The term cyberspace (also spelled cyber-space) was coined by science fiction author William Gibson in a short story Burning Chrome, and later used in his novel Neuromancer (1984). It refers to the virtual world created within a computer and the network to which it is attached (also called a "computer-generated reality"). It includes the internal computer memory and wiring, and the networks to which the computer is connected. He called cyberspace a "consensual hallucination":
A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the non-space of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding.
The prefix "cyber" is derived from the Greek word kybernan, which means to steer or control.
Online systems, for example, create a cyberspace within which people can communicate with one another (via e-mail), do research or simply window shop. Like physical space, cyberspace contains objects (files, e-mail messages, graphics, etc.) and different modes of transportation and delivery. Unlike real space, though exploring cyberspace does not require any physical movement other than pressing keys on a keyboard or moving a mouse.
Some programs, particularly virtual worlds, are designed to create a special form of cyberspace, one that resembles physical reality in some ways but defies it in others. Users are presented with visual, auditory, and even tactile feedback that makes cyberspace feel real.
Because it is no more than the interconnection of electronic pathways, cyberspace allows speakers and listeners to mask their identities. Cyberspace undeniably reflects some form of geography; chat rooms and Web sites, for example, exist at fixed "locations" on the Internet. Since users can transmit and receive messages on the Internet without revealing anything about their identities or ages . . ., however, it is not currently possible to exclude persons from accessing certain messages on the basis of their identity. Cyberspace differs from the physical world in another basic way: Cyberspace is malleable. Thus, it is possible to construct barriers in cyberspace and use them to screen for identity, making cyberspace more like the physical world and, consequently, more amenable to zoning laws. This transformation of cyberspace is already underway. * * * Internet speakers (users who post material on the Internet) have begun to zone cyberspace itself through the use of 'gateway' technology.
that intangible place between computers where information momentarily exists on its route from one end of the global network to the other . . . the ethereal reality, an infinity of electrons speeding down copper or glass fibers at the speed of light. . . . Cyberspace is borderless . . . [but also] think of cyberspace as being divided into groups of local or regional cyberspace — hundreds and millions of smaller cyberspaces all over the world.
distinct entities, with clearly defined electronic borders. . . . Small-C cyberspaces consist of personal, corporate or organizational spaces. . . . Big-C cyberspace is the National Information Infrastructure . . . add [both] and then tie it all up with threads of connectivity and you have all of cyberspace.
First, cyberspace is not a physical place, although many elements of cyberspace are indeed physical, do have volume and mass, and are located at points in physical space that can be specified in three spatial dimensions. Second, cyberspace includes but is not limited to the Internet — cyberspace also includes computers (some of which are attached to the Internet and some not) and networks (some of which may be part of the Internet and some not). Third, cyberspace includes many intangibles, such as information and software and how different elements of cyberspace are connected to each other.
Cyberspace is a defining feature of modern life. Individuals and communities worldwide connect, socialize, and organize themselves in and through cyberspace. From 2000 to 2010, global Internet usage increased from 360 million to over 2 billion people. As Internet usage continues to expand, cyberspace will become increasingly woven into the fabric of everyday life across the globe.
"Figure 1 demonstrates one way of visualizing the complexity of cyberspace. It separates cyberspace into three layers: the physical layer (i.e. hardware such as submarine and ethernet cables, routers and switchingdevices), the logical layer (i.e. software or lines of code that allows the hardware to function and communicate), and the social layer (or the cyber-persona layer) (i.e. interaction between online personas that represent people or, increasingly, machines). These three layers are fundamental to the core functions of cyberspace, and they are continuing to grow in diversity, richness and complexity."
↑U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, "The Definition of Cyberspace" (Policy Letter) (May 12, 2008). He also declared his definition to be the official definition of cyberspace "until further notice." U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, "The Definition of 'Cyberspace'" (Policy letter) (May 12, 2009).