A classic piece here by Farhad Manjoo of Slate about how “the Internet of 1996 is almost unrecognizable compared with what we have today.” It’s a fun look back at just how far the Internet has come over the past 13 years. I love this passage:
We all know that the Internet has changed radically since the ’90s, but there’s something dizzying about going back to look at how people spent their time 13 years ago. Sifting through old Web pages today is a bit like playing video games from the 1970s; the fun is in considering how awesome people thought they were, despite all that was missing. In 1996, just 20 million American adults had access to the Internet, about as many as subscribe to satellite radio today. The dot-com boom had already begun on Wall Street– Netscape went public in 1995 — but what’s striking about the old Web is how unsure everyone seemed to be about what the new medium was for. Small innovations drove us wild: Look at those animated dancing cats! Hey, you can get the weather right from your computer! In an article ranking the best sites of ’96, Time gushed that Amazon.com let you search for books “by author, subject or title” and “read reviews written by other Amazon readers and even write your own.” Whoopee. The very fact that Time had to publish a list of top sites suggests lots of people were mystified by the Web. What was this place? What should you do here? Time recommended that in addition to buying books from Amazon, “cybernauts” should read Salon, search for recipes on Epicurious, visit the Library of Congress, and play the Kevin Bacon game.
God, do you remember those days? I sure do. I penned a piece last month about the amazing technological progress we have witnessed over the past decade.
Meanwhile, we have a whole town full of clowns here in DC looking to regulate the Internet and digital technology for one reason or another. All these would-be regulators need to step back and appreciate just how well markets have been working and why regulation would be a disaster for technological progress. Viva la (Technology) Revolution!