In the future, the warnet, or internet cafe, will go extinct. But for a generation of '90s kids, the warnet will always bring back warm memories of Friendster and printing out hundreds of pages of song lyrics. Back then, teenagers would skip class to they could hang at the warnet until school let out and it was time to go home. What were they doing with all that time? Reading "testimonies" on Friendster and listening to music from their favorite emo bands—cough… My Chemical Romance… cough.
Everyone would basically run wild on the internet, trying to see everything that was available online in the mid-2000s, which, honestly, wasn't all that much. They thought their browsing was anonymous, but it turns out it wasn't. VICE reached out to Agus Mulyadi, currently the Editor-in-Chief of MOJOK, to hear about his time as a warnet operator.
VICE: How long did you work as warnet operator?
Agus Mulyadi: I’ve worked as one for four years, from 2009 to 2014. I first became a warnet operator in Yogyakarta when I graduated from high school. The warnet was in front of GOR UNY. In 2011, I moved to another warnet in Magelang. I worked in three different internet cafes in four years.
So, did you have a lot of power over the computers?
I could see what my customers was browsing. I knew all my female customers’ Facebook accounts too. And I could do it all from the operator’s computer. It was really fun.
Did you monitor what they were looking at?
You remember that billing software with dolphin picture in it, right? Well, in that software, there was an option for us to see all the websites they visited.
Didn't you think that's a violation of their privacy?
I did, but what else can I do?
What else did you get up to in there?
In one of the warnet I worked in, the owner didn’t pay too much attention to the financial reports. I knew the administrator's password, so I liked to steal the money sometimes. I didn’t do it in the first warnet because I didn’t know the password and the owner was my neighbor. I started doing it in the second place. I saw my friend did it, so I did it too.
What was the most annoying things customers did?
The customers who opened more than one tab for YouTube slowed down the internet. I also hated it when customers sang real loud while using their headset. There were also customers who didn’t know how to use internet. Why did they come to the warnet in the first place? But I was mostly annoyed at customers who came in to watch porn. It was so gross when they would masturbate inside the cubicle. I had to clean it up later.
It means you knew when people were watching porn.
Yeah, I even knew the types of porn they watched. They liked to watch shemale, BDSM, et cetera. So, whenever they came to my warnet, I would guess what they were going to watch.
I heard that the warnet with closed cubicles had way more customers back then.
Back then, people would go to warnet to watch videos or use Facebook and Friendster, so they needed privacy. But now, it’s more like a gaming center. It uses low-walled cubicles. In the last place I worked at, the cubicles were low. Each customer faces each other. You surely don’t want other people to see what sites you visit. But now they already have their own smartphones and laptop, so they don’t need to go to the warnet anymore.
Did you ever catch someone having sex inside the cubicles?
I never saw a couple have sex inside the cubicle, but I saw some couples who were groping each other.
Were customers who just wouldn't leave?
There was one customer who only went home to eat. He would come right back again later. He really liked playing football manager. I had to remind him to leave when the store was about to close.