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The Internet

20th Anniversary of the Dawn of Dot-Com 94

Posted by kdawson
from the fanfare-of-woodwinds dept.
btempleton writes "It was 20 years ago today when I posted to USENET the public launch of ClariNet, my electronic newspaper service delivered over the Internet. By finding a way around the NSFNet acceptable use policy, ClariNet was the first business founded to use the Internet as its platform for business, and the era of the 'dot-com' had begun. For the anniversary I have written a history of the founding of ClariNet and early internet business, which outlines how it all came down. Readers may also enjoy the included anecdote about what I term 'M5' reliability, where the news system was so robust that, like the M5 computer on Star Trek, even those authorized to do so were unable to shut it off; and a story of the earliest large SF eBook effort."
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20th Anniversary of the Dawn of Dot-Com

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  • Nonsense! (Score:3, Funny)

    by The Pirou (1551493) on Monday June 08, 2009 @07:47PM (#28258801)
    It's all just a series of tubes!
  • by caerwyn (38056) on Monday June 08, 2009 @07:50PM (#28258825)

    So in other words, we should ultimately blame you for the commercialization and spamming of the internet?

    I'm not sure you should have told us that...

  • And, as then, this is the 20th anniversary of my first post.

  • Sgt. Salt (Score:4, Funny)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Monday June 08, 2009 @07:51PM (#28258841) Homepage Journal

    "It was 20 years ago today..."

    Beatle plagiarist! I'm tellin' the RIAA!

    • Re:Sgt. Salt (Score:4, Informative)

      by btempleton (149110) on Monday June 08, 2009 @07:52PM (#28258853) Homepage

      I put that in quotes in the story, but the /. editors took 'em out. They also took changed "the dot-com" to just dot-com in the title which reads wrong to me, but who knows?

      • by Tablizer (95088)

        Yip, that happens. I can understand why: many younglings wouldn't get the joke. However, just be glad your story got thru. My story rejection rate hasn't been this bad since my dating years.

        • My story rejection rate hasn't been this bad since my dating years

          Improperly phrased date rejection joke? Or implication that your story rejection rate hasn't been so bad for a long time, relying on the reader's knowledge of your dating history?

          We report, you decide.

        • by GaryOlson (737642)

          My story rejection rate hasn't been this bad since my dating years.

          Ask the Medicaid doctor to change your prescription. The little blue pills work wonders.

  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday June 08, 2009 @07:51PM (#28258845) Journal

    By finding a way around the NSFNet acceptable use policy, ClariNet was the first business founded to use the Internet as its platform for business, and the era of the 'dot-com' had begun.

    Oh, so *you're* the asshole who started the commercialization, by shady interpretation of a use policy you agreed to, no less.

    I bet next you'll tell us that you're also the asshole who sent the first spam.

    jk... mostly.

    • No, he's not. (Score:5, Informative)

      by actionbastard (1206160) on Monday June 08, 2009 @08:11PM (#28259023)
      This guy [wikipedia.org] is.
      • Re:No, he's not. (Score:4, Informative)

        by btempleton (149110) on Monday June 08, 2009 @08:37PM (#28259267) Homepage

        Check the first reference on that wikipedia article. I'm the guy who first interviewed him, so of course I know about him. But DEC, while it did that ad over E-mail, was not what we would consider a dot-com.

        • "But DEC...was not what we would consider a dot-com

          It was the first commercial company to be connected to the Internet.
        • Your website [templetons.com] defines "dot-com" as "a company born to use the internet as its platform for business". So... Usenet counts as "the internet", but email doesn't? I don't really care either way, since this sounds like a silly pub debate over whether golf or NASCAR are "real" sports. I just can't help but point out the ego-serving fact that the guy on the barstool here happens to be a NASCAR driver.

          • by dzfoo (772245)

            Bravo! My thoughts exactly, even as soon as I read the first sentence of the summary.

                    -dZ.

          • by vlm (69642)

            Your website defines "dot-com" as "a company born to use the internet as its platform for business". So... Usenet counts as "the internet", but email doesn't?

            Even weirder, clarinet founded in 1989, which distributed wire service articles over usenet for a modest fee, counts as "the first", but UUNet founded in 1987, which started operations as a usenet distribution hub, does not count.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UUNET [wikipedia.org]

            • UUNET certainly counts, and has a section in the article. I simply divide early net business into two categories -- selling the pipes themselves (which uunet is a pioneer in) and using them. There had to be dot-net companies before there could be dot-com companies. Even before uunet there were companies selling equipment for internet connection as a business, and there were the mostly non-profit regionals selling internet access to schools and labs. UUNet (version 2, the for-profit one) sold pipes

          • by _Sprocket_ (42527)
            Are you claiming that DEC was "a company born to use the internet as its platform for business"? DEC - the (not a) computer company founded in 1957?
      • But was it himself who sent it, or his hordes of zombies? Or perhaps his mechanical Thuerk?

  • Holy Heck! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bennomatic (691188) on Monday June 08, 2009 @07:55PM (#28258875) Homepage
    It was in 1989 that I had my first account, at OCF.berkeley.edu... I posted something to comp.sys.amiga trying to get consensus as to whether or not it was a good idea to spend $300 on a 20 MB external HD for my A500. Those were the days. I didn't realize 20 years had passed.

    sigh.
    • By 1989, I'd already been posting on the internet for 5 years! Back then my email address was:

      ...{ decvax!linus | seismo!harvard }!axiom!gts

      That is, decvax was a well known location so you'd have to route through all the machines from you to decvax (which you'd presumably know), then on to linus, then axiom, then my account. If you didn't know how to get to decvax, you could also start at seismo. There were about 2 dozen well-known locations, and lists were published on how to route between them.
  • by Josh Coalson (538042) on Monday June 08, 2009 @07:57PM (#28258891) Homepage
    the best way I know to find out you were not first at something is to post on slashdot that you were.
  • by courtarro (786894) on Monday June 08, 2009 @07:58PM (#28258903) Homepage
    This story is all well and interesting, but I imagine it's impossible to prove that you're the first business to make money exclusively over the internet. You might be "one of the first", but to go all the way to the birth of my business represents the birth of dot-com is a bit vain, no?
    • by btempleton (149110) on Monday June 08, 2009 @08:16PM (#28259063) Homepage

      I'm happy to include others claims, and I do mention a variety of other companies. But there's a pretty good chance it was the first, because the flamewars over it were pretty much assuming that, and I know I was the one to convince Steve Wolff that it would be OK to do a business over the internet sold to universities and labs. So whoever might have been doing it earlier (which is entirely possible) kept a low profile, but I would be interested to document their story. Perhaps it's a bit vain, but what of it?

      • by lowen (10529)

        I remember those flamewars.... Almost as bad as the Great Renaming.

      • by dzfoo (772245)

        >> Perhaps it's a bit vain, but what of it?

        Vain. I has it.

                  -dZ.

  • M5 was not robust (Score:3, Interesting)

    by actionbastard (1206160) on Monday June 08, 2009 @07:58PM (#28258907)
    M5 suffered from the same megalomania and psychosis that its creator, Dr. Richard Daystrom, suffered from. This was the result of Daystrom having used his own 'memory engrams' in M5's programming.
    • M5 suffered from the same megalomania and psychosis that its creator, Dr. Richard Daystrom, suffered from.

      Maybe my monitor isn't correctly calibrated (or the beer from yesterday isn't correctly decalibrated), but I read that as "MS suffered ..."

      "I'm gonna' fucking kill ...", etc. ;-)

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Monday June 08, 2009 @07:59PM (#28258913) Journal

    I remember ClariNet. I remember thinking, "why in God's name should I pay for something that I can get for free?"

    But it turns out, there are people who will do that, and the rest is history.

    • by smchris (464899)

      I remember ClariNet. I remember thinking, "why in God's name should I pay for something that I can get for free?"

      Some of us always did pay. 20 years ago I was well out of school and paying something like $10/hr to GEnie at home for 2400 bps on my Commodore -- more to CompuServe.

      • by roc97007 (608802) on Monday June 08, 2009 @09:17PM (#28259685) Journal

        I hear what you're saying, but ClariNet wasn't an ISP, it offered wire news services for a fee. It means you could flip on your terminal, fire up the Telebit, dial into your service provider, (or work, as may be) and then, for a fee, access news stories from wire services. As opposed to, for instance, turning on the radio. Utterly redundant now, but it was all the rage, sometimes literally, back then.

    • by gv250 (897841)
      I remember ClariNet. I remember thinking "rec.humor.funny has much better jokes."
    • "why in God's name should I pay for something that I can get for free?" But it turns out, there are people who will do that

      Ssssh! The RIAA can hear us...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    How about someone other than Brad himself telling us this is the first dot-com ever? Or would that ruin things by proving that he's fudging the details?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 08, 2009 @08:10PM (#28259011)
    Seems to me I got a catalog from JT Toys (now JT's Stockroom at www.stockroom.com) in 1988. Sex is always first.
    • Perhaps it's a quibble, and of course we all favour the definition that makes our point, but I don't think that was a company created for the internet, which is what I view a dot-com as, and more a company with an existing business that made use of the internet to facilitate it. I would be curious to see reports of porn for sale via FTP, or a company that sold porn only via E-mail.

  • Decline of Usenet (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bughunter (10093) <bughunter AT earthlink DOT net> on Monday June 08, 2009 @08:24PM (#28259133) Journal
    Oh, so I can add you to my list?
    • 1989: ClariNet published
    • 1991: First pornographic video binary [estimated]
    • 1993: Eternal September
    • 1994: Canter & Siegal
    • 1995: DejaNews

    Damn you. Damn you all. I miss usenet.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      1991: First pornographic video binary

      Where does that come from? I was watching (very poor quality) porn video on my C64 in the early 80's. The good stuff came in the mid/late 80's with the Amiga. All this this way before 1991 and it wouldn't surprise me if there was even older stuff.

      • by dzfoo (772245)

        I think he meant through UseNet. BBS downloads do not count, unless you were receiving pr0n through FidoNet.

              -dZ.

  • Well, it was nice while it lasted.

  • NSF (Score:2, Funny)

    by Korbeau (913903)

    ... so these Non-Suitable-For pictures and videos started in the 80ies!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Good to see some things are eternally consistent. Brad is still trying to convince anyone who will listen he's The Most Important Person On The Internet. As it was in the ancient days, so it is today.

    I remember ClariNet (having been on the net for a couple of years). I remember the bullshit megalomania. I remember the bright flameout. I remember all the subsequent, desperate attempts to to portray the whole thing as vastly more important than it was.

    If *everyone* who comes after you does it better than

  • The history, t his blog. Well worthwhile site. I find looking at his panoramic photos very relaxing.

    Yeahh I know my post is not relevant.

  • I'm an Old Programmer, too, and was introduced to the ArpaNet around the same time; had an adm3a terminal and a Ven-Tel 300 baud acoustic coupler loaned to me, while still a teen in highchool, but a friendly "free computing" promoter guy at UC Santa Cruz; years and years of watching all this stuff happen... and I never got rich! What'd I do wrong? D'oh!

    Where'd I put my beard and suspenders? Damn kids, get offa my lawn!

    - Tim

    aka:

    ---> Tim Bessie ----- {ucbvax,dual}!unisoft!tim
    ---> Unisoft Systems; 739

    • by bessie (212155)

      typo: "loaded to me... BY a friendly..."

      - Tim

      • by bessie (212155)

        GAAAAH! "loaned to me... by a friendly..."

        You can tell I'm old, caintcha? :-)

        - Tim

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by thoughtspace (1444717)
          Not typos, just those bloody bit errors on your acoustically coupled 300 baud modem
          • by bessie (212155)

            I used to stick a cassette recorder next to the acoustic coupler, and pull the phone slightly out of it to get a good recording.

            Then, later, I would play the tape back to the coupler to review my session.

            Especially fun was hearing the tape play both the coupler's signal for a character, and hear my physical keypress, at the same time, while watching what I had typed magically appear on the screen.

            Pretty good low-tech fun, for the times. :-)

            - Tim

  • by ljhiller (40044) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @02:10AM (#28262073)
    1989 was also the year I got out of the IBM360 / Bitnet ghetto and got a real unix account with real IP/TCP connections. Clarinet. The was always the server I kept seeing references to, but never found out what was there because they expected me to pay to look.
  • by ActusReus (1162583) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @06:49AM (#28263449)

    I think that claiming a "dot-com" four years prior to the initial release of NCSA Mosaic [wikipedia.org] is absurd. If we're going to contort definitions THAT far, then the first dot-com was probably on Prodigy or Compuserve or maybe even BBS'es in the 1970's.

    While I respect and appreciate this post contributor's involvement in the EFF... this particular conversation seems like an awfully self-serving attempt to shoehorn "inventor of the dot-com" onto a resume, a la Al Gore and his infamous "creation of the Internet". Templeton COULD have a claim to this title, but it would feel far more legitimate if he had someone else making the "nomination" as opposed to all the extremely vigorous self-promotion.

    There's a reason why Google's search-ranking algorithm works the way it does... because your legitimacy as a public figure depends on how many OTHER people are talking about you, rather than how many words you spew yourself. If you want to move to the top of the heap, you need to use a link farm (i.e. having some other people write stuff like this to Slashdot on your behalf).

    • If Mosaic/HTML is the internet, then GNN, which I discuss, is a likely claimant. I don't think that HTML is the internet, though. And while I do expect some people to think that, I didn't expect it on /. as much.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ActusReus (1162583)

        I believe we're all aware of the distinction between a web browser and "the internet", sir. The more contentious question seems to be the distinction between Usenet and a "dot-com".

        You claim that that a business platform on TCP/IP-based Usenet is a "dot-com", whereas a business platform on TCP/IP-based email is not. In the hands of a disinterested third-party, this distinction has little merit. In the hands of a biased party in search of bragging rights, this distinction is an absurdity.

        Not only do we un

        • No, I would certainly agree that a business created for e-Mail would be a dot-com. Or for FTP. I believe the term, in common usage, means the companies that sprang up to use the internet. That would apply to any of the protocols. It would not simply mean a company that used e-mail in its business, as that's every company (and was the majority of companies on the net back then, whether they admitted it or not.) Every company is not a "dot com," now or then.

          Which company or companies are you sugges

          • I was referring to the comments earlier in this thread about Gary Thuerk (i.e. world's first spammer) at DEC. If you draw the distinction that a "dot-com" must be purely virtual or Internet-only, then you have a distinction that might hold water. It's still somewhat leaky, though... as even the most virtual of companies has operations in the physical world.
            • Again, I would be interested to hear other people's definitions. The 90s are often referred to as the dot-com era now, and to me (regardless of whether ClariNet fits or not) this always was meant to refer to the explosion of companies (some real, some vapour) which arose to do business on the internet. The existing companies who simply started using the internet are not, as far as I can tell, what people refer to when they talk about this. Even though Microsoft and Apple might well be doing far more b

              • After thinking on it further, I apologize for perhaps being overly harsh. It's not that I necessarily think your definition is a clear or easy-to-apply one... it's just that I don't have a better one offhand.
  • Before the Web existed, and I love his brag that he "got around" Fair Use... as though that were something to brag about.

    Meanwhile, I thought the real opening gun was Canter & Siegel's Green Card spam of 1994

    "Oh, no, there's no community here, this is just fallow ground that we can do whatever we want, wherever we want to do it".

                      mark

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