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.