In 1994, BBSs were still the dominant experience for the common man. However, the University had a dial-up line that was configured to use a Gopher client as shell, for purposes of searching an online card catalog for one of the libraries. I found I could use the search engines of the day, Archie and Jughead (and Veronica?) to find hosts offering free access to Lynx (the text-only browser) and even Telnet "gateways". Cyberspace.com was offering free trial Unix accounts, literally with no verification. They offered Pine, storage space and plenty of other things. I could now surf the whole existing web, Gopherspace, read Usenet and download files and warez from there. Since Zmodem was borked by the Gopher client I was connected through, I couldn't download directly. So, I used Pine to re-mail them to myself at a local BBS which had a nightly UUCP connection where it exchanged email (with bangs as well as @) and updated it's select Usenet posts.
At one point, I struggled to run DOSSLIP and DOSLYNX directly on my PC, but this never compared to just using a BBS dialup program and doing things on the terminal. I still use Lynx and (Al)Pine several times a week!
Another Lynx trick came in handy 5 years later: You could telnet to password.io.com from anywhere in the world, and log on as guest. Lynx was configured as the shell, and you would then be presented with the minimalist web-based customer tools found at http://password.io.com/ to reset your password, update your address, etc. IO forgot to disable browsing the filesystem (press g, period, enter). Also, IO never enforced uniform /home/user/ directory permissions or audited active accounts. As a result, through 2004, when IO was taken over by Prismnet (or later), you could roam around and directly view many customer's private files, email, and IO's sensitive system areas. This was a direct back-door into everything! That was a full two years after IOCOM "hardened" their network to sell network security services.
The Illuminati Online website is archived by an old employee here: http://io.fondoo.net/