In the beginning - the early 1990s - when telecommunication providers were yet to offer Internet access for free on mobile phones, Internet cafes or warung Internet (warnet) were the place to be.
Wifi cafes symbolized the freedom of information as people could access new media without it being filtered by the New Order regime's Information and Communications Ministry, simply by paying by the hour.
That was the time when people chatted online using mIRC or ICQ, had nicknames such as Neo or Trinity, and private home Internet connections were exorbitantly expensive.
Now, with relatively affordable connection rates, the availability of the Internet on mobile phones, and wireless Internet hotspots in campuses, parks and caf*s, warnet are fast losing their popularity.
University sophomore student Audrey Sitompul said she never went to Internet caf*s anymore, with hotspots at her Bina Nusantara University campus and an Internet connection at her boarding house.
"I don't need to.
"There's a hotspot on campus and I have a connection at home," she said.
Association of Indonesian Internet caf*s (AWARI) chairman Irwin Day said the group had sealed a deal with Microsoft to provide lower cost licenses for operating systems and Microsoft Office for Internet caf*s.
"We secured a special price for the operating system and for *Microsoft* Office *software*," Irwin said.
The deal was a relief for warnet owners who are burdened by the high costs of software or the terror of raids by law enforcers, who, Irwin says, occasionally demand bribes to ignore the soft crime.
Bill Fridini, owner of the Q-net Internet caf*, located in Blok M, South Jakarta, believes warnet business is declining.
"It's not good anymore.
"People used to come to warnet to chat, now, they can do that on their mobile phones.
"They can also afford to set up a connection in their own homes," he said.
Lower bandwidth prices and new technology such as the 3G handset with Wifi capabilities have given Internet users more options to access the web; good for customers but not for business.
Along the narrow streets near Bina Nusantara University, many warnet are struggling to attract customers.
Staff from the Q-net Internet caf* near the Bina Nusantara University campus in Kebun Jeruk, West Jakarta, agreed with Audrey.
They said that even though their cafe was located near a university campus, business had been quieter since people had more access to the web.
Computer screens that once displayed various different websites on warnet screens now showcase online games.
Juliana, who works at the Lighteonet Internet caf*, said the caf* makes more profit from online gaming rentals than from customers wanting to search the web.
"If we didn't provide online games, there would only be a small number of customers using our caf*," Juliana said.
Bill's Q-net is also focusing on online gaming profits more than web surfing.
In her paper, "From War-net to Net-War: The Internet and Resistant Identities in Indonesia", Merlyna Lim, a communications expert from Arizona University argued that warnet signified new civic space.
"During the struggle against Suharto's government, warnet were the major source of *forbidden' information like short-wave foreign news broadcasts, campus rumors and the transmission of faxed and photocopied underground bulletins - all contraband information not carried by Indonesian mainstream media," she wrote.
Asked whether warnet could still be considered new civic spaces for political dialogues in the post-reform era, she answered:
"If warnet is read as a civic space, a place *or physical embodiment of a civic space* where someone can consume, produce, communicate, inform and be informed, and exchange ideas electronically/digitally without overt control/monitoring of state or corporate entities *market* or any dominant authorities, then the answer is yes.
"Accessing the Internet from a warnet is a different experience compared to accessing the Internet from a caf* with Wifi.
"There's a set of socio-economic *and even cultural* dimensions that make the two experiences different.
"Wifi at a caf* requires a laptop, the cost of a coffee and it occurs in a specific social setting *people dress in a certain way, some cafes are hip and trendy*," she wrote.
Accessing the Internet through warnet means people do not need personal computers; making it accessible to people from low to high income brackets.
Irwin said that of around 30 million Internet users, half of those accessed the Internet through a warnet.
"And 30 million is still very little compared to the country's population.
So I think there is still space for the warnet business," he said.