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An internet café or cybercafé is a place where one can use a computer with Internet access, most for a fee, usually per hour or minute; sometimes one can have unmetered access with a pass for a day or month, etc. It may serve as a regular café as well, with food and drinks being served.



SFnet logo circa 1993, San Francisco, CA
Cyberia: one of the world's first Internet cafés, London, 1994

The internet cafe phenomenon was started in July 1991 by Wayne Gregori in San Francisco when he began SFnet Coffeehouse Network. Gregori designed, built and installed 25 coin operated computer terminals in coffeehouses throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. The cafe terminals dialed into a 32 line Bulletin Board System that offered an array of electronic services including FIDOnet mail and, in 1992, Internet mail. See SFnet Press Archive

The concept and name, Cybercafé, was invented in early 1994 by Ivan Pope. Commissioned to develop an Internet event for an arts weekend at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, and inspired by the SFnet terminal based cafes, Pope wrote a proposal outlining the concept of a café with Internet access from the tables. The event was run over the weekend of 12-13 March 1994 during the 'Towards the Aesthetics of the Future' event.

In June 1994, The Binary Cafe, Canada's first Internet café, opened in Toronto, Ontario.

After an initial appearance at the conference site of the 5th International Symposium on Electronic Art, ISEA, in August 1994, an establishment called CompuCafe was established in Helsinki, Finland, featuring both Internet access and a robotic beer seller.

Inspired partly by the ICA event, a commercial establishment of this type, called Cyberia,[1] opened on September 1, 1994 in London, England.

The first public, commercial American Internet cafe was conceived and opened by Jeff Anderson in August 1994, at Infomart in Dallas, Texas and was called The High Tech Cafe.[1]

Next, in the USA, three Internet cafés opened in the East Village neighborhood of New York City: Internet Cafetm, opened by Arthur Perley, the @ Cafe, and the Heroic Sandwich.[2]

A variation of Internet café called PC bang (similar to LAN gaming center) became extremely popular in South Korea when StarCraft came out in 1997. Although computer and broadband penetration per capita were very high, young people went to PC bangs to play multiplayer games.


Internet cafés are located worldwide, and many people use them when traveling to access webmail and instant messaging services to keep in touch with family and friends. Apart from travelers, in many developing countries Internet cafés are the primary form of Internet access for citizens as a shared-access model is more affordable than personal ownership of equipment. A variation on the Internet café business model is the LAN gaming center, used for multiplayer gaming. These cafés have several computer stations connected to a LAN. The connected computers are custom-assembled for gameplay, supporting popular multiplayer games. This is reducing the need for video arcades and arcade games, many of which are being closed down or merged into Internet cafés. The use of Internet cafés for multiplayer gaming is particularly popular in certain areas of Asia like China, Taiwan, South Korea and The Philippines.

There are also Internet kiosks, Internet access points in public places like public libraries, airport halls, sometimes just for brief use while standing. Many hotels, resorts, and cruise ships offer Internet access for the convenience of their guests; this can take various forms, such as in-room wireless access, or a web browser that uses the in-room television set for its display (usually in this case the hotel provides a wireless keyboard on the assumption that the guest will use it from the bed), or computer(s) that guests can use, either in the lobby or in a business center. As with telephone service, in the US most mid-price hotels offer Internet access from a computer in the lobby to registered guests without charging an additional fee, while fancier hotels are more likely to charge for the use of a computer in their "business center."

For those traveling by road in North America, many truck stops have Internet kiosks, for which a typical charge is around 20 cents per minute.[3]

Internet cafés come in a wide range of styles, reflecting their location, main clientele, and sometimes, the social agenda of the proprietors. In the early days they were important in projecting the image of the Internet as a 'cool' phenomena.


Internet cafés are a natural evolution of the traditional café[citation needed]. Cafés started as places for information exchange, and have always been used as places to read the paper, send postcards home, play traditional or electronic games, chat to friends, find out local information. Cafés have also been in the forefront of promoting new technologies, for example, the car in 1950s California.

As internet access is in increasing demand, many pubs, bars and cafes have terminals, so the distinction between the Internet cafe and normal café is eroded. In some, particularly European countries, the number of pure Internet cafés is decreasing since more and more normal cafés offer the same services. However, there are European countries where the total number of publicly accessible terminals is also decreasing. An example of such a country is Germany. The cause of this development is a combination of complicated regulation, relatively high internet penetration rates, the widespread use of notebooks and PDAs and the relatively high number of WLAN hotspots. Many pubs, bars and cafés in Germany offer WLAN, but no terminals since the Internet café regulations do not apply if no terminal is offered. Additionally, the use of Internet cafés for multiplayer gaming is very difficult in Germany since the Internet cafe regulations and a second type of regulations which was originally established for video arcade centers applies to this kind of Internet cafes. It is, for example, forbidden for people under the age of 18 to enter such an Internet café, although particularly people under 18 are an important group of customers for this type of Internet café.

While most Internet cafés are private businesses many have been set up to help bridge the 'digital divide', providing computer access and training to those without home access. For example, the UK government has supported the setting up of 6000 telecentres.

In Asia, gaming is very popular at the Internet Cafes. This popularity has helped create a strong demand and a sustainable revenue model for most internet cafes. With growing popularity, there also comes with this a responsibility as well. In fighting for competitive market share, the internet cafes have started charging less and hence are adopting alternate means to maximize revenue. This includes selling game cards, food an beverages, telephone cards to its patrons.

In July 2008 the worlds first Internet Cafe on the Internet was released in Karlskoga, Sweden. Virtual Internet Cafe [2] use the same principles as a regular Internet Cafe, but is completely based on the Internet. Users of Virtual Internet Cafe remote control designated Cafe computers instead of using their own computers on the Internet. This gives the users the option to be completely anonymous on the Internet while protecting their own computers from malicious software and spywares.

Censorship and copyright violation

To combat terrorism, Italian government requires positive identification from all users of Internet cafes. (Florence, May 2006)

In places with censoring regimes such as Singapore, Internet cafés are closely controlled. In some places computers are in booths to allow private access to pornography. In some areas of Los Angeles they are controlled because they attract street gangs.[citation needed]

Copyright violations by clients are cause for concern by Internet Cafe Operators. For example, the EasyInternetcafe chain discontinued its CD burning services because it was held responsible for copyright violations by clients.




According to "Survey of China Internet Café Industry" by the Ministry of Culture, in 2005: China has 110,000 Internet cafés, with more than 1,000,000 people working in this area, contributing 18,500,000,000 yuan to China's GDP. More than 70% Internet café visitors are from 18 to 30 years old. 90% are male, 65% unmarried, and 54% hold a college degree. More than 70% of visitors play computer games. 20% of China's Internet users go to InternetCafe.


  • Before 1995. An Internet Café called 3C+T appeared in Shanghai, suspected as the first one in China. Price: 20 Yuan per hour($2.50 per hour)
  • 1995~1998. China's Internet Cafés reached a period of fast development. Playing unconnected games is the main purpose of café users. Price: 15~20 Yuan per hour
  • 1998~2000. Booming era of Internet cafes. Competition became more and more fierce.
  • 2000~2002. Booming era of Internet games. First Internet chain café occurred in 2001. Nine people were killed in an Internet café fire in Beijing in June, 2002. A new regulation was released by the state government, giving the Ministry of Culture full responsibility of licensing Internet cafés.
  • After 2002, heavy censorships were imposed, including real name registration. At the end of 2004, more than 70,000 Internet cafés were closed in a nationwide campaign.

2008: Microsoft takes up the cause of helping Internet Cafes profitable in Asia and Emerging markets. After discussions with the Governments in these countries, it helps government in formulating safe internet cafe environment. 2009: Over 6,000 Internet Cafes in countries like Thailand and Indonesia have voluntarily signed up to provoide genuine and safe software experience to its patrons. With over 100,000 PCs participating in this program, this is the largest conversion of Internet Cafes to a safer and genuine environment in the world.


According to APWKomitel (Association of Community Internet Center) there are 5,000 Internet Cafes in urban Indonesian cities in 2006 providing computer/printer/scanner rental, training, PC gaming and Internet Access/Rental to the people who do not have PC or Internet access at home. The website also contains a directory listing some of these warnet/telecenter/gamecenter in Indonesia. In urban areas, the generic name is Warnet (or Warung Internet) and in rural areas the generic name is Telecenter. Warnets/ Netcafes (ie: Java NetCafe established in 1998) are usually owned by private SME as bottom-up initiatives, while Telecenters in rural villages are usually initiated by Government and Donors as top-down financing. Information on Netcafe/Warnet in Indonesia can also be found in a book titled: Connected for Development:Indonesian Case study. Currently, no special license is required to operate an Internet Cafe or Warnet in Indonesia, except for the ordinary business license also applied to cafe or small shop. Because of hype and many internet cafe starting their business without proper planning, some of them closed down for lack of a business plan. Although the number is still growing, associations such as APWKomitel urge new internet cafe owners to do a feasibility study before planning to open an Internet cafe, and provide a business model called Multipurpose Community Internet Center or "MCI Center" to make the business more sustainable and competitive.

South Korea

Internet café
Korean name
Hangul PC방, 피시방 or 피씨방[4]
Hanja PC房, 피시房, 피씨房
Revised Romanization pisibang or pissibang
McCune–Reischauer p'isibang or p'issibang

In South Korea, internet cafes are called PC bangs.[5] They are ubiquitous in South Korean cities, numbering over 20,000.[6] PC bangs mostly cater to online game playing for the younger generation. On average, use of a PC bang computer is priced at around 1,500 won per hour (about USD$1.30).


In Taiwan, many people go to internet cafés. The internet café in traditional Chinese is "網咖." The first character means the Internet, and the second character is phonetically rendered from the first syllable of café.


In the Philippines, internet cafés are very frequently on the streets. The names of the internet cafés in the Philippines are sometimes joined with "net" on the end.

See also


  1. ^ Lewis, Peter H. (1994-08-27). "Here's to the Techies Who Lunch". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  2. ^ "New York's Latest Virtual Trend: Hip Cybercafes on the Infobahn". Los Angeles Times. 1995-06-29. Retrieved 2009-08-12. 
  3. ^ "Internet Web Stations". Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  4. ^ "PC방" is usual transcription in South Korea. "피시방" and "피씨방" are transcription of exclusive use of Hangeul. The former corresponds to South Korean standard orthography for writing loan words (외래어 표기법; 外來語表記法), but many South Koreans wrote as the latter when using Hangeul exclusively.
  5. ^ In Korean, "bang" (Hangeul: 방; Hanja: 房) means "room", so the term literally means PC room.
  6. ^ "The future is in South Korea". CNN. 2006-06-14. Retrieved 207-12-21. 


External links


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