Image by wstera2/Flickr, Art by Alex Alvarez/Fusion

Happy 25th birthday, The Internet. You have, throughout your brief but meaningful existence, given us so many more ways to handle all our “information management” needs (for example, we can now quietly seek out and then just as quietly file away the answers to such questions as “normal color for nipple?” or “is Christian Bale married” or “why??”). More importantly for everyone, you have given us new and exciting ways of flirting with one another in the hopes of receiving nude images.

But it’s a system that has taken some finessing over the years. Let's look back:

AIM Away Message

The best way to flirt is passively, aggressively, or some combination of the two. AIM Away Messages taught a generation of future single people that wooing someone is best done by tossing his or her favorite song lyrics somewhere out into the universe and hoping for the best, then creating an escalating series of depressing references to Ross and Rachel’s breakup when that plan inevitably fails.

Chat Rooms

We were now growing older, more experienced. We'd seen a thing or two, once or twice, and solely online. No longer content to sample every sort of gelatinous mass the buffet has to offer; we were becoming pickier, refining our choices. Chat rooms provided a wonderful way to connect with all sorts of people, even those who wanted to foist themselves on women dressed up like horses.

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Nudez

With that choice came, of course, little to no responsibility. Enter: Nudez. Classic and elegant in its simplicity, the call for nudez is not weighed down by pretense or ritual. There is no dance, no intricate system in place. Nudez are simply requested, then given. Or not.

LiveJournal

LiveJournal was (and remains) a good place for venting about whomever it was who failed to respond to your beautifully-crafted, artisan AIM away message, ignored your request for nude pictures, and was subsequently not that into pony play after all. Misunderstandings happen, and we had a place to write about them in great detail. Our collective mood? SAD. Yet determined.

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MySpace

Here is where we learned that a picture may be worth a thousand words, give or take, but a glittering .gif of Cuban girl is worth at least three times that.

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Facebook Poke

Things were becoming less subtle, more complicated. We knew, now, exactly what we wanted. And we knew where to look for it. We were now focused on a new goal: Real human interaction, possibly. And nothing says “I may like you, unless you are reading this incorrectly and about to make things increasingly uncomfortable between us” quite like simulating an annoying interaction in cyberspace.

Craigslist

Now we'd been prodded, pulled, and Facebook poked. We had experienced the purest form of lust — that which can be reduced to a nationality-based .gif. But what if there was a place that was essentially a giant chat room replete with pokes? What if we could post AIM away messages to people we'd never really met, but had only seen once on a train, as we were vomiting? Craigslist is that place.

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OkCupid

…But, then, what if there was a place that was essentially just like that, except less full of men who secretly want to wear women as clothing and more full of boys who have never seen a woman out of clothing? We were evolving.

Twitter

…But WHAT IF we wanted to return to subtlety? What if we wanted to play games with people's emotions once again? What if we Favorited someone's Tweets obsessively for months until they realized that we existed?

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SnapChat

…And what if we could then use their awareness of our existence to send nudez?

Tinder and/or Grindr or perhaps Growlr

…And what if we could make the process of sending nudez even more complicated?

Transferring One’s Consciousness Into A Computer and Implanting That Computer Into a Sexy Robot

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And then what if we could transfer images of nudez into an internal database powered by a collective group consciousness that could then access these images and then transform them into pure energy and/or Cuban girl .gifs? We are, fellow flirters, now at the precipice of a whole new world of absolute strangers willing to perform disgusting acts on or around us.

Who knows what can possibly happen next. Who can guess what the next chapter will hold. Who can say what manner of horse-inspired sex acts will prompt human beings to tap into this giant, pulsating slice of the universe we call the internet and reach out to one another.