The Web Was Always Awesome – Even in 1996

It’s 1996.

People still refer to the new medium by its full name—the World Wide Web—and although you sometimes find interesting stuff here, you’re constantly struck by how little there is to do. You rarely linger on the Web…

Reading this article by Slate technology writer Farhad Manjoo, I’m thinking perhaps I’m just a few years older than the author. Perhaps he didn’t start college yet, or didn’t have access to a good Mac or a PC with Windows 95. Because the 1996 in his story sounds more like 1992 or 1993 to me.

In 1996 I was a junior at the University of Iowa and was already hooked. Netscape was great and the speed of the WEB was sweet. No we weren’t still saying “world wide web” it was “web” or “Internet” and we had also cut the hyper from the link. I was fortunate to be at a Big Ten school with state-of-the-art IT infrastructure throughout, including the Information Arcade (still its name), which opened in 1992 (more about that here. It seemed as though the U. of Iowa benefited uniquely from its location between the U. of Minnesota and Illinois-Champaign, home of the NSCA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications), where Telnet was born, Marc Andreesen and friends hatched Mosaic, and all kinds of crazy history U. of Minnesota is the reason behind the name of the Gopher protocol, which was used to archive and distribute mainly text files via the Internet before being overshadowed by the much richer HTTP.

Jennifer Ringley of Jennicam1996 was the year JenniCam started — it wasn’t a stretch to imagine YouTube 10 years down the line, not to mention the years of crap reality TV in between. ’96 was the first year that I listened to live streaming audio over the Internet. I mean, by 1996 we were already at HTML 3.2, and Netscape was in full force. The PC would finally play nice with the Web using Windows ’95. I lurked on the WELL as it moved from BBS access to web. We all started using hotmail. I started getting hooked on IRC games like Acromania which started moving to the web by ’96 (eventually becoming Acrophobia). The message boards were warming up at the Motley Fool in sync with the rising market.

I studied abroad in Brisbane Australia the second half of 1996 where I was also happy to stay connected in one of several computer labs on campus. I specifically remember watching MLB scores update on just as I would today. I remember listening to .ra real audio files and .mp3 was already spreading. If I recall correctly, some major U.S. papers were already publishing the next days version the night before (of course, Australia is about 15 hours ahead of U.S. time, so the Thursday local paper would wrap up Monday’s news in the States). My online experience was arguably better (and definitely cheaper) at Griffith Uni than it was for individuals like Australian blogger Duncan Riley, and he isn’t buyin’ Farhad’s tri-dub putdown either.

It’s safe to say that I was blown away daily by something I came across online since I first set school on campus in 1993 (I was fortunate to have been connecting to BBS during high school and later thru AOL before the thrill of the fat university pipes). Sure the pages loaded slow. But by ’96 you could easily disable images. I could go on and on.

I digress but It’s fun to reminisce and late winter is always a sentimental time. I’m just sayin 1996 wasn’t all Buddy Chat and janky modem sounds. And I expect to continue to be blown away on a daily basis for the next ten years and beyond.

WWW image via Fifth International World Wide Web Conference website. Jenni screenshot via worshiptheglitch.

Baseball Time is Here Again

It’s been a long offseason and, as a die-hard Cubs fan, it’s taking longer than normal to get psyched up for this season. I was more optimistic than normal last year and vested much energy into the Cubs playoff run only to see my Cubs swept out immediately. No consolation that the Dodgers knocked them out — I like the Dodgers but that doesn’t matter when they’re playing the Cubs.

Today is the first spring training game for many teams. Coincidentally the Dodgers are playing the Cubs. This year MLB is touting their new MLB network as the place to see all games — even the blacked out Saturday Fox games. BUT, the MLB Network is only available to DirecTV and Time Warner Cable subscribers, leaving Dish Network and AT&T U-Verse subscribers in the dark. Worse yet, MLB.TV — the online stream, will continue to black out these games in addition to the World Baseball Classic. What’s a fan to do?

How will you follow your favorite team this year? Who will the Cubs beat in the 2009 World Series? Will MLB continue their restricting online media outlets and photographers from media access and privileges?

Photo by Seth William Page, 2/21/09, via CC-license.

WATCH: President Obama’s First Speech to Congress

Tonight, President Obama delivered his first speech before the joint Congress — dubbed that State of the Nation, it sounded positively like a State of the Union address — with at least 50 breaks for applause (presidents generally don’t give an SOTU address their first year in office). Only five weeks after taking office, the U.S. economy has continued to spiral into the ground and Obama — whose cabinet is still not complete — addressed both houses of Congress with a somber (while somehow uplifting) 52-minute speech

MSNBC once again allowed embedding of their live coverage of President Obama. You can even clip and embed selected segments of the full speech, Hulu-style. The highest quality live video stream seemed to be the one fed through the official White House site,

Facebook reprised its collaboration with CNN’s live coverage via and on Twitter, the hashtag to search for commentary is #nSOTU.

Continue reading WATCH: President Obama’s First Speech to Congress

To 90,000 Twitter Followers in 30 Days

Twitter's suggested users feature

Last month Twitter quietly launched a new feature that generated a list of suggested users to follow. Most likely as a result of this list, the followers to many Twitter accounts increased exponential over the course of the last month. @LiveEarth, my employer’s twitter account (which is maintained primarily by me), saw a rise in followers from the mid 2,000s to over 90,000 between January 16 and February 22, when, suddenly, the meteoric rise in followers came to a screeching halt.

I originally had trouble pinpointing the genesis of @LiveEarth’s sudden climb when it began in January — I was hoping for spikes in followers surrounding the events we were involved with, but it was bizarre that our followers were increasing by 500 a day after months of being more or less stagnant. I wasn’t too preoccupied with why, I was just happy that we’d finally gained traction — quick glances at the latest followers didn’t reveal anything all that fishy. At first.

from 2,000 to 90,000 Twitter followers in 30 days
@LiveEarth's followers 1/23 - 2/23 via

Pretty soon we were picking up 1,000 followers a day, then 1,500, and by the end of last week @LiveEarth was averaging about 4-5,000 new followers every day. In early February, I became convinced that either the suggested users feature was helping to boost Live Earth’s follower count or something fishy was going on. I inquired on FriendFeed to see if others were experiencing the same steady rise in followers and received no concrete responses one way or the other.

netzoo on friendfeed live earth

The suggested user list came to a controversial head over the past week after Jason Calacanis questioned the sudden rise in followers to @wilw @ijustine and @techcrunch. Brooks Bayne wrote a post suspecting that the suspicious surge of followers may have been automated. “Someone is automating/scripting the creation of fake Twitter profiles and then following a select group of people.

In a comment on Brooks’s post, Twitter cofounder Ev Williams said this was likely the result of the suggested users list. But this list wasn’t generated by some algorithm that generated recommendations based on one’s profile and established follows. It was a static list incorporated as the “last page of the signup process,” according to Ev.

LiveCrunch listed about 50 accounts believed to be on the original “suggested list.” LiveCrunch suggested the list was comprised of influencers as defined by Twitter staff. But why can’t Twitter recommend or suggest users to follow? Should #followfriday be banned too? Are the numbers really that important?

Last weekend Robert Scoble went off on the concept of recommending “influentials” suggesting it was possible that users could pay-to-play — give Twitter money and gain recommended status. At first I thought Scoble was joking. It seemed ridiculous that Twitter would accept money from a select group of users and nobody would leak (or even suggest it) for more than a month. But people got increasingly pissed (Scoble made this comment on Friendfeed which has a similar-yet-different recommended friends function). Even the LA Times wondered why none of its 80 Twitter feeds were featured.

On Sunday I noticed that @LiveEarth’s follower count had hardly budged and concluded that the suggested users listed had been refreshed to feature a batch of recommended accounts.

This is what I had always expected would happen. I also expect the follower account to diminish drastically as soon as Twitter expunges many accounts in a maintenance sweep of fraudulent and/or spammy accounts.

Does Twitter’s “suggested users” feature diminish the value of inflated follower counts? Should a better system be put into place to help n00bs get started? Should we really be taking this so seriously in the first place?

Speaking for @netZoo, I’m happy with Twitter just the way it is.