Shortly after Usenet took its first faltering networked steps, Ira Fuchs of City Universtiy of New York and Greydon Freeman of Yale University decided to network their universities using IBM's then-new NJE communications protocol. Although this protocol later expanded to support Digital Equipment's Vaxen running VMS and even some implementations of Unix, the vast majority of machines on BITNET (the "Because it's Time" network) have always been IBM mainframes. Fuchs and Freeman made their connection in the spring of 1981. BITNET grew rapidly, encompassing over 100 organizations on 225 machines by 1984, and by 1994 reaching a level of 1400 organizations in 49 countries around the world.
BITNET has always been a cooperative network; members pass traffic for other sites for free, and software developed by one has been mde available to all. Unlike Usenet, BITNET developed an organizational structure in 1984. This took the form of an Executive Committee, made up of representatives of all the major nodes on the network. In 1984 IBM presented a large grant that provided the initial funding for centralized network support services. This grant and the fact that most machines on BITNET were IBM gave rise to the rumor that BITNET was an IBM network. In 1987 BITNET changed its name to CREN (Corporation for Research and Educational Networking) when it merged with another enitity called CSNET (Computer+Science Network).