1 The Year September Never Ended

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Seidenberg gives some more detail, sourced from DeLaney:

The first recorded outbreak of this was Warren Burstein saying "It's *always* September, *somewhere* on the net" in response to a particularly Clueless outburst from Delphi.com on alt.folklore.urban, in fall 1993.

September was a time when large numbers of newcomers had to be assimilated into the existing Net culture, much like a small college town each year has to put up with a huge influx of rowdy kids who keep stopping you on the street to ask where everything is and clogging all the bookstores. MAKE MONEY FAST postings (see chapter 2) are like those chain letters you probably remember from high school; seeing them pop up regularly once a year and having to explain why they're (a) illegal and (b) irritating is a repetitive experience easily understood by anyone who's had more than one child.

"Delphi.com" refers to Delphi, which in early 1993 became the first national commercial online service to open a gateway to the wider Internet through which its members could participate. At the time, Delphi, which would be bought up by international media mogul Rupert Murdoch toward the end of that year and sold back to its first owners in 1997, had about 100,000 subscribers, small compared to the annual intake of freshmen issued with accounts by their universities, and a drop in the bucket compared to the 1.2 million members CompuServe had at the time, or Prodigy's 2 million.

None of those, though, is the service most hated by the Net. That honor is reserved for America Online (AOL), which as the number-three service in 1994 unleashed its one million users onto the Net in what was then the largest single block of new users the Net had ever been asked to absorb. The service's reputation still bears the scars out on the wider Net, where sporting an email address ending in aol.com is an instant sign that you're probably too stupid to be taken seriously (or you'd find a better service provider).

But saying that raises a different problem: it makes the Net sound like one seamless organism that's just Out There somehow--like television or radio--that you tap into all at once, like the first time you hook up a CB radio and discover that all those cars around you have been talking to each other. In fact, "the Net" is no more a cohesive whole than what we call "real life," with its streets and libraries, bars and clubs, companies and subcultures. For one thing, the Internet itself, technologically speaking, is not a single entity; it is the network that interlinks other networks, large and small. Cornell University's campus network, CompuServe, San Francisco's 10,000-member conferencing system the WELL,[10] t h e 16,000-member conferencing system CIX, AOL, and the White House all use the Internet to connect to each other, even though internally their own systems are only open to their own members. Similarly, each of the many ways--Usenet, IRC, the W o r l d - Wide Web--of using the Internet as a communications medium is a separate entity with its own cultural norms and in-jokes. The newest of these, the Web, is the most immediately understandable to commercial interests looking to exploit the Net. Like the media that businesses understand, such as T V, radio, or publishing, the Web offers companies a way of displaying information about themselves and their products in a controlled way. It is also appealing to consumers because it's a simple way of tying together old Internet facilities, such as FTP (for file transfer protocol, a facility that allows you to retrieve files from the Net equivalent, known as FTP s i t e s , of public libraries), and new ones, such as live audio and video, into a single i n t e rface.

But the Web, appealing and convenient though it is, is not the reason the Net is spoken of with such great reverence by old-time Netheads.

"There is such a thing as net.culture," said John Perry Barlow earnestly in the spring of 1996. "There is such a thing as net.religion."[11] Barlow is


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