Wednesday, August 17, 2005

25 Years Online in the Netherlands: A Compact History in 25 Instalments

Instalment 17: Internet arrives in the Netherlands

The academic world in the Netherlands was involved in the ARPANet quite early. In 1982 the Dutch academic world got linked to the European Unix Network (EUNet), the European academic network. To this end NLnet was founded with Dr Ted Lindgreen as it first director. NLnet was set up by the Dutch CWI, the institute for mathematics, the University of Amsterdam and the Dutch Unix Users Group (NLUUG).

In the beginning of the eighties it was struggling in order to set up a computer to computer connection by telephone

In April 25, 1986 the country domain .nl was recognised and Mr Piet Beertema of the CWI became the administrator, who gave out the e-mail addresses. The administration of domain names was taken over by a foundation, the Stichting Internet Domeinregistratie Nederland (SIDN), in 1997. The speed of the .nl domain registration went very fast: 100.000 domains in 1999, 500,000 domain in 2000 and 1 million by 2003.

Although domain names were given out, this did not mean that there was a physical link to the NSFNet. The much wanted Internet Connected Status was recognised in an e-mail of two lines, sent by Steve Wolff, the boss of NSFNet, on November 17, 1988. This mail marked for the Netherlands the start of the Internet network.

In the same year the newly founded foundation SURF (Samenwerkende Universitaire Rekencentrum Faciliteiten) started to operate the academic network SURFNet. By 1992 SURFNet operators were convinced that they should start to work on a TCP/IP network, but they still had to fight shareholders like PTT Telecom who were still betting on the EC supported OSI 7 layers standard.

A map of the Netherlands, indicating access points and services in 1994 (collection Jak Boumans)

In 1989 NLnet started to offer companies local dial-in facilities for Internet for 100 Dutch guilders (45 euro), but it also offered subscriptions to hobby computer users. This was the start of Internet in the Netherlands. Unhappy with the local dial-in facilities of PTT Telecom NLnet started to look for a network and found this in the network of the NS, the national railway company.

Homepage of XS4ALL

But it took till 1993 before Internet started to really penetrate. From May 1, 1993 NLnet got competition from the foundation XS4ALL. This service was run by people around the magazine Hack-Tic such as the editor Rop Gongrijp. Customers came in droves and PTT Telecom could not believe the amount of telephone lines that XS4ALL needed.

The Euronet poster (collection Jak Boumans)

NLnet and XS4ALL did not do any marketing of their service. But this changed when EURONET*INTERNET came onto the market in 1994. This new company did not wait for customers to apply for a dial-up connections, but they started to market and advertised their service. One morning, the Amsterdam people woke up and saw a poster of a monkey with its tail in the e-mail AT sign; the indelible sign of the Internet era had been imprinted.

No comments: