Fiction L
A Fake Internet Presence,
since 1994

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A friend of mine, Kristin Buxton, kept me very busy a couple of summers ago at work by trying really hard to fill my mailbox. Among the fun, was this piece.
 March 14, 1994 (a)

 From: an16061 at
 Subject: imminent drowning of the net in sticky brown liquid

   1. Preamble
   2. The Future History of PepNet

 1. Preamble

   - EFF
   - ClariNet
   - Netcom
   - the cypherpunk/objectivism/"free-speech" complex
   - all other net.rapers and drones of the corporate greed fungus who refuse
     to recognize the real threats to freedom of expression on the Internet

 2. The Future History of PepNet


 - July 1994:

 Pepsico Inc., makers of Pepsi-Cola, announces the creation of PepNet.
 PepNet will be a public-access network of BBSes, with nodes in most major
 cities, providing low-cost access to images, sounds, and text files.  The
 press release states that Pepsico will purchase files on a lump-sum basis for
 public domain distribution, and that Pepsico believes the cost to it of the
 network will be offset by the positive publicity generated.

 - December 1994:

 PepNet is up and running, with approximately 500 subscribers North
 America-wide.  The most popular download items are R-rated images purchased
 from Playboy, images and sounds from popular Paramount TV shows and movies,
 and the library of public-domain classics schnorred from  The
 fact that all of these are available freely elsewhere does not seem to faze
 the PepNet people.

 Pepsico announces the expansion of PepNet services to include Internet
 services, in particular the Usenet newsgroups, on some sites.


 - March 1995:

 PepNet is a standing joke on the Internet/Usenet, but its success proves that
 it will at least not be an embarrassment to Pepsico.  Pepsico starts heavily
 promoting PepNet in computer circles.

 Pepsi releases a general-broadcast TV ad which features two 1/2-second shots
 of young people laughing while looking at a computer screen and drinking Pepsi.

 - August 1995:

 In a major joint press release, Pepsico, Microsoft, and Apple announce the
 CyberSurfBoard, a low-cost computer specialized for connecting to nets such as
 PepNet.  Along with the low price for hardware and software, users get 1 month
 of free access and 1 hour of free download time on PepNet.

 - December 1995:

 CyberSurfBoard sales are brisk.  There are now approximately 20,000
 subscribers to PepNet, and nodes in every major city.  Magazines such as Time,
 Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, and Wired, and the four major US TV networks,
 have now jumped on the bandwagon and are releasing images and sounds.  Various
 copycat services are starting up or in development by Philip Morris, GE, and

 The success of PepNet baffles longtime Internet users, since all the services
 it provides are provided better elsewhere.  This point of view does not get
 much coverage in the established media.

 PepNet begins providing very low-cost Usenet feeds to other sites.


 - March 1996:

 Coke releases an ad featuring young people talking and laughing while looking
 at a computer screen and drinking Coke.

 - June 1996:

 Pepsico and an unnamed Chicago BBS operator reach a quiet out-of-court
 settlement.  The sysop was sued for allegedly harboring and encouraging people
 who took images from PepNet and distributed them free on the Internet.  The
 sysop agrees to pay Pepsico $350,000 and to desist from operating a BBS for
 five years.

 - September 1996:

 PepNet subscribers are in the high hundreds of thousands.

 20% of all Usenet articles now flow through the sites and/or (which are really virtual sites made up of dozens of
 machines each).  3% of all non-technical articles on Usenet come from PepNet

 A flame war breaks out on several technical and non-technical newsgroups about
 whether the presence of things like "uh-huh.pepnet" and the line
   Organization: PepNet (The Net for a New Generation)
 in the headers of Usenet messages constitutes advertising, and if so whether
 it subverts NSF Internet use policy.

 - October 1996:

 Pepsico announces "The PepNet Eloquence Awards".  The 10 people who write the
 most eloquent Usenet articles of the year (in PepNet's opinion) will receive 1
 year of free access and unlimited download time on PepNet.

 Time-Warner and Pepsico announce a long-term cooperative agreement on provision
 of images and services.  _Time_ gives exclusive rights to its electronic
 version to PepNet.  Paramount bites its lip but continues to provide images to
 PepNet, since it's the biggest thing going.


 - January 1997:

 The "advertising" flame war is being won by Pepsi.  Many university
 administrators, alerted that PepNet offers outrageously cheap Usenet feeds,
 have switched to PepNet feeds.  Now about 35% of Usenet articles flow through
 PepNet sites.

 - April 1997:

 The PepNet Eloquence Awards are announced.  Five US college students,
 including two who argued vociferously in support of PepNet, are among the

 JetStream (Philip Morris's copycat network) and Spectrum (Mitsubishi's copycat
 network) now route about 8% of Usenet articles.


 - January 1998:

 The number of articles per day on Usenet is now about 30 times what it was
 five years ago.

 PepNet, JetStream, and Spectrum now route 80% of Usenet articles.  15% of
 articles on technical newsgroups are posted from sites on these three nets.
 This is attributed to companies and universities cutting back on direct Usenet
 feeds because of good group PepNet rates.

 Pepsico announces a modest downturn in profits.

 - February 1998:

 Pepsico announces cuts to its Advertising and PepNet divisions.  Further
 financial review is undertaken.

 PepNet modestly increases its user fees.

 - April 1998:

 _Time_ runs an article on how the three major Usenet providers are losing
 money on their networks.

 Pepsico makes its full financial report for the fiscal year.  It seems that its
 profits have dipped more sharply than it had previously announced.

 Pepsico floats a modest proposal on the net.  Either:

 (a) It can increase its user fees by 50% in order to save PepNet, or
 (b) It can drastically reduce the Usenet feeds it provides, or
 (c) It can add the header
       Sponsored-by: Pepsico, makers of Pepsi-Cola
     to all articles it routes, and the header
       X-Advertising: You got the right one, baby!
     on all non-technical articles it routes, and cut its advertising division

 - May 1998:

 PepNet proponents have the edge in the resultant massive flame war.  Several
 people claim that the addition of advertising to Usenet was Pepsi's intention
 from the start.  They are labelled paranoids, and their credit records are
 somehow revealed via an anonymous server in Venezuela.

 - August 1998:

 Brad Templeton, the Undersecretary of Science and Information Technology in
 President Quayle's administration, announces a major shift in NSF policy.
 Advertising on NSF sites, "within acceptable limits", is explicitly allowed.
 Cuts to financial support for university computer networks are made.


 - March 1999:

 Pepsico announces an upturn in profits.  Joel Furr, the head of PepNet since
 its inception, is credited with the success.


 - January 2000:

 PepNet has 10 million subscribers worldwide.

 95% of Usenet articles have at least 3 lines of "sponsorship" or advertising

 50% of Usenet articles have at least 8 lines of advertising.

 10% of the total messages on Usenet, in every newsgroup, are ads for
 non-computer-related products and services.

 The ailing Coca-Cola Company is taken over by Philip Morris Inc.


 Furr retires from Pepsico at age 45, with a generous pension, after numerous
 accolades on his brilliance.  An unauthorized biography of him, written by
 Moon Unit Zappa, is released.

 The biography gets great attention on the Internet... which is now generally
 known as PepNet.

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Note: I'm not the author, these tidbits were all forwarded to me via email. Where I know the author, it is given.
The From: header may be the author, or it may just be the person who forwarded it to me.
Feel free to contact me to claim authorship.

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