This Week In Techdirt History: Techdirt Was Born!

from the twenty-years-of-techdirt dept

As you likely know by now, we’re celebrating Techdirt’s 20th anniversary this week. We’ve got a podcast episode about our history as well as some limited edition gear featuring a revamped version of the very first Techdirt logo:

And today, instead of our usual history round-up, we’re taking a look back at the very first post — which was actually not a post originally, but a newsletter, containing a selection of tech news from the week.

On that day — August 23rd, 1997 — there was a fair bit of buzz around the so-called “Internet 2” being built by various universities and researchers, and the first item in the first Techdirt used that as a basis of comparison for a new distributed supercomputing project in California. Next there was a quick list of headlines, with one amusing and notable detail: in describing Apple as a competitor to Microsoft, it was at the time not inappropriate to put “competitor” in irony quotes.

Later, the newsletter includes some predictions. The first was that a new web portal called “Snap!” from CNET would fail — though some news stories from later years suggest it didn’t happen quite as quickly as expected, the difficulty I had in finding any information about it today suggests the prediction came true eventually.

The second was right on the money: Mike predicted that Netscape would stop charging for its browser, Communicator. Five months later, not only did Netscape announce that the browser would be free, it launched the Mozilla Open Source project and shared the code with everyone.

The word “meme” hadn’t morphed into its specific modern internet meaning just yet, and so under a category entitled Meme Watch the newsletter noted something more in line with the original notion — a particular idea popping up again and again and spreading from place to place. In this case it was the habit of comparing every standards battle in tech (DVD, HDTV, wireless connectivity) to the famous VHS versus Beta showdown of the 1980s. While not a useless analogy, it was certainly overused and oversimplified — and the nuanced nonsense of these standards fights would provide plenty of Techdirt fodder in the years to come.

Finally, the newsletter ends by noting that the FBI had released all its files related to Elvis Presley — yes, though the saga of Elvis and the FBI feels like mostly common knowledge now, it was only revealed in full in 1997.

And that’s all for this anniversary week, folks! Once again, be sure to check out our post and podcast about our history, and pick up some original Techdirt logo gear before Sunday, September 3rd!

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