The book shows how quickly the world has changed between 1995 and today. There are chapters on extinct Internet tools and utilities like FTP, Gopher Space, Newsgroups, Winsock, Netscape, Spry Mosaic, Archie, Compuserve — and also something called Yahoo.
Yahoo is getting a lot of flack today, mostly from impatient investors and an active peanut gallery of people who think they have the growth answers for the once dominant internet service. And now that AOL has reinvented itself once again as a result of its takeover by Verizon, it may be only a matter of time before Yahoo will go through the same.
But if you think about it, Yahoo has been around longer than almost any other Internet-based company. It’s survived the bursting of the bubble in the early 2000s, as well as the global financial crisis of 2008/2009. It may not be as dominant as it once was, and may not make as much money as Wall Street would like — but from a historical perspective, it’s a huge factor in the evolution of what we call digital.
Nowhere in the book is there any mention of Google (which did not start until 1997), and the whole topic of search only gets a few words, with reference to two search engines both offered through Yahoo: Jughead (which stood for Jonzy’s Universal Gopher Hierarchy Excavation and Display) and Veronica (Very Easy Rodent-Oriented Net-wide Index of Computerized Archives). Social media did not exist, unless you want to call the forums and newsgroups of their time as such.
What’s also amazing is that nowhere in the book is there any mention of monetization or advertising — not on how to place or how to avoid it, not on its importance or even its presence. Just simply nothing at all. In reading some of the chapters, the whole book emanates a sense of adventure and promise in a techie-hippie kind of way.
I recently heard someone say that it’s sad that the best brains in the world, with access to some of the smartest and best tools and data, only seem interested in finding new and different ways to interrupt your digital life with ever-more-intrusive forms of advertising. Perhaps teaching these smart folks the Internet as it was envisioned in 1995 is not such a bad idea.