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 and/or software.
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The concept of a café with full Internet access (and the 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.
Gregori designed, built and installed 25 coin-operated computer terminals in coffeehouses throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
The café terminals dialed into a 32 line Bulletin Board System that offered an array of electronic services including FIDOnet mail and, in 1992, Internet mail.
In 1996, the Internet café Surf City opened in downtown Anchorage, Alaska.
A variation of Internet café called PC bang (similar to LAN gaming centers) became extremely popular in South Korea when Star Craft was released in 1998.
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. The cause of this development is a combination of complicated regulation, relatively high Internet penetration rates, the widespread use of notebooks, tablets and smartphones and the relatively high number of wireless internet hotspots.
In the early days they were important in projecting the image of the Internet as a 'cool' phenomenon.
Internet cafés are a natural evolution of the traditional café.
Inspired partly by the ICA event, a commercial establishment of this type, called Cyberia, opened on September 1, 1994 in London, England.