Before 'the internet' there were these quaint things called BBS's which were like prehistoric Facebook- someone would dedicate a computer & a phone line to hosting the party and other people would dial in and participate in message boards and games and downloading stuff.
Then the great big internet we all know got rolling and smashed BBS's flat by doing the same sorts of stuff on a global scale.
Now, it seems, the tide is turning back toward the BBS model.
JOSEPH BONICIOLI mostly uses the same internet you and I do. He pays a service provider a monthly fee to get him online. But to talk to his friends and neighbors in Athens, Greece, he's also got something much weirder and more interesting: a private, parallel internet.He and his fellow Athenians built it. They did so by linking up a set of rooftop wifi antennas to create a "mesh," a sort of bucket brigade that can pass along data and signals. It's actually faster than the Net we pay for: Data travels through the mesh at no less than 14 megabits a second, and up to 150 Mbs a second, about 30 times faster than the commercial pipeline I get at home. Bonicioli and the others can send messages, video chat, and trade huge files without ever appearing on the regular internet. And it's a pretty big group of people: Their Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network has more than 1,000 members, from Athens proper to nearby islands. Anyone can join for free by installing some equipment. "It's like a whole other web," Bonicioli told me recently. "It's our network, but it's also a playground."
It's a really interesting article, go read the whole thing.