Nyx Philosophy

Written by Andrew Burt, Founder of Nyx

Every now and again I get asked why did I create Nyx. Well, here's the answer...

Every public system has a philosophy behind it, I believe, so it behooves me to write up what the philosophy of Nyx is. Just in case you were wondering. :-)

I am convinced that electronic media will one day be as common as the telephone and newpaper are now. Everyone will ultimately have an e-mail address, I envision, as well as all people/organizations users will want to contact: Companies, government officials, government agencies, newspapers, etc.

Furthermore, I believe that electronic access is a *necessity*, not a luxury. If it is treated as a luxury, as most information providers do, then the cost will continue to be exorbitant; this will no doubt lead to a polarization of society into the information rich and poor. My vision is that everyone, financially rich or poor, should have equal access to electronic communication and data.

As part of the process of this happening, there will be systems along the way that define _how_ those everyday interactions will take place, how they will "feel", what facilities will be available, how much they will cost, etc.

Now, I don't mean "character based" vs. "graphics", or other user interface issues. Indeed, if I could easily provide a mouse-based point-and-shoot shell for Nyx, I would -- but I'll leave the interface issues to Prodigy and so on. User interfaces are not directly relevant to philosophy.

I'm concerned with content, user rights, and cost.

I view the Prodigy's and Compuserve's of the world as setting one kind of tone for the future, and I'm not sure I like it *at all*: Prodigy is too concerned with offending anyone so they censor anything remotely offensive. I believe in free speech, and the anarchy of netnews, and cringe at this. I believe in letting users say what they want and policing themselves, rather than a central authority determining what is acceptable and what not. Much like people would treat a note posted on a cork-and-pushpin bulletin board.

I'm also shocked that Prodigy charges a fee for more than 30 mail messages a month -- Heck, I send about 30 a day! And I'd like to see that opportunity freely available to all.

Compuserve, or shall I say, Compu$erve, charges $$$ for anything interesting, it seems to me.

I also have long term concerns about what new "Information Superhighway" players might (try to) do to the existing net culture. For example, should a cable TV company decide to install a proprietary connection to your house to provide services similar to internet services (e-mail, data transfer, etc.) plus services that the internet can't easily handle (real-time bi-directional audio+video), such a company might not want to do so in the style of the existing internet -- they might try to offer only *their* services on this link, preventing users from accessing competing services. I have little doubt that if the services offered were "slick" then a large number of users would use them without realizing what they're missing of current net culture.

My point is that the content of the Internet (netnews, ftp sites, etc.) is vastly superior to the content of any of them, and should be accessible to everyone, in the same manner as books are in public libraries, or TV is via public TV. Not only that, but the complete freedom of speech on the net is only equal to the freedom of speech we enjoy among close friends (much more open than TV, or newspapers, let alone Prodigy).

Hence I have created Nyx in my image of "public access e-communications". Think of it like a public park. ("Nyx, an Internet Park".)

Ultimately, I would like to see everyone with a terminal (PC, whatever) that can tap into the resources of the internet -- notably e-mail, news, and ftp -- for at most a minimal cost (e.g., no more than a voice phone line costs for local calls; preferably flat rate). No cost, if possible.

I am against paying for services that are ordinarily free but must be purchased when done on-line. (E.g., reading books in a library, or visiting a travel agent.) Of course, someone must pay, but I would rather see the corporate entities that benefit from these services pay (e.g., the airlines) or "the public" in the form of taxes (like libraries, parks). (Regarding advertising, my position is that I would favor non-hype types of advertising, where manufacturers accurately describe their products, and that these ads should be viewed only upon request by users.)

Additionally, I view Nyx as proof that such an operation can be run on a shoe-string budget. Nyx really has no budget. I volunteer my time to run Nyx. Yes, there are electricity and phone bills, but they aren't much. Consider Compuserve raking in $6/hr (as of 12/91) per user -- ouch! If Nyx charged that much, and kept the same usage levels (doubtful of course), we'd probably make about $1M a year. Yet our actual costs are more like $1000 a year (estimated)! (Not to mention that at $6/hr I'd be a very poor man, considering how much I'm logged in!) We also do well with donations, like public TV/radio. (Though I doubt a world-wide network could survive that way; that would be like voluntary taxes, and I *know* that would fail!)

I am also put off by various corporations establishing their electronic customer support exclusively via commercial systems (e.g., Compuserve and Borland). This necessitates that a user pay somone like Compuserve to get customer support. This seems wrong. (If it's a user error, I can understand paying; but, e.g., I tried to remedy a demonstrable compiler error with Borland, and was basically told to jump in a lake -- at my expense. There is something wrong with that picture!) Hayes, the modem folks, on the other hand, have an invaluable resource via the net, namely a fellow who answers mail via internet. Just a couple examples of the extremes.

Further, I view Nyx as an example of the public TV of the computing world: Funded by voluntary donations, providing quality services, and on a minimal budget.

Mostly, though, I want to bring "the net" to "the public". I look forward to the day when users will be able to send e-mail to just about anyone, or any company, or any government official or agency, and not debate whether it's worth the cost. When that day arrives, I hope it looks (and costs) more like Nyx than Prodigy. The only way that can happen is if the users demand that it look this way, which means it must exist now, and continue to thrive, proving that it can work.

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Golden, CO 80402

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