Ten years ago this month, I bought my first home PC from a friend who built them for a living. Months earlier, I had read a story in what was then called Washington Journalism Review about the coming age of digital journalism. Few people had heard of the World Wide Web when the article published, but San Jose Mercury News and other publications had started appearing on America Online and CompuServe.
That first computer was a whooper for its day: 486 processor, 8MB of RAM, 120GB hard drive, and Windows 3.11. The builder included WordPerfect 6, which was so buggy, I picked up the competitive Word 6 upgrade from my local Staples. My current cell phone, which also runs a version of Windows, has more power, storage, and memory than that first PC.
Up until then, I had worked on an X86 PC running DOS and WordPerfect 5.1. I knew zip about computers. But, I figured publishing would go digital, so I had better move, too. By November 1994, I had landed a job writing on technology for an insurance trade publication. I knew just enough more than the insurance agents to do an adequate job.
By mid 1995, it was pretty clear to everyone but maybe Microsoft that the Web was for real. I picked up my first domain (editors.com) in August of that year and continued to expand my technology prowess.
What I recall most about the early days of the Web is how much it reminds me of the blogging phenomenon. The early Web was a place of self-expression and publication, where the practice of linking led to lots of inviting websites (OK many boring ones, too) and interesting insights. The early Web was as much about disseminating information and good ideas as anything else.
Plenty of companies produced publishing tools, too, before a few big companies (can you say Microsoft) came to dominate key software categories. In many respects, the blogging phenomenon has revived the original Web vision, but with a content model operating along backwaters that, as of yet, have not attracted too much big, business interest.
Will weblogs go the way of the original Web, or transcend it? This weblog and others like it will chronicle the trend’s demise or its subtle but significant impact on society.