There’s an article today in Slate Magazine about how much different the Internet was thirteen years ago. Just by judging from the reactions, not to mention my own experience, I’m pretty certain the author (a certain Farhad Manjoo) of the article was not around on the Internet thirteen years ago to make any sort of valid judgment on where it stood in relation to today.
If you turn back the clock to 1996, I was probably just getting off of school – I tended to stay late due to yearbook class – and I split my time between the local BBS scene and increasingly logging onto the web to work on my HTML skills.
My access was gained through TENET, a now depreciated access service designed for Texas educators. Yes, I scammed the account from my Computer Science teacher. As such, most of my Internet usage was via a text interface (remember Lynx?), though I did regularly use up my allotted minutes on my AOL account for Web surfing.
- GRRL.com – Bonnie Burton’s website, who I still maintain was one of the first two or three girls on the web, ever, always had interesting stuff to say. Probably one of the first blogs I ever followed, though I think we called them “Online Journals” back then.
- Yahoo.com – it was the definitive source to find what you were looking for.
- GSOTD – the Geek Site of the Day, ‘twas the Internet’s original Boing Boing. No longer available, sadly.
- Suck.com – The origin of snark, it’s there, but it’s been a while since it’s been updated.
- TheSite – Long since disappeared, it was where Leo Laporte first dispensed computer advice on TV to a national audience, though it was in avatar form (he voiced the character Dev Null).
- MSNBC / CNN / NandoNet – These were my favorite places to pick up national news. Of the three sites, Nando is the one no longer in existence.
Those are the sites that spring to mind, but they more or less are direct representations of my surfing habits today. I don’t hit Bonnie’s blog every day anymore, though I am subscribed to her Twitter and RSS feeds. Google has supplanted Yahoo for me, and all that’s new and cool on the web can no longer be contained in a single link every day – for that I have Google Reader.
For my tech-related video entertainment, I have the Revision3 network, Leo Laporte’s stuff and G4. That has clearly evolved – video on the Internet was simply not an option on my old 14.4 kBPS modem. MSNBC and CNN have remained largely unchanged over the years.
The Internet is not so different – it’s just bigger. That’s what Victor Godinez at the Dallas Morning News Tech Blog pointed out, and ‘jss’ over at Into Temptation pointed out that aside from the assortment of selection, that the Internet is mostly for porn is a common factor as well.
An even more salient point (and I’m sure Steven Hodson will back me up on this point, he usually does): the social aspects of the web have remained largely unchanged as well. Most of the features we use daily in today’s social networks have existed since 1996, though they all had funny names and had their own standalone clients.
I think that if you were to describe the 2009 Internet to the ‘net denizen of 1996, there wouldn’t be too many surprises.