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How the Internet Happened: From Netscape to the iPhone

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A Library Journal Best Book of the Year Tech-guru Brian McCullough delivers a rollicking history of the internet, why it exploded, and how it changed everything. The internet was never intended for you, opines Brian McCullough in this lively narrative of an era that utterly transformed everything we thought we knew about technology. In How the Internet Happened , he chronicles the whole fascinating story for the first time, beginning in a dusty Illinois basement in 1993, when a group of college kids set off a once-in-an-epoch revolution with what would become the first “dotcom.” Depicting the lives of now-famous innovators like Netscape’s Marc Andreessen and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, McCullough also reveals surprising quirks and unknown tales as he tracks both the technology and the culture around the internet’s rise. Cinematic in detail and unprecedented in scope, the result both enlightens and informs as it draws back the curtain on the new rhythm of disruption and innovation the internet fostered, and helps to redefine an era that changed every part of our lives.

384 pages, Hardcover

First published October 23, 2018

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Brian McCullough

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 196 reviews
Profile Image for Pete.
893 reviews55 followers
November 27, 2018
How the Internet Happened (2018) by Brian McCullough is a really excellent look at how the commercial internet grew from the early 1990s until the launch of the iPhone. While writing the book McCullough recorded the interviews he did with people and released them as 'The Internet History Podcast'. Critically McCullough also founded and co-founded a number of companies so he really knows about his subject.

The books starts with the history of Mosaic and other early web browsers. Then Microsoft's realisation of the importance of the internet. Netscape's rise and fall is carefully covered. AOL, Ebay, Amazon and Yahoo and the early tech boom companies are then described in detail. Google's birth, the bursting of the bubble and the how Google monetized internet advertising are the next subject. The book dives into mp3s and the iPod. The revitalisation of the internet companies after the 'Nuclear Winter' of the early 2000s and the rise of web 2.0 and social media are then covered. Finally the rise of the mobile internet with the launch of the iPhone is where the book ends.

It would be very hard to read this book and not learn a lot. The details of the browser wars and how Google actually worked out how to make money are really interesting. Due to his inside knowledge and careful research McCullough manages to capture the zeitgeist of the times he writes about.

The podcast has quite a bit that the book doesn't including interviews with other computer historians and more detail on some subjects than the book. But the book has been well edited and the most important parts kept.

The book is probably going to become the default reference for the birth of the mass commercial internet. Just as Triumph of the Nerds by Robert X Cringely is the book to describe the rise of the PCs in the 1980s. McCullough has done a really great job with the book. Like Cringely he has the great advantage of being part of what he writes about. He's also done a fantastic job interviewing the subjects for the book. Listening to the podcast is a delight for anyone interested in the history of technology. The book and podcast really are fantastic.
Profile Image for Chris.
131 reviews7 followers
February 25, 2022
This book reminds me of Netflix food documentaries, where the only reference to food is a B-roll glide across one or two cooked dishes and the rest of the screen time focused on the chefs' childhoods and friends' opinions of them. In other words, it's a book written about a technology written by someone that clearly has no understanding of that technology.

What you have, therefore, is a historical narrative of the exoskeleton of the dot-com bubble and the companies that emerged from it; something that happened so recently, it's within easy recall for most people. What this is NOT is the emergence of how the internet came to be. There is NO reference to technology: nothing about TCP/IP; nothing about secure certification or encryption or how modems work or how wireless routers came to be; nothing about the underlying agencies that maintain the Internet and manage and moderate URLs; nothing about how how early search engines indexed their "lists" of sites; and nothing about how HTML was developed or any of the other underlying architecture of the Internet, other than a discussion of early browser wars between Mozaic, Netscape and Internet Explorer, which was, admittedly, the most interesting part of the book.

In other words, there is no evidence that the author understands the basics of Internet technology. Not even the most basic of basics. Why, then, would he write a book about the Internet? Well, he alluded to his motivations within the book: the tech gold rush. It really felt like he was jumping on a bandwagon and winging it, hoping that nobody will notice his complete lack of knowledge. Except it's 2022 and we do notice! It's fine to mention the companies that pushed the Internet into being, but what were they pushing? The narrative must be built around Internet technology.

Instead, the emphasis is strongly on business deals. As a competitive strategy researcher, I am interested in how firms compete, but the emphasis here on buyouts/acquisitions, IPOs, and stock market evaluations was dry, to say the least. It was also really focused on the US context only. Silicon Valley was, admittedly, the centre of the web for a while, but not so indefinitely. Of course, the author is American, so writing about a global phenomenon as if it only existed in the United States should be expected. I guess it was naive of me to assume it could have been otherwise!

In sum, this appears to be the work of another "professional writer," with a complete lack of relevant education, writing way beyond their scope of knowledge, despite this author's entrepreneurial experience and Internet history blog.
Profile Image for Ieva.
1,049 reviews80 followers
March 20, 2022
Klasiska vēstures grāmata par tik moderniem laikiem, ka esmu tos piedzīvojusi (bet tik tālu un nesaistīti, ka notikumu laikā nebija ne mazākās nojausmas par tiem). Interneta vēsture te nesākas ar kara skaitļojamām mašīnām (iekšējo tīklu) , bet ar tā kļūšanu www un kļūšanu pieejamu salīdzinoši plašam lokam. Interesanti, cik liela nozīme mūsu pasaules veidošanā bija atsevišķu cilvēku personībām. Un cik liela nozīme būt īdtajā vuetā un laikā - visi lielie soļi internetā balstās uz līdzīgiem soļiem, kuri nez kāpēc nesanāca.
Profile Image for Jonathan.
849 reviews7 followers
January 28, 2021

This is not a book about how the internet happened. It's a book about several internet startups and the internet stock bubble of the early 2000's.

Part of the issue is expectation, as I naively assumed this would be a book that covered some aspects of the actually creation of the internet that Al Gore so famously invented. Sarcasm in case that didn't carry, but even so, the story of how the internet came to be is one I'm interested in hearing. Unfortunately after finishing this book, I'm still interested in hearing it. I believe in judging a book by its authors intentions, and by that standard this is an abject failure. As a literary documentary of the early days of web brands, its very enjoyable, if a little surface level given how broad the subject is.

It does cover some interesting stories, like the AOL/ Time Warner merger, and this tangent I'd never heard: “Perhaps the most incredible deal of the time was Excite@Home’s acquisition of Blue Mountain Arts for $740 million dollars in cash and stock. Excite@Home was a company formed when the broadband ISP @Home merged with the search portal Excite.com. Blue Mountain Arts operated the website Bluemountain.com, where users could send each other electronic greeting cards by email. That’s right. Bluemountain did nothing but send Grandma electronic “get-well-soon” greetings. But Bluemountain.com was getting 9 million unique users a month to do this, and at the time, traffic was the sine qua non for a Yahoo-chasing portal player like the Excite half of Excite@Home.50 As the New York Times noted in its article announcing the deal, Excite@Home “predicted that the acquisition would increase its audience by 40%, to encompass approximately 34% of Internet traffic.”51 So, Excite@Home was willing to pay $82 per user to attract additional eyeballs to its network of properties and try to keep pace in the portal race.”

A crazy time obviously, but still one that others have documented better.
Profile Image for Ian Stewart.
53 reviews9 followers
January 6, 2019
Really entertaining history of the internet from ARPANET up to the launch of the iOS App Store. The wildest section being the dotcom bubble days. The one idea that jumped out at me the most was how wrong people often were about, well, everything. From Berners-Lee not seeing the value of images on the web, to various business models and bets. Lots of people were very right about many things but also really wrong. Interesting to see altogether.
Profile Image for Lainie.
10 reviews2 followers
December 15, 2019
This book is what you get when white men write their own history.
Profile Image for JR is Reading.
36 reviews34 followers
May 15, 2018
This was a surprisingly fun book to read - Brian has a really accessible writing style. I did not expect to read this book in it's entirety when I picked it up (I dip into a lot of books for work) but I flew through the 400 pages. Check it out if you loved Halt and Catch Fire.
33 reviews1 follower
September 27, 2020
More a look at the internet era as opposed to literally how the internet happened, but informative and interesting nonetheless.
Profile Image for Shantanu Gangal.
19 reviews5 followers
April 4, 2021
Chris Dixon recommended How the Internet Happened: From Netscape to the iPhone.
It is a terrific and dense history lesson of the 90s & 00s; that's the book review.

Further it was very thought-provoking to read it from the perspective of growing up in India,
1. While the US had significant PC adoption before the browsers came along, most Indians got the PC+internet+web together. Jio has taken bundled things further and Ambani might finally build Gates' Information Superhighway.

2. The 90s internet bubble never really happened in India though; neither did the winter aftermath. A lot of podcasts & blogs that reference the dot com era, with a tinge of nervous hope, only start to make sense now.

3. A lot of Indians got online via dial-up & made their 1st (Google, obviously) search in the early 2000s (lag = 6-8yr). Our dorm had a communal iMac in '03 (lag = 5yr); most had Facebook accounts pre News Feed in '06 (lag = 2yr) & held an iPhone in early '08 (lag < 1yr).
The lag time shrank rapidly through the pages of the book and, for me, built a great thrill of catching up to the future.
March 29, 2021

เพลินมาก จริงๆ หนังสือเล่มนี้ควรชื่อ “ประวัติศาสตร์บริษัทเน็ตดังๆ” มากกว่า “ประวัติศาสตร์อินเทอร์เน็ต” เพราะเหมิอนเอาประวัติบริษัทออนไลน์ดังๆ มาร้อยเรียงในเล่มเดียวกัน มากกว่าจะเล่าประวัติศาสตร์อินเทอร์เน็ตและมิติทางนโยบาย กฎหมาย หรือสังคมที่เกี่ยวข้อง แต่สำหรับคนที่ไม่เคยอ่านหนังสือประวัติโลกออนไลน์ เล่มนี้ก็นับว่าครอบคลุมและเล่าสนุกที่สุดเล่มหนึ่ง

ชอบบทที่ว่าด้วยกำเนิดของ Netscape, Napster และ Facebook ที่สุดในเล่ม เต็มไปด้วยเกร็ดสนุกๆ ที่เน้นรายอะเอียดด้านเทคโนโลยี นิสัยผู้ก่อตั้ง วัฒนธรรมองค์กร และโมเดลธุรกิจ ในสัดส่วนพอๆ กัน ชอบบท Napster เป็นพิเศษเพราะไฮไลท์ความสำคัญของบริษัทที่วันนี้คนอาจจะหลงลืมไปแล้ว (โดยเฉพาะผลกระทบต่อวงการบันเทิง ทำให้บริษัทสื่อบันเทิงและดนตรีเลิกพยายาม “ต่อสู้” กับไฟล์เถื่อน แต่ปรับโมเดลมาสู้แทน) แถมอธิบายอย่างชัดเจนว่า Napster เฟล ขณะที่ YouTube รุ่ง เพราะ YouTube เรียนรู้จาก Google ใช้วิธีจัดการกับเนื้อหาที่ละเมิดลิขสิทธิ์��นแพล็ตฟอร์มของตัวเองได้สำเร็จ
Profile Image for David Webber.
79 reviews
December 8, 2018
If like me your first experience with the internet was a 2400 baud modem and CompuServe, this book will be a great walk down memory lane. From Prodigy and all those AOL disks, from hourly metered internet service to Blackberries and iPhones, from eBay and GeoCities, GIFs to browser wars - excellent stories abound. Also included is the interned stock/IPO craze and its effect on the industry, as well as winners and losers in the tech battles that shaped the internet. An excellent read for those who grew up during this time.
Profile Image for Arron Vinson.
17 reviews
December 2, 2021
3.5 stars. This book was a pretty interesting read, covering the history of not just the internet but products that interact with the internet as well. I thought this book was going to be more technical than it was but still a good read. I could see it not being for everyone, so I would suggest reading or listening to a sample first.
Profile Image for Susan.
148 reviews
May 29, 2022
A really interesting and engaging read about the history of the Internet and how the Web evolved. So many household name companies’ birth stories (and demise stories) were included. The tech revolution, Silicon Valley takeover, booming entrepreneurship, formation of the .com bubble, and ultimately the evolution into Web2.0 and how the internet forever changed consumer behavior were super interesting to learn about!
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,590 reviews95 followers
January 19, 2019
Who's ready for a little nostalgia? Brian McCullough, host of the Internet History podcast, here turns his research and many interviews in a compact history of how the tool of research scientists became the petri dish of 21st century life. This isn't a technical history of APRANET slowly maturing; rather, it's a popular history of how the Internet as most experienced it 'happened' -- how it emerged, how it took fire, how different products and services saw it rapidly grow in new ways and transform society as a whole. McCullough uses a series of products and events to tell the story of the digital world, from the first graphical browser that made the network user-friendly, to the arrival of smartphones. If you were alive and aware in the nineties, and especially if you were growing up with the internet as many readers and quite a few tech billionaires these days did, it's a nostalgia trip in addition to a fun history.

McCullough begins with the Mosaic browser, which later became Netscape, the first browser to bring a Mac-like graphic interface to the browsing experience. The unusual popularity of Mosaic hinted at the potential popularity of the internet, though the tech giants of the day were slow to catch on. Microsoft was entirely focused on Windows 95, and while it was thinking about an information highway, it imagined this future revolution would take place via television and cable connections, not low-bandwidth telephone lines. Once Bill Gates and Microsoft realized they'd made the wrong call, they used all their resources to make good the mistake -- immediately releasing an OS that advertised its web-friendliness, and developing Internet Explorer and the MSN Network, as well as working with America Online. America Online was quick to grasp that the internet was fundamentally social, and that they could expand their influence enormously if they promoted chatting, message boards, and the like. (I wasn't even an AOL subscriber, and I used and loved its AIM client.)

The astonishing success of Netscape and AOL meant that New York's financial elite -- and the whole of baby boomer and investment-curious America -- saw it as an avenue for wealth, and the latter part of the nineties would be marked by a dot-come bubble that crashed in 2000. An astonishing array of companies sprang into being, promising to sell everything from dog food to cars online, and despite never showing the first sign of profit investors leapt on them. Some -- a few, like Amazon -- had staying power, but most were pipe dreams. While the resulting crash would dampen enthuasism in the early 2000s, McCullough holds that the bubble played an important role in driving the expansion of the internet's infrastructure, paving the way for affordable broadband just as railway bubbles in England had paved it over in rails despite leaving many people destitute. In the meantime, more companies were developing that would capitalize on the web's unique nature, like Google and facebook. All of the companies that McCullough chronicles bring something new to the table: eBay's reputation mechanism, for instance -- or allow users to revolutionize their own experience. Napster, for instance, gave people the strong taste of instant gratification, and the ability to remix content easily, and Facebook destroyed the wall between reality and the internet world.

The book culminates in the last chapter, amusing titled "One More Thing", covering first the Blackberry, and then of course the iPhone. This chapter is strangely short, but perhaps that owes to the smartphone being a device still in the process of changing everything. Smartphone sales are just now reaching their estimated peak, and while a book will certainly be written in the future on how ubiquitous mobile computing has transformed 21st century society, perhaps we're not outside the transformation enough to look back at it.

I for one thoroughly enjoyed How the Internet Happened, in part for nostalgia. I can remember the dot-com bubble commercials, the banner ads, how revolutionary Firefox's tabbed browsing was, how spectacularly fun AIM was, etc, and it's nice to see all of this laid out in a history. Despite experiencing it first-hand, I also learned quite a bit, like the origins of Hotmail. (I still type "hotmail.com" when I want to login to Microsoft services, and didn't realize Hotmail began as an independent project before Microsoft bought them to get into the web mail area.)
Profile Image for Jeremy.
590 reviews11 followers
February 6, 2020
This is an amalgamation of biographies of most of the major internet related companies, from the very beginning up through the IPhone, told in a cohesive manner, and it's a really interesting look at the history of the internet. Mostly names I was familiar with, but a number of new ones as well.

As a good example of how well this story was told, think about whatever happened to Napster. Those of us of a certain age during this time remember downloading songs from Napster, and the ensuing legal firestorm. But what ended up happening? And why did YouTube, which could have been considered Napster with videos, make it? McCullough does a great job of explaining this, which is essentially that Napster couldn't figure out a way to keep pirated songs off its site, and YouTube, with the knowledge brought from Google, was able to generally keep copyrighted material off. But the importance of Napster is probably quite underrated, and McCullough puts it in its rightful place.

I had never heard that Google was supposed to be Googol, to show that the search engine was able to search the vastness of the internet, but that website name was taken, so they spelled it differently. Overall this book was full of new material to me, and really well done.
Profile Image for Casey Lau.
4 reviews57 followers
October 24, 2018
People have written about this era in pieces but no one has written about it in one book and I think it gives a good overview into this time even if you lived through it like I did. I wonder what the kids born in 2018 will think of it in 2038. A time capsule for sure and a well written one.
Profile Image for James.
813 reviews26 followers
May 20, 2022
This is a non-fiction account of the development of the Internet from the Netscape browser in the mid-1990s to the launch of the iPhone by Apple in 2007. Covering a time window of barely 14 years, it examines the major business and computing developments that changed the world from a place where the Internet was only used for government and academic research purposes to today’s web-dependent society, in which everyone carries access to the network in their pocket on a smartphone. As it chronicles the activities of the middle-class computer nerds both in and out of American colleges, building billion-dollar companies from their bedrooms and garages, it dishes up a healthy dose of nostalgia, relating famous stories about the origins of many organizations that were instrumental in popularizing the Internet before the dot-com bubble burst at the turn of the millennium, how many of them subsequently went broke at record speed, and the survivors who became the tech giants of today. The last part of the book explains where social media came from, its rapid explosion in popularity and how it came to dominate the modern Internet. I knew some of this elaborate tale already, but the most interesting stories to me were where some of the early ideas for what to put online came from and how online advertising morphed through several iterations from zero to the ubiquitous nuisance it is today.

However, a major flaw of this book is that it focuses almost entirely on American web business operations and the personalities that ran or still run them across a very narrow time frame. The first computer networks appeared in the 1960s, I sent my first email in the late 1980s and was using Internet services on UNIX years before any browser was available, so in a book titled How the Internet Happened, I would’ve liked to see much more than what is essentially a book about websites. With only a brief nod to British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, it mentions very little about the history of the computers and networking required for the Internet or the infrastructure of cabling and satellites needed for global interconnectivity, basics like the invention of hypertext and touchscreens, or even international online business activities, which were also growing quickly outside of the United States at the same time. Of course, with the subtitle “From Netscape to the iPhone”, I knew this book was not going to venture into a long history lesson, but at least a solid chapter on the background behind its subject and more credit to the international players who played a part would serve to put the entire phenomenon of the Internet into context and round out the story nicely.
Profile Image for Rafael Ramirez.
115 reviews14 followers
May 11, 2019
Para bien o para mal (personalmente creo que más para bien que para mal) no se puede entender el mundo de hoy sin el internet. Este recomendable libro contiene un interesante recorrido de su historia a través de las personas y compañías que lo han hecho posible. El autor narra la evolución, no solo de las tecnologías que han hecho posible la conexión instantánea en cualquier parte del mundo, sino fundamentalmente de los modelos de negocio que han surgido de, y a su vez han promovido, esta conectividad. Este es un libro dirigido al público en general que puede ser muy valioso para personas de negocios que estén buscando crear nuevas empresas digitales o que estén buscando adaptar sus empresas para ser competitivas en esta nueva realidad.
Profile Image for Allen West.
8 reviews
November 4, 2021
I never expected the creation of the Internet and the incorporation of it into our everyday lives to be so dramatic. Everyone is getting wildly lucky, suing each other, bullying other businesses, committing fraud, partying, bargaining, and that’s just a start. It’s very crazy to me how much we take the Internet for granted today, and although I’m glad I live in the time I do, it was really cool to get a glimpse into the competitive creation of businesses and even industries who were slowly waking up to the idea of the real life information speed highway. Hopefully I’ll see the next “mankind-changing” invention coming and be in a position to get in on the ground floor.
Profile Image for Amber Lea.
723 reviews99 followers
March 23, 2023
Like everyone else has complained, the title is somewhat misleading. This is much more about the business side of tech companies (and products like mp3 players and phones) through the ages than the internet itself.

This book is a good overview if you don't know anything about companies like Netscape or Apple or the dotcom bubble. I'm giving it three stars because I already knew most of this, and I feel like so much was missing. It's a very surface level history that glosses over a lot, but I didn't hate it.
Profile Image for Sydney Austad.
68 reviews4 followers
June 20, 2023
I really try to avoid knowing about Wall Street as a form of self preservation, so I’m rather surprised how much I enjoyed a book almost exclusively about how each tech innovation was received by the stock market
Profile Image for Meredith.
289 reviews
May 10, 2023
The title was a bit deceptive. Seemed to focus more on applications and software rather than the development of the internet itself. Nevertheless, made me think a lot about at one points in tine I adapted particular innovations.
Profile Image for Heiki.
70 reviews
February 4, 2022
The book feels more like a history book than a classic non-fiction piece. Since the material for the book has such strong gravitas, I would have expected a lot more story and emotions in the book. Nevertheless, a good historic coverage of the most monumental companies in the early internet days.
12 reviews
November 30, 2018
Outstanding readable history of the internet

Nearing 70 years of age, I’ve lived through all of the tech epochs that McCullough describes but forgotten about. What a great comprehensive history of all you’ve known and forgotten in a very readable text with surprises aplenty.
16 reviews10 followers
November 21, 2018
Great book, explaining everything from the dot com bubble, first internet companies and to the early start of Google and Facebook. A must read for anyone having anything to do with any kind of internet business.
September 22, 2019
I am a regular listener of Brian McCullough's daily tech news and internet history podcasts - though a recent one. When he mentioned in one of his podcasts that he had written a book in the past, I was very intrigued.

In How the Internet Happened, Brian sets up the history of the web, the devices, and the people connecting it all together in an easy to read manner with plenty of interesting insights that keep engaging you. While reading this, I had this constant sense of thrill as he laid out the stories behind products that have been such an integral part of my life.

The stories behind the highs of Amazon, Netscape, eBay, Google and others along with the lows of the nuclear winter and Napster where my personal favorites.

Highly recommend the book as a source of light history and entertainment of what went down for almost two decades in tech.
Profile Image for Hamish.
403 reviews24 followers
May 16, 2022
A solid survey of the internet, from Netscape to Facebook. I learned a bunch, especially about Netscape, Yahoo!, ebay and AOL, which are each significant and instructive but which I didn't really know anything about before. It's probably worth another listen at some point.

What follows are unorganised facts I found noteworthy.

A lot of the startup tropes come from Netscape. IPOing before turning a profit. Coding 14 hours a day on beer and pizza.

When the Netscape guys launched, they wrote a script to play different sound effects for different downloads. So a download from Australia was glass breaking, for example. And the launch manifested as a 5-6 hour crescendo of croaks and cannons and explosions.

Marc Andreeson and Eric Bina built the Mosaic browser at the University of Illinois. Andreeson then goes his own way to cofound Netscape, with a fresh codebase, and the university sues! They eventually settle for $2.2 million! Greedy!

Netscape did a roadshow before IPOing, which is apparently standard practice to hype up your company and get a better price. But their shows were overfilled

During the 90s, a lot of people thought that the next stage of consumer technology was "smart TVs" where you could download entertainment and shop. A lot of big media companies poured significant resources into this idea (as did Microsoft), but no one was especially interested in them and shortly after the internet took off. The distinction between the smart TV network and the internet seems flimsy to me, because of course one of the major jobs of computers today is to be televisions. So is this an actual deep distinction or just a question of the order in which computer services mature?

We all know that pornography fuels new technology, but I was surprised to hear that even AOL's growth was driven by sexy chat and sharing of pornographic images.

Growth hacking in the AOL era: leave CDs on the seats at sports events, send them in the mail, and put them in steaks. At one point half of all CDs being made had the AOL logo on them.

The world's first webcam was the Trojan Room coffee pot from Cambridge University, connected to the web in 1993. Wikipedia:
To save people working in the building the disappointment of finding the coffee machine empty after making the trip to the room, a camera was set up providing a live picture of the coffee pot to all desktop computers on the office network. After the camera was connected to the Internet a few years later, the coffee pot gained international notoriety as a feature of the fledgling World Wide Web, until it was retired in 2001.

The world's second webcam was Fishcam by Netscape: a live feed of a fishtank.

The first web publication was Global Network Navigator by O'Reily, which came out of an accompanying web catalogue for their Internet User's Guide.

During Gates' hard core web days in 1995, one Microsoft employee had a crack at creating a web magazine, which became Slate.

Yahoo was a hobby project by a couple of Stanford grad students, and was originally just a hand-curated directory of websites! "Yahoo" is a backronym of "Yet Another Hierarchically Organized Oracle" or "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle". The founders had the titles "Chief Yahoo" (CEO) and "Cheap Yahoo" (CTO, who kept the site running frugally).

ebay was originally the personal homepage of libertarian Pierre Omidyar. One day he decided to host an experimental auction site at some subdomain or other, and when hosting costs became an issue, he used a trust system where people needed to send him checks for the ebay cut in the mail. And that worked.

At one point I thought that electronic greeting cards would be a good space to get into. Apparently Blue Mountain is the big player in this game.

The MySpace.com domain was originally owned by a cloud storage company which didn't survive the dot com bubble. It's one of many companies which did in fact have a workable business model but just got unlucky.

Some dot com era companies were outright frauds. Pixelon blew 60 million dollars it had just raised on a launch party. The founder turned out to be using a fake name and was wanted for stock fraud.

Wild: When AOL was at its zenith, it was bigger than Time Warner and acquired it! It's like when Pied Piper acquired Hooli in Silicon Valley! Technically the two merged into a new company called AOL Time Warner, although after a couple of years it was apparent that AOL was on the way out and the name was restored to just "Time Warner". Wikipedia: "Time Warner had been looking for a way to embrace the digital revolution, while AOL wanted to anchor its stock price with more tangible assets."

Mark Cuban had a dot com company which did sports radio on the internet. It was acquired by Yahoo!, but he didn't believe the stock prices were real and bought options. He survived the bubble bursting with all of his wealth and one commentator has said that he probably extracted more wealth from the initial bubble than anyone else.

During the 1840s there was a railraod bubble in Britain. When it burst, a lot of people lost their money, but the railways which were constructed during the bubble went on to enable the high industrial revolution. A similar thing happened with the dot com bubble. A lot of telecom companies jumped on the bandwagon and made huge investments in internet infrastructure. People lost their money, but the fibre optic cables that were laid went on to become the backbone of the internet that emerged.

In the early days, Google rented out their algorithm to Yahoo!. Part of the deal is that a "Powered by Google" link would appear on the search results, which drove Google's growth and meant that Yahoo! was essentially handing their customer base over to Google.

One of Google's early monetisation ideas was to sell boxes which could provide search capabilities to corporate data centers.

Cunningham's Law: the best way to find an answer on the internet isn't to ask the question, but to post the wrong answer.

The first Youtube video, Me at the Zoo, contains the following inspired speech: "All right, so here we are in front of the, uh, elephants, and the cool thing about these guys is that, is that they have really, really, really long, um, trunks, and that's, that's cool, and that's pretty much all there is to say."

I had always thought that Facebook did staged releases at one university at a time to create artificial scarecity. But it was also to make sure their servers didn't explode. Obvious in retrospect.

When Facebook started getting acquisition attention from big companies, Zuckerberg would talk to all the CEOs he could, but instead of talking turkey he would pick their brains to get a "crash course MBA degree".

Zuck doesn't often come across as likeable. He's too much of a robot-soap hybrid. But this is quite endearing:
Facebook gets an acquisition offer for a billion dollars. Zuck: "no". Thiel: "There's so much you could do with the money." Zuck: "I don't know what I could do with the money. I'd just start another social networking site. I kind of like the one I already have."

For Steve Jobs' original demo of the iPhone, the engineers had to find a "golden path" of actions which minimised the risk of bugs. So Jobs could send an email then surf the web, but doing it the other way around would result in a crash.
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