Today is the internet’s 40th birthday. Well, maybe: 2 September marks 40 years since a bunch of geeks gathered in a lab at UCLA and successfully sent some data between two primitive computers through a five-metre cable. Some will probably celebrate the date of 29 October the same year, when the US Department of Defence hooked up the first two nodes of the ARPANET and the Stanford Research Institute.

Regardless, September 1969 was a month that — unbeknownst to them — scientists were giving birth to a fledgling technology that would change the world as we know it. And we reckon it’s a milestone worth celebrating.

But just how do you wish the internet a happy birthday? By doing what the internet does best: whingeing about how shit it is.

The Associated Press’ Anick Jesdanun says the internet is having a “mid-life crisis”, speaking to one of the original UCLA researchers and other internet experts about how the original idealism of the net has been recently eroded in the face of spam, piracy and the underlying pursuit of money by all the major players.

Masahble’s Stan Schroeder has a similar take, arguing that issues of censorship, copyright and net neutrality online are further dividing the globe into haves and have-nots: while some have access to a free and open world of ideas and increased connectivity, others are being increasingly cut off from it.

In China, the country where the iPhone is made, people are still waiting to be able to buy an iPhone. When they do, they won’t be able to access the same websites; they won’t get the same search results and various online services will behave differently or won’t work at all.

But even the freedom-loving United States is grappling with these issues, with the issue of net neutrality making big news as ISPs and telcos battle for the opportunity to choose what sites their users have access to, and how fast they can access them. A weekend editorial in the New York Times went so far as to call on President Obama to pass a Bill currently before Congress that enshrines the neutrality of the net in law.

And at home, the ongoing fiasco that is Stephen Conroy’s internet filter continues to make headlines, with renewed attacks coming from the Federal Opposition today, labeling the program a “waste of money” and a “farce”.

It’s not all bitching and moaning, though; National Geographic has this lovely little doco on the history of the internet:

And The Guardian is celebrating by asking readers to nominate their own personal online highlights from the past 40 years, in an attempt to create “a history of the internet, by the internet.”

Crikey attempted a bit of crowd sourcing ourselves on the subject via Twitter, with most respondents giving the same hilariously original answer: “free porn”.

So raise your glasses to four decades of free and open access to tits and arse: if Conroy, telcos and despots around the world get their way, it may not be around for much longer.

And so say all of us.

Peter Fray

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