Demise of net knowledge

THEN it was the ultimate tool of knowledge
TIME:  The Internet evolved from a computer system built 25 years ago by the Defense Department to enable academic and military researchers ... built up by people who lived and breathed the hacker ethic -- students at Berkeley and M.I.T., researchers at AT&T Bell Laboratories, computer designers at companies such as Apple and Sun Microsystems. "If there is a soul of the Internet, it is in that community," The scientists who were given free Internet access quickly discovered that the network was good for more than official business. They used it to send each other private messages (E-mail) and to post news and information on public electronic bulletin boards (known as Usenet newsgroups).

Now it is a tool for people to ...withdraw within their walled communities and never venture again into the Internet's public spaces. It's a process similar to the one that created the suburbs and replaced the great cities with shopping malls and urban sprawl. The magic of the Net is that it thrusts people together in a strange new world, one in which they get to rub virtual shoulders with characters they might otherwise never meet. The challenge for the citizens of cyberspace -- as the battles to control the Internet are joined and waged -- will be to carve out safe, pleasant places to work, play and raise their kids without losing touch with the freewheeling, untamable soul that attracted them to the Net in the first place.