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A Guide to Early 2000's Internet Piracy

:Cokebaka: This E-Zine was written by 2600 hacker quarterly summer 2004 by b-bstf
[email protected] :Cokebaka:
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I've written this article after reading a few letter which show that some readers seem to know little about piracy on the Internet. I don't know everything about piracy on the net, but I would go so far to say that I know a fair bit about it.


First off, piracy isn't just a few guys who work at cinemas and software stores taking the odd film or game home and sharing it on their home FTP servers or KaZaA.

Piracy on the Internet, or "the warez scene" (as those into it like to call it) is surprisingly organized. Pirated software/games/movies/ anything are called warez and will referred to as that from now on.

The Piracy "Food Chain"

Top

Warez/Release Groups – People who release the warez to the warez community. Often linked with Site Traders.
Site Traders – People who trade the releases from the above groups on fast servers.
FXP Boards – Skript Kiddies who scan/hack/fill vulnerable computers with warez.
IRC Kiddies – Users of IRC (Internet Relay Chat) who download from "XDCC Bots" or "Fserves."
KaZaA Kiddies – Users of KaZaA and other p2p (peer to peer) programs.

We'll start at the bottom.

KaZaA Kiddies At the bottom of the piracy food chain we have the KaZaA Kiddies. There appear to be two groups of these KaZaA Kiddies. First, the 13 year old kids with broadband downloading the odd mp3 here and there because they can't afford outrageously overpriced CDs from stores.

Harmless kids, costing no one any real money, pursuing their musical interest. Also, these are the people being labeled "pirates." These are the ones "Killing the Music Indus- try." These are the ones who are being sued by the RIAA for thousands of dollars. Sigh.

Second are the older, p2p veterans who use other p2p networks (Gnutella, BitTorrent, EMule) and programs as well as KaZaA. In ad- dition to using p2p for music the may also download games, programs, movies, etc.

IRC Kiddies
Not far up from KaZaA Kiddies we have the people who go to IRC for their warez fix. These folks can be more knowledgeable about computers and the Internet but tend to be just as irritating as the KaZaA Kiddies. Warez Channels are often run by people who have ac- cess to a fair amount of pirated material (more about them later). There are generally two types of these Warez Channels:

Fserve Chans.
These can often be run by the same KaZaA or IRC kiddies. They don't really have a reason to run them; they just like to feel important. They mainly use the mIRC client's File Server function and some "133t skript" to share their warez direct from their hard drives.

XDCC Chans. These are usually run by people into FXP Boards and Sitetrading. They have access to fast, new warez. They "employ" people to "hack" into computers with fast Internet connections and install XDCC Clients (usually iroffer – www.iroffer.org) which are used to share out pirated goods.


From what I've seen, the people running these channels must primarily do it because they like to have power over a lot of people (being a chan op), but also they will often be given free shell accounts to run BNCs, Eggdrops, etc. by shell companies in exchange for an advert in the topic of the channel.

IRC Kiddies can be found on EFnet (irc.efnet.net) or Rizon (irc.rizon.net). Other servers and channels can be found through www.packetnews.org.

FXP Boards
FXP is the File eXchange Protocol. It isn't an actual protocol, just a method of transfer making use of a vulnerability in FTP. It allows the transfer of files between two FTP servers. Rather than client to server, the transfer becomes server to server. FXP usually allows faster transfer speeds although it is generally not enabled on commercial servers as it is also a vulnerability known as the "FTP Bounce Attack."

The Boards. FXP Boards usually run Vbulletin (from software from www.vbulletin.org) and its members consist of Scanners, Hackers, and Fillers. There are also usually a few odd members such as Graphics People or Administrators but they don't do much.

The Scanner. The Scanner's job is to scan IP ranges where fast Internet connection are known to lie (usually university, etc.) for computers with remote-root vulnerabilities. We're talking brute forcing MS SQL and Netbios passwords, scanning for servers with the IIS Unicode bug (yes that three-year-old one).

Oh yes, FXP Boards are where the lowest of the low Script Kiddies lurk. The Scanner will often use already "hacked" computers for his scanning (known as scanstro's), using "remote scan" programs such as SQLHF, XScan, Fs- can, and HScan along with a nice programs to hide them (hiderun.exe) from the user of the computer.

Once the Scanner has gotten his results, he'll run off to his FXP Board and post it. This is where the "Hacker" comes into play.

The "Hacker"/Script Kiddie/dot-slash Kid- die. Now I think it's fairly obvious what the "Hackers" do. (They actually call themselves hackers!) Yes, they break into computers. Their OS of choice (for breaking into) is usually Windows. There are many easy to exploit vulnerabilities and *nix scares these people. The Hacker's job is to run his application and "root" the scanned server.

The program he uses (of course) depends upon the vulnerability the Scanner has scanned for. For example, if it's Netbios Password he will often either use psexec (www.sysinternals.com) or DameWare NT Utilities.

There are various other vulnera- bilities and programs used – too many to list here. Once he has "rooted" the computer (this usually means getting a remote shell with ad- min rights), he will use a technique known as "the tftp method" or "the echo methods" (tftp -i IP get file.exe) to upload and install an FTPD (this is almost always Serv-U) on his target. (In the case of the IRC Kiddies this would also be iroffer.)

Once the FTPD is installed and working he'll post the "admin" logins to the FTP server on his FXP Board. Depending on the speed of the compromised computer's (or "pubstro"/"stro") Internet connection and the hard drive space, it will be "taken" either by a Filler or a Scanner.

The Filler. Now if the "pubstro" is fast enough and has enough hard drive space, it's the Filler's job to get to work filling it with the latest warez (the Filler usually has another source for his warez such as Site Trading). Once he's done FXPing his warez, the Filler goes back to the board and posts "leech logins" (read only logins) for one and all to use.

What a great community!
FXP Boards are mostly full of Script Kid- dies and people with too much time on their hands.

They like to think the FBI are after them and get very paranoid, but in reality no one really gives a damn what they're up to except the unlucky sysops who get all their bandwidth eaten up because they forgot to patch a three year-old vulnerability. The true "n00b" FXP Boards can be found on wondernet (irc.won- dernet.nu) so, if you like, go sign up on one and see what it's all about. Tip: Pretend to be female. This will almost guarantee you a place on a board. Say you can scan/hack dcom, net- bios, sql, apache, and have a 10mbit.eu 0hour source.

Site Trading

Next on the list and pretty much at the top or near the top (as far as I've seen) are the Site Traders. These are generally just people with too much time on their hands who have possibly worked their way up through FXP Boards. Site Trading is basically theraing of pirated material between sites.

The Sites. These sites have very fast Internet connections (10mbit is considered the minimum, 100mbit good, and anything higher pretty damn good) and huge hard disk drives (200GB would probably be the minimum). These sites are often hosted at schools, universities, people's work,, and in Sweden (10mbit lines are damn cheap in .se). These sites are referred to as being "legit." This means that the owner of the computer knows that they are there and being run.


Fast connections mean a lot to some people. If you have access to a 100mbit line (and are willing to run a warez server there), there are people who would quite happily pay for and have a computer shipped to you just for hosting a site that they will make absolutely no profit from (you can meet them on EFnet). Unfortunately, this is where credit card fraud can come into Site Trading.

This is frowned upon by pretty much everyone (there is already enough paranoia and risk in Site Trading) but some people do use stolen credit card information to buy hard drives and such. To be fair, Site Traders aren't a bad bunch – the majority don't even believe in making any money out of it and insist they are just doing it for fun.

Anyways, back to the sites. GLFTPD is considered to be the FTPD to use (in fact, a lot of Site Traders and warez groups will not join a site unless it is running GLFTPD).

This also means that *nix is the OS of choice (as there is no GLFTPD win port). As well as running FTPD, the sites run an eggdrop bot with various scripts installed. The bot will make an announcement on an IRC channel a directory is made or upload completed. It will also give race information.

The People. There are basically two ranks in sitetrading: "SiteOps" and "Racers."
SiteOps, as you will have guessed are the administrators.

There are usually between two and five SiteOps. One is often the supplier of the site, another the person who found the sup- plier and guided them through the installation of the FTPD. The other will be friends and people involved in the warez scene. One or more of the SiteOps will be the "nuker." IT is his job to "nuke" any releases that are old or fake (more about releases shorly).

Racers are the folks who will "race" releases between sites. Usually they will have access to a number of sites and will FXP re- lease as soon as they're released. FXPing a release will gain credits. The ratio is usually 1:3, so FXPing 100MB will get them 300MB cred- its on the site, allowing them to FXP 300MB of data from that site, which will gain them 900mb where they FXP that, etc., etc. "Rac- ing" of releases occurs when two or more racers are uploading the same file. The "race" is to upload the most of the release at the fastest speed. Racing happened shortly after a release is... released.

Warez/Release Groups/"grps"
These are the ones basically supplying everyone with the warez. These are the ones the MPAA and RIAA don't seem to be too worried about, or at least aren't making a big public fuss about. However, these groups are known to the FBI and they know that the FBI and whatever other authorities are watching them and collecting evidence.

They know that one day these authorities will strike as they have done in the past. A lot of these people are just hoping that they won't be caught when it happens. As a result of this, anyone "high up" is extremely paranoid. Most users will use multiple BNCs (BouNCer, an IRC proxy) before even going near an IRC network.


A lot of large groups will own their own IRC Networks and SSL is used at every opportunity (FTP, IRC, etc.) It's hard to understand why these people actually do it when there is such a risk.

The main reasons are, in my opinion, boredom.

At the end of the day, if you're sitting in front of your computer for most of your life you may as well be doing something other than flaming AOLers on IRC, and this sort of thing keeps you busy.

Another reason is geekiness. Knowing that you were one of the first people on the Internet to see that film, or that's because of you that thousands of people are now playing that leaked Halflife 2 alpha and there are news articles everywhere about this "anonymous leaker" – it feels good, in a geeky kind of way.

A lot of these people (not all, not all) may have rather uneventful lives and to know that, al- though at school, college, or work they're con- sidered a loser, they can go home at night and be looked upon as some kind of god within their group of online friends would feel good.
I do not believe that profit is a factor. These groups insist that they don't do this soft of thing for money, and I believe them.

There's a quote from a DEViANCE.nfo file: We do this just for FUN. We are against any profit or commercialisation of piracy. We do not spread any release, others do that. In fact, we BUY all our Hames with our own hard earned and worked for efforts.

Which is from our own real life non-scene jobs. As we love game originals. Nothing beats a quality original. "If you like this game, BUY it. We did!" A quote from Team Razor .nfo file: SUPPORT THE COMPANIES THAT PRODUCE QUALITY SOFTWARE! IF YOU ENJOYED THIS PRODUCT, BUY IT! SOFTWARE AUTHORS DESERVE SUPPORT!!

Releases

A release is a piece of pirated material packaged and released by a warez group. The format of the release varies, but in the case of games or programs the release is usually in bin/cue, compressed with RAR, and split into 15,000,000 byte files. The naming of the release will usually by something along the lines of "New.Game.3-ReLEASEGROUP".
The types of releases vary. In games there are mainly either CD Images (bin/cue format) or Rips.

Movies are either DivX/Xivds (two or three bin/cue files). There are many different types of movie releases. A great list of these can be found at www.vcdquality.com. Releases will almost always be accompanied by a .nfo file. This will provide information about the release and the group.

Additional Info

The following information is not from first hand experience, like the past information has been. This has been obtained from text files, told to me by people, and assumed. It will be mostly accurate, but there may well be errors. The main members of any release group are:

The Supplier. This is the guy working at the local cinema or games store, the guy with the digital camera happy to sneak into the cinema , etc. Generally these people have to have access to new material, usually before anyone else gets to it. Often they will also have to have a fairly decent upload speed.

The Cracker. (only in games/apps groups) This will vary between groups. For example, a VCD/SVCD group would not require a cracker. But the cracker plays an important role. He will have to crack the game's protection that stops the game from being played without the official CD. This guy usually has a fair bit of programming experience and can be quite smart.


Site Supplier. Similar to Site Trading, how- ever warez groups are often more picky about the sites they choose. The minimum speed is usually 100Mbit and often groups will only accept site that are being supplied by the actual System Ops/Admins themselves.

Courier. This guy's role is basically Site Trading. He has to distribute the group's re- lease to other sites.
Terms you may have hard and their meanings: PRE/PRE'd. When a release is released announcements will be made across many IRC channels called "PRE Chans." This is called the "PRE Time" and is the official time of release. PRE Time is used mainly in site trading.

0*. This is reference to how new the release is.

0sec. This is a dream – n00b IRC Chans of- then use this term but they are lying.

0hour. Mean the release was PRE'd under an hour ago.

0day. Mean the release was PRE'd under a day ago. (Typo-error in article, was "an hour ago".)

And so on...

Nuked. If a release is Nuked, the uploader of the release will lose credits on the site he is Nuked on. A release is Nuked when it is breaking site rules (like eight hours of PRE or earlier).

Pubstro/Stro. This is a computer that has been compromised and has an FTPD running on it. It will be used to share warez, mainly to the FXP Community.

ScanStro. Similar to the above, but is used to scan for other vulnerable computers.

Pub/Pubbing. Pubs are dard. These are from the old days when many university and business FTP servers had write access enabled on anonymous accounts. So instead of breaking into a computer, the warez kiddies would just upload their warez and give the IP address to their friends. This war very popular but died out for obvious reasons.

Tagging. Once found a Pub would be "tagged" (a folder with the name "tagged.by.lamepubkiddie" or something similar would be made). The idea was that if a Pub war already "tagged" other Pubbers would leave it alone. This apparently worked for a while, with people respecting other people's tags and leaving the Pubs alone. But it certainly hasn't worked for a very long time.

Dir Locking. This war used in Pubbing to stop people other that your warez group finding and downloading your warez (and slowing the server down). You would hide it, using directory names such as "com1" and "."These directory names would also be hard to delete or even open, so it could take some time before the warez were found by the server admin.

Raping. The act of Raping an FTP server is when someone downloads pretty much everything then can from it at a very fast speed. It's frowned upon.

Leeching. Downloading a lot without uploading.

PubStealing/Rehacking. Back "in the day" this would have been referring to as uploading to an already tagged Pub. Now it means replacing someone else's Serv-U with yours- Pub- Stealing is frowned upon and people will often be banned from FXP Boards if they are found to be doing it.

Securing. The act of Securing a pubstro would involve deleting key files such as ftp.exe, tftp.exe, cmd.exe, etc. or changing the username/password. Securing methods depend upon the vulnerability.

Some warez related links:​

www.nforce.nl – a site that archive .nfos and releases. This site is frowned upon by people in "the scene".
www.isonews.com – a site seized by the federal government.
www.vcdquality.com – for movies specifically.
www.fxp.nl – fxp stuff
www.jtpfxp.net – rather large archive of fxp/script kiddie tutorials.
www.packetnews.org – XDCC search engine.
www.downhillbattle.org – not related, but fuck the RIAA! If I've mentioned a program and not give a link it's because it can be easily found through Google. That's all. I hope this has give someone a better view of piracy.
————————————————— ASCII CONVERSION BY DALEK —————————————————
 
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rootsudo

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Wow, this takes me back. All true, Many FTP's still accepted annoymous connections and if you kept the file usage low, you could have potentially unlimited cloud storage.

Directory walking, and such was still good. Anime DCC/IRC in general brought people closer together and there was much happier positivity online. It was nice.
 
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Wow, this takes me back. All true, Many FTP's still accepted annoymous connections and if you kept the file usage low, you could have potentially unlimited cloud storage.

Directory walking, and such was still good. Anime DCC/IRC in general brought people closer together and there was much happier positivity online. It was nice.

Sounds like you were around to experience the anime piracy scene when I was still learning my multiplication tables (probably literally if you were active in the early 00s). I've always been curious about early online subcultures, particularly those surrounding the hacking and piracy scenes. Could you detail out what it was like? If there is anything that particularly stands out in your memory, even stupid drama, I'd be interested to know.
 
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rootsudo

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Sounds like you were around to experience the anime piracy scene when I was still learning my multiplication tables (probably literally if you were active in the early 00s). I've always been curious about early online subcultures, particularly those surrounding the hacking and piracy scenes. Could you detail out what it was like? If there is anything that particularly stands out in your memory, even stupid drama, I'd be interested to know.
TBF, we may have both been learning our multiplication tables. ;)

I did it for the anime. Back then it was a really niche subculture that was rich with university aged people. Using Uni free storage, and email addresses you were able to kinda know where people were. To trade fansubs, you would actually mail cd-r's/dvd-r's around. (This was circa 2003, when DVD-rw's finally were super affordable, though the tech was around a bit earlier.) The biggest issue was codecs, k-lite codec pack was pretty rare, you had to struggle through horrible real media sampled videos, to hard to play MPEG-2/4 files. MKV were "new" and even though was a container, it could've been divx/xvid (which was stolen/free divx codec,) etc. But getting a 24 min video into an .AVI with divx/xvid codec was really fantastic.

DVD shrink was new, and if you could get a unlimited block buster membership, you were in business, provided you had enough discs, and storage. 40gb hdd were pretty basic in all computers, 80gb were "wow", this was all IDE -100, maybe 133.

If you were really scammy/thrifty/smart about it, you could even sell them on eBay for a while. Most people didn't care and know *exactly* what they were buying.

ADV films was also nice and fighting pirates, Viz Media accepted it, or didn't know how to fight back really.

This, alongside the mod chip scene for PS2/Gamecube led way to ps3/xbox 360/wii, which pretty much codified dvd buring and such.

It was harder for microsoft/sony/nintendo to fight modchips back then, simply because once the console was released/deployed, there were no firmware updates. most of the time it was a PCB revision, that once released was easily defeated. Xbox v1.0 - 1.6b motherboards for example, softmods, XBMC, and such.

With computer games, same, I never got into them, more enterprise software but - things as simple as running filemon/regmon to see how an MSI installer registered keys and you could manipulate them to enable full versions, to just putting the computer/bios clock in the future a few years and installing it. You'd have -999+ days, which was an obvious buffer overflow, but for full trial software, not an issue.

There was also tricky tricky thigns going on too, this was the time of the sony root kit fisaco, alongside if someone really wanted too, you could've been exploited just by connecting your PC, pre-windows XP SP2 via the blaster worm which took advantage of the messenger service, to other software which would just make your computer host media/and such.

I could go on but yeah. Lots of things to write about. :)

That's all kinda gone now, the IRC networks may still exist, but the community is gone. gba-temp is there,
 
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I could go on but yeah. Lots of things to write about. :)

That's all kinda gone now, the IRC networks may still exist, but the community is gone. gba-temp is there,

Honestly, I'm willing to read whatever you have to write about the subject! I was a tad too late for that whole scene, and although it was completely outside of my control, it's something I regret. Recently I was reading several books about the early 90's hacking scene,
Masters of Deception: The Gang That Ruled Cyberspace, The Hacker Crackdown, Cyberia, and parts of Edward Snowden's autobiography. But the early 00's anime scene holds a particular nostalgia for me, for being almost familiar.

I guess a particular question I have is I know that different fansub groups were in competition with each other and that it often carried over into drama. Do you have any memories of interesting stories that resulted from that?
 
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rootsudo

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Honestly, I'm willing to read whatever you have to write about the subject! I was a tad too late for that whole scene, and although it was completely outside of my control, it's something I regret. Recently I was reading several books about the early 90's hacking scene,
Masters of Deception: The Gang That Ruled Cyberspace, The Hacker Crackdown, Cyberia, and parts of Edward Snowden's autobiography. But the early 00's anime scene holds a particular nostalgia for me, for being almost familiar.

I guess a particular question I have is I know that different fansub groups were in competition with each other and that it often carried over into drama. Do you have any memories of interesting stories that resulted from that?
I do! That actually still happens today on discord chats, I left a few, but you can usually find the links in new release. The thing is, nowadays SONY and such have their own channels that promise same day airing of anime from japan with full subtitles so it kinda kills off the whole point.

anime-xtreme, elite and more, it was fun times to be on IRC, the people who truly understood Japanese were paraded as heros, even though they were usually just someone who was 16-23 and to much time on their hand/studying japanese or maybe had a japanese spouse.

You could actually have the same username across different IRC Servers, so they'd ping you to verify it's you or do a /whois or /finger to make sure your hostmask is the same and that's how you got in, the competition wasn't like the warez scene where they'd kick/ban you if you were spotted in another place. In the warez scene, they'd actually consistently poll users and their hostmask, or the IRC network sysop would even hand out klines for that stuff. Back then, most cable connections were static, so resetting or changing the mac address on your router didn't always work. Dial up ususally gave you a semi unique hostmask/ip address but the same ISP so if everyone in that community didn't use your small town ISP that was an easy tell. It was also fun to just see like LAX.RR.TIMEWARNER.com so you knew someone was in that specific geographic area.

Back to the anime, the anime OP was always the most worked scene, and unless something unique happened, they just spliced it on and off, to make it easier because that was super hard to do. As long as the lyrics were the same, the timing was the same so you could've also just created a new SRT and copy that over. Karaoke op lyrics were also pretty new at this point. Some of the fancy stuff was done in Sony Vegas or Adobe PRemier (which had to be ran on P4, processors for the SSE2/3 suppport, no AMD cpus!)

After that, you could hardcode it in, but during this time, it was better to have the individual file raw, the OP/ED would be modified to show which fansub group did it, the hardlinks to join the community, and of course "IF YOU BOUGHT THIS ON EBAY YOU WERE SCAMMED: message, lol.

That's also another reason MKV became popular, because you could combine multiple audio streams, the subtitle file and the video file could be any codec needed.

After that, pushed it onto the dCC bot and let it go out, people who could distribute it hte most, or who had fancy FTP accounts get first dibs, but ususally 2-3 days after airing it was easy to push out.

There were also communities that just forcused on older, retired anime, lots of stuff were getting re-released on DVD, w/ no english dub in Japan (03, dvd's were still kinda new) so a DVD rip, and if you're lucky, they had japanese subtitles, so you could just rip the sub track from the DVD VOB_TS file (.VOB in DVD is just an uncompressed MPEG2) and recycle the timing it appeared, and translate it, then release it as an MKV with multiple subtitles. Or upload it to like srtnet or something.

Drama that resulted is in old days doxing, even then, people used their real identities online, it was kinda cool to have a screen name, but screen name and then your real name/email address in the bio of forums, or such - so either another community or maybe even BANDAI, NAMCO, ADV fIlms, VIZ Media, etc would then send physical Cease & Desist letters.

Websites WHOIS records usually also had the owner/sysop/creator of the group full information. So, that was another way that happened too.

There were probably petty investigations if a network/sysadmin of a university or such discovered high quota usage, it isn't that hard to search for MP4/MP3 or video/media file extensions or just reports that a specific user is using 10-20gb (which was TONS there, most people only used, mb at best.) and if they were sneaky, they probably could pull logs which would expost the IP address/hostmask and send somethign scary to their ISP too.

The anime scene, at this time wasn't that bad IMO, but then again I may have missed the whole picture. :) The warez scene and other scenes for computer security and such, were much more underground, scam'ish but fun and more dangerous.
 
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man its kinda disappointing how being born after 2000, i wont be able to fully experience how the old internet used to look like or how it worked. but thankfully im not a modern gen z. thanks for posting. this was very informative.
 
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rootsudo

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I would look at it on the other side of the coin, this is a new age of internet-survillance, knowing how the past was and trying to recreate it and partcipiate in forums like this - is much the discord needed to keep the spirit alive. The internet has been through many deaths and "Rebirths" if you like to read about eternal summer, or the jump from bbs > compuserve > aol dial up > profileration of cable internet (e.g. road runner) and then cell phones being handed out, and now being synonmous with everyday life and any idea and such - can be done. Some people were to early, and those past failures contributed to current commercial success (e.g. pets.com failed, but look at chewy.com same exact thing.)

In fact, one reason I explore the world physically, is because I can hop to different countries who are at different stages of development. My current enjoyment is how the Internet/life in South East Asia is very *much* like the Internet of the 00's, ebayesque marketplaces popping up e.g. shopee/lazada and more niche ones liek mercari and taobao.

If you're sticking within a walled garden like google/facebook/twitter and such, you won't see it there. At the same time, once itmakes it there, it's no longer a secret. It's really a fun time, but I'll leave you with this one expression: "Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it."

Oh, and I guess the freebie: "Winners write history."
man its kinda disappointing how being born after 2000, i wont be able to fully experience how the old internet used to look like or how it worked. but thankfully im not a modern gen z. thanks for posting. this was very informative.
 
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