Techdirt Turns Twenty!

from the wasn't-expecting-that dept

We more or less broke the news of this with yesterday’s podcast, but Techdirt turns 20 years old today if you trace it back to its true origins. It was, initially, an email newsletter I wrote up to send to other students at Cornell’s MBA program and (more realistically) a way to bolster my resume to help me get a job in the tech industry. And, damn, did it ever get me a job — just not the one that I expected. After a few years as a hobby, in which it grew and grew and grew, Techdirt became my full-time job, and it’s been that way ever since. I can’t believe that it’s gone on for 20 years.

What I do remember was staying up late on that Saturday, August 23rd, twenty years ago, crafting the very first newsletter. Initially, it was supposed to be an email newsletter on the intersection of technology and business, based on Danny O’Brien’s brilliant NTK newsletter (which was much more pure tech, and much funnier) — though I’m only just now realizing that NTK had only begun a few months earlier. In my head, at the time, NTK was an established giant in the space and I was just some kid. Danny eventually discovered my newsletter and was quite kind about it (though, when I finally met him in person many years later, he jokingly pretended to wind up to punch me for copying him). I, unfortunately, can’t find it now, but I believe Danny’s initial response to me was something along the lines of “don’t worry: the only IP we believe in stands for ‘Internet Protocol’.” But, knowing Danny, I’m sure what he actually said was much wittier.

Techdirt has obviously grown and changed and grown and changed some more over the years (we certainly didn’t focus nearly so much on legal and policy issues at first). And a huge part of what’s driven the success of Techdirt has been the community here. We didn’t always have a huge community, but it’s always been supportive and educational. The community around Techdirt has challenged me, educated me, and inspired me over and over and over again. I’ve met (both virtually and in real life) so many amazing and wonderful people that I likely never would have met without Techdirt. And, it still excites me every single day. I have no idea what I would have done if I hadn’t started Techdirt on a whim 20 years ago, but I can’t imagine how it could possibly have resulted in a life as fulfilling as the one I’ve had, even through various challenges along the way.

If you want to know more about the history, please go listen to yesterday’s podcast, which was a fun discussion about those early days and how the site changed over time. However, I did want to thank all of you reading this, who are a part of the larger Techdirt community for being around, for sharing stories, for giving us feedback, for participating, for commenting, and for just reading what we put out. And because it’s so often the community here that is more interesting and knowledgeable than the writers here, I’m curious — to anyone reading this, let us know in the comments: when did you discover Techdirt, and how?

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Comments on “Techdirt Turns Twenty!”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Link to your first post please

I got here a long time ago, exactly when I am not sure, but close to that 20 year mark. I first took notice from a Slashdot thread.

I lurked for a while, then commented as an Anonymous Coward for a while. Then, wishing to be distinguished from other Anonymous Cowards started using Anonymous Anonymous Coward. Still later I joined and started paying a subscription, and now pay two subscriptions (one from the store and one from Patreon). My profile only shows those comments since I joined, the others are out there, but not part of my profile, yet (I either heard or imagined that one could claim those older posts with the same ID).

Out of curiosity, could you post the link to the first Techdirt article? Reviewing the earliest posts would be interesting in understanding the evolution of the site.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

I first discovered Techdirt in 2012 when people kept linking to it from the SOPA discussion on Reddit, and I found that you guys had some top-notch discussions of the issues involved.

5 years later, you continue to be really good at it. I just wish you’d stick to your strengths, and stop running so much of the “police are evil, government is evil” garbage that undermines your credibility and makes you look like wacko conspiracy theorists. That severely detracts from what is otherwise a really good site.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“stop running so much of the “police are evil, government is evil” garbage”

In my experience, they only run such posts when there’s new stories about the police or government seriously overstepping bounds, ignoring or attacking civil rights or otherwise seriously screwing up.

If there’s a lot of those, maybe it’s not conspiracy theory? It’s not like they’re running round screaming about the “deep state”, secret societies and lizard people. They’re simply commenting on increasing attempts to bypass due process, no-knock warrant and surveillence theat end really badly, FBI stings that never catch anyone who would have been terrorists without FBI coaching, cops who literally get away with murder, and so on.

I’ll give you the same advice I give to anyone else – don’t like the subject of a particular post? Scroll past. Don’t click on it, don’t comment on it, just scroll past to the next story. If clicks are the reason such stories are posted and enough people do this, the stories won’t be written. If they’re written because Mike feels they need to be told either way and/or enough people disagree with you that they find such stories important, you complaining won’t change a thing. Just move on, read and comment on the stories that interest you.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I unfortunately don’t have a link to one of the comments in question(and I’m not quite sure what I’d need to search for to find them), but as has been noted multiple times the articles are essentially already in the public domain, with Mike/TD having said that anyone is free to do whatever they want with them.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

As I understand it, they’re not “public domain” as such, but for practical and other reasons Mike chooses not to try and enforce the copyright that’s technically attached to them. When the trolls come here and try and goad him with threats to copy his work, his response is to go ahead because he doesn’t care, not because he couldn’t technically try to stop them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I should have used the /s tag, but thank you for pointing that out. (I actually myself tried to find the same article with no luck either.) I guess the larger point I (poorly) tried to make was the direction in which copyright is going, claimants will try to take ownership of content that doesn’t belong to them in the first place and try to put idiotic restrictions on them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

@ “iGoogle! That was how I first discovered Techdirt too”

THREE mentions of Google pointing people to here!That suggests to me that Google’s vaunted “algorithm” is loaded with a bias to promote Techdirt (it DOES have subjective inputs), and a click to the Copia site will explicitly show that Google “sponsors” Masnick.

Astute readers will draw obvious conclusion.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

What’s especially odd about the "Techdirt is secretly sponsored by Google" conspiracy theory is that Techdirt’s been pretty upfront about who its sponsors are. There’s a "Thanks To Our Sponsors" header in the sidebar of the Free Speech section, and no attempt to conceal even sponsors that may be unpopular with some of the site’s readership. I’m not a fan of Charles Koch, but I don’t go around screaming that he’s influencing Techdirt’s content or editorial positions, because I don’t see any evidence of that. And that’s from an actual sponsor, not a made-up one.

I do feel that Techdirt’s got more of a pro-Google stance than I do personally. But I see no reason to believe that’s the result of bribery instead of just a legitimate difference of opinion. Especially since Techdirt has been upfront in acknowledging its other sponsors.

hij (profile) says:

Congrats and about that email....

Congratulations! I migrated here after groklaw stopped publishing. I am grateful for the diligent work and the editorial consistency in the posts here.

Also, since it is 20 years since you started emailing your newsletter can you use that fact to help establish prior art on that guy who says he invented teh “email?”

christenson says:

Discovring Techdirt

I discovered Techdirt probably through groklaw, possibly through sjd ( or

Generally a lot more legible than Ars Technica.

As to “police and government being evil”, well, I hate to tell the nattering nabobs this, but even our founding fathers were worried those things could be quite evil, and DIRT is part of the site’s name!

Now, I do think we could use some studies on how the internet amplifies negative news — as we have heard on Techdirt before, violent crimes are at historic lows, but you wouldn’t know it from much of the media. Likewise, we hear about all the evil things our police do, but nothing about when they are effective. The police department that *fired* the guy who was trying to become the 100+ MPH cop in Palm Beach just isn’t news; nor is the one that dismisses the violent ones before someone like Philando Castile gets murdered.

OA (profile) says:

Congratulations! Wow, 20 years! Who knew?!…besides you…and many others apparently. I’ve lurked, on and off, for years. I kept getting re-introduced to Techdirt through Google searches and references from other sites that I don’t remember.

I routinely read (or skim through) A LOT of Internet comments (though less so recently). I rarely make comments myself and I don’t remember ever creating an account before. What manner of sorcery did you use on me?

Anyway, good luck going forward.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

>> Then I started reading through the rest of the content and got hooked.

As shown by your comment history, begun in 2015, and now up to all of… 6!

Oddly enough, Arse Technica is how I too found this obscure little site that Google promotes beyond its influence, yet I’ve made… about a THOUSAND times as many comments! And a good half of them have been censored, I mean hidden.

Yes, a dismaying waste of time, but I’ve stated that it’s a vice.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

  1. People read sites without commenting on them. In fact, while I’ve also been reading Ars for years I don’t think I’ve made more than 10 comment there. There’s a multitude of reasons, but it doesn’t mean any new post I make there is suspicious.

    2. Do you also attack Ars on a regular basis for their habit of fading, then hiding posts with lots of downvotes? If not, why not?

    3. Also, you wouldn’t be able to be the AC moron there due to their posting policy. Perhaps you only proudly display your stupidity where you can be anonymous?

kallethen says:


I honestly can’t remember exactly when I started reading TD. It was sometime after the Snowden leaks. I remember Groklaw shutting down because of the email privacy implications that came out of those leaks. That was a sad day, I was an avid reader of Groklaw.

I have to say that I’ve come to enjoy TD as much as I enjoyed Groklaw. Keep up the good work.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:


Can’t recall if I found through iGoogle or just made sure to add it to iGoogle because I found it a hair before that. Either way, been reading since around 2006. Good stuff. Thank you for all of the work you have done. I recall many different experiments you’ve gone through. Including the “this person’s favorite posts of the week” that I got picked for once. That was fun having a shot at contributing something more than just a comment. This is one of those things where I feel like I know you and if I saw you would want to talk like you know me even though you don’t at all. Funny how that works. Here is to hoping this continues on for many more years and that crazies suffering from illusions of grandeur don’t manage to damage it.

Éibhear (profile) says:

First time: debating with Glyn Moody about Kutiman

My first real encounter with Techdirt was after a ‘discussion’ with Glyn Moody (probably on G+) on whether Kutiman got express permission for each of the YouTube pieces he used in ThruYou. Glyn said that Mike said he didn’t, and if anyone knows, it’s Mike.

I’m still not convinced, but I still love (and support) Techdirt.

I probably had heard of Techdirt during the Groklaw days, sorely missed, but that was a lot of reading on its own!

TheResidentSkeptic (profile) says:

Too senile to remember...

… when I first started reading TD, but I have enjoyed it for quite a few years now. I have even set it as my Chrome home page (just to annoy OOTB and his buddies) as “we” all know that Mike is a google shill… is that right, OOTB?

I frequently reference stories here to my IT teams and many of them have become fans as well.

I enjoy commenting, and love reading the comments (even the hidden [ NOT “CENSORED” ] ones).

As one of the “Senior Citizens” around here, I will again congratulate Mike and the whole TD team for bringing us stories that make people think (except for…); make people take notice and respond; and really piss off a few folks.

Not sure I’ll be around for the 40th anniversary – but I’ll keep reading as long as you keep publishing.

Thank you for the entertainment, enlightenment, and camaraderie of the group. This is a great place to hang out.

Anonymous Coward says:

On this page four screen names with very sparse commenting popped up,

out of the blue, one might say:

timlash with 44 comments in 6 and a half years.
Johan with 7 total.
Kaelis with 6 (now 7) total.
And best: Wiggles made an account just today after a claimed TWELVE years!

But sure, I can agree it’s USUAL for Techdirt!

Because zombies having over SIX year gaps set inexplicable as baseline:

dickeyrat: 3 comments total since Jul 10th, 2010!!!

And the other odd point stands: where are the couple dozen regulars congratulating Masnick on this “achievement”? I expected BIG response, but even Dark Helmet hasn’t shown up!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: On this page four screen names with very sparse commenting popped up,

You don’t expect a response. According to you and MyNameHere Techdirt is virtually non-existent, evidenced by falling Alexa ratings. So based on the statistics that you and your buddies love to bring up, this is actually within normal parameters.

Try to keep track of the bullshit you spew. It makes it slightly less unbelievable, you IP address-changing TOR pirate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Chilling effects

I’m curious — to anyone reading this, let us know in the comments: when did you discover Techdirt, and how?

Walked back or not, there’s an unseasonable chill in the air today.

If Techdirt should ever happen to get a warrant or subpoena demanding—

2.   … subscriber information for the Account, to include:


              b. Length of service (including start date)…

To the best of anyone’s knowledge, no responsive record exists or can be produced.

Hugo Connery (profile) says:

The ethics of TechDirt

I am a great believer in following people, not organisations. This is especially true in news. Follow the journalist, not the publisher.

In the podcast I finally ‘get’ why I like Mike. “Not gaming dig”, “Not gaming facebook” … “It just feels wrong”. Post good content and hope that people find it …


Happy Birthday.

Joe Mullin (profile) says:

Congrats and good luck on the next 20!

I started reading Techdirt in 2007 when I had to start covering intellectual property for a legal newspaper, but really knew nothing about it. It was the best crash course I could have found, and such an important and intelligent counter-point to other points of view I was hearing. Congratulations to Mike and the whole team, and here’s to another 20.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

It was SOPA

I discovered TD while researching SOPA, which seemed to be a big deal in 2011 when I was running my own web design business (I folded it in 2013). Techdirt has consistently proven to be the best source of information for me on internet law, freedom of speech, and other issues because it’s written in language I understand.

Thanks, Mike (and team) for this great resource.

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