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Eternal September is a slang term that refers to the time period of the Internet since September 1993, when Usenet saw its heaviest influx of newbies into the newsgroups. While the term is primarily associated with the semi-permanent settlement of unexperienced AOL users on Usenet, Eternal September can be used to refer to drastic changes in any forum or community where some event causes the newcomers to suddenly outnumber the existing population.
Even prior to 1993, the month of September had been linked to the annual incursion of college freshmen students who acquired access to newsgroups for the first time, according to Wikipedia. In 1993, the online service America Online began offering Usenet access to its tens of thousands, and later millions, of users. To many “old-timers”, AOL users were often regarded as far less conducive to learn netiquette than university students, possibly caused by the walled-garden model of the AOL community.
Unlike the usual short-lasting influx of university students, the sheer number of AOL users accessing Usenet didn’t drop. Since that time, the dramatic development in the use of the Internet has brought a constant stream of new users. The term was first used by Dave Fischer in a January 26, 1994, post to alt.folklore.computers:
“It’s moot now. September 1993 will go down in net.history as the September that never ended.”
In 1996, Wendy Grossman wrote about the gentrification of Usenet by the influx of AOL users in her book Net.Wars. In the book, she identifies several factors that may have caused the strife between Usenet “old-timers” and AOL newcomers, mainly AOL users’ disadvantage in software, interface and its lack of offline reading or editing services that forced its newsgroup users to skimp on “think time.”
On February 9th, 2005, AOL discontinued newsgroup access through its service, which it announced on January 25th, 2005. On September 16th, 2008, Comcast discontinued newsgroup access, previously provided to all its high speed customers. This led some commentators to claim that perhaps September is finally over.
“Eternal September” can be used to identify oneself as an experienced Usenet user prior to the influx of AOL users in September 1993, or it can be used to hint that there are newbies in presence. The term has been used on various imageboards and forums including 4chan, Something Awful and FARK among others. Particularly on 4chan, the term summer fag also emerged as a pejorative term to describe someone who had just discovered the site and continues to pose nuisance as a result of having too much time on hand during the summer break in school.
As the graph shows, search interest in the keyword “Eternal September” experiences a recurring spike during the month of September each year.
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