The very first internet transaction had nothing to do with Amazon.com. It involved two groups of college students from across the country and America’s favorite pastime—no, not baseball—weed.
“In 1971 or 1972, Stanford students using Arpanet accounts and Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory engaged in a commercial transaction with their counterparts at Massachusetts Institute of Technology,” John Markoff writes in his book What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry. “Before Amazon, before eBay, the seminal act of e-commerce was a drug deal. The students used the network to quietly arrange the sale of an undetermined amount of marijuana.”
Though it’s definitely had its trials with the law, the massive international site Silk Road connected buyers and sellers from anywhere in the world and facilitated thousands of drug deals. BitCoin, the hugely successful, untraceable online currency, also gained its massive popularity and worth from enabling illegal transactions.
It seems not much has changed since Arpanet formed the first connections of the web—people were and are just looking for a way to score.