPs grew fast, and when PPP access came about, this made it possible for users to not only "connect to" the Internet, but to be a part of it. Yet still, it was a geek toy, growing fast, but not really in the interests of the vast population. Many of the non-technically oriented users had joined AOL and its competitors such as Compuserve and GENIE over the years, but each of these networks was separate and corporate controlled, and tightly so. It was not until these networks connected to the other networks, and sold connectivity in addition to content, that they became a part of the Internet. The largest of these companies was AOL. It had millions of users. AOL saw the Internet as a threat, but slowly realized which way the wind was blowing, and let its users connect to the Internet. Yet AOL charged much higher fees, because it had built all of this content for users to see, an investment that had to be repaid. In competition with MSN and the smaller ISPs, AOL was losing ground fast. When AOL "gave up" is when I can say that the last dragon was slain, and the Internet reigned supreme. This did not happen overnight. But it did happen in the second half of 1996: At the beginning of July of that year, AOL lowered their rates to a dollar an hour (actually $20/20 hours in a month). AOL's competitor MSN went to a flat-rate fee model in October, and AOL responded by moving to a flat-rate basis (of $19.95 per month) at the beginning of December. That was it - This was when AOL became an ISP, competing with other providers based upon its speed and availability. It's content was a bonus, but when the AOL was so overloaded that customers faced busy signals a good percentage of the time, they rose up in revolt. Access was king. Therefore, the day that access become AOLs 'bread and butter', and not content, was when the Internet became what it is in the public's mind. That day, when the world's largest online service became the world's largest ISP, is the best qualified as the seminal moment in Internet history. Therefore:
Bishop James Ussher dated the creation of the world to Sunday, the 23 October 4004 BC. I think and hope that I am more accurate in my dating of the Internet. This page is far from complete.