from the sweet-reminiscence dept
Five Years Ago
It seems like there were a lot of shifting opinions this week in 2009. Media analysts began to realize that charging for online news was almost surely a losing proposition; Gartner was finally realizing that social networking at work isn't so bad; despite an anti-piracy "education" campaign, people in Sweden were becoming less and less concerned about file sharing — and, indeed, talk about the "death of file sharing" at the time was clearly exaggerated, while several musicians were beginning to realize that it's not as evil as they thought. And Europeans were being a bit confusing, supporting the idea of digitizing books as long as Google wasn't the one in charge.
Of course, we also saw plenty of the usual: Monster Energy Drink started bullying a beverage review website and a harmless actor. The Sex Pistols were also getting in on the trademark game. Hollywood was trying to contractually stop stars from connecting with fans, copyright holders were targeting university copy shops, PRS went after a shop assistant for singing at work, and the Wall Street Journal's managing editor called those of us who believe in free content neanderthals.
We were also in the middle of the Shepard Fairey/Associated Press dust-up, with Fairey foolishly destroying evidence and sacrificing good will — though we also wondered whether you could really trust the AP's coverage of the lawsuit.
Ten Years Ago
Remember that time in 2006 when the internet collapsed under its own weight and died an ignominious death? No? Well, in 2004, that's what one researcher was predicting. Not all the predictions ten years ago were bad though: people were cluing in to the future of device convergence and the need to ease up on brand management (I don't think Monster Energy got that message).
In the world of television, there were a few things going on. Work began on getting mobile HDTV ready to launch even though nobody seemed interested in mobile TV at standard definition; there was lots of chatter about devices that let you shut down any TV nearby by cycling through remote control codes; HBO was locking down the ability to copy programs, with flagrant disregard for fair use; and one man's TV caused a bizarre stir by broadcasting an international distress signal for some reason.
Today, it's almost impossible to imagine Christmas shopping without the internet — but in 2004, people were still wondering whether e-commerce could thrive without extreme holiday promotions. Publishers, meanwhile, were still worried about BugMeNot, and lots of people were worried about cyberbullying. One European Commission lawyer was not even a little bit worried about using his fax machine properly, and that cost 100 million euros when he put a document in upside-down and sent the court 100 blank pages.
Fifteen Years Ago
It's a shame that so many links from 1999 are now broken. Fifteen years ago, we pointed to an article by Tim Berners-Lee on the future of the web — but sadly, the link now just puts you on the MSNBC home page. I haven't been able to track down the exact article, but I suspect it was related to his book Weaving The Web, released the same year.
Two years ago, Encyclopaedia Britannica stopped publishing in print — but back in 1999 it had just launched its website, only to see it knocked out by high traffic. Technical difficulties also plagued the online chess match between Kasparov and the world.
Amazon's one-click purchase patent is among the most infamous "bad web patents", and this week in 1999 the company sued Barnes & Noble over it. A less high-profile web battle also broke out, with funeral directors fighting against online casket sellers. And a bunch of software companies discovered that nobody cared about their No Piracy Day.
Today it's assumed that basically everyone has a working knowledge of the internet — but in 1999, companies were just realizing that "internet experience" is an important qualification for a CEO. A lot of companies were also planning millennium parties, since they wanted their employees around in case Y2K really turned out to be a disaster. And the state of Massachusetts was trying to brand itself the ".commonwealth" to compete with Silicon Valley.
1999 was a post-Playstation world, and a new big console war was brewing. At the time, the X-Box was a "mysterious" tease, the GameCube was still codenamed "Dolphin", the PS2 was gearing up for release in Japan, and the Sega Dreamcast was still considered a serious contender.
153 Years Ago
October 21st, 1861 was a landmark day in the history of telecommunication: the First Transcontinental Telegraph was completed, connecting the small existing networks on the east and west coasts, and ushering out the Pony Express (which shut down two days later). The overland line would play a major role in America for the next eight years before being replaced by a new set of lines running along the Transcontinental Railroad route.