A good read for us old people: How Hotmail changed Microsoft (and email) forever. “Twenty years ago this week, on December 29, 1997, Bill Gates bought Microsoft a $450 million late Christmas present: a Sunnyvale-based outfit called Hotmail. With the buy—the largest all-cash Internet startup purchase of its day—Microsoft plunged into the nascent world of Web-based email. Originally launched in 1996 by Jack Smith and Sabeer Bhatia as ‘HoTMaiL’ (referencing HTML, the language of the World Wide Web), Hotmail was initially folded into Microsoft’s MSN online service. Mistakes were made. Many dollars were spent. Branding was changed. Spam became legion. Many, many horrendous email signatures were spawned.”
Engadget: CompuServe’s still-active forums are finally shutting down. “It turns out that Instant Messenger (AIM) isn’t the only thing that AOL is shutting down next month. On December 15th, Oath (AOL and Engadget’s dear parent) is also closing what remains of the CompuServe forums which, yes, still actually exist. CompuServe had the first ever mainstream online forums well before the internet came along, letting users connect to its central servers via old-school dial-up modems. You can credit (or blame) the company for allowing some of the first online group chats about subjects like investing, politics and religion.” Why yes, I am old enough to remember the squeal of a 1200 baud modem — and a 300 baud modem!
Internet Archive: Wayback Machine Playback… now with Timestamps!. “The Wayback Machine has an exciting new feature: it can list the dates and times, the Timestamps, of all page elements compared to the date and time of the base URL of a page. This means that users can see, for instance, that an image displayed on a page was captured X days before the URL of the page or Y hours after it. Timestamps are available via the ‘About this capture’ link on the right side of the Wayback Toolbar. “
And in our “Man-do-I-feel-old,” department, from CNET: AOL’s AIM sets its away message… permanently. “AOL Instant Messenger, a popular form of communication in the early days of the internet, goes dark on Dec. 15, AOL, now a unit of Verizon’s Oath, said on Friday. AIM was once one of the dominant instant-messaging platforms on the internet, helped by the massive number of dialup subscribers using AOL internet service. After launching in 1997, it enjoyed its peak in the late ’90s and early 2000s.”
With a tip o’ the nib to John S, from Vice: I Bought a Book About the Internet From 1994 and None of the Links Worked. “The endless pace of linkrot has left books about the internet in a curious limbo—they’re dead trees about the dead-tree killer, after all. To their credit, books about the internet carry a bit of permanence about them, but they also go out of date quickly, which isn’t helpful. But for my purposes, that’s a virtue.”
John Bowers at Harvard: A Million Squandered: The “Million Dollar Homepage” as a Decaying Digital Artifact. “While most of the graphical elements on the Million Dollar Homepage are promotional in nature, it seems safe to say that the buying craze was motivated by a deeper fixation on the site’s perceived importance as a digital artifact. A banner at the top of the page reads ‘Own a Piece of Internet History,’ a fair claim given the coverage that it received in the blogosphere and in the popular press….But to what extent has this history been preserved? Does the Million Dollar Homepage represent a robust digital artifact 12 years after its creation, or has it fallen prey to the ephemerality common to internet content?” If you want an exhibit A to the problems of digital impermanence and linkrot, READ THIS.
The Verge: About.com, the general interest site even its own CEO doesn’t care for, is going away. “Before Google became the de facto search engine of the internet, the late ‘90s offered myriad of options for when you just wanted more information on stuff: Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, AltaVista, Answers.com. There’s a good chance you haven’t thought of these websites recently, and that’s okay because until he was the CEO of About.com, Neil Vogel hadn’t thought much about his own website either.” I remember Scott Kurnit when he started this company – it was then called The Mining Company. Hasn’t been relevant in years and I remember I quit visiting when the sections I was interested in got really stale. RIP.