The first online café in South Korea called Electronic Café opened in front of Hongik University in March 1988 by Ahn Sang-Su and Keum Nuri in Seoul. It had two 16bit computers connected to Online service networks through telephone lines. Online service users’ offline meetings were held in the Electronic Café, which served as a place that connected online and offline activities. The opening of the online café in Korea was 2–3 years ahead of other countries.
The online café phenomenon in the United States was started in July 1991 by Wayne Gregori in San Francisco when he began SFnet Coffeehouse Network. Gregori designed, built and installed 25 coin-operated computer terminals in coffeehouses throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. The café terminals dialed into a 32 line Bulletin Board System that offered an array of electronic services including FIDOnet mail and, in 1992, Internet mail.
The concept of a café with full Internet access (and the name Cybercafé) was invented in early 1994 by Ivan Pope. Commissioned to develop an Internet event for an arts weekend at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, and inspired by the SFnet terminal based cafes, Pope wrote a proposal outlining the concept of a café with Internet access.
After an initial run in late 1993 as a café showcasing computers, a bar called CompuCafé was established in Helsinki, Finland in the spring of 1994 featuring both Internet access and a robotic beer seller.
Around June 1994, The Binary Cafe, Canada’s first Internet café, opened in Toronto, Ontario.
Inspired partly by the ICA event, a commercial establishment of this type, called Cyberia, opened on September 1, 1994 in London, England. In January 1995, CB1 Café in Cambridge, installed an Internet connection and is the longest running Internet Café in the UK, still operating today.
The first public, commercial American Internet café was conceived and opened by Jeff Anderson and Alan Weinkrantz in August 1994, at Infomart in Dallas, Texas and was called The High Tech Cafe.
The Scottish Bar is the first Internet café in French-speaking Switzerland, connected on June 27, 1995 by Pierre Hemmer and his company MC Management & Communication.
Three Internet cafés subsequently opened in the East Village neighborhood of New York City: Internet Cafe, opened by Arthur Perley, the @Cafe, and the Heroic Sandwich. In 1996, the Internet café Surf City opened in downtown Anchorage, Alaska.
A variation of Internet café called PC bang (similar to LAN gaming centers) became extremely popular in South Korea when StarCraft was released in 1998. Although computer and broadband penetration per capita were very high, young people went to PC bangs to play multiplayer games.