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Communications of the ACM

Letters to the editor

Hippie Values Really Did Build the Internet

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The arrival in my physical mailbox of Communications (July 2018) with Moshe Y. Vardi's column "How the Hippies Destroyed the Internet" sent me to my computer in shock where I was relieved to find that nobody has actually yet destroyed the Internet. But if Vardi is unhappy with the abuse of advertising in the modern Internet, he should have included a headline something more like "How the Suits Destroyed the Internet." The things he detests are pathologies of capitalism, not of utopian hippie ideology. It was only with the rise of major corporate sites that such things began to happen. They did not occur at all in the early Internet, which consisted mainly of personal and nonprofit sites.

Funny he should trace Internet history back to Stewart Brand at the 1984 Hackers Conference. I [Lieberman] was actually there, and my view of that history is in a review of a biography of Brand I wrote for Science magazine.2 The hacker values of personal expression, sharing, and community that made the Internet so inviting and successful, came straight outta the counterculture.


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