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NLnet celebrates 40th anniversary of historical launch of EUnet

Groundbreaking collaborative networking that helped shape the internet in Europe

Amsterdam, April 1st 2022

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of the EUnet, the first public wide area network in Europe. The grass-roots dial-up service was established by the European Unix User Group (EUUG, later called EURopen), as a non-commercial community effort.

On April 1st 1982, CWI's Teus Hagen (chairman of the EUUG and its Netherlands counterpart NLUUG) launched the EUnet at the EUUG spring conference in Paris, France. EUnet served four initial "backbones": Denmark, Netherlands, UK and Sweden. EUnet came to consist of various national networks, often linked to the national UNIX user groups. These were given colloquial names reflecting their regional coverage such as NLnet, DKnet and FNet. The standardised two letter national domain names as we know them today did not yet exist at the time.

Teus Hagen

Teus Hagen launched the EUnet on April 1st 1982 in Paris

In 1988, the largest of these national networks, NLnet (still operating from within CWI), premiered the first open transatlantic Internet connectivity ("open" as opposed to "private" links, mainly for military and military-related purposes, like SATNET) for Europe. Rapidly, many more networks started connecting. The subsequent success firmly established the new business model of internet as an alternative to the traditional telecom infrastructure. By 1989, the EUnet had grown to include 1,000 sites in 21 countries.

The pioneering work of the people behind the EUnet and the early days of NLnet are still an inspiration to us today, says Bob Goudriaan, the current director of NLnet foundation. At the time, dedicated pragmatists like Jaap Akkerhuis, Ted Lindgreen and Daniel Karrenberg and their many international colleagues showed great creativity and resolve in overcoming the many challenges that come with establishing a new infrastructure from the ground up. They did not have big funds to their avail, but managed to achieve their goals nonetheless. This is the same pioneering spirit we still enjoy every day - through the many free and open source technology efforts our foundation funds through our open calls.

Due to corona, no major festivities are planned, but throughout the 40th anniversary year NLnet will publish interviews with some of the original pioneers and will be hosting several online events to commemorate and celebrate the historical work of the EUnet. Anyone that has ideas or historical materials to contribute is warmly invited to contact us.

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