The Internet Is All About Joiners

Something has been bothering me for a few days now.  A friend of mine posted something about being on Facebook for 5 years now and how time flies.  I thought to myself about how I totally agreed.  I was thinking how I couldn’t believe that Isaac is almost 8 years old now or that I’ve been married for 12 years now.

However, someone replied about how fascinating it is that people are still joining Facebook and how they all think it is novel and amazing.  Now, I’ve had my fair share of being called a poseur for coming to some fad or another too late, but when it comes to the internet, you don’t get too many earlier adopters than me.  I was all set to reply with something along the lines of, “Listen noob, I’ve been using the internet since you were in diapers.”  However, I’d be seriously dating myself, so I figured I should act my age.

There is a point to be made here though.  I got my first internet email address in 1988.  Actually, it was BITNET back then, but the idea was the same. I was able to send email to my friends at other universities and even chat using Relay (which later became IRC) and we had access the Usenet BBS.  Later we eventually got Archie and Veronica(not the comic book characters).  Back then, there were so few people on the internet that it was actually big news when another university came online.  People wrote volumes and volumes of help documents (called FAQs) just to help the new users get up to speed quicker.  There was a real sense of welcoming the new users.

The first time I sensed a backlash was when PPP became prevalent around 1993 or 1994.  All of a sudden, people could access the internet directly from their GUI desktops instead of having to use all of the esoteric commands on shell accounts.Suddenly, it seemed like the population on the internet doubled over night and most of the new users had no idea how things worked.  Their GUIs were shielding them from all of the technology underneath, but they were also keeping them from learning the ins and outs.  This was probably the first time I came across the term “newbie”.  There’s only so many times one can answer the same question over and over before it gets old.  A lot of us that used to be helpful guides were becoming rude out of frustration. 

But PPP really was easier and the conversations really were getting better.  I jumped on the PPP bandwagon right away, but there were others that stuck to their shell accounts and got nastier and nastier.  I suspect that a small few of them are still pecking away at their shell accounts, but I’m sure most of them came around and joined all of the “newbies”.

The next time things got nasty was when AOL got internet access.  Again, it seemed as though the population on the internet doubled over night and again it seemed as though all of the new users were completely clueless. By this time, the WWW was ubiquitous and again the conversations were getting better and the content was getting more interesting.  Don’t forget, AOL virtually introduced instant messaging to the internet, and for the first time one was able to send email to people without a degree in computer science; even my parents got email.

Anyway, my point is that there is no end to the new people that will come to the internet, but as the population grows, so does the usefulness.  Face it, social networks wouldn’t be half as interesting if there weren’t millions of people using them.  I know I for one am glad that I’m not still trying to remember all of the command line options to IRC and ZModem.

So, the next time someone remarks about how novel something on the internet is, remember that you’re not the first to be in that situation and he or she’s not the last to one marvel at it.  And be glad, because that new user means that the internet is growing and will inevitably be even more interesting and useful in the future.  Oh, and don’t be a troll.