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Definition: The World
The first ISP to offer service to the general public. Operated by the Software Tool & Die company, a software consulting company in Boston, Massachusetts, The World debuted in 1989 when the Internet was still an academic and government research network. Although ISPs at the time charged organizations hundreds and thousands of dollars per month for high speed access, The World offered service to anyone for USD $20.
Too Much Inhouse Power
The idea of offering Internet access arose because the company's Sun server with close to a gigabyte of storage was more computing power than needed. After obtaining a half dozen analog modems and some phone lines, The World started out by taking requests and manually copying documents from the Internet that customers would subsequently retrieve by dialing up The World server. Within its first year, Software Tool & Die obtained access to the UUNET ISP and was able to offer anyone direct access to the Internet.