Twenty years ago, when home computers weren't widespread, Internet access was still a luxury for most people in China.
At this time overseas, Amazon surpassed 28 billion U.S. dollars with its online sales market value, Yahoo gained 100 million users from the search engine and mailbox business, and online shopping and work have become part of the lives of some people.
Chinese people also want to know how far their lives are from the Internet, and an Internet survival test was launched.
In 1999, the "72-hour Network Survival Test", backed by the Ministry of Information Industry of China and sponsored by the media outlets including the People's Daily and Dreamer Chinese Network, recruited volunteers in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.
In the test, the organizer provided a room with a slatted bed, dial-up network, a roll of toilet paper, and 1,500 yuan in cash and 1,500 digital money. The test subjects were not allowed to leave the room for 72 hours.
In a sense, this test is both a test of the ability of Chinese netizens to use the Internet and a test of the advanced level of Chinese internet.
The news came out that public opinion at the time was generally not optimistic about the test. At that time, the average monthly salary of the Chinese working class was around 1,000 yuan, and the activity fund of 3,000 yuan for three days was very large for the testers, but some people still thought that they could not even buy a drop of water.
It was indeed reasonable at the time to have such an idea. At that time, home computers were no different to luxury goods for Chinese people. Even if someone spent thousands of dollars to buy a computer, it was more used to browse the web and read the news. Online shopping was also an advanced concept for the 4 million Chinese Internet users at the time.
About 5,000 people registered for the test, of which 70% were in Shanghai, 20% in Beijing and 10% in Guangzhou.
In the end, 12 testers and some candidates were selected. They were randomly divided into three groups and arranged in different rooms in hotels of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
In order to ensure that these people do not experience psychological and physical problems during the test, they have undergone official psychological and health tests and even signed insurance and legal provisions.
At noon on September 3, the 12 people walked into their respective rooms equipped with cameras, and the test began.
The entire testing process was broadcast live by TV stations such as Beijing Satellite TV and Shanghai Oriental Satellite TV. Netizens also followed their every move through information.
The first problem these testers face is food and clothing.
There are many "net worms" among the testers, but their shopping experience is basically zero. To survive by shopping, they need their own learning abilities.
15 minutes after the test began, testers from Shanghai purchased a total of 400 yuan of daily necessities on the Internet.
However, due to the shopping system at the time, the bank transfer from bank card payment to the account used on the website required bank authentication to complete the transfer, which was a time-consuming series of actions.
The tester who successfully placed the order early got his purchase after five hours, and at this time he was very hungry.
Of course, there are people who cannot eat as expected. The tester “Rain Sound” from Beijing, who was tested in Guangzhou, hit some shopping websites and filled out the order, but failed to make purchases because he would not send or receive emails.
"Rain Sound" is 18 years old and only three months old. Because he would not be able to access online dialogue tools, he could not get all outside assistance. Netizens were also very anxious. There were as many as 300 replies on the BBS, but he could not see it at all.
After enduring 25 hours of hunger, "Rain Sound" handed out a "surrender" note to the staff outside through the door slit and chose to quit the test.
At that time, "Email" was a fashionable and avant-garde vocabulary for Chinese people. Most people were like "Rain Sound" and had less access to computers. The situation is slightly better in the Shanghai-Guangzhou area, but not many people fully understand how to use email.
The testers performed differently due to their different exposures to the Internet. Another tester who also tested in Guangzhou bought the daily necessities through the Internet on the first day and successfully ate the white-boiled shrimp delivered by the restaurant.
At the time, the so-called online malls in China were not in small numbers. For example, large shopping malls such as Xidan had online malls.
However, more online malls do not mean that you can buy things. Either it is a so-called shopping platform, and it is no different from furnishings. Either the bank certification takes a long time, sometimes it takes seven days to complete the certification, and there is no time to buy anything.
At that time, China's main online shopping was known, only eBay and 8848. In addition to these two websites, there is also a CHINAWILL test page where you can buy things.
Most testers who can place orders on the first day have encountered many difficulties and took a long time to purchase successfully.
In fact, it was also in September that China Merchants Bank launched the card service on the Internet, and users did not need to go offline to handle business. Only two months after the test was completed, CCB announced the opening of its online banking service in Beijing, becoming the first state-owned bank to have online banking services.
Testers bought everything from toothbrushes to rice cookers, but most items could not be delivered the same day.
The more convenient method is to ask for foreign assistance. The testers enter the chat room with the help of the staff to get outside help.
A tester in Shanghai had sudden eye problems. After asking for help online, netizens urgently sent eye drops to survive the crisis.
The next day, the items purchased by the testers on the first day arrived.
In addition to daily necessities, the testers purchased many non-essential items such as VCDs, books and even flowers to improve the quality of life.
At that time, online shopping sites rarely provided daily necessities for sale, and most of them provided things similar to books and videos.
According to the tester's situation, it is relatively easy for testers in Shanghai to buy food and other items, whether it is looking for a website or distribution.
And testers in Beijing seem to be more convenient to buy books. Some testers report that from finding a website to paying for it, buying books is even easier than buying daily necessities.
Due to sufficient funds, some testers started shopping frantically the next afternoon.
Testers from Shanghai bought new clothes, sheets, bedding and other items for themselves, and testers bought large items such as printers, scanners, and cordless phones, and tried to spend the money before the end.
But most people still have trouble shopping. In the face of time-consuming issues such as payment, testers have to complain that money is hard to spend.
It's not hard to imagine that online shopping can't solve the tester's diet problem in time. What really makes the testers full is actually the "Yonghe Soy Milk" restaurant.
During the test period, "Yonghe Soy Milk" has a special link on the official website. With one click, you can deliver food to the tester.
Ninety percent of the testers' diet problems were solved by "Yonghe Soy Milk".
On the third day, after the basic needs were resolved, the testers began to pass the time.
Some people chat with netizens through chat rooms, and others open portals such as Sina, Sohu, and Capital Online to browse information, watch movies, send and receive emails, and listen to music.
Of course, there is also a tester who is committed to doing real things. For example, a tester who was tested in Guangzhou used this time to set up an online flower shop. Before the test was over, she also received a first order.
There is a lot of content on the Internet, but testers are gradually feeling dull. A female test subject wrote in her email that she was "growing weaker" and "can be released in half a day."
At 2 pm on September 6th, the door of the room where the tester was opened, 11 testers walked out of the hotel with full of energy, and some of the hotel rooms were in a mess, and the room was filled with "Yonghe Soy Milk" takeaway lunch boxes.
There was only one female tester from Shanghai, and the room was not only tidy but also decorated with flowers.
At this point, except for those who retired, everyone else has successfully completed the task. Although everyone contributed 60% of the online time to online shopping, the entire test spent 6919.05 yuan, of which only 1853.34 yuan was used for electronic money.
At this point, many people are buying items that are still in transit.
According to the testimony and the response of other ordinary netizens, the media reached such a conclusion: no one can survive by relying on the Internet.
The "72-hour Network Survival Test" caused a lot of fluctuations among netizens and even people who did not know the Internet at all.
Some netizens and testers believe that there is suspicion of "directed" operation in the test. The 8848 website, which is used frequently by testers, is the sponsor of this event.
The tester placed an order for shopping on the platform, and someone received the goods the same day, but ordinary users responded that they did not succeed in the payment at the 8848 shopping to the end of the event.
Another website, CHINAWILL, which used frequently, closed the beta page directly after the event.
The person in charge said in an interview that they would no longer sell daily necessities such as instant noodles, biscuits, toothbrushes and toothpaste in their postmenstrual operations. In their view, "these things are meaningless to sell online."
In addition, the "Yonghe Soy Milk" restaurant that provided food to the testers also closed the take-out service after the test. When reporters asked, they responded that they could not afford the consumption and costs of small-scale business such as catering and take-out services.
At the end of the event, these restaurant takeaway and online shopping services are either "retired" or returned to normal. In other words, the test was not set in the real Chinese Internet.
In addition, some people think that the three-day survival time is too short to talk about a "survival test."
Use a reporter to comment on China's Internet survival after the fact: you can only treat it as a future meal, you cannot enjoy it now.
However, testers generally reported a good experience. A tester sent by the media believes that he thinks he can live like this for a month as long as the funds are sufficient.
Not long after the end of the test, the Information Department of the Shanghai Municipal Committee held a meeting to discuss it, saying that the test was a "review" of the Chinese Internet and Internet users, and pointed out the way for future Internet development efforts.
We don't know if this test really points the way, but he did have an impact on the development of Chinese e-commerce.
The 8848 shopping platform became one of the biggest winners of this event. The 8848 website, which has been online for only five months, has been known by more people after the test, and has established its own preferred image for China's online shopping platform. Compared with Alibaba, which was born the same year, 8848 wins a small step.
In 2001, 8848 became the "China's e-commerce leader" in the mouth of the president of Inter Corporation, which also led to the start of Chinese e-commerce.
Unfortunately, the 8848 platform was drowned in the changes of the times due to internal high-level differences and is no longer known.
It is worth mentioning that before the test started, the 8848 platform itself had no experience in selling food. At that time, netizens preferred to buy software and other items here. A few days after the test was finished, 8848 officially started sending food to ordinary users.
However, at this time, the user buys bread on the 8848. When receiving the goods, the product name is also written as "software".
Since 8848, the convenience of payment and takeaway has been continuously improved as the demand increases, making the much-maligned "digital life" in the test a reality step by step.
And the three major Chinese portals that have become famous at that time have witnessed and accompanied the development of the Chinese Internet in the past 20 years, and their status is still difficult to shake.
Nowadays, the Internet in China has undergone tremendous changes. The "72-hour network survival test" has long become the "72-hour network-free survival test" today.
The 12 people who participated in this test may not even think that the problems that had troubled them in those three days have now resolved the employment of one million people.
Looking back at the development over the past 20 years, it can indeed be called "a sign of an era."
At the time, a participant said at the end of the network survival test: "The information highway is not so high-speed, and many website programs are not so reasonable. The 72-hour drift has left many question marks inside and outside the network."
But precisely because of these question marks, the exploration of the Internet world by Chinese netizens has also begun.