I was listening to Richard Clarke’s chilling talk about how easy it was to hack into the Pentagon’s computer systems back in 1997 (and he says things aren’t much better today)…and about digital picture frames pre-installed with pernicious viruses…and despite the fear and paranoia that thought generated, I also found myself reminiscing about 1997…and earlier…when the Internet was new, and merely putting a website out there was a newsworthy event… I starting thinking about:
Mozilla: Remember watching the adorable lizard slowly form on the first browsers, line by line, like they were sent to your screen by a Star Trek transporter in very slow motion?
Pointcast: It was the bane of the IT department, but this progenitor of ‘push’ technology was notable for how it prepared us for the constant news crawling across CNN, MSNBC, ESPN and their ilk.
Pathfinder: Anyone remember Pathfinder? It was this massive portal to the news properties of Time Warner — Time, Money, People. It was one of the first efforts by a major publisher drag themselves onto the web. It also was clunky and boxy and massive and almost impossible to navigate. Amazingly, the URL still exists!
Melvin.com. The first humor website I came across on the web. It was sort of a bewildering hybrid of The Onion and something not really that funny. But whoever wrote it was out there…doing the best they could. Then it disappeared, never to be seen again.
StarTribune Online… and every other newspaper that has a website: I remember when my local metropolitan daily, the StarTribune, went online, they announced it with this massive ad campaign that featured billboards with giant smoking three-dimensional spaceships. I think the idea was that StarTribune.com was the place you would go if you were an alien who crash landed in downtown Minneapolis and needed to know what to do next.
But you know, just about every newspaper in the country bowed to the inevitable and went online, despite that fact they had no clue how they were going to pay for their shiny new websites or replace the employment ad revenue rapidly fleeing to monster.com and the classified ad revenue rapidly not being spent on craigslist… et cetera.
And yet, we love reading our news online, and how the stories they write about us and our clients live on on and on… I guess what I’m saying is that we all owe our daily newspapers a hearty thank you for their selfless sacrifice.
That’s mine for today…what are your 1990s Internet memories?