Several US universities will begin offering undergraduate degrees in internet studies this autumn, attracted as much by fundraising possibilities as by student interest.
At least four schools - Brandeis and Cornell universities, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Centenary College - have approved such programmes. Several others, including the University of Minnesota, are considering them.
The internet's significance "may well rival that of the printing press and of writing itself," said Timothy Hickey, an associate professor of computer science who is helping organise the initiative at Brandeis.
Offering a degree in the subject "affords opportunities for students and faculty members to study the evolution of this revolutionary technology and its pervasive political, economic, cultural and artistic ramifications", Dr Hickey said.
Already, 135 students have enrolled at Brandeis in one of the two core classes required for a internet studies degree, making it the seventh most popular course on campus. Only existing faculty are used, so start-up costs are minimal.
University officials acknowledge that there is another benefit to focusing on the internet: the potential for donations from high-tech companies.
Brandeis sits in the middle of the so-called "technology highway" that rings Boston.
In addition to the two required classes, students will have to complete a research project and three elective courses.
Several other US universities, including Georgetown and Vanderbilt, already offer internet degrees at the graduate level.