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I met the internet in 1998. My earliest memories of interacting with the web were after school in the computer lab where my mother worked. A story I like to tell is that I had just moved to the United States and didn’t speak English, so instead of making friends, I learned HTML. The story is mostly true.

Since language is closely linked with identity, it’s not without significance that I learned the language for building webpages at the same time that I acquired English, what I now speak every day. That year, I diagrammed sentences and created <table>’s. I understood <a href= > before I discovered the words “anchor” and “reference.” The more I learned English, the more I could explore the internet, and the more I explored the internet, the more I learned English.

The following summers saw many days spent coding colorful websites where I posted bad poetry, downloading Belle & Sebastian’s discography on a dial-up connection (😱), and stumbling into chat rooms where I further expanded my English vocabulary (hello “masturbation”).

It was fun—is fun.

Because life loves a good laugh at us, I now spend my days working on internet access initiatives with the Web Foundation, which was founded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the web itself.

Karolle Rabarison is a writer and internet access advocate living in Washington, DC.