Yeah, that's a joke. Tons of non-physicists (including myself) were already using telnet to access Usenet newsgroups and other BBS (GEnie, Compuserv etc.) and University systems and using gopher for downloading files.
The WELL, and it's NY-based cousin ECHO were also very active online communities by then.
The MUD world was in full swing, with people building and adding to "You are in a dark room with a single door" sort of adventures like wildfire, complete with dodgy virtual hookups with AIs and other users. All Sims later did was create similar add-on worlds with a graphic interface.
Web was a natural and pretty much immediate add-on to so many people using all of the above.
And there were clearly at least as many other people than physicists online since the late '80s.
I think the CERN physicist quoted above was way out of touch with anything other than his online physics microcosm and that the article was written by someone not familiar with the online scene until the mid or late '90s and without context for a reality check.
i extend my battery life by turning down the brightness