From the time
the National Science Foundation (NSF) assumed responsibility for the U. S. Internet
backbone, they anticipated a transition to commercial use. There were a few commercial
ventures in the 1980s, like the Clarinet News Service, CARL UnCover for scholarly
documents, and the Computists' Communique electronic newsletter, but the NSF acceptable
use policy and Internet culture were largely non-commercial. NSF is phasing out
their support, and commercialization is taking off -- you can even order pizza.
of the Internet, Communications of the ACM, November, 1994.
The spread of commercial messages on the Usenet has
made some newsgroups almost unusable.
Up until 1994, the Usenet was used only for non-commercial purposes under
the protection of NSFNET policy. That
all changed that year when two lawyers, Canter
and Siegel, sent an advertisement for an immigration service costing $99
to more than 6000 newsgroups at once, sharply increasing the noise to information
ratio on the the Usenet by several times. The Usenet population was enraged.
Many people posted messages describing how to obtain the same service for
free. Many more sent the two lawyers thousands of junk email to ensure that
any legitimate responses would be buried in protest messages, and loaded up
their Internet service provider with more than 200 megabytes of messages in
less than two days. The story had global impact, and was covered by all of
the major news organizations.
Today, some newsgroups are so saturated with advertisements they are almost
unusable. At the same time, the Usenet is a living space, and many groups
are still mostly ad free while others are created when necessary to start a
new group afresh. Establishment of an information only network has been
the primary impetus behind development of the Usenet
Resources. Wikipedia page on Cantor and Siegel is here.