The Good Ole, Bad Ole Days of the ‘Net in ’94


InternetWorldAs I was cleaning out my office in preparation for a move to our new house, I ran across some old magazines my nerd self had been keeping:  “Internet World,” “On the Internet,” “Internet Society News”, and “Online.” 

One of the oldest issues is the January 1995 issue of “Internet World” featuring “The Best and Worst of 1994.”  My oh my, how things have changed in 19 years!  There were fewer mentions of the World Wide Web than I had expected; it was a relatively new protocol, and not very widely used at that.

The organization of the World Wide Web: I love the Web, but finding something specific on it is a nightmare. And because the Web is growing by leaps and bounds I just don’t see things getting easier anytime soon.” [Internet World, Vol. 8, No.1, p. 30.]

Finding information on the Web might certainly have remained a nightmare, were it not for the debut of Yahoo! in 1994 (incorporated in 1995) and Google in 1996/97 (incorporated in 2008).  In addition to Google and Yahoo!, a plethora of search engines and hierarchical web directories sprang up in the mid-90’s to help alleviate the difficulties.  I’ve written about some of them here.

As noted above, there was very little mention in the article of the Web or Web “addresses.  In fact, one Best/Worst list contributor noted: “I remember the first time I saw a URL address [My note: That phrase in itself has become somewhat of a redundancy.] http://www.something.something.something.’ ‘Ugh,’ I moaned. ‘A whole new language I have to learn? I was just getting the hang of Unix!” I immediately resigned myself to the fact that this might be the end of my days in cyberspace.”

And now for some of the resources cited as Best of the Internet for 1994:

  • Nethack – a dungeon exploration game to which even non-D&D accicts can become addicted.
  • “This Just In” – a Listserv™ mailing list.
  • Jeopardy – on the IRC gaming channel #jeopardy.
  • A sub-list of “niftiest Gopher menu/sites.”
  • SLIP, PPP, and the Web.  Yeah, back then we’d do anything to get a faster connection.
  • The Power Macintosh.
  • New providers, more products, and more books. “The Internet is proof that capitalism works.”

And some of the worst.  (Not surprisingly, there were quite a few mentions of Usenet news groups; anyone who has used them knows why.  But, truth be told, there were quite a few high-quality newsgroups.)

  • The Green Card Lottery (This was also mentioned in someone else’s list.  They note: “Worst event: Canter & Siegel spam the Net. Not what they did but the fact that anyone still cares to talk about it.”)
  • America Online.  Remember how early adopters of the Net use to mock AOL users as “not really being on the Internet.” (In all fairness, AOL subsequently remedied this .]
  • Net.sociopaths spammers, disbarred lawyers (See Green Card Lottery above], and others who want to make.money.fast. (Yes, you can safely click on the link; it’s a Wikipedia page.)

While I’m at it, I’ll add one of my own “worst”: Chain-letter email.  Just tell your mom or granddad that no, nothing bad will happen if they DON’T forward that email to everyone on her or his Address Book.

So, things really have changed.  My first web experience was definitely NOT geographic; I used the text-based Lynx to navigate the Web.  Later on, I used NCSA’s Mosaic, and a whole new world opened up!  Some people think the Internet began with the introduction of the World Wide Web and graphical browsers. Well, I beg to differ; there was much, much more before the web.  We just had to learn to find it.

What are your best and worst of the early Internet?

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