History of micronationalism on the Internet
The history of micronationalism on the Internet can be considered to have begun in November 1995, with the launch of the Kingdom of Talossa's national web page by Robert B. Madison. That same year, Madison also created the first web page dedicated to micronationalism as a whole—the Micronations Page. Early web hosting services such as GeoCities, Tripod.com (both launched in 1995) and Angelfire (1996) allowed any user with Internet access to create their own web pages. As a result, micronationalism lost much of its traditionally eccentric anti-establishment sentiment in favour of more hobbyist perspectives, and the number of exclusively online or merely simulation-based micronations—and the number of micronations in general—expanded dramatically, with entirely fictional states (geofiction) erroneously claiming to be micronations. The Internet gave rise to, or popularised, many widely recognised concepts and terms still used by the micronational community today, such as 'bug' (1995), 'paper doll', 'egonation' (1997), 'macronation', 'YAMO" (c.1998) and "sector" (2000).
The Internet developed from the ARPANET created in 1969, which was funded by the government of the United States to support projects within the government and at universities, research laboratories and many large technology companies. The adoption of TCP/IP internationally on existing networks, connections to the National Science Foundation Network (NSFNET) and the emergence of architecture such as the Domain Name System in the early and mid-1980s marked the beginnings of the Internet, with the World Wide Web developed in March 1989. The optical backbone of the NSFNET was decommissioned in April 1995, removing the last restrictions on the use of the Internet to carry commercial traffic as traffic transitioned to optical networks managed by Internet companies—the Internet was now open to the public.
With diplomacy between micronations principally conducted via e-mail, Madison reformed the previously dormant intermicronational organisation the League of Secessionist States (LoSS) in April 1996, with member states convening via a forum on Usenet and a mailing list. 1997 saw further developments such as the apolitical and strictly diplomatic United Micronations (March), and
alt.politics.micronations (June). 1998 saw Usenet challenged as activity shifted towards mailing lists hosted on Yahoo! Clubs or eGroups.com, especially in the influential Lusophone sector. MicroWorld, founded in January 1998, became a prominent central hub of micronationalism. Through 1998 to 1999, due to diplomacy being conducted principally via e-mail, web directories were created to list the national websites of micronations, with Micronations on the Web (April 1998) and the Microfreedom Index (January 1999) becoming the most noteworthy.
The geofiction Apollo Sector (later Micras) partially dominated the early 2000s, with micronations.net taking over as the principal community of the Anglosphere in 2002. The first micronational wiki, Micropédia, was created in 2003, followed by Wikimicropídia in February 2006; both were in the Portuguese-language. The English Open Micronational, micronations.eu, MicroHub and Portuguese "Impresa Livre" forums dominated the community between 2006 and 2008. In late 2008, technical issues on micronations.net caused many users to migrate to MicroWiki; thereafter, the MicroWiki sector became the principal community of the Anglophones, with the Grand Unified Micronational, founded in January 2009, garnering a positive reputation throughout the micronational community. The MicroWiki sector would develop the two-dimensional secessionism-simulationism scale, rejecting geofiction as micronationalism.
With the MicroWiki forums dominating, the growing popularity of social networking services from 2010 onwards made it easier to host a micronational presence online without the need of a web hosting service; self-contained communities (sectors) emerged on Skype, Facebook, Twitter and then Instagram, with the Facebook groups Micronations and Alternative Polities (created in December 2011) and Micronational Forum (September 2012) being the foremost with 3,400 and 990 members respectively as of August 2022. With micronationalists choosing instead to convene through social media, most forums disappeared by 2013. Wikis also became a popular medium for micronational activity in the mid-2010s, perhaps influenced by the popularity of MicroWiki. In mid-2017, instant messaging platform Discord began to gain popularity with its "server" feature—essentially customisable private chatrooms—leading to a further increase in the number of exclusively online, community-oriented micronations. MicroWiki@Discord served as the principal intermicronational server on Discord until its reputation dropped from November 2020 onwards.
The Internet developed from the ARPANET created in 1969, which was funded by the government of the United States to support projects within the government and at universities and research laboratories in the US—but grew over time to include most of the world's large universities and the research arms of many technology companies. The adoption of TCP/IP internationally on existing networks (1982), international connections to the National Science Foundation Network (NSFNET) and the emergence of architecture such as the Domain Name System (both 1985) marked the beginnings of the Internet. The World Wide Web was developed in March 1989. Commercial Internet service providers (ISPs) emerged in 1989 in the United States and Australia, and the ARPANET was decommissioned in 1990. The optical backbone of the NSFNET was decommissioned in April 1995, removing the last restrictions on the use of the Internet to carry commercial traffic, as traffic transitioned to optical networks managed by Sprint, MCI Communications, and AT&T.
In 1995, only 0.04 percent of the world's population had Internet access, with well over half of those living in the United States, and consumer use was through dial-up. In 1996, it was at 0.9 percent; 1997, 1.7 percent; 1998, 3.6 percent; 1999, 4.1 percent; and in 2000, it was 5.8 percent.
1995–96: First web page and the foundation of the League of Secessionist States
The earliest known micronation to launch a national web page was the Kingdom of Talossa in November 1995. Designed by Robert B. Madison, King of Talossa, the web page was hosted as a subdomain of the online service provider ExecPC BBS's ExecPC Internet at
www.execpc.com/~talossa. Madison also launched the Micronations Page that same year, which was the first web page dedicated to micronationalism as a whole. The Micronations Page gave a brief overview of the subject, including attempted definitions, examples of micronations, and was later updated to include a list of micronations—the first webpage ever to do so.
In the mid-1990s, the emerging popularity of the Internet made creating state-like entities possible with relative ease via an entirely electronic medium—GeoCities, Tripod.com (both launched in 1995) and Angelfire (1996), early web hosting services, allowed any Internet user to create their own web pages. As a result, micronationalism lost much of its traditionally eccentric anti-establishment sentiment in favour of more hobbyist perspectives, and the number of exclusively online or merely simulation-based micronations—and the number of micronations in general—expanded dramatically, with entirely fictional states (geofiction) erroneously claiming to be micronations. During this period, diplomacy between micronations was being conducted principally via e-mail.
In April 1996, Madison reformed the previously dormant intermicronational organisation the League of Secessionist States (LoSS)—launched a web page for it—and accepted two member states. Madison claims that Talossa was featured in several North American newspapers in 1995,[a] which resulted in newer micronations contacting him for diplomacy via e-mail. Subsequently, he decided to reestablish the league upon seeing this an opportunity to expand micronational diplomacy via the Internet. The LoSS became the largest intermicronational organisation by the end of 1996 with roughly ten member states, its members convening through e-mail and the Usenet newsgroup
alt.talk.hypothetical, formerly a non-micronational newsgroup which a representative from the Kingdom of Porto Claro had claimed as the league's official discussion forum in September 1996. In late 1996, Pedro Aguiar, Secretary-General of the LoSS, launched the Micronations DataBase. By its disestablishment in 1999, it was purported to list 574 micronations.
1997–99: Lusophone sector, Usenet, web directories and mailing lists
The apolitical and strictly diplomatic United Micronations (UM), which was founded in March 1997, reached some twenty member states by July 1998, with the UM and LoSS being the principal intermicronational organisations in the community. Another micronational newsgroup,
alt.politics.micronations, was created on 15 June 1997; and was the first newsgroup dedicated to micronationalism and micropatriology as a whole. MicroWorld, a central hub which included documents on micronationalism, a forum, a monthly magazine and surveys among other things, was founded in January 1998 and saw stable growth.
By 1998, mailing lists, commonly hosted on Yahoo! Clubs or eGroups.com, began to reach popularity in the Lusophone sector, overtaking micronational activity on Usenet. Message boards—such as Usenet—were instead preferred in the Anglophone and German-speaking sectors. The Yahoo! Club "Micronationalism", which was created on 30 September 1998, reached 85 registered members and 32,000 page views by February 2001. Through 1998 to 1999, due to diplomacy being conducted principally via e-mail, web directories were created to list the national websites of micronations—the Holy Empire of Reunion's list of micronations in early 1998, Joseph Bloch's Micronations on the Web on 21 April 1998 and Steven F. Scharff's Micronation and Sovereignty Website Index (later Microfreedom Index) on 19 January 1999.
During this time the Lusophone sector was in its epoch, with Porto Claro, the Commonwealth of Port Colice (1996), the Holy Empire of Reunion, Republic of Orange, Free Commonwealth of Penguinea (1997) and Nova Roma (1998) being among the most ubiquitous micronations. The Enciclopédia Jéssica—the first ever micronational encyclopaedia—was launched in February 1999, and had 561 articles. Meanwhile in the Anglosphere, Thomas Leys, creator of MicroWorld, became extremely influential in 1998, serving as elected Secretary-General of the LoSS between April 1999 and 2001, during which he removed inactive member states. Many of these early websites proved culturally and historically significant in the online micronational community, having given rise to, or popularised, many widely recognised concepts and terms still used by micronationalists today such as 'bug' (1995), 'paper doll', 'egonation' (1997), 'macronation', 'YAMO" (c.1998) and "sector" (2000).
2000–08: Micras, micronations.net, decline of the Lusophone sector and other forums
The Republic of Molossia hosted the first Intermicronational Olympic Games between September and October 2000 via Yahoo! Games. The Kingdom of TorHavn hosted a follow-up event in April 2002, which was much less successful. In 2000, MicroIndex was launched by the Kingdom of Bannesled.
Between November and December 2000, the geofiction Apolyton Sector (later Apollo Sector) began to hold a moderate influence in the wider micronational community, with the Imperial Republic of Shireroth proving particularly influential. In 2002, the sector became known as Micras upon the engagement of the Micronational Cartography Society. Such geofiction projects were accepted in the micronations.net community which became popular in 2002, succeeding communities on Usenet and GeoCities to become the principal micronational discussion forum of the Anglosphere. Run by the Micronational News Network as a central web portal, the website linked to numerous online directories, forums and chatrooms. Ubiquitous Anglophone micronations in the early 2000s included the Principality of Corvinia, Gay Parallel Republic and TorHavn, with Molossia, the Royal Republic of Ladonia and Principality of Sealand maintaining intermittently active websites or forums.
Meanwhile, the Lusophone sector began to become less prolific from the early 2000s onwards. Nevertheless, the Yahoo! Group "Impresa Livre" was created in June 2001 by the Micronational Press Association (Associação Micronacional de Impresa), and consistently received over 110 posts per day—peaking at over 450 registered members—until being disbanded in July 2010. Additionally, the first micronational wiki, Micropédia, was created in 2003 by Rafael Filgueira and Bruno Cava of the Free Community of Pasargada, running with ASP.NET. In February 2006, Aguiar created Wikimicropídia on Wikicities (now Fandom), with articles being taken from Enciclopédia Jéssica, the Micronations DataBase and Micropédia among others; it had 2,000 articles by October 2006, though no active community.
The airing of the BBC's How to Start Your Own Country between August and September 2005 resulted in an influx of individuals starting their own countries, although most of them migrated to the Micras Sector (where they were known as the Lovely Sector) and became geofictionists instead of secessionist micronationalists. The Open Micronational forum, launched in December 2006, was popular throughout 2007, receiving over 7,600 posts from 77 registered members by January 2008. Other English-language forums throughout 2008 included micronations.eu and MicroHub, the latter of which had over 2,000 posts from 277 registered members.
In late 2008, technical issues arose on micronations.net which caused the wiki attached to micronations.net to become corrupted, causing many users to migrate to the micronational wiki MicroWiki (which had been founded in 2005). Thereafter, the MicroWiki sector would become the principal community of the Anglophones, with the Grand Unified Micronational, founded in January 2009, garnering a positive reputation throughout the community. The MicroWiki sector would develop the two-dimensional secessionism-simulationism scale, rejecting geofiction as micronationalism. In December 2008, the Antarctic Micronational Union was founded online in an attempt to standardise land claims in Antarctica.
In March 2009, Listofmicronations.com and its associated forums were launched, with the website aiming to be "the most comprehensive and up-to-date list of micronational entities in existence." With the micronational index receiving positive reviews, the forum had received over 7,100 posts from 120 registered members by August 2011. The index stopped being updated in May 2012, and the forum has since seldom received posts after reaching 8,000 in late 2012. In December 2010, the MicroWiki forums were launched and immediately became a focal point of said community, receiving over 60,000 posts in 3,000 threads by December 2012. In April 2012, a small breakaway community formed on MicroWiki's old Wikia (now Fandom) website to rival MicroWiki by claiming to be the "true MicroWiki". The feud would end in October 2018.
From the early 2010s onwards, the growing popularity of social networking services made it easier to host a micronational presence online without the need of a web hosting service; self-contained communities (sectors) began to emerge on Skype, Facebook, Twitter and then Instagram. On Facebook, the groups Micronations and Alternative Polities (created in December 2011) and Micronational Forum (September 2012) are the foremost, with 3,400 and 990 members respectively as of August 2022. Since the early 2010s, if a national website is needed it will often be made with an easy to use website-building content management system, many of which offer pre-made templates for individuals with no coding experience—WordPress, SquareSpace (launched in 2003), later Weebly and Wix.com (2006) and Google Sites (2008).
2013–present: Rise of wikis, Discord and the decline of forums
Excluding the MicroWiki forums, most micronational discussion forums disappeared by 2013, with micronationalists choosing instead to convene through social media. Wikis also became a popular medium for micronational activity in the 2010s, perhaps influenced by the popularity of MicroWiki—Czech MicroWiki (2012), Micronationals Wiki, TalossaWiki (2014), Libertian Archives (2015), Encyclopedia Westarctica and the Konmalehth Libraries (2018) have or had more than several hundred articles. Most wikis are hosted on wiki hosting services or software such as MediaWiki, Fandom or Miraheze. Some micronational communities were also created on the Amino app, including Micronation Hub (170+ members) in late 2017 and "Micronations" (120+ members) in c.2018. Both communities became inactive in 2020.
In mid-2017, instant messaging platform Discord began to gain popularity with its "server" feature—essentially customisable private chatrooms—leading to a further increase in the number of exclusively online, community-oriented micronations. MicroWiki@Discord revived the MicroWiki sector in September 2018, with the server becoming the principal intermicronational server on Discord until servers splintered in November 2020. Reddit's r/micronations—created in June 2009—reached 1,000 members in November 2017; after reaching 2,000 in June 2019, the subreddit would see a yearly growth rate of approximately one thousand users.
- História micronacional [Micronational history]. (in Portuguese). Wikimicropídia. "By all accounts, it was the first micronation to have an official website to communicate among its citizens and also with other countries and potential future inhabitants, in 1995." Retrieved 5 July 2022.
- Micronational Internet Hall of Fame [@MicronationalF] (3 July 2022). "In Nov 1995, the first webpage dedicated to micronationalism was launched, The Micronations Page. Designed by Robert I, King of Talossa, the website gave a brief overview of the subject and later included a list of micronations—also the first webpage ever to do so." (tweet) – via Twitter. Retrieved 5 July 2022.
- History of the LOSS. League of Secessionist States. "On the middle 1990's, however, with the world-wide boom of Internet, new micronations appeared and Robert B. Madison created his "The Micronations Page", an online repository for secessionist projects with comments (written in his own personal views)." Retrieved 5 July 2022.
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- History of the LOSS. League of Secessionist States. "In the winter of 199, the League […] created the MDB, Micronations DataBase, the League's official records for micronations, as foreseen in Madison's fundamentals." Retrieved 5 July 2022.
- Micronations Database. (in Portuguese). Wikimicropídia. Retrieved 5 July 2022.
- Lista de discussão [Mailing lists]. (in Portuguese). Wikimicropídia. Retrieved 5 July 2022.
- Quadro de mensagens [Message boards]. (in Portuguese). Wikimicropídia. Retrieved 5 July 2022.
- Micronationalism. Yahoo! Clubs. Archived on the Internet Archive on 27 February 2001. "Stats > Members:  Page Views:  Founded: [September 30, 1998]".
- Wedgwood, Ruth (2000). "Cyber-Nations". Kentucky Law Journal. University of Kentucky College of Law. 88 (4): article 5, p. 962. Retrieved 5 July 2022.
- Micropatrologist [Joseph Bloch] (21 April 1998). "New Micropatrology Web Site". alt.politics.micronations. Usenet – via Google Groups. Retrieved 5 July 2022.
- About. MicroFreedom. "Steven expanded the single page of links into an entire website dedicated to the study and preservation of information about micronations, and on January 18th, 1999 MicroFreedom was born!". Retrieved 5 July 2022.
- Sites s'intéressant plus particulièrement aux micro-nations [Sites specifically interested in micronations]. (in French). Institut Français de Micropatrologie. "Microfreedom - or "The Micronation and Sovereignty Website Index"". Retrieved 5 July 2022.
- As of July 2022, this claim has been unfounded.