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Practical Internet Groupware by Jon Udell

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Chapter 2. Public Online Communities

The Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) was zipping messages around the Internet long before the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) arrived on the scene. The NNTP-based Usenet that still thrives today predates the Web and is built on a very different foundation. Circa 1985 there were relatively few full-time Internet nodes. A store-and-forward technology, Unix-to-Unix Copy (UUCP), enabled intermittently connected nodes to access the Internet. The first incarnation of the Usenet was therefore, of necessity, a discussion system based on data replication. News servers would form pairwise connections, feed each other batches of articles, then disconnect. A complex topology of interconnections created the illusion of a network that was simultaneously accessible to far more nodes than could actually connect in real time to the Internet.

A decade later the World Wide Web catapulted the Internet into the mainstream. But it was a very different kind of Internet. Now end users, from their home PCs, for $20 a month, could access growing numbers of web sites in real time. A user in Tel Aviv could connect directly to a web site in Boston, or anywhere else, at any time. There was no need—and given the Web’s explosive growth, there would have been no practical way—to mirror the Web onto servers local to that user in Tel Aviv. It’s true that caching web servers mirror parts of the Web. But the Web never had to rely on replication to move data.

Meanwhile, ...

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