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.