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What is a Cyber Cafe?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated May 16, 2024
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A cyber cafe, also often referred to as an Internet cafe, is a location that provides Internet access to patrons for a fee. It may be a restaurant, coffee shop or snack bar or simply have stations at which people can connect their laptop computers or handheld computerized devices to the Internet. Fees for the connections are normally charged on credit or debit cards and are calculated by the minute, hour or portions of hours.

The first Internet cafe network was established in 1991 in the United States in San Francisco, California. Twenty-five coin operated connection terminals were placed in different coffeehouses throughout the city and enabled customers to access a local computer bulletin board where they could exchange messages. In 1992, the service expanded to include connections to Internet mail services throughout the world.

Two years later, the first cyber cafe that provided comprehensive Internet access opened in London, England. Its popularity inspired multiple cyber cafe openings over the next year at various international locations. In 1997, the first cyber cafe dedicated to Internet gaming enthusiasts opened in Korea.

Today almost every major city worldwide has a number of cyber cafes. They are generally frequented by locals who gather to personally socialize while connected to the Internet. A significant number of cyber cafe patrons are also travelers who use the public access connections to maintain contact with family and friends through e-mail and instant messaging services. Many people use the cafe services to e-mail pictures of their travels back home for the enjoyment of others.

The video game cyber cafe model that originated in Korea has been expanded and improved in many cities. These locations typically have custom-made computers designed to accommodate sophisticated online games. The online competitions are customarily played by several players at once who are frequently located all over the world. This gaming cafe phenomenon has considerably affected the popularity of video arcades formerly frequented by fans of cyberspace game playing. A considerable number of these arcades are being considered for transformation into cyber cafes.

Around the same time that cyber cafes were gaining popularity, cyber kiosks were introduced. These Internet access booths first appeared in airports and public libraries and are frequently used for very short periods of time to verify appointments and information while on the go. Similar connections are generally available for guests of resorts, motels, hotels and cruise lines who pay a flat or hourly rate for the convenience. Many of these guest connections offer the option of wireless Internet access as well.

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Discussion Comments
By anon342095 — On Jul 17, 2013

I want to open an internet cafe to make some money. I want to do it in Europe, in any country. Can anyone tell me which country should be good to make money? --Sharif

By SarahSon — On Jan 25, 2012

I know most cruise lines offer a service similar to a cyber cafe, where you pay a fee to access the internet.

Now it seems that most places offer this service for free. With tablets, netbooks, e-readers and smart phones all having access to the internet, I hardly ever see cyber cafes anymore.

Most coffee shops, restaurants and hotels have free wireless internet and people would probably object if they had to pay a fee to get online.

I used to use the computers at our public library quit a bit when I was waiting for my kids. I don't ever remember paying a fee to access the internet when I was at the library.

By andee — On Jan 25, 2012

I remember when cyber cafes first became popular in the United States. At that time, having access to the internet like we do now was not as prevalent.

Not as many people owned laptops, and most of the time, the internet was accessed at home or at the office on a desktop computer.

I used a cyber cafe a few times when I was traveling. If I had some time to kill waiting at an airport, I would pay a fee to check my email and some stock prices.

By KaBoom — On Jan 24, 2012

I'm really interested in these Internet gaming cyber cafes in Korea. They sound really neat, and they also sound like a way to get gamer geeks out of their house to socialize with other people.

Most of my friends who are gamers tend to play alone in the comfort of their own home. However, the promise of fast computers with cyber cafe software specifically tailored for gaming might be enough to get them to come out and interact with other human beings!

By JessicaLynn — On Jan 23, 2012

@Monika - I think an Internet cafe might still work as a business. If you had the right cyber cafe management and really, really good marketing, you could probably get people to come in for the novelty value. You could even decorate it 1990s style and maybe outfit the computers so they look kind of "old school."

A cyber cafe might also be really convenient for people who don't own laptops. Not everyone does! Also, I don't think it would really work out to be that much more expensive than going to a coffee shop. After all, you still have to buy something to use the wireless at most places.

By Monika — On Jan 23, 2012

I don't think cyber cafes that provide computers are that popular in the United States anymore. I remember hearing about them some in the late 90s/early 2000s.

However, free wireless Internet is almost everywhere these days, so I don't think a cyber cafe system would be a very smart business model anymore.

Why would you go somewhere where you had to pay for Internet access when you can go to almost any coffee shop and use their wireless network for free? Also, I prefer to use my own laptop rather than some outdated computer owned by someone else!

By burcidi — On Jan 22, 2012

I have a trip planned to Valencia, Spain next month and I'm all set up to stay in a small hotel there. As far as I know, there isn't internet access at the hotel. Does anyone know if there are cyber cafes available in Valencia?

I believe Valencia is one of the biggest cities after Madrid and Barcelona so I'm guessing that finding a cyber cafe won't be difficult. But if anyone can confirm it for me or suggest any good cyber cafes there, that would be great!

By burcinc — On Jan 21, 2012

@fify-- That's interesting. The cyber cafes I've been to are basically cafes that are also free internet hotspots. Some have computers for people to use and some require that you bring your laptop with you. I like the ones that have computers because I don't like to carry my laptop, it's so heavy.

There is one that I went to with my friends in San Francisco that I really liked. It was a cafe that also served food and drinks and each table had a computer in the center. My friends and I had so much fun there because we were looking up things online and chatting about it while we had our drinks. It was a really nice, laid-back atmosphere.

I wish there were more of cyber cafe businesses. I mean, internet is a necessity in our lives now and an important source of entertainment for most of us. So it makes sense to combine that with hang-out places like cafes. In fact, I think it would be nice to combine hookah cafes and cyber cafes. Both are emerging trends so it would do well, don't you think?

By fify — On Jan 21, 2012

Internet is pretty affordable in the US and many public establishment offer free wireless internet. But Eastern Europe and the Middle East still depends largely on cyber internet cafes from what I've seen.

When I was traveling in Eastern Europe and Middle Eastern countries like Bosnia, Egypt and Lebanon, I saw internet cafes in many neighborhoods and that's how I also checked my mail while I was traveling. Most places did not have internet access except for large hotels that offered it in return for a fee.

I think internet is still pretty costly in these places. Most families have a desktop computer but many don't have internet. Many middle-class and lower-class families don't appear to be needing it either. Internet cafes are generally full of school-aged children playing video games and foreigners who need to check their mail.

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