I landed on IRC in a hot summer night 1996. The Internet room at my local cybercafe was small and smelly. The air was full of a persistent mix of dust, sweat, coffee, cold cigarette and cheap washing powder. It was filled with 4 old PCs, recycled from the gaming room. Most of the day, it was empty but passed 7PM, it was constantly full of people.
For 4.5 € an hour, the introvert I was started a wonderful social life. I was surfing the awakening World Wide Web and chat with people from the other side of the world, staying hours after the shop closed its curtains. Around 4 AM, the owner kicked us out, and I walked back home across the dormant city before another boring day, another night online.
We were mostly talking with people from Quebec. When asked the old fashioned A/S/L, I carefully replied Bordeaux, France. Bordeaux was also the Quebec biggest jail, something I learned the hard way.
August the 31st 1997 changed my life for ever. Someone joined one of the channel I was talking on, telling us Lady Di, princess of Wales, died in a car accident a few minutes before. I left the cafe, jumped on my roller and ran home as fast as I could to tell my parents. They didn’t know it yet, and the TV was lagging on that one. This was my first breaking news on the Internet, and a turning point for my world.
17 years later, the Internet has changed a lot, and it has changed my life for the better. I turned it from my pass time to my job, learning about its internals much more I would have expected. The blogging era and my professional interests helped me to connect with the smart people I could not find at home. They share the same interest as I do and won’t answer wut?! when I explain them something that gives normal people a headache. We share passionate discussions, and I know I can find someone awake whatever the hour and day.
I’ve met lots of them offline, made ennemies and friends. Some of them have been around for more than 15 years and some of them are gone. 6 years ago, after a tweet, I jumped in my car, drove 80 km to spend the whole evening with Molly Holzschlag, the goddess of my early CSS days. This would have never happened without the Internet: the life I expected to have 20 years ago, grew from the size of my town to size of the world.
Yesterday, I exchanged a few things with someone from California on Twitter. Someone I would have never expected to connect with 20 years ago.
17 years later, I’m still amazed at how Internet allows me to flatten the world and break the geographical and social boundaries. 17 years later, there’s not a single day I’m not marveled by someone asking me « how’s the weather in Paris today? ». From the other side of the world.