Much has been made of the appearance and subsequent demise of the digital counterculture. With the Internet quickly becoming the domain of monolithic monopolies, I can see the point. But dig a little deeper than your AOL Time Warner-issued report and you can see online communities of incredibly diverse interests springing up faster than you can say "beatnik." Every hobby is represented, every fascination explored by regular folks with regular folks.
The new counterculture is disjointed perhaps, but so was the Beat Movement in the 50s. Only a handful of individuals, connected by the slimmest of lines, was then venturing into the truly unknown. Things heated up dramatically in the following decade as the potential for open, untainted dialogue became recognized by the mainstream.
The greyscale nuclear family gave way to a technicolor community. Boredom spawned reflection. We pondered our purpose as a whole for the first time. We'd been fighting wars, recession and inflation for centuries (and have been doing so ever since). But in that brief, shimmery world of worry and wonder, we came very close to improving society for the better, forever.
Now imagine if they had online mailing lists, guestbooks and discussion forums back then.