There once was a DARPA defense project to create a decentralized communications network that had very few points of weakness and therefore could survive a nuclear attack. ARPAnet.
Academia joined on. The network grew, proved it was functional. Project a success, network renamed The Internet, as in “a network of networks”. All was well.
Electronic mail — email — and remote login to connected mainframes — telnet — was born. Researchers could share work, loan computer time, and join each other’s projects without traveling.
Realtime communications between users on the same system had existed — chat — but eventually a method to share and broadcast these chat messages between users on physically separate but connected systems came into being: Internet Relay Chat, or IRC. The network grew more vivacious.
File servers were set up to archive and share any file of interest: File Transfer Protocol, or FTP. A user could upload a picture or download a program.
Indexes were created to help users search these file and message archives: Archie and Gopher. The future was handy.
People could mail messages to special addresses to be publicly posted into groups based on common interests: Usenet. Anybody could come along and read these messages, then post a reply if they felt so inclined. Like posting a note on an office message board.
A few major businesses and a lot more schools joined the Internet. Those students graduated and formed a class of businesses called Internet Service Providers to allow themselves, and their customers, to retain access to the network.
In the early 90’s, a researcher at a European particle physics lab, CERN, built the greatest killer app of them all: The World Wide Web. Hypertext had hit the mainstream. Anyone could publish a document and link it to other documents anywhere else, giving rise to the “spiderweb” of threads between documents. The possibilities multiplied.
Late 90’s, the Internet, with the bright light of the WWW, began to attract those with lots of money to invest like moths to a porch light. New money was born, “DotComs” flourished, stock speculators placed bets. The Web reached critical mass. Soon, anything and everything you’d want began showing up on the Internet; things previously inaccessible found their way online for either profit or community. A new world dawned.
The rise of journaling and weblogs gave new voice to millions who discovered the richness and depth of long-form commentary. Every person could have a say, each one an audience. The banquet tables were filled with plenty of food for thought for everybody.
Then along came Facebook and those of its ilk, and all was forgotten about the rest of the Internet. All attention became centralized; where once was many voices in delightful cacophony became a few choirs singing nursery rhymes amongst themselves. The vast mindshare all across the net quickly funneled into one point of weakness. An attack on this would be devastating, and like subway riders in a power outage, all would be lost in the dark.