This is a cross-cultural, critical history of social life on the Internet. It captures technical, cultural, and political events that influenced the evolution of computer-assisted person-to-person communication via the net. Acknowledging the role of grassroots movements, this history does not solely focus on mainstream culture with all its mergers, acquisitions, sales and markets, and the (mostly male) geeks, engineers, scientists, and garage entrepreneurs who implemented their dreams in hardware and software. It does trace the changing nature of labor and typologies of those who create value online as much as it searches for changing approaches toward control, privacy, and intellectual property. This history shows strategies for direct social change based on the technologies and practices, which already exist.
Emphasizing the role of women whenever possible, this history shows that the interests of those who used the Net as social platform shaped it in the interplay of military, scientific, entrepreneurial, activist, artistic, and altruistic agendas. The evolution of the Social Web was driven by fear, desire (to be with others), and fandom. By no means exclusively an American story, it shows instances in which users succeeded when striving for open access, jointly negotiating with corporate platform-providers.