This Week In Techdirt History: October 26th – November 1st

from the five-ten-fifteen-twenty dept

Five Years Ago

A lot of these history posts have mentioned the lead-up to the GeoCities shutdown, and this week in 2009 it finally happened. Goodbye, GeoCities.

It’s easy to forget now that Netflix started as a DVD-rental-by-mail service before it became a streaming juggernaut, and for a long time the streaming service was considered an add-on. So it’s funny to hear Reed Hastings in 2009, claiming that Americans don’t want a streaming-only service. How times change.

Also in 2009: UK Business Secretary Peter Mandelson came home from his dinner with David Geffen and promptly introduced an anti-file-sharing plan; the RIAA spoke up about net neutrality, saying they support it as long as it gives them a way to block file sharing; Germany was investigating criminal infringement charges against Google; an Italian politician tried to file charges against nearly 5,000 YouTubers; Amazon was appealing the rejection of its one-click patent in Canada; and, in an appropriate counterpoint to all this negativity, the EFF launched its Takedown Hall of Shame.

Ten Years Ago

Remember pay phones? They were still a reasonably common fixture in 2004, but their days were clearly numbered. That didn’t stop BT from trying to rescue them with a bizarre plan for pay phone music downloads. I guess that’s one way to approach device convergence, with another being publishing a bunch of lifestyle magazines about it.

Ten years ago, reporters suddenly discovered that celebrities were online, and that a bunch of amateur reporters were too (and doing a pretty good job). Rolex discovered that it was a fixture of online spammers, then proceeded to get confused and send a C&D to a mailing list that had been receiving such spam. Blockbuster realized (to no ultimate avail) that it had to drastically change its business model, and ICANN failed to realize that nobody would care about .travel and .post domains.

Also, back in 2004, there was not yet such a thing as Google Earth. In fact, it was this week ten years ago that Google bought Keyhole and laid the groundwork for the insanely comprehensive maps/earth service we enjoy today.

Fifteen Years Ago

As we approached the year 2000, it became time for the lists of millennium predictions. I suspect many of the predictors are glad the link is now dead. Not that there was no catalyst for panic: the world was full of lab-grown arteries and genetic auctions promising a sci-fi future. Plus, we were gathering rumours about the mysterious X-Box, and who could resist getting excited about that?

1999 was long before anyone talked about the “cloud”. In fact, the whole idea of online storage space was new and a little odd, met with doubt by many people including us here at Techdirt. We were also a little dubious about the idea of online retailers opening brick & mortar shops, and we were a little more on the money with that one.

Twenty Years Ago

Before Techdirt was around, HotWired launched in 1994. It was the first commercial online magazine, and notable for being an entirely distinct entity from the print magazine Wired, even though it was launched by the same company. Of course, HotWired also gave birth to the banner ad as we know it today, selling the first ever display campaign to AT&T. So, mixed blessings all around…

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Comments on “This Week In Techdirt History: October 26th – November 1st”

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Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

“Cloud” Is An Old Idea

Back in the 1960s or so, there was the idea of a “computing bureau”. Mainframe computers back then were too expensive for most companies to own, so a bureau would let you buy computing time on one, where you could just pay for as much as you needed.

That was killed off by the coming of cheaper minicomputers, and then superminis, which approached the power of a mainframe but at “mini” prices.

They in turn were killed off by PCs.

Will clouds go the same way? Perhaps the main business case for cloud computing is the management cost, rather than the hardware cost.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: “Cloud” Is An Old Idea

Yes, “cloud computing” is little more than a marketing term for the old notion of “client-server computing” as you point out. Enough time had passed since the microcomputer revolution that most have forgotten why the shift was made to microcomputers in the first place.

Not that mainframes ever went away — there is, and always will be, a role for that model. As with all things, there is a tradeoff in benefits — personal computing and centralized computing each have advantages and disadvantages, so they both will continue on.

My prediction: as more and more individuals and companies are reacquainted with one of the major disadvantages of centralized computing owned by a service provider — the loss of control over your data — we’ll see a reduction in the scope of what cloud computing is used for. If the main use case is simply access to your data from any device, then we’ll see private “clouds” (servers) by both individuals and companies replace the third party ones. For some use cases, using a third party server can make a lot of economic sense. For others, it does not.

The main problem with “cloud computing” right now is twofold: the concept is being sold as some kind of panacea that can solve all your computing problems, but it is not. It is a tool that is good for some things and not others, like any other tool. Also, too many people and companies are too inexperienced with the model to really understand the tradeoffs involved. That will change.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: “Cloud” Is An Old Idea

I should clarify that I didn’t mean nobody had ever thought of that model before. Just that these early web services in 1999 were the direct precursors of today’s “cloud” version of that — in that, this was a time when we had the web and websites, and we had web servers that geeks could buy to put files on if they understood the tech and the protocols, but then someone came along and launched a website saying “sign up here and we’ll give you an online hard drive with a web-based file manager”.

It’s one of the rare 1999 posts where the original article is still reachable (Wired is really good about that, bless ’em) and, notably, it uses the term “file storage lockers” for what might very well be one of the first times. It lists a few competitors in the space, of which some are still around — Freedrive looks a little sketchy like it may have evolved primarily into a pirate filesharing tool, i-drive (which seems to have also bought Driveway) is still around as some sort of Dropbox competitor, and @backup is now Norton Online Backup (actually I’m not sure if it’s the same company — that’s just what lies at now).

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