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The First Thing to Be Bought and Sold on the Internet Was Some Weed

Photo via Flickr/eggrole.

So the Silk Road has been shuttered (for now), four "significant" drug dealers have been arrested in the rubble of the dark web's favorite illicit bazaar and, to the surprise of literally no one, heroin, cocaine, and weed are stronger, cheaper, and easier to get than ever before.

It might now be worth taking pause to recall the birth of e-commerce. The very first online transaction involved—what else?—a sack of bud.

John Markoff has the nugget in What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry (2005). Here's Markoff, via the Guardian's Mike Power:

In 1971 or 1972, Stanford students using Arpanet accounts at Stanford University's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory engaged in a commercial transaction with their counterparts at Massachussetts Institute of Technology. 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.

A lot has changed over the past four decades. But if there's been one constant in that span, it's humankind's compulsion to get high. American and British authorities are working side-by-side in what they say will be an ongoing uprooting of online drug markets, but if the Silk Road 2.0 isn't already open, it's certainly being paved, because E-commerce started with drugs. And for all we know it'll end with drugs, too.