/ Net Neutrality

In Memoriam

From the Mid-90s through the early 2000s my home possessed two landlines.

This peculiar arrangement spawned by my grandma, an avid doll collector, selling her wares on the rising second hand market, Ebay, and the fact that my mother was a person in her mid 20s when this began. Rather than attempt to compete for telecom resources my mother had a second phone line installed.

One uneventful afternoon my friend calls me on my grandma's line. I recall the excitement in his voice, "Jer, I found a website that can show you anything you want."

I booted up the computer and waited for Netscape to finish executing the fairies that lived in my modem.

In the moment, I didn't comprehend exactly what he meant. Until that point my web experience had been mediated by word of mouth recommendation for links or my friends and I typing in: [word or phrase].com. Incidentally, hummers.com in the early 2000s did not direct you to a site about the ostentatious gas guzzler. I'm currently on a public wifi and hesitate to see where it directs you to today.

"Type in Google.com," he said. I don't remember if I had to clarify the spelling on that, but I followed his instructions. The first search I ever entered escapes me, but I do remember the wonder it filled me with after the results rendered. Suddenly this labrythine system of websites became navigable. In lieu of blind guesses we were gifted a compass.

A few years later that same friend and I found a resource on batch scripts and spent the evening connecting our desktops over a LAN and seeing who could crash the other's computer (the game, we discovered, was tiltled in the favor of whoever had the better processor and more RAM). It was stupid, harmless fun that we wouldn't have discovered if not for the open web.

In high school I found myself on this god-awful free-to-play MMO, Tales of Pirates. This game ran single instances of boss battles and acquiring quests items. The first quest involved fetching a pearl from a giant clam. Probably about 50 other players were huddled around this clam and clicking madly every 15 minutes to try and get the lone pearl. Considering that all the players that I chatted with were teenage boys, I think that was a desginer level metaphor.

While standing as the instances refreshed I took to conversing with another person in the public. The sent me their myspace account. We friended each other and have been chatting ever since. He became one of my closest friends and now we're designing an RPG together.

These are some of my fondest memories of the Internet. They were enabled by treating content neutrally and allowing end-users to do as they pleased without interference.

Image courtesy of panumas nikhomkhai