"Not so long ago, communicating took time. Sending word from town to town or continent to continent required days or even months. Then, in the space of a few decades in the mid-19th century, telegraph wires webbed the world. Instant communication had arrived. The pioneering networks of the telegraph in many ways foretold the influence of our contemporary network of networks -- the Internet. Yesterday, the telegraph offered spectacular promise yet raised daunting challenges. Today, in striking parallels, the Internet does the same. The ability to exchange information in split seconds has influenced every aspect of life, opening new worlds. By transforming how we communicate, we have transformed ourselves."
From the telegraph to the Internet: The Once and Future Web