the future of the internet
January 4, 1994

I was a BBS sysop (system administrator) in the late 80's/early 90's, and my system was connected to a global network which allowed people to exchange messages and files... and that network was called FidoNet. But in August 1993, I obtained dialup access to the internet, and got a glimpse of the future. I proceeded to rave about "Internet" in R55_SYSOP, the local FidoNet sysop's conference (newsgroup), as below (I've added the bolding). In the first section, aside from dissing Fido, I note that there can only be one internet, and foreshadow broadband, Everquest/WoW etc, and Skype.

Date: Tue 4 Jan 94 11:01
By: Stuart Udall
To: Simon Shaw
Re: Internet

 SS> I don't think we can continue on the same track for much longer.
 SS> Already more people are moving to internet.

Mmm.  Why do the same thing with lower quality tools, basically.  Internet
seems to do everything FidoNet does, but it does it better!  I guess for the
more obscure machines Internet is still not viable, but for the average PC
there is no problem.  And with the advent of Linux and other cheap unixes...
running an "internet bbs", or connecting directly to internet hosts, is easy.


FidoNet aspires to internet, but cannot compete, the amateur factor keeps
budgets relatively low .. so while internet has no problem moving megs of data
a minute, FidoNet bitches everytime someone sends a netmail over 10k... and
turnaround is measured in DAYS...

Have a look in FidoNews, every editor has provided an Internet address to send
to, they have a special Internet/FidoNet help node, and almost every article
has an Internet address next to the author's name.  How often is it that the
shareware you just used says "email to xxx@yyy.zzz" instead of "email to x:y/

And what does Fido do for kicks now anyway... suck files direct from binary
newsgroups and send them via its file transport system... suck messages
directly from newsgroups and gate them into FidoNet conferences.

 > I'm not saying that BBS's should all close up shop, we'll always have
 > our place,

There is a distinction here, I think BBSs will continue, but they'll just be
connected to the internet instead.  In the end there can only ever really be
one network.  I think everyone is realising that Internet is it, even people in
the newsgroups talking about the "commercialisation and privatisation" of
internet (along with concerns about s/n ratios) mention ["the old"] UseNet,
ARPAnet, JANET, AARNet ... but they all defer to the name 'internet' ... when
talking about the collective of all these networks.

And it really is impressive when you see a new file format, .dl or something
and the author is there, you ask him about it and while you're still online the
viewer is emailed to you and he says hi from Canada.  Who knows what will
happen when ISDN replaces the PSTN.  Real-time global video-conferencing from
your own home?  100,000-player Doom?  The mind boggles.


 * Origin: optimised for style (3:690/196)

January 20, 1994: more about the Internet in R55_SYSOP. Here I note the usefulness of the "search" function (Yahoo and Google were not yet invented, however), and the internet's coming ubiquity, and commence my search for an "internet client" (now known as a "web browser").

Date: Thu 20 Jan 94  4:57
By: Stuart Udall
To: Colin Wheat
Re: Internet
 >  SU>> Internet seems to do everything FidoNet does

 > Both Stuart's and Simon's comments on this point were from the
 > 'sysops' perspective, IMV, so that both the user's perspective and
 > the '(BBS)system operator hobby' functions were ignored.

Yep.  There's not really room for running your own system, unless you want to
either set it up for yourself, or start a rival site.  Substantial hardware
investment required in this case.


When you say from a sysops perspective, I agree in that the tools for doing
bbs-like things are all there and it's all pretty reliable.  But it's also from
a user's perspective.. there is so much more of everything... and it is much
more accessible!  No more calling the US for files, just get some mail server
to do it and you don't even need to log onto the US site directly.  Everything
is done through email.  And you can search a database for files and their


Internet is "what's after" FidoNet.

 > Looking from the user's point of view, there's much value in the
 > traditional 'fidonet technology' BBS function. Most would have little
 > to no hope of handling the traditional internet interface, let alone
 > using it for anything worthwhile.

Agreed.  In terms of usability internet sucks.  But it's not really the
internet, it's the interface.  Like I'm sure most X-clients don't need to worry
about the command prompt any more than Windows users do. In a technical sense,
internet itself is far superior.

 > Communications experts in the US have suggested that BBS's may well
 > form the front line for the developing 'world net'

BBS-style perhaps.  Unless the systems are linked together, they aren't part of
the net, and I can't see Internet losing its role, and lead, in this area.

 > this light, Fidonet and the worldwide BBS community in general may
 > well simply adopt the internet

Yes, I had wondered about running FidoNet on top of the Internet.  There's no
reason why it couldn't happen, but one must wonder what is the point. Internet
already has everything FidoNet has, except its power heirarchy of course.

More software is needed before FidoNet is dead, though.  Clean, reliable tools
are needed to link dialup BBSs with dialup internet sites.  And a BBS-style
package that can present the Internet to the end-user in pull-down menus and
context-sensitive help and all that stuff.  Perhaps a 'client' on the dialup
user's system, so the user can use the Internet in Windows.

 > Granted the Internet
 > has it's own set of high value services to offer, but there's little
 > hope of direct novice access

Surely you jest, I knew _nothing_ about unix or the Internet when I started.  I
still know very little.  Anyone can get an account on Internet 'nowadays'.

 > not that that has ever been the intent.

The original intent of the Internet is long gone.  Now, it just 'is'.


 > changing conditions. As _the_ major novice access point to global
 > communications, BBS's and Fidonet have much to look forward to.

I don't think BBS systems will die.  If I said that earlier, I take it back, I
was wrong.  They will flourish, but they will be connected to the Internet
somehow, and FidoNet will be no more.  It will be redundant.  Sure some people
might continue to run Binkley and exchange messages in their little cliques,
but they can do that on the Internet, do it faster, more reliably, do it with
other people everywhere, and pay a local call fee. Plus get files from anywhere
in 24 hours or less.  FidoNet is like a 5.25" diskette: good, once.

The tools aren't here now, but the writing is most definitely on the wall.


 * Origin: optimised for style (3:690/196)

February 8, 1994: more about the Internet in R55_SYSOP. Here, I am still searchin' for a "nice GUI-based frontend" (web browser) ... it would be another year before I installed Netscape. And two months after that, I started this website.

Date: Tue 8 Feb 94  3:39
By: Stuart Udall
To: Ted Russ
Re: the future

 >     As I said - sysops need to decide now if they want the
 > established order to be at the forefront, or if they want a new breed
 > (which may not be to our liking) of commercial system to push us out

Yes.  It's going to be interesting to see what Internet does.  It has the
potential to eliminate FidoNet, BBS's and Sysops altogether.  Its power is
cloaked in a Unix command prompt, if it becomes easy for an end user to connect
to the Internet, ie when a nice GUI-based frontend appears, there may not be a
future for us [sysops] at all.