The Internet B.G. (before Google)


The line at the bottom says it all — “Achieve 100% pure surfing pleasure”  Can anyone imagine today in 2010 surfing the Internet from a printed book? I mean, you go to a page in a book, find the url to a site that’s described there and then diligently type it into a browser. The picture is the cover of a book published in 1996 – an eon ago when the expression ‘world wide web’ was still fresh and exotic, and people at cocktail parties actually debated the question of whether the web was maybe a passing fad — could it attain enough momentum to endure? Hard to believe it could have been so.

Perusing this volume of the then-top 1000 websites, a couple of language things jump out — the use of an apostrophe when referring to zines, i.e., ‘zines. It wasn’t quite its own word back then. And there’s the predominance of ‘e’ over ‘i’, as in eWorld,  an online service run by Apple from 1994 – 1996 that provided email, a bulletin board and news; Apple today must be the premier pusher of ‘i’ (iPod, iPhone, iPad, iWork, iWeb, etc.).  The ‘e’ referred to ‘electronic’ —  the catch-all adjective of early digital technology; as the Internet and perhaps interactive media grew in size and usage, i began to encroach on e’s turf and has pretty much obliterated it by now. Okay, there’s still ‘e-commerce’, but I’ve seen ‘i-commerce’, too.

So who made in into the Top 1000 list of websites in 1996?  Here is a sampling (with their original urls – interesting to follow some of these and see where they lead now)

  • Fried Society (a weekly Gen-Xer comic) http://www.catalogue.com/comix/fried_society
  • The Random Haiku Generator (name says it all) http://www.ip.net/Haiku/haiku.html
  • The FBI’s Current “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” (still there, but the url is different) http://www.fbi.gov/toplist.htm
  • Culture Shock  (the book states “Culture Shock is a gang of young designers and Net experts who hope you’ll hire them to design your Web page….On past visits we wandered through a maze of nonsensical equations, dividing E=Mc-squared over Andy Warhol and ending up at the poetry of Robert Frost.”) http://www.cultureshock.com
  • Shoestring Travel E-Zine (Alternative and offbeat budget travel advice) http://metro.turnpike.net/eadler/shoe1.html
  • HotWired (the online version of Wired magazine)  http://www.hotwired.com
  • CyberTown (the book states “A huge shopping and services center…The creators hope that Cybertown will become a central point for Web access and a sort of self-contained virtual village.”) http://www.directnet.com/cybertown  (try http://www.cybertown.com)
  • OnSale (book states “a vibrant, photo-filled online auction in which you outbid other Web users for products ranging from digital cameras to fine wine to automobile radar jammers.” http://www.onsale.com
  • Internet Sleuth (the book states “This researcher’s fantasy-land is the best we’ve found of many sites that collect databases and let you search them from simple forms….Then you type in a few keywords and search each of them and gather your findings….you can peruse dozens of categories to find more than 200 databases. Instead of jumping across the Web to find just the right database, you can save a lot of time searching from here. Some of the commercial search sites may not be thrilled with this short-cut, but for now it’s a valuable service.” http://www.intbc.com/sleuth  (try http://www.internetsleuth.net)

We’ve come a looong way, baby. If you want the full set of ‘top 1000’ sites, you can still buy this volume at Amazon — at quite a bargain, I might note. 🙂

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