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 Part 4
A fascinating visual study of the NSFNET, undertaken by Donna Cox and Robert Patterson from the NCSA in 1991.

In 1987 management of the NSFNET was taken over by the Merit Computer Network. MCI Communications Corporation and IBM were chosen as the major subcontractors to Merit. The Merit Computer Network, a not-for-profit corporation that originally formed to manage a regional network in Michigan, is a consortium of eight Michigan Universities. In 1990, Merit, MCI and IBM formed a not-for-profit organization known as Advance Network Services, Inc. or ANS. This organization began the process of allowing the corporate development of networks for Internet data on a for-profit basis.

The data transmitted with the TCP/IP protocol was originally used for electronic mail, file transfer, or remote Login/Telnet. The protocol that is used to send Electronic Mail or E-Mail is known as Simple Mail Transfer Protocol or SMTP. E- Mail is simply a message that is sent from one terminal to another. All E-Mail Messages need to have a properly designated address in order to be received by the appropriate terminal.

File Transfer Protocol, or FTP, is an interactive protocol that allows a user to log into a remote computer somewhere in the Internet. The password to log into many remote computers is set at "anonymous" and provides for public access to files stored in the remote computer, and this type of access is commonly known as "anonymous FTP". Information of all forms on any number of topics is stored in computers across the world and can be transferred to any user who logs into the remote computer and gives the appropriate command to retrieve the file. The protocol that allows one computer to log directly into and interact with a remote database is known as "Telnet." Hundreds of online public access library catalogs are accessible through the Internet and can be searched in the same manner as visiting the remote library. Engineers and computer scientists also use the protocol to interact with powerful mainframes that can be located thousands of miles away.

E-Mail, FTP and Telnet were used primarily by people in universities or in technical industries, and along with other Internet applications were terminal based and not easy to use. During the early 1990s there were a few attempts to go beyond the basic protocols and allow for a more user-friendly interaction with the Internet. In 1989 McGill University developed an index of FTP servers called "Archie". Some knowledge of UNIX commands was necessary in order to search the index, which was not desirable to some users. At about this time, the University of Minnesota developed a menu based system to access files in a hierarchical system called "Gopher." Within a few years there were about 10,000 Gopher servers around the world.

Another attempt to create a more powerful means of finding information on the Internet was the Wide Area Information Server (WAIS). This program was created by Brewster Kahle at Thinking Machines Corporation. The WAIS software could index the full text of files into databases, making them available on the Internet. The objective was to permit searches using natural language to locate information anywhere of the Internet. In 1992, Thinking Machines Corporation entered into a partnership with Columbia University to experiment with searching large text and graphics databases. This experiment was known as Project Janus.

A significant leap forward occurred in 1991 when the U.S. government signed the U.S. High Performance Computing Act. This legislation permitted an upgrade in the National Science Foundation's Internet backbone to T3 status speed (45 Megabytes), linked 4,000 fully developed networks, and boasted a collection of over 10 million host computers.

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