Today we continue my efforts to preserve the history of the ISP industry. Today it feels like the Internet is simply all around us all the time, but there are amazing entrepreneurial stories about how that crucial infrastructure was laid. Today we talk to Sonic founder Dane Jasper, who can not only give us the history of the industry, but the present day as well, as Sonic is still a thriving and important independent ISP.
20 years ago, the acclaimed documentarian Doug Block released a landmark film, Home Page. Doug’s documentary accidentally chronicled the birth of blogging, featuring several people we’ve talked to on this very show, including Justin Hall. But the documentary also captured a moment in time, the web going mainstream, the beginnings of the dotcom bubble, the early days of Wired, Hotwired and Suck and also so many of the things I ask people about on here regularly. How people learned to live online,...more
Dan Maccarone is a digital design veteran, websites, products, strategy. He's got some amazing stories about the dotcom bubble, about the aftermath, and the rise of Web 2.0. He shares some unique design lessons but also, the story of the birth of Hulu, which I don't think has really been covered anywhere before.
Part two of the WSJ's online adventures intersect with several other stories we've covered on here over the years.
We’ve had a couple of people come on here to discuss how the New York Times got online, but the spiritual yin to their yang is the Wall Street Journal and we haven’t done enough to explore their path to embracing the internet. It’s worth doing that because they embraced a different model from basically day one. Almost alone among the web media pioneers, the Journal went the subscription route. So, we’re going to talk to Rich Jaroslovksy, who headed the team that brought the Journal online, to se...more
It’s bothered me for a while that over the 5 years or so of this podcast, we haven’t focused very much on some corners of the history. For example… the legal side? Copyright law? Intellectual property law? How much have we talked about disruption and piracy and filesharing and all that stuff? So, I spoke to Richard Chapo, who has been doing Internet Law since the web went mainstream. We talk about the Napster era, we talk about how much of an influence the adult industry had on digital law, we t...more
Part three of our epic conversation with Stephan Paternot. Here's what happens when you've been through the wringer. When you've been to the top of the rollercoaster and also down to the bottom. Here's how you take stock of your life, how you reinvent yourself, re-find you entrepreneurial spirit... I feel like there are so many lessons in these three episodes. Lessons for entrepreneurs today. Lesson for... I dunno. People in the crypto space? My thanks to Stephan Paternot for an insanely great c...more
Ok, part 2 of the Stephan Paternot mega-episode right now. This is where we get into the meat of it, the good stuff, the whole crazy roller coaster ride of being the hottest startup of the dotcom era. And I was going to make this the last episode, but as I was editing this, I realized that after we get done with this story, Stephan talks a lot about what happens after... what happens after you've been on a crazy ride like this. How you have to reinvent yourself, and your life, and your career. H...more
I said in the book, I think TheGlobe.com was the quintessential dot-com company. We spoke to one of the cofounders previously, Todd Krizelman. Todd was great, but he was time constrained and he didn’t quite get as personal about the story as I would have hoped. Well, I finally got to talk to the other founder of TheGlobe, Stephan Paternot. And Stephan was… AMAZING. He shared the whole story, the whole wild ride, from a historical angle, from a business angle, from an entrepreneurial angle and al...more
David Schwartz is the Chief Technology Officer at Ripple, the company behind the cryptocurrency XRP. What is it like to start, build and build out a crypto startup? Is it different than the web and internet startups that we’ve covered on this show for years? What is Ripple? How is it unique in the crypto ecosystem? What is it trying to do for the world? All of this… and yes, why is crypto so tribal… and yes… where is the crypto space even at in this moment in time (December 9th, 2018, btw, for p...more
Ken Norton is a partner at GV, Alphabets venture capital arm, but before that, he was a product manager at Google, where he led the development of products like Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Mobile Maps. But he was also early at JotSpot which became Google sites, was a product manager at Yahoo, was an early employee at CNET and was CTO of Snap, a company probably none of you have ever heard of but I’ve been dying to talk about for years. No. Not snapchat. The original Snap. The dotcom ...more
Matt Britton not only sold the first ads to and for Facebook, way back in 2004, he gives us a really insightful and, frankly, unbiased look at what Facebook was like as a company in its very earliest days.
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I figure most of you should know who Matt Cutts is, but if you don't, let's just leave it at this: he's about to give you the best, most behind-the-scenes oral history of early Google we've gotten so far on this podcast. He was the head of Google's web spam team for nearly 15 years. He's also the current head of the USDS, so if you what to know what YOU can do for your country—if you're in technology and you want to make the government work better—listen to this episode!
SUMMARY:The history of Craig Newmark, craigslist and other odds and ends that didn’t make the book!
Simple enough: Part 2 with John McCrea. More on SGI, more on doing battle with Microsoft in the 90s. And... interesting stuff on VR and the future...
John McCrea is a Zelig-like personality who pops up in so many of the narratives we've already covered: Apple. Netscape. Doing battle with Microsoft. This is part one, mostly about Silicon Graphics, a company I had been thinking about doing an episode on for a while now, to really rejuvenate that company’s reputation, historically. For reasons that will be obvious when you listen.
On Google's 20th Birthday (September 4th) a re-cutting and re-airing of my comprehensive history of Google, from it's inception through its IPO. Happy Birthday, Google!
Nando.net was not only a very early experiment in bringing journalism to the web, it was also one of those local ISP's that flowered in the era of the early 1990s. Fraser Von Asch was not only one of the key players at The News & Observer (thus, "NandO") who brought the project to life, he is another person who has straddled the media industry between the print and digital eras and can give us some amazing insights into the transitions therein... or lack thereof.
This story has gone down in Silicon Valley lore as the ultimate cautionary tale. Digg was the earliest high flying startup in early social media. But then, other startups like Facebook and Twitter started to steal the limelight. So Digg tried to keep up by launching the infamous Digg version 4. And… it’s a disaster. Users hate it. So much so, that many people feel that the reason Reddit is Reddit today is because the Digg community fled their en-masse. Digg Version 4 has become a much cited horr...more
Today, we're going to continue our occasional project of getting oral histories and personal anecdotes about how, exactly, the Internet and the web came to various places around the world. On this episode we're going to look at how the Internet came to—and is still in the process of coming to—Pakistan. Imran Haider is a listener to the show, works in the tech industry, and analyzes the south asian tech scene at his blog, arkito.co. Today, he tells us how the digital revolution came to Pakistan, ...more
Lisa Napoli got a job straight out of college at CNN in its earliest days, which is a crazy startup story in it’s own right. But then she worked for a time at Delphi, which was an early online service and competitor to AOL and Prodigy that I don’t think we’ve covered much here before. And then she helped bring the NYTimes online with CyberTimes, which, as she said, is forgotten to history even by the New York Times. Then on to MSNBC, a crazy hybrid tech and media startup that I don’t think we’ve...more
Rosanne Siino has been on my list to talk to from day one of this podcast. As you know, I started by reaching out to Netscape folks and Rosanne was the head of communications for that very first dotcom company. She saw it all, she can give us her take on both the engineering side and the management side, since she was uniquely able to observe both. Rosanne and I were recently on a documentary series currently airing on A&E in the US, The Untold Story of the 90s. So, I reached out, and we rec...more
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Today we're going to go back to take a look at early journalism on the web. Karl Mattson helped launched one of the first political news websites, ElectionLine. He helped cover the 1996 election when covering an election on the web was a completely new thing. He then moved to AOL, helped run their news channels and has some amazing historical details about he era, especially the Clinton intern scandal.
Claude Shannon was a mathematician, electrical engineer, and cryptographer known as "the father of information theory." In the pantheon of cool people who made the modern information era possible, he’s right up there. Today, we’re going to talk about Shannon’s life with Jimmy Sony and Rob Goodman, authors of a great biography of the man called A Mind At Play, How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age. Especially you software engineers out there, if you don’t know who Claude Shannon was, ge...more
Summary:Robert Reid, the founder of Rhapsody, can be considered the Godfather (founding father?) of the streaming music reality we now live in. But guess what? That's only half of this episode! Because it turns out, Robert is the author of a book that was probably one of the biggest reasons I started doing this podcast. The book was Architects of the Web, 1000 Days that Built the Future of Business. It was one of the first books to come out about the history of the web era. It was published...more
Jason Kottke, of kottke.org fame, was one of the early bloggers, one of the first bloggers to go pro, and one of the few solo bloggers still going. If you know Kottke.org, then you love it. How could you not? If you’ve never heard of it, you can thank me later. This episode examines what it means to be a publisher on the web for 20 years as well as the discipline required to find cool stuff on the web every single day (almost).
People have been yelling at me for years that I’ve not covered more technical aspects of the web’s history, especially things like Java. Specifically Java. The argument can be made that Java helped the web evolve into what it’s become. So, that’s why I was thrilled to sit down with Todd Sundsted, who is a developer who has been working with Java for more than 20 years. Todd walks us through the history of Java and why it is so important to the web’s general evolution.
Today, a man who needs no introduction: New York Times Technology Columnist Farhad Manjoo. This episode was recorded about two months or so ago, so we talk about the book leave Farhad is on that he only recently made public, but of course, we get into his whole career and his unique vantage point and views on the world of tech.
No joke, this is one of my favorite episodes we've ever done. Eugene Wei was an early employee at Hulu, so we get some details on that company for the first time, and he also worked at Flipboard and Oculus, so we get some important context especially on the future of VR and the like. But the most fascinating stories you'll hear will be about Amazon, where Eugene was the first analyst in the strategic planning department. As you'll hear, Eugene had a unique perspective on Amazon's early strategy ...more
Claire Evans is the author of the new book: Broad Band The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet. This is the best tech history book I’ve read in a while and you know I read them all. Of special note, considering our 90s-heavy focus on this podcast, the book includes the stories of Word.com, which was a competitor to Feed.com (which we’ve previously covered) and Women.com which was a competitor to Ivillage (which, again, we’ve spoke at length about). But you also get an amazing portair...more
Podcast listener Thomas Ganter gives us a first person, anecdotal account of how the web came to Germany in the 1990s.
Gregg Spiridellis has been making things go viral on the web since before the term VIRAL was even a thing. His company, JibJab has been producing web videos since the dialup dotcom era, producing hits you might remember such as Elf Yourself, Nasty Santa and This Land Is Your Land. JibJab has survived the dotcom bust, the coming of broadband, the coming of YouTube, the coming of social media and the mobile internet. What you’ll hear today is absolutely a masterclass in pivoting, in adapting a bus...more
David Pakman is a well respected venture capitalist at Venrock, but also a lifelong musician and music fan. Earlier in his career he played a significant role in bringing music to the web. David tells us about cofounding Apple’s Music Group, his role in facilitating the first digital sales of music online at dotcom-era companies N2K and MyPlay, and competing directly against iTunes when he was at eMusic. As a bonus, he gives us some background on the more recent founding story of Dollar Shave Cl...more
It gets my goat that these days, the history of ecommerce begins and ends with Amazon. There were so many companies and big ideas that got us where we are today, and one of the most important companies was Open Market. Jeff Bussgang is here to tell us the (today) often overlooked story of the earliest days of trying to sell stuff on the web. Today, Jeff is a General Partner at Flybridge Capital Partners.
An exploration of what it was like to come of age in the early web era.
Plato was an online and interactive learning computer system developed in the 1960s at the University of Illinois. But in the early 1970s, Plato got truly networked, and the users took over. Plato had already pioneered such things as touch screen computing, but the kids introduced and pioneered concepts like forums, message boards, e-mail, chat rooms, instant messaging, multiplayer games and even emoticons/emojis were pioneered on the Plato system.Buy The Friendly Orange Glow
Bob Stein was the founder of Voyager, publisher of the first consumer CDROM titles, and, far and away the leader of the CDROM industry in the late 1980s and early 90s. Bob was also one of the founders of the Criterion Collection, as well as the publisher of the first electronic books.
You might know him as Rob Malda, or you might know him as CmdrTaco, but he was the founder of the great geek social website Slashdot. Slashdot recently turned 20 years old, Rob commemorated this in a great Medium post, and so I reached out to him to tell us the story of one of the first great social media websites.
Dave Winer has been called the godfather of a lot of things. The godfather of blogging. The Godfather of Podcasting. One of the key people involved in the development of RSS. But as you’ll hear in this great and wide-ranging chat, Dave Winer is just a software developer who has never stopped tinkering, never lost his interest in coming up with new tools and new technologies. Dave was kind enough to sit down and go over his whole career, from the very earliest days of the PC era, to the present d...more
SUMMARY:Nicole Laporte has a cover story in Fast Company magazine this month about Giphy, potentially the next big story in online advertising and marketing, as well as… search? Read her profile of Giphy here.
Om Malik is, of course, a legend. One of the first journalists on the “tech beat” in the 1990s, one of the first bloggers to “turn pro,” one of the driving forces behind the Web 2.0 time period, and one of the most trusted analysts of the technology industry in general, today he is a venture capitalist at True Ventures.
What is generally considered the worst merger of all time, and certainly the crescendo event of the dotcom bubble era, today we take a look at the AOL/Time Warner merger, again with the excellent guys at the podcast Acquired.
David Shen was employee #17 at Yahoo, where he eventually had a hand in, not only the birth of advertising as the primary business model for the web but, eventually, the development of digital ads into their more modern, interactive form. As you'll hear, David recounts the early days of Yahoo, surviving the dotcom bust and taking advertising beyond the simple banner ad.And he recounts all of this in his recently published new book: Takeover! The Inside Story of the Yahoo! Ad Revolution
Karel Baloun was the first senior software engineer hired at Facebook in 2005. This was after the Accel round of funding, when Facebook truly began to staff up and grow up. Baloun was only at Facebook for a year, from 2005 to 2006, but he provides some amazing insights about the company. What was Facebook’s culture like in 2005? What were the key innovations that ultimately let Facebook succeed where others failed? Would Zuckerberg make a good President of the United States? What became of Pokey...more
Just as last week’s episode posted, another great piece about SoundCloud was posted on Buzzfeed by the great Ryan Mac. So, in a rare attempt by me to be topical, today’s episode is with Ryan Mac, discussing his article, which fills in some of the details about what Christina and I were speculating on last week.Ryan’s article can be found here.
Our friend Christina Warren is back for another analysis episode. Christina recently posted a tweetstorm about SoundCloud, and its prospects for the future. So she kindly agreed to come on the show, look at the history of SoundCloud as a company, and try to help me figure out why SoundCloud finds itself on the brink of oblivion. You all know Christina from her years at Mashable and most recently, Gizmodo. As you’ll hear toward the end, she’s at Microsoft now, and you can always hear her on the R...more
Don Melton is popularly known as the father of the Safari web browser or WebKit. He’s basically a web browser legend. Not only does Don tell us a lot of great stuff about Safari, WebKit, Apple and more, but he was also an early Netscape employee, so we get some more great details about that company, especially in its later stages.
The first text message (or, to be accurate, SMS message) was sent on December 3, 1992. It was sent by Neil Papworth, and it said, “Merry Christmas.” This is the story of that first text, recorded for the first time.
As promised, Mike Slade is back to tell stories from the period 1998 through 2004, when he was Special Assistant to Steve Jobs. Background details on the iMac, the iPod and the iPhone and more!
Finally! A detailed history of the development of the iPhone inside Apple. But not only that, an extensive history of all the technologies that came together to make the iPhone possible. Lithium ion battery technology, touchscreen technology, Gorilla Glass, GPS, digital photography, maps… everything. The author, Brian Merchant, was kind enough to send an advanced copy and, as you’ll hear when I talk to him, I couldn’t have been more excited to read! This is the book I’ve been waiting for for abo...more
A lot of people give credit to Justin Hall for being, if not the first, then spiritually, at least, the “first” blogger. Since early 1994, first as Justin’s Homepage and at various points, as Justin’s Links from the Underground and Links.net, Justin Hall has been writing online and sharing online—especially, sharing himself online—longer than almost anyone else on the planet. Hear his story today, and watch his documentary at: http://overshare.links.net/
For several months now, I've been complaining on Twitter and a bunch of other places that, for as ubiquitous as Netflix streaming has become—I think it's one of the most important technology products of the last decade at least— there's actually been comparatively little journalism or scholarship about how the product came about. That's why I was delighted to get acquainted with Neil Hunt, who is the Chief Product Officer at Netflix. Since he's been at Netflix since 1999, not only is he the perf...more
Andy Rachleff was a co-founder of Benchmark, one of the most respected venture capital firms to this very day, and one of the biggest venture players during the dotcom era. On today’s episode, Andy gives us more background on eBay’s founding and what venture investing was like during the dotcom era. But Andy is also that very rarest of breeds, someone who became an entrepreneur AFTER an illustrious career as a venture capitalist. So Andy also tells us all about Wealthfront, one of the most inter...more
Summary Check out The Top Entrepreneurs Podcast here!Books recommended on this episode:Storming the Magic KingdomWalt DisneyUnconventional SuccessSay EverythingThe Wikipedia RevolutionThe InnovatorsThe Expanse
The famous Google Chef, Charlie Ayers, remembers joining Google when it was about 50 employees, the company’s early growth, culture, and the unique role he played in shaping that culture.
If you know the Napster story at all, then you know about the Shawn(Sean)s. Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker. But in my opinion, and in the opinion of a lot of other people, a name that you should be just as familiar with is Jordan Ritter. Napster was an incredible phenomenon, reaching tens of millions of users at its height, and though Jordan Ritter didn't invent Napster, he very much was responsible for scaling it and turning it into the phenomenon it became. In today's episode, Jordan recounts t...more
There was one important trait that Google shared with the dotcoms: it wasn’t making very much money. It’s somewhat forgotten, given what would come later, but Google existed for several years without much of a business plan. The vision Larry and Sergey had sold the Venture Capitalists on involved a three-pronged strategy. First, Google would license its search technology to the major portals. Second, the company would sell its search technology as a product to enterprises. And third, there were ...more
When Larry and Sergey first met, they didn’t like each other much...BIBLIOGRAPHY:In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives The Google Story How Google Works The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture Googled: The End of the World As We Know It The Google Guys: Inside the Brilliant Minds of Google Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 http://www.newyorker.com/magazi...more
During the dot-com era in the late 90s, there were four different venture-backed startups (six, depending on how you count) that focused on the pet retail space. Most famous, or notorious, I guess was Pets.com, of the sock puppet fame, but today, we’re going to get some context and perspective on this moment in time from another player from this era. Joshua Newman was the founder of Petstore.com, which actually got started first, but eventually ended up getting acquired by Pets.com. I wanted to ...more
Before Snapchat Stories, before YouTube, in the dial-up era of the 90s, there were a select few who were experimenting with streaming video and interactive media on the web. The most prominent and notorious of these pioneers was Pseudo.com. Dennis Adamo was one of the co-founders of Pseudo.com.You can learn more about Dennis' VR startup here: Spaceoutvr.comThe articles about Josh Harris and Pseudo that I mention are here and here.And the documentary on Harris called We Live in Public is on iTune...more
Today's episode is a special event, a crossover episode with the Acquired Podcast, which you can find in your podcast directory by searching for the word Acquired, or by going to Acquired.fm. Acquired is hosted by Ben Gilbert, the Co-Founder of Pioneer Square Labs and David Rosenthal a Principal at Madrona Venture Group out in Seattle. To mash up our two models, we're going to talk about Yahoo's acquisition of Overture, and how that related to Google's ultimate success with Adwords. We talked ab...more
Gary Flake has been involved with search technology ever since he got turned on to this particular field in college. In this wide-ranging discussion, Gary lays out for us, basically, the history of search technology before Google, the impact of Google, and then, since he lived it, the notion of competing with Google. The reason why Gary can talk so in depth about all of this is that he was Yahoo's Chief Science Officer in the early 2000s, when Yahoo, via the infamous project Panama, and other in...more
You all know MG Siegler. From TechCrunch’s most famous blogger to GV’s most affable venture capitalist, he has a lot to say about Apple, the business of blogging and where Silicon Valley is at in the modern era.
Elizabeth Osder is one of those digital media veterans who’s career has spanned the entire web era, from bringing the New York Times online (though, she got her native New Jersey online first by launching NJ.com a few years beforehand) all the way through her continued work with any number of digital media companies through her consultancy the Osder Group. In between, she has some amazing stories about working at Yahoo, launching the earliest of multimedia websites for folks like the Rock and Ro...more
Joe Schober was the longest serving employee of America Online, working there as an engineer, and later chief architect, from 1992 until just a few years ago. So, there literally couldn't be anyone better to walk us through AOL's history and many iterations. In this episode, we go back to the days when America Online was an underdog online service with only a couple hundred thousand users, through AOL's dominance in the early web era, the AOL/Time Warner merger... all of it, including an insider...more
Michael March was the founder of Internet Direct, the first commercial ISP in Arizona. Michael gives us a first-hand account of the independent ISP industry that grew up around the country in the 1990s. AOL might have been the training wheels for the internet, but the Mom-n-Pop ISPs probably gave more Americans their first Internet experience than any of the online services.Bonus: Michael was an incidental witness to the first major commercial spam event on the Internet, a story that he relays a...more
Would it surprise you to learn that 1800Flowers was not only one of the first ecommerce pioneers but quite possibly, the first to be profitable in a meaningful way? You wouldn't be surprised if you knew the story of 1800Flowers and its founder, Jim McCann. Today we speak with Jim to hear that story, to learn about a company that was fearless in trying any new thing that came along... so long as it brought them closer to their customers. And, since Jim has been at this for quite a while, toward t...more
"So… Three things: A widescreen iPod with touch controls. A revolutionary mobile phone. And a breakthrough internet communications device. An iPod… a phone… and an internet communicator… An iPod, a phone… are you getting it? These are not three separate devices. This is one device! And we are calling it iPhone.”- Steve Jobs, January 9, 2007Those words have become so famous in the history of technology that I imagine a large percentage of listeners have them memorized. Ten years ago thi...more
The background, root causes and rough outline of the dotcom bubble. How it happened, why it happened... and why it's unlikely to happen again anytime soon.
As most of you know, I’m busy writing a book that this podcast is partially source material for, and at the moment, I’m deep in the weeds on chapters about the Dotcom bubble—how it happened, why it happened, that sort of thing. By necessity, I’ve been going into a lot of economic background for the bubble, and in the course of doing so, the famous chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, keeps coming up. So, today’s episode is a bit of an analysis episode as I speak with Sebastian Mallab...more
SummarySometimes you get to talk to your actual heroes. I've been reading Richard MacManus probably almost as long as he's been writing on the web. He is the founder of the popular ReadWriteWeb blog, and he was one of the forces behind the Web 2.0 movement that was so influential in my career as a web entrepreneur. Here's another story of the accidental professionalization of blogging, from one of the pioneers.Richard is a science fiction writer now! Buy his book Presence! It's ab...more
SummaryAt the dawn of e-commerce, if Amazon.com staked a claim in books, and sites like CDNow staked a claim in music, then Reel.com should be remembered as the important dot-com era player in movie retail. But more than just going toe to toe with Amazon, Reel.com actually pioneered online movie rental as well. Reel.com's founder, Stewart Skorman, actually came from the world of video rental stores, and sold his video chain to Blockbuster. So the first site to rent you movies via the posta...more
If you’ll remember back to the chapter episode on the early search engines and Yahoo, I said that it’s hard to pin down exactly what the “first search engine” was. There were so many competing projects and technologies that launched in different ways at different times. One potential candidate is the World Wide Web Worm, which is criminally undercovered by the histories out there. The World Wide Web Worm was developed by Oliver McBryan, at the University of Colorado at Boulder in late 1993. It g...more
SummaryMost of you know Chamath Palihapitiya as one of the most prominent and progressive venture capitalists working today. But before forming Social Capital, Chamath was an early employee at a startup we've already covered, WinAmp; was the head of AOL's Instant Messenger product; and of course, was an early employee at Facebook.
Most of you will know Jason Calacanis from his many high profile endeavors such as his podcasts (especially This Week in Startups) his Launch conference and Inside.com. But older listeners will remember Jason as one of the most colorful personalities of the dot-com era in New York, as the publisher of Silicon Alley Reporter. And Jason also played a key role in forming the modern media landscape as the founder of Weblogs Inc. We talk about all of that much more.
SUMMARYI missed it (I should really be keeping a calendar of these things) but Slate.com celebrated its 20th anniversary last month. If you’ll recall, we went into some detail about Slate’s founding in this chapter episode, but today we have Slate’s current Editor in Chief, Julia Turner, and a former Editor and current Chairman of the Slate Group, Jacob Weisberg, on the pod to discuss the history of Slate and the contributions Slate made to the evolution of digital media on the web.&n...more
John Rossman helped transform Amazon.com’s business. After the dotcom bubble burst, Amazon delved into a new business line that allowed third parties to do business off of Amazon’s platform, and make use of Amazon’s many competencies. In this Episode, John describes his role developing the Amazon 3rd party marketplace and gives us his perspective on what makes Amazon successful. John’s book about Amazon is called The Amazon Way: 14 Leadership Lessons Behind the World’s Most Disruptive Compa...more
Jonathan Abrams was the founder of the first modern social networking site, Friendster. This is essentially the story of the birth of social media… the ideas that inspired the very notion of social networking, the struggles to launch a web startup after the dotcom bubble burst, the challenges of suddenly becoming the hottest startup in the world, and the eventual battles with MySpace and Facebook for social as we know it today.
If you'll remember a few years ago I spoke with Rod Canion about how Compaq created the industry standard computer platform that finally supplanted IBM. Well, this week, on September 16, a new documentary about the Compaq story, called Silicon Cowboys, is coming to theaters, On Demand and various rental and streaming services like iTunes, Google Play and Amazon Video. So, we spoke briefly with the director of the film, Jason Cohen. Find out more about where the movie is showing and view the tr...more
I originally wanted to talk to Mike Slade about Starwave, the innovative company that launched some major names onto the web, including ESPN.com, ABCNews.com, MrShowbiz.com, and after an eventual sale to Disney, put together the pieces that eventually became the Go.com portal play. But Mike is one of those guys who has had such a varied and interesting career, I couldn't help but go into other eras of his career. The dude worked at Microsoft in the early 1980s. He worked at NeXT in the early 90s...more
We've spoken a lot on this show about Netscape and the "Browser Wars," but there's a key angle to this story that we haven't had the chance to delve into yet. While Netscape was out in California creating Navigator, there was another company, Spyglass, that had licensed Mosaic's browser code and was attempting to build a business around web browsers at the exact same time. Spyglass helped bring browsers to market before Netscape did, and even went public before Netscape's famous IPO. And one mor...more
SummaryJoel Johnson has spent nearly his entire professional career, working in digital media. He went from being an anonymous online commenter to being an early editor of Gizmodo, to eventually becoming editorial director of Gawker Media. Essentially, Joel was there from the very beginning when blogging began to "go pro" and evolved into modern media as we know it today. Joel recounts the history of the blogging "industry," Gawker Media especially, and gives us his own perspective on where digi...more
SummarySteve Sasson was the inventor of the world's first digital camera. Because it's hard to imagine modern life without digital photography, it's maybe easy to forget what a marvel it really is. And Sasson has been front and center for the entire digital photography revolutions. In this episode, he recounts for us the sort of skunkworks project that led to the first digital camera, recalls the long gestation the technology had within the company that developed it, Kodak, and toward ...more
Quick, special announcement of a book, based on the podcast, coming from Liveright (W.W. Norton) in 2018. Regular episode to come next monday...
SummaryJeff Wilkins was the co-founder and first CEO of CompuServe, perhaps the original consumer online service. Jeff recounts for us CompuServe's founding in 1970, the launch of it's consumer-facing service in 1980, and all of the innovations that CompuServe brought to life: the first commercial email product; the first newspapers online; the first airline listings; and most interestingly, CB Simulator, the grandaddy of all chat apps in the world. We even revisit the famous AOL CD carpet-bombi...more
Special Note: We’re testing something new this week. You can read a full transcription of this episode here.Everyone’s favorite, friendly neighborhood Venture Capitalist, Hunter Walk, discusses four amazing segments of his career: Late Night With Conan O’Brien, Second Life, Google Adsense and YouTube.
SummaryKen and Roberta Williams were the founders of the legendary PC gaming company Sierra Online. Assistant Professor of Digital Media in the School of Literature, Media and Communication at Georgia Tech, Laine Nooney, joins the show to discuss the history and legacy of Sierra Online. You can find out more about Laine's work at her website, LaineNooney.com and by following her on Twitter at Sierra_OffLine.Pictures of Ken and Roberta Williams: Picture 1 Picture 2 A screencap from King...more
Mark Selcow and Matt Glickman were the founders of BabyCenter.com. The story of BabyCenter is a combination of several themes we've discussed on this show: creating community as a strategy for building a sustainable audience, attempting e-commerce in the 1990s, and, most interestingly, we get into an in-depth discussion of their experiences of the DotCom bubble.
SummaryLarry Kramer was the founder of MarketWatch.com. He’s also been the President and Publisher of USA Today and he’s currently interim CEO of TheStreet.com. We talk to him about creating a brand like MarketWatch in a space dominated by powerful incumbents like The Wall Street Journal, CNBC and others. But we also hear what it was like to work in the legendary Washington Post newsroom in the 1970s and 80s, as well as what it takes to bring success to modern media properties like USA Today in ...more
SummaryMarc Tarpenning, along with Martin Eberhard, was the cofounder of Tesla Motors back in 2003. But before that, Tarpenning and Eberhard were also the cofounders of NuvoMedia, which produced one of the world's first ebook devices, the rocket eBook. So, for the first part of the episode, Mark recounts the story of NuvoMedia and then about 25 minutes in we begin the founding of Tesla, in my opinion, perhaps the most amazing startup story of the last 20 years.
SummaryTom Rielly was the founder of PlanetOut, the largest LGBT website and community of the 1990s. Tom recounts the unique impact the web and online technology had on the LGBT community and, prior to that, remembers the early days of the Mac industry. But of course, Tom is best known today for his work at TED, where he is director of Community as well as the TED Fellows program. So we get some interesting TED history as well, especially how posting TED Talks online has transformed the&nbs...more
SummaryWhat more do I need to say? Joey and Carl are back for round two.You can visit the Suck archives here.
SummaryI can't be sure about this exactly, but I would hazard to say Rafat Ali is possibly patient zero when it comes to taking a blog and turning it into a real, 21st century media company. Before the Huffington Post, before TechCrunch, even, maybe, kind of, before Gawker, Rafat founded PaidContent in 2002. He later sold it to the Guardian Media Group in 2008. Today he is the CEO of Skift.com, a media vertical in the travel industry space. Rafat has such an amazing story: an immi...more
I know it’s a bit beyond our usual chronology of 90s-era technology, but car tech has come up so much in recent episodes, that I thought it was high time to learn more about the history and future of automotive tech. Electronic vehicles, Tesla, autonomous vehicles, but also, basic recent car tech advances like navigation systems and the like. So, to help me with that, I spoke with Mike Dushane, a 20 year web veteran, like myself, but also a veteran of Automobile Magazine, Car and Driver and, gen...more
SummaryMatt Kursh was a part of the pre-web Silicon Valley frenzy for pen computing that we’ve spoken about several times on this show. Matt is kind enough to give us an in depth look at that mini-bubble and explains how it happened and how it paved the way, in a roundabout way, for modern handheld devices. Matt was also involved in several Microsoft initiatives in the 1990s, including the pioneering local site Sidewalk and MSN.com at the height of the portal era.
SummaryTo celebrate our 100th episode, we’re taking a special look at one of the foundational legends of the technology industry. It’s about the man who invented the modern disc operating system (the OS) and the concept of the software platform. That man was Gary Kildall. And the question we examine in this episode is, why is Bill Gates the richest man in the world, and not Gary Kildall? Could things have turned out differently?In this episode we use audio from the following documentaries:Triump...more
SummaryCarl Steadman and Joey Anuff were the founders of perhaps the most influential of the early web content sites, Suck.com. If you’re unfamiliar with Suck, you’re about to get a taste of why so many of us have been such big fans for so long. If you’re a longtime follower of the adventures of Joey and Carl, then get ready for some of that old time stuff, for the first time in 20 years.You can visit the Suck archives here.
SummaryRob Lord was the founder of the Internet Underground Music Archive all the way back in 1993. This would become the first website devoted to the distribution of music via MP3 downloads, and very much paved the way for a lot of what came later. Before almost anyone else, Rob had a vision that digital would be the future of music distribution, and he has pursued that vision throughout his career, which includes such music related startups as N2K, Muse.net and the Songbird player. We’ve actua...more
SummaryMost of you will know Chris Fralic as a partner in the VC firm First Round Capital, here in New York City. But Chris was also heavily involved in two key companies that we’ll be talking more about over the next year, Half.com and del.icio.us. Chris gives us the history and context for those two innovators, and shares stories from an interesting career, stories that range from competing against Michael Dell to sell computers to launching TED Talks online.As an added personal historical bon...more
SummaryI wanted to speak to Quentin Stafford-Fraser because he was involved in the first “web” cam. I say “web” in quotes because, it wasn’t technically on the web, but, well, you’ll understand the distinction when you listen. But Dr. Stafford-Fraser has been involved in so many things, right up to the present day, that I couldn’t help but ask him about the rest of his fascinating career. So, come for the webcam stuff, but stay to hear about studying computer science under the founding legends o...more
SummaryPaul Sagan has had a long and illustrious career, which includes: 1) stints working on the Full Service Network, that interactive tv initiative in Orlando Florida that we've mentioned several times in the past, as well as 2) being a key member of the team that developed Pathfinder, one of the very first professionally produced content sites on the world wide web. He was also heavily involved in the development of another company we've mentioned previously, Akamai Technologies, where ...more
There's a certain romance surrounding dorm room startups. From Microsoft, to Dell, to Facebook, there's something about the audacity of building a company before you even get your degree that catches the imagination. The title for the first of the Dot Com dorm room startup probably goes to Tripod, which was founded all the way back in 1992 by Bo Peabody. Bo recounts how Tripod stumbled upon one of the earliest antecedents for what today we would call social media, and gives us an amazing analysi...more
SummaryToday we’re going to talk a bit about alternate Internets. In previous episodes, we have outlined how, going back to the 1970s and 80s, early experiments with networked computing and online services began using a technology called Videotex. So, I wanted to dig deeper into these experiments to look at them as valuable precursors to the world wide web and the modern Internet. It is unlikely, for various technical reasons, that videotex could have evolved systems that could have challenged t...more
SummaryDale Dougherty was the organizer of the world’s first ever web developers conference, the World Wide Web Wizards Workshop in July of 1993. This was where Tim Berners-Lee and Marc Andreessen first met. Dale is also the man who coined the term “Web 2.0” when he organized the first Web 2.0 Summit. But Dale was also the co-founder of the web’s first ever commercial website, Global Network Navigator, or GNN. Today, Dale is probably best known as the founder of Make Magazine, Maker Fa...more
SummaryIf you'll remember in Episode 32, we explored the early digital media startups like Salon, Slate, Suck, Pathfinder, etc. One site that was mentioned, but did not get a lot of detail in that episode was Feed Magazine (aka, Feedmag.com, or Feed). The reason I couldn't go into much detail is because secondary sourcing about Feed is difficult to come by 20 years on. And that's what I was absolutely delighted to make contact with Stefanie Syman. Stefanie, along with Steven Johnson, w...more
SummaryI don't think very many people, twenty years ago, would have imagined that maps, location technology and the like would prove to be so strategically important and structurally integral to the Internet and modern technology as we're coming to know it. One person who might have had the vision was Barry Glick, founding CEO of MapQuest. Barry was there in the early days when maps and computers first met, and he has stayed in the location tech industry through the emergence of GPS, mobile...more
SummaryTom Hadfield was the founder of Soccernet, which is still the premiere soccer (football!) website in the world. But just as the title says, Tom began Soccernet when he was twelve or thirteen. So, certainly, Tom takes the cake, out of anyone we’ve spoken with so far, for having been in the Internet Game his entire life. Tom tells us the unique story of Soccernet’s founding and how it ended up with ESPN. As a bonus, since Tom is the first person we’ve spoken to from outside of Nor...more
Summary:In the early 1990s, Brad Silverberg was one of the key champions of the Internet within Microsoft. As the first ever Senior Vice President of the Internet Platform and Tools Group, he essentially led Microsoft’s efforts to embrace the Internet and the Web beginning in late 1995. As the senior Vice President of the Personal-Systems Division, Brad also led the development of Windows, from the launch of Windows 3.0 through Windows 95, which he helped establish as Microsoft’s greatest ever p...more
Summary:One of the big trends of recent years in the tech space has been the rise of delivery startups like Instacart and Postmates and the like. In a way, this is a resurrection of an idea, if you remember famous 90s startups like WebVan, Peapod and Kozmo.com. So, I thought it would be interesting to speak with someone who founded a delivery startup back in the 90s. Tim DeMello was the founder of Streamline, a delivery startup which actually predated the dot-com era. We talk to Tim about the ec...more
Martin Nisenholtz is a digital media pioneer. He founded perhaps the first digital marketing group at Olgilvy and Mather all the way back in 1983. But from 1995 through 2012, he was first the President of New York Times Electronic Media and then CEO of New York Times Digital and then Senior Vice President of Digital Operations at the New York Times Company. Martin, is literally the guy who has been front and center in everything the Times has been doing in digital for the last 20 years. He heade...more
Listen:Evan Kirstel is a 20 year veteran of the wireless, broadband, cloud and social space. He is also absolutely the number one person to follow on Twitter if you like a daily dose of amazing articles and blog posts. Evan helps me frame just that: how the modern wireless industry developed, the various issues involved in the evolution of broadband, and where it all might be going.
Summary:Chris Higgins is back! In this very fun episode we talk about Windows 95, command line computing, who is the Microsoft of tech today and how the Matrix is the perfect hacker/Internet movie.Listen, we promised a bunch of things would be in the show notes, but sadly, we didn’t write them down. This is what I could remember. If there are others I forgot some, send them to me via email or a tweet.The Windows 95 video with Chandler and Rachel from Friends.How I Won the Lottery.DR-DOS.The Inco...more
Summary:Terry Jones was the founder and CEO of Travelocity. Perhaps the primary pioneer in the online travel space, Terry explains the unique challenges Travelocity faced when dealing with the airline industry, fending off competition from the likes of Microsoft (Expedia) along with giving us a pretty fascinating look at how the modern travel industry works.
Summary:Part 2 of eBay’s founding story. How, why and when eBay became the undisputed king of the online auction space.Bibliography: The Perfect Store: Inside eBay The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute
Summary:Bruce Spector is another early web entrepreneur whose company would be acquired during the dotcom era. In this case, the company was WebCal and the acquirer was Yahoo. Bruce later went on to spearhead Yahoo's acquisitions during the late 90s, including two of the largest, Broadcast.com and Geocities.
Summary:There was a time, early on in the web era, where things were very much wide open. An entrepreneur could survey the scene and say, "No one has done a great sports site yet. Why don't I build one?"Mike Levy did just that, taking on deep-pocketed incumbents like ESPN to build Sportsline (eventually, CBS Sportsline) into a lasting and powerful brand. Mike recounts Sportsline's initial incarnation as a dialup service, its partnerships early on with major sports celebrities, as well as being p...more
Summary:Glenn Fleishman is back to talk more about Amazon's founding mythologies, the recent controversies surrounding Amazon's work culture, and the effect the web revolution has had on publishing and journalism, but from the point of view of a writer.The New York Times article we discuss extensively can be found here.The David Halberstam book on the rise of modern media can be found here.And the book that Glenn recommends can be found here.
Summary:Most people agree that Yahoo the king of the dot-com-era search sites on the strength of its zany, friendly, ubiquitous brand. The woman responsible for building that brand was Karen Edwards. Karen recounts becoming the first dot-com company to advertise on tv, seeking out “near-surfers” and marketing an internet company in an era where many people didn’t know what the internet even was.
Summary:How did we get from a place where people were completely skeptical of living their personal lives online to the "share everything" society we live in now? Well, companies like Webshots got us here. Webshots was the first site to organize and encourage public photo sharing online. Narendra Rocherolle was one of the founders of Webshots and in this episode, we talk a lot about the digital sharing habit and how it evolved. But we also get&nb...more
Summary:Steve Goldberg was the first hire for Microsoft's Advertising division. He was present at the launch of such projects as MSNBC, Slate, Expedia and MSN, the portal. Steve goes into fascinating detail about Microsoft's relationship to the advertising industry, and Microsoft's strategic goals generally. But we also speak more broadly about online advertising, because Steve was one of the founders of the IAB, that online advertising trade association/standards body that, ...more
Summary:Avram Miller was the co-founder of Intel Capital, and during the 90s, racked up some of the greatest venture fund successes of all time, backing such companies as Broadcast.com, Geocities, CNET and more. Crucially, for our purposes, Avram and Intel were also instrumental in the development of residential broadband. Just this week, we heard in the news how Comcast has more internet subscribers than tv subscribers for the very first time. Avram was key in—as he puts it—...more
Summary:A conversation with Justin Frankel, creator of the Winamp application, which was arguably the software package responsible for popularizing the MP3.
This is the story of MP3, the technology that (revolutionized? upended? destroyed? transformed?) changed music forever. It is also a conversation with the man who is most responsible for developing MP3 technology, Karlheinz Brandenburg.
Summary:Owen Thomas is back on the show for another analysis episode, helping us establish the context for the dot-com era. You can listen to his previous episode here.Note: Next week's episode will be dropping on Tuesday morning.
Summary:Get ready for one of the most fascinating entrepreneurial stories we've covered thus far on the show. Chris Cooper was the founder of Quote.com, which, as you'll see, powered the finance portals of everyone from the search engines to the online traders like E*TRADE. But, prior to that... let's just say Chris Cooper has done it all: degrees in Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering; a job testing nuclear weapons at the Nevada Test Site; several years making his liv...more
It turns out that almost exactly 9 years before Steve Jobs introduced the world to the iPhone, there was another 3-in-1 device that was introduced to the world, and it just so happened that that device was also known as an iPhone.But the company that brought the "first" iPhone to market, all the way back in 1998, was called InfoGear, not Apple.This is the story.
Summary:Today we’re going to go a bit backwards in our timeline, back to some of the issues we covered in our Chapter 5 episodes. All of the research I did on newspapers and their early attempts to experiment with digital media came from secondary sources. That is why I was excited to be introduced to Steve Yelvington on Twitter. Steve is a several-decades-long veteran of the newspaper industry as well as a true online and web pioneer. He gives us some great first-person perspective ab...more
Summary:So far in our project, we've mostly spoken to people who were involved in startups that went public in the dot com era. But as I've said many times, that's only part of the story. I very much wanted to speak to someone involved with a successful startup that was acquired by a larger "portal" site. So, I reached out to Ted Barnett, who was one of the founders of the early web calendar site, When.com, which was eventually acquired by AOL. In this episode, we talk about the economics a...more
Summary:Maggie Mahar is an award-winning journalist who has written for Money magazine, Institutional Investor, the New York Times, Bloomberg, and in the 1990s, covered the markets for Barron’s Magazine. She is also the author of an excellent book, Bull: A History of the Boom and Bust, 1982-2004, that has been extremely helpful for me as I begin to frame the episodes that will bring us into the dot-com “bubble” era. I reached out to her to see if she would help me kick around...more
...or, to be more strictly accurate, this episode covers the founding of AuctionWeb, the site that would become eBay. How Pierre Omidyar founded a company that brought auctions to the web and revolutionized what classified ads and ecommerce could be.
Summary: Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet, by Katie Hafner The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, by Walter Isaacson The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, by Tim Wu Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web, by Tim Berners-Lee How the Web Was Born: The Story of the World Wide Web, by James Gillies and Robert Cailliau AOL.com, by Kara Swisher The Everyth...more
Summary:We continue our survey of the pioneering social/community sites by sitting down with David Bohnett, who, along with John Rezner, founded Geocities. David recounts how a lifelong passion for communications tech inspired the idea of Geocities, how and why the site grew to become one of the 5 most popular web destinations in the world by the late 90s, as well as the company's blockbuster sale to Yahoo. We also marvel at how Geocities lives on, thanks to the passion ...more
Summary:One of the biggest names of the dot-com era was TheGlobe.com. It had one of the most successful and storied IPO's of it's day, and it was lead by two early-twenties co-founders, long before that sort of thing was common. Todd Krizelman (along with Stephan Paternot) was one of those co-founders, and in the offices of his current company, MediaRadar, he sat down with me to remember the founding story of one of the earliest and most innovative community sites on the web. We're explorin...more
Summary:Nancy Evans and Candice Carpenter founded iVillage in the mid 1990s. iVillage was one of the first community-focused sites on the early web, and grew to be one of the biggest of its ilk. Not only was iVillage a site and a company founded by women, but it was also among the first sites that targeted women as a demographic in the early web era. Nancy recounts for us the development of the company, the benefits and pitfalls involved in being one of the highest-flying companies of ...more
Summary:It’s part two of our Amazon founding story. How did Amazon come to completely dominate e-commerce? How did Jeff Bezos’ “Get Big Fast” strategy evolve? How and why did Amazon become the quintessential “dot com” and dot-com-era stock? The answers are within. Bibliography: The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon The Playboy Interview: Moguls Amazon.com: Get Big Fast One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com http://jimromenesko.com/2013/08/...more
Summary:If you are a Californian, then you might know Steve Westly's name very well. After all, in the mid 2000s, Westly was elected Controller of California, essentially the Chief Financial officer of the state, and he also ran for Governor in 2006. In fact, if you listen to the end of this episode, he might again show up on a ballot for governor some time in the very near future. But before his time in California government and politics, Steve Westly was also one of the key early eBay executiv...more
Summary:As you know, we’ve been trying to cover from every angle, the innovations that ecommerce sites in general, and Amazon.com specifically, brought to the world. That is why I was thrilled to get to speak with Greg Linden, who was one of the Amazon engineers who was responsible for a lot of the personalization and data-driven innovations at Amazon, especially the recommendation engine. Greg explains in great detail the technological challenges involved, but also gives us a conceptual and alm...more
Summary:Robert Levitan has been involved in many pioneering tech companies. The two that I wanted to focus on were iVillage, one of the early web community sites, one of the very first sites to engage with women as a segment of the online audience, and arguably, one of the proto-social networking sites. Later, Robert was the founder of Flooz, the most prominent of the dot-com era companies to attempt digital payments and digital currency.To learn more about Robert's new startup, check out: ...more
I lied about there not being a show this week. Except, it's not a show. It's more of a state-of-the-podcast address, celebrating (belatedly) our one year anniversary. http://www.internethistorypodcast.com/donate/
Summary:Steve Kirsch is one of the most fascinating entrepreneurs we’ve been lucky enough to speak to on this show. Going back to the 1980s, he was the inventor of the optical mouse. Back in the days of desktop software suites, he brought FrameMaker to the world. He founded Abaca Technology, the spam filter company and OneId. And today he is the founder and CEO of a really interesting new startup called Token. But we wanted to speak to him about founding the search engine and web portal Inf...more
Summary:W. Joseph Campbell is a Professor in the School of Communication at American University. He is the author of six nonfiction books, including Getting It Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism. Just this year, he came out with an excellent new book called 1995: The Year the Future Began. As soon as I heard about this book, I read it, because, as you’ve heard if you’ve been listening to this show, 1995 was a seminal year, especially for Internet...more
Summary:Michael Krupit first joined CDNow as the Chief Technology officer. He soon took over COO duties, and eventually rose to become CEO of the entire CDNow operation. Mike gives us the background on the early days of another early ecommerce pioneer, and he gives us some great insights into attempting to dominate a commerce niche as opposed to Amazon’s “everything store” strategy. But just as fascinating is the fact that around the years 2000-2001, Michael was right there in the...more
Summary:Gary Kremen is another early internet legend. Kremen was one of the first people to recognize the opportunity that the Internet presented in terms of classifieds advertising. Seizing this opportunity, Kremen founded Match.com, to this day, still the largest player in the online dating space. But Kremen is also famous for the legendary struggle to control the Sex.com domain name, which Kremen registered, lost control of, regained control of (after a lengthy legal battle) attempted to turn...more
Summary:Finally, the long-promised foray into e-commerce, starting with… not the first… but practically the first… player in the space… and ironically enough, the 800 pound gorilla in the space to this day. Amazon. Dot com. We examine Jeff Bezos, the man. We consider Amazon, the idea. We look at e-commerce, the concept. It’s interesting. It’s groundbreaking. It’s available with free 2-day shipping for Prime members. Just kidding.Bibliography: The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and t...more
Summary:You may know Glenn Fleishman from a bunch of things. He has written for Wired, Fortune, Popular Science, The New York Times, and PCWorld, and contributes regularly to The Economist, The Seattle Times, Macworld, etc. Also, in the last few years, he was the publisher of the Magazine, the iPad publication that we spoke to Chris Higgins about in previous episodes... and he hosted a very popular podcast called the New Disruptors. But for a brief time in the 1990s, he was also the ca...more
Summary:Shel Kaphan was the very first person hired by Jeff Bezos to launch Amazon.com. A lot of people consider Shel to be a co-founder in all but name, because he, along with Paul Davis, was largely responsible for the entire technical architecture that Amazon launched with, from the website, to the back-end systems that made selling books on the Internet possible. I was thrilled when Shel agreed to talk to me, because he does not give a lot of interviews, and I knew he could shed some light o...more
Summary:Bob Davis was not only the founder of the search engine/web portal known as Lycos, he was also the CEO, first employee, and for a time, the ONLY employee. Bob recounts how Lycos took technology from academia, turned it into a viable company, and became one of the "four horsemen" of the dot com era. Today, Bob is a partner at the venture capital firm, Highland Capital Partners.
Summary:Jane Slade joined Amazon.com's nascent customer service team when it was a couple of people, some computers, and one phone line. Over the coming years, she helped to build the customer service operations at Amazon into the enormous team it is today. Jane recalls for was what it was like in the early days and why keeping customer experience central to everything Amazon does is probably the key driver for the company's success.
Summary:Christina Warren is the Senior Tech Analyst for Mashable.com. She came on the podcast to talk with me about Amazon’s place in the tech universe, Jeff Bezos as an entrepreneur, and to break down what might be the four or five main business models for the internet. Be sure to look for Christina’s work on Mashable.com. You can also find her on Twitter at @film_girl. She also co-hosts a terrific podcast called Overtired.The two articles we discuss on the episode are:Amazo...more
So, I ran across this quote from Star Trek television producer Rick Berman. He said, “Without porn and Star Trek, there would be no Internet.” That’s a notion that I have to say really kind of rang true to me, in a tonge and cheek sort of way. I mean, it’s something you hear all the time. The idea that pornography leads the way with any new technological innovation. That Porn is some x-large percentage of the overall internet Do you ever wonder how much of the internet is actually porn? If it’s ...more
Ryan McIntyre, along with his fellow Stanford classmates (Graham Spencer, Joe Kraus, Mark Van Haren, Ben Lutch and Martin Reinfried) was one of the "Excite 6" who founded the Excite search engine in the early 1990s. Ryan recounts what it was like to found a college start-up before that was a "thing," and explains how the technology was developed with the help and guidance of VCs and other early investors. We delve into the "Coke vs. Pepsi" competition with Yahoo, the madness of the "dot-com...more
Summary:On HBO, the show Silicon Valley is about a young kid who comes up with a billion-dollar algorithm and attempts to build a company around the technology. Well, there's a real-life parallel, because that is what happened to Danny Lewin in the early 1990s. He co-developed an algorithm that gave birth to the Content Delivery Network industry, and the company that he co-founded on the strength of this technology is Akamai Technologies. To this day Akamai is a major backbone of the entire Inte...more
Summary:Danny Sullivan is generally acknowledged as THE expert on the search industry (www.searchengineland.com). Danny first got his start coving search all the way back in 1996, and for almost twenty years, he has covered search technology as it has evolved from the likes of Excite and Yahoo into the dominance of Google and the emergence of social and mobile as the new frontier. Danny gives us a bit of his own background before we wade into the 90s search scene. We spend a lot of tim...more
As you know, often on this podcast, I run across issues or tidbits from the past that don’t quite fit our overall narrative. But sometimes those tidbits are just too interesting for me to ignore. One of those things I keep running across is Al Gore and his role with the early Internet.I think it’s something that we all sort of “know.” That Al Gore claimed he invented the Internet. I remember this being a small political issue at the time of the 2000 election, but I honestly never cared enough to...more
Summary:George Bell was the CEO of Excite.com, took that pioneering search engine public, and became the CEO of Excite@Home when he oversaw that major merger of the dotcom era. George talks about the development of search technology, the madness of the dotcom bubble and even explains the background to one of the more notorious what-ifs in Internet history: the time that Excite had the opportunity to buy Google for a mere $750,000.
Summary:I was absolutely thrilled that Ben Slivka agreed to come on the podcast with us. Obviously, we’ve had plenty of oral histories relating to Netscape and the development of it’s browser. But we’ve only spoken to a handful of people about Internet Explorer thus far. Obviously, Internet Explorer was every bit as vital to the development of the early web so I’ve been eager to get more background from the Microsoft side of the story. And who better than Ben Slivka, who was the leader of the or...more
Summary:Halsey Minor is an absolutely legend when it comes to the online era. Along with names like Jerry Yang, Jeff Bezos, Pierre Omidyar and others, Halsey Minor deserves credit for creating one of the first truly great companies on the web: CNet. Halsey recounts the CNet creation story with us, but also goes into his early days on Wall Street, with another entrepreneurially-focused young man named Jeff Bezos. And toward the end of our talk, Halsey talks about the project h...more
The first banner ads went live on the web 20 years ago today, October 27th, 1994, when the website HotWired.com first launched on the internet. We've spoken to some of the people responsible for the creation of these ads, and so, in honor of the anniversary, I have re-edited their interviews into an oral history that tells the whole story. But in case you think you've heard all this before, please note that there are segments from 4 entirely new interviews that you have NOT heard before. So...more
Summary:Younger listeners might know John Battelle as being one of the original forces behind the Web 2.0 movement, as the founder of the Web 2.0 Summit as well as Federated Media. But John was also the founding editor of both Wired Magazine and Industry Standard magazine, that great, lost magazine of record for the dot com era. For our purposes, we’ve been focusing more on HotWired, so that’s why I was super excited to speak with John and get some of the background stories from Wired the magazi...more
Summary:Another conversation with writer and journalist Chris Higgins. We start up talking about the recent sad demise of the Magazine, a project Chris was heavily involved in. But then we spend most of the episode talking about the early online services and what it was like to go online before online meant the web. If you’re from this era, get ready for a nostalgia bomb. Hope you enjoy.
Summary:Joe McCambley is one of the more prominent names in modern digital marketing and advertising. He's had major roles at Digitas, at AOL in it's modern incarnation and he's the co-founder of the Wonder Factory. I wanted to talk to Joe about his time with Modem Media, where he was one of the creative forces behind the development of the first banner ads that premiered alongside the launch of HotWired. The 20th anniversary of these first banner ads is coming up at the end of the month, and I'...more
Summary:Owen Thomas is one of the most prominent voices in modern web media. He is currently the editor in chief of ReadWrite.com, but he was also the west coast editor for Business Insider, the founding editor of Daily Dot, executive editor of VentureBeat, managing editor of Valleywag… and I could go on and on… Business 2.0, Red Herring, etc. I was particularly excited to talk to Owen about some of his earliest jobs, at HotWired and at Suck. Owen gives us some more great background about the la...more
Summary:Soon after the founding of Wired Magazine, it was decided that Wired needed a major web presence. Andrew Anker was recruited to write a business plan and launch a website that would become HotWired.com. As we’ve seen in this chapter, HotWired was among the first stand-alone media websites, and pioneered a great many things, not the least of which were the first banner ads. Andrew gives us some wonderful insights into the early days of Wired (going back to the magazine’s funding) as ...more
Summary:We continue our survey of early web media plays with some that have lasted the test of time and some that, while not currently extant, were lasting in terms of impact. It’s a big episode. WSJ.com. NYTimes.com. EOnline. The Weather Channel. ZDNet. CNet. Salon. Slate. Wired magazine and HotWired.com. And our long lost, beloved Suck.com.By the way, as promised, here are some early NYTimes screenshots, compliments of Rich Meislin.Here is a screenshot of @Times on AOLAnd here’s an early NYTim...more
Summary:Rob Glaser was, and is, the founder and CEO of Real Networks. If you were around in the 90s, you’ll remember Real Audio and Real Video and the Real Media player. In the age before broadband, Real Networks pioneered streaming media on the web. Quite simply, the early web would not have been multimedia without Real, and by the late 90s, fully 85% of the streaming audio and video on the web was Real Media. But Rob was also an early Microsoft Executive, so the interview starts out with Rob g...more
Summary:What the mid-1990's debate about the so-called "clipper chip" can teach us about our contemporary debates concerning NSA surveillance of the Internet and the Web.This episode was originally written as a piece on Medium, entitled The NSA Tried This Before, What The 90s Debate Over The Clipper Chip Can Teach Us About Digital Privacy
Summary:A new kind of episode today. I sat down with writer, blogger and former programmer Chris Higgins to do a sort of analysis episode, expanding on some of the issues covered in Chapters 1 and 2. Hope you enjoy.
Summary:Oliver Knowlton is another one of our Pathfinder.com alumni. He’s had a wide and varied career in media, from his role as the General Manager of Sports Illustrated to his current role as the VP of the Digital Portfolio Group at Gannett, he’s been working in various aspects of digital media for two decades. Our previous Pathfinder interviewees have given us bookends of the pathfinder story, its origin story and the denouement, as it were. Oliver’s discussion gives us a great summatio...more
Summary:Jan Brandt is a legend in the world of marketing. She singlehandedly led the famous AOL "carpet-bombing" campaign that put millions of AOL trial discs and CDs in everything from magazines to popcorn boxes to banks. AOL was able to leap to the front of the online pack, over competitors like CompuServe and Prodigy largely on the success of this campaign. Jan tells us how this strategy developed, the thinking that went into it and goes into great detail about what worked and what didn't. Bu...more
Summary:Linda McCutcheon is another Pathfinder veteran. She came up through Time Inc. on the marketing side, so she was the one responsible for landing the first advertisements that ran on the Pathfinder site. But she also stayed at Time Warner through the entire lifecycle of Pathfinder, eventually rising to head the entire Time New Media operation. Linda gives us a great recap of entire era from the Full Service Network efforts through to the dot com days when she successfully brought Time...more
Summary:Craig Bromberg has had a long and fascinating career at the intersection of media and technology. An early adopter of online technologies, Craig was a freelance writer when he was chosen by Pathfinder head Walter Isaacson to become the first editorial director of the Pathfinder project. Craig tells us about the thinking that went into the launch of the website and the strategic goals Pathfinder was intended to achieve. But he was also a participant in the byzantine corporate politic...more
Summary:We’ve been looking at how companies were feeling their way into the internet era, trying to create new industries and new mediums without precedent or a road map. But thus far, we’ve mainly been looking at pure-play tech companies. And when the web revolution came, everyone wanted a piece of it, not just the tech world. So, this episode looks at the creative and business efforts of those people companies who came from outside the traditional environs of Silicon Valley.We’re largely going...more
Summary:Today we have an interview with Dave Zinman, co-founder of FocaLink Media services, which, if you'll recall, developed the first remote ad server. We previously spoke to his co-founder, Jason Strober. Dave is a long time advertising industry veteran. He was also at Yahoo and is currently the CEO of InfoLinks. I hope we've done a good job in these interviews of giving you a decent understanding of how online advertising developed and how it functions to underpin the internet as we kn...more
Summary:Kevin O’Connor is the co-founder of the granddaddy of all Internet advertising companies, DoubleClick. Chances are, if you’ve seen a banner ad over the last decade or so, it was served up behind the scenes by DoubleClick’s DART technology. Now the backbone of Google’s banner ad inventory, DoubleClick was one of the first internet advertising companies formed, one of the largest of the dot-com era, and as we discuss in this interview, DoubleClick is really the Godfather of the New Yo...more
Summary:When you talk about Yahoo, most people know the names Jerry Yang and David Filo. But if you talk to people who were there at the time, there is another name that everyone mentions: Tim Brady. Tim was Yahoo’s employee number 3. He wrote the original Yahoo business plan. He became Yahoo’s project manager, and as much as anyone, he played a major role in building the company that Yahoo became in the 1990s. Tim was also a college buddy of Jerry Yang’s, so he offers us excellent background on...more
Summary:Yahoo became the web’s first truly great company, and in this episode, we examine why. Turning to advertising as a business model, Yahoo was among the first to find a way for the Internet to generate real money. In addition, we look back at the “portal wars” as Yahoo, Excite, AltaVista, et al, competed to become all things to all internet people, and in the process, helped set off the dot com mania.
SummaryThis is a wide ranging and fascinating interview with John Danner. John was the co-founder of another of the major internet advertising pioneers, NetGravity. John gives us some more great background on how the technology and culture of the advertising industry evolved, and because NetGravity was the company that built Yahoo's first advertising system, we get some great details about early Yahoo. But John also gives us some incredible insights about what it was like during the dot com...more
An Interview With Compaq Co-Founder and CEO Rod CanionThis Sunday, AMC is premiering a new original series called Halt And Catch Fire. Set in the early 1980s, it tells the story of a band of cowboy entrepreneurs and engineers who join the PC Wars by cloning an IBM machine and taking on Big Blue for control of the nascent personal computer industry.AMC’s show is fictional, but it turns out, there is a true life story that is similar to this course of events, and it led to the creation o...more
SummaryIn this episode we continue our exploration into the roots Internet advertising. We’re speaking with Jason Strober, another Internet Advertising pioneer and co-founder of Focalink Media Services, Inc. Focalink was responsible for arguably the first remote ad server, a crucial technical component that made online advertising possible. Jason recounts for us the early, “wild west” days when a small group of ambitious people made an entire industry up from scratch, and with it, laid the ...more
SummaryHadi Partovi was one of the original 9 people on the Internet Explorer project. He left Microsoft in the late 90s to found Tellme Networks, which was eventually acquired by Microsoft for $800 million dollars. This precipitated a second stint at Microsoft where he was General Manager of MSN.com during MSN’s only year of profit, and where he incubated Start.com (which became Live.com, which now points to Microsofts’ online Outlook efforts). After leaving Microsoft a second time, he joined u...more
Summary:As the early web grows, the explosion of content and websites creates chaos. Early search engines are among the most popular sites on the early web, as users try to find their way around the new medium. Sites like Excite, Lycos, Alta Vista and others try to take an algorithm and data-based route to organizing the chaos, but the site that leaps to the front of the pack, Yahoo!, goes in the other direction, creating a hand-sorted directory.We learn how Jerry Yang and David Filo started Yah...more
What If I Told You…… there was a crazy entrepreneur who was the true founder of what would become America Online? He was the guy who hired Steve Case back before AOL was AOL.What if I told you that same entrepreneur invented true, networked, online gaming—not in the era of the Xbox 360, but back in the days of the Atari 2600?What if I then told you that same entrepreneur invented a Napster/Pandora/Spotify/Sirius-like music service, all the way back in 1981, before the compact disc was even widel...more
SummaryCraig Kanarick was one of the people responsible for the first ever banner ad, which appeared on Oct. 27, 1994 on Hotwired.com. As mentioned in the podcast, there’s no “first” ad, as several were launched in a rotation at the same time. But as mentioned on the podcast, a lot of people like to think of the first ad as this one, for AT&T, which you can see here:And for more information about the “You Will” AT&T campaign, read about it here, or dig this.Craig went on t...more
Summary:America Online survives the inevitable run-in with Microsoft, only to come out the other side stronger. The company has to endure major PR fiascos and network capacity issues, but eventually sees itself firmly established as one of the major players of the dot com era.Bibliography: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/3.09/aol.html?pg=6&topic= http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/4.12/ffaol.html?pg=3&topic=&topic_set= http://www.businessweek.com/stories/1996-0...more
www.InternetHistoryPodcast.com@brianmcc@nethistorypodSummary:We take a step back to look at the early online services: CompuServe, Delphi, GEine, the WELL and especially, early AOL. Why? Well, because online services very much served as “training wheels” for the Internet. Online services were NOT the Internet, exactly; at least not at first. But they very much helped get people used to living life in an online environment. AOL especially would grow and enjoy success to the point that it became o...more
www.InternetHistoryPodcast.com@nethistorypod @brianmccSummary:Rob McCool is another of the core group of original Mosaic programmers who went on to found Netscape. Unlike a lot of the others we have spoken to, he worked more on the server side of the equation for both projects. Rob was also the original author of the NCSA HTTPd web server, later known as the Apache HTTP Server, so we can think of him as the Godfather of Apache. He was a contributor to the initial specification of the C...more
Summary:Jon Mittelhauser is another of the core group of original Mosaic programmers who went on to found Netscape. Jon worked on the Windows versions of both Mosiac and Navigator eventually became the project manager for the Netscape Navigator project on the whole. He gives us great background and details about the development of browsers, the creation of features (he is the father of the hand icon, for example, and was instrumental in bringing image support to the web) and early web advancemen...more
Summary:Aleks Totic was one of the original Mosaic engineers at the NCSA, responsible for the Mac version of Mosiac. They don’t call him “Mac Daddy” for nothing. He was then one of the 6 original programmers recruited by Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark to form Netscape. Aleks gives us some excellent behind the scenes anecdotes about both projects, and what it was like to head out to California to work on some crazy startup before doing something like that was “cool.”A few fun nuggets of history we...more
Summary:Microsoft was on top of the world at the dawn of the Internet Era… but like Jack Dawson in Titanic? Microsoft would pivot, and pivot hard, once it realized that the Internet was The Next Big Thing. This episode outlines how younger Microsoft employees agitated for a greater focus on the Internet, and how Bill Gates “got” the Internet religion. Microsoft’s embrace of the Internet is truly one of the greatest acts of agility in corporate history. Windows 95 and Internet Explorer are launch...more
Summary:Chris Wilson has been working on browser technology for the better part of two decades. A member of the original Mosaic team, he went on to work first at Spry (producing Internet in a Box) and then later at Microsoft, where he was a major developer of Internet Explorer for almost 15 years.Chris tells us about developing the first Windows port of Mosaic, describes how he was one of the original champions of CSS as a technology, gives us more background about the evolution and life cycle o...more
Summary:Lou Montulli is a web pioneer. In 1991 and 1992 he co-authored a text web browser called Lynx with Michael Grobe and Charles Rezac while he was at the University of Kansas. This web browser was one of the first available and is still in use today.In 1994 he became a founding engineer of Netscape Communications (employee number 9) and programmed the networking code for the first versions of the Netscape web browser.He is also responsible for several browser innovations, such as ...more
Summary:Netscape has set the standard and taken the lead. But how long will it last? We take a step backwards in this episode and examine why Microsoft was so dominant at the beginning of the Internet Era. We ask the questions: Did Bill Gates really miss the Internet? And: Was the Information Superhighway and the Internet one and the same thing? And we look back on all the things that were distracting Microsoft at the dawn of the Internet Era.Bibliography: Breaking Windows: How Bi...more
Summary:Netscape launches and is a smashing success. Jim Barksdale officially comes on as CEO. Netscape fights off legal threats from the NCSA and the University of Illinois. Despite it’s young age and lack of profits, Netscape files to go public in THE historic IPO of the era. Flush with cash, flush with fame, Netscape girds for battle with a new foe: Microsoft.Bibliography: http://www.jwz.org/gruntle/newsrelease1.html http://www.businessweek.com/stories/1994-10-23/from-the-man-who-br...more
Summary:Marc Andreessen heads out to Silicon Valley. He hooks up with startup legend Jim Clark. They decide to form a company, Netscape, to build upon Mosaic’s previous success. They “get the band back together” by recruiting most of the original Mosaic development team. Netscape Navigator is developed. The company hustles to establish itself before other, larger competitors catch on to the opportunity that is the web browser market.Bibliography: Architects of the Web: 1,000 Days that Built...more
Summary:Ayoung Marc Andreessen and a team of programmers at the NCSA on the campus of the University of Illinois create and publish the Mosaic browser, thereby creating the world wide web’s first killer app. Mosaic enjoys meteoric, overnight discuss. But the higher ups at the NCSA take the project away from the “kids” who created it. Examining Mosaic as the “trial run” for the product that would eventually be called Netscape Navigator.Bibliography: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/for...more