Internet Guide Logo

UUNet

Last Edit: 02/12/19

UUNet is one of the earliest commercial Internet Service Providers, and was initially launched in 1987 as a not-for-profit company by Rick Adams (Richard L. Adams Jr).

A keen computer user from his teens, in the 1980s Rick Adams was designing data collection systems for the Center for Seismic Studies (located in Arlington, Virginia, United States of America). The Center for Seismic Studies was a contractor to the U.S. Department of Defense, and this tie-up gave Rick access to ARPANET (forerunner/evolved into the Internet). At the time, it was notorious difficult for commercial companies to gain access to ARPANET, due to it being a project that was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. Rick took note of the interest in this "wonderful resource" and the disquiet people had that they could not access it. Rick eventually persuaded the USENIX Association (founded as the Unix Users Group) to provide a loan of $250,000 to begin a service that would give access to email, usenet and other online resource (the web was not invented at that time). The name UUNet is probably named to mean 'Unix to Unix Net' -- at the time most systems that connected to ARPANET/Internet ran on Unix -- but there have been claims that Rick did not assign any meaning to the name UUNet.

UUNet proved a huge success, so much so, that by 1989-1990 it had paid back its initial loan to USENIX, began life as a commercial for-profit company, and Rick had quit his job at the Center for Seismic Studies to work full time at UUNet. However, the major problem UUNet had at the beginning was that commercial Internet Service Providers were restricted by a "acceptable use policy" imposed by government funded and controlled tcp/ip networks. UUNet's solution was to create the Commercial Internet eXchange (CIX) with PSINet and CERFnet in 1991. The Commercial Internet eXchange (CIX) allowed commercial Internet Service Providers to freely exchange data across their networks, and it was an essential milestone in the creation of the modern decentralised Internet. In 1992, Rick Adams co-founded another Internet Exchange Point organisation called MAE-East, which connected major cities along the east coast. UUNet's co-founding of CIX and MAE-East placed it at the heart of the Internet -- with estimates that over half the Internet's traffic flowed through these exchanges -- and made UUNet one of the most important networks of the Internet.

As the Internet became 'the thing' to invest into in the early 1990s, UUNet saw investment from: Mitch Kapor, Accel Partners, Hancock Venture, New Enterprise Associates and Menlo Ventures. As Rick's share of UUNet was diluted, so was his control, and new management was brought into UUNet to assist Rick and help its growth. John W. Sidgmore became Chief Executive Officer of UUNET and was instrumental in helping to knot the early workforce and new corporate culture together. In 1994, UUNet agreed a deal to provide the infrastructure for Microsoft's new online service: Microsoft Network. Microsoft also purchased 16% of UUNet's stock for a sum believed to be in the region of $16 million. On May 25th, 1995, UUNet was listed on the NASDAQ stock market, and the public offering was underwritten by Goldman Sachs. The success of UUNet's public listing on NASDAQ made Rick Adams a wealthy individual.

After its public offering, UUNet expanded internationally and became one of the world's most recognised technology brands. While UUNet was riding the crest of a wave, there were doubts about its ability to continue to fund its expanding infrastructure expansion. On the 12th of August 1996, UUNet was acquired for $2 Billion by Metropolitan Fiber Systems (MFS). A year later MFS was purchased by Worldcom and UUNet eventually became a brand name of Worldcom's wholesale business. Verizon currently own the UUNet brand/subsidiary/business.