Online Service Rush To The Web

‘As of now, computer networks are still in their infancy,’ says Dr. Kleinrock, ‘But as they grow up and become more sophisticated, we will probably see the spread of computer utilities, which, like present electric and telephone utilities, will service individual homes and offices across the country.

Leonard Kleinrock, UCLA Press Release, 3 July 1969.

The major online services added millions of new users to the web in 1995, quickly making it a household word.

1995 was the breakout year for the Internet, when the connection of the large, online service populations to the Web made it known throughout the world. After a lot of technical and popular press covered use of the Web in university and corporate environments, millions of new home users obtained access to the web when Compuserve, American Online, and Prodigy provided gateways to the Internet.

This immigration of a user population that was larger than the entire Internet community up to that point had wonderfully positive effects on the vibrancy and growth of the medium, increasing the population, content, pace of technological development, and network bandwidth growth.

However, this sudden influx also brought with it an unprecedented scale to the Internet, and a democratic, popular voice to what had been a more scientific and engineering domain. This collision of cultures had painful effects that continued for several years in the newsgroups, which in some cases became almost unusable as they became overwhelmed by random and incomprehensible messages from new online users. IRC experienced a similar but lessor effect, since most online service users continued to use their service provider’s proprietary online chat services.

This democratization of the web had two significant effects:

  • Growth. It added millions of new web users, many now accessing the Internet from their homes, and showing it to their friends and neighbors. This greatly increased general knowledge of the Internet’s capabilities, and further spurred its growth.
  • Legitimization. It provided financial and establishment endorsement that legitimized the web, and by extension the Internet. Large amounts of capital from a wide variety of sources began to be invested in the Internet after the online services connected to it, further expanding its growth.