Blast from the Past

A coworker recently unearthed a stash of a publication called The Net, a magazine published circa 1997. It’s been an interesting trip down memory lane. In no particular order, here are some thoughts about this now defunct magazine.

  • Website: There was a website, using the oh-so-memorable URL of (I suppose they were trying to distinguish themselves from all the other countries with thenet websites). Naturally, the website is no longer available, but has a nice selection of valid content from the 96-97 era. It certainly wasn’t the worst website in the world, but it’s not exactly great either. Just to give you a taste – for a while, it apparently used frames. Judging by, the site apparently went on until at least February of 2000, but the domain apparently lapsed sometime around May of that year. Random clicking around the dates after 2000 yielded some interesting results. Apparently someone named Phil Viger used it as their personal webpage for a while, complete with MIDI files (judging from his footer, he was someone who bought up a lot of URLs and put his simple page on there as a placeholder). By 2006, the site lapsed again, and it has remained vacant since then.
  • Imagez: One other fun thing about the website is that their image directory was called “imagez” (i.e. They thought they were so hip in the 90s. Of course, 10 years from now, some dufus will be writing a post very much like this and wondering why there’s an “r” at the end of flickr.
  • Headlines: Some headlines from the magazine:
    • Top Secrets of the Webmaster Elite (And as if that weren’t enough, we get the subhead: Warning: This information could create dangerously powerful Web Sites)
    • Are the Browser Wars Over? – Interestingly, the issue I’m looking at was from February 1997, meaning that IE and NN were still on their 3.x iterations. More on this story below
    • Unlock the Secrets of the Search Engines – Particularly notable in that this magazine was published before google. Remember Excite (apparently, they’re still around – who knew)?

    I could go on and on. Just pick up a magazine, open to a random page, and you can observe something very dated or featuring a horrible pun (like Global Warning… get it? Instead of Global Warming, he’s saying Global Warning! He’s so clever!)

  • Browser Wars: With the impending release of IE4 and Netscape Communicator Suite, everyone thought that web browsers were going to go away, or be consumed by the OS. One of the regular features of the magazine is to ask a panel of experts a simple question, such as “Are Web Browsers an endangered species?” Some of the answers are ridiculous, like this one:

    The Web browser (content) and the desktop itself (functions) will all be integrated into our e-mail packages (communications).

    There is, perhaps, a nugget of truth there, but it certainly didn’t happen that way. Still, the line between browser, desktop, and email client is shifting, this guy just picked the wrong central application. Speaking of which, this is another interesting answer:

    The desktop will give way to the webtop. You will hardly notice where the Web begins and your documents end.

    Is it me, or is this guy describing Chrome OS? This guy’s answer and a lot of the others are obviously written with 90s terminology, but describing things that are happening today. For instance, the notion of desktop widgets (or gadgets or screenlets or whatever you call them) is mentioned multiple times, but not with our terminology.

  • Holy shit, remember VRML?
  • Pre-Google Silliness: “A search engine for searching search engines? Sure why not?” Later in the same issue, I saw an ad for a program that would automatically search multiple search engines and provide you with a consolidated list of results… for only $70!
  • Standards: This one’s right on the money: “HTML will still be the standard everyone loves to hate.” Of course, the author goes on to speculate that java applets will rule the day, so it’s not exactly prescient.
  • The Psychic: In one of my favorite discoveries, the magazine pitted The Suit Versus the Psychic. Of course, the suit gives relatively boring answers to the questions, but the Psychic, he’s awesome. Regarding NN vs IE, he says “I foresee Netscape over Microsoft’s IE for 1997. Netscape is cleaner on an energy level. It appears to me to be more flexible and intuitive. IE has lower energy. I see encumbrances all around it.” Nice! Regarding IPOs, our clairvoyant friend had this to say “I predict IPOs continuing to struggle throughout 1997. I don’t know anything about them on this level, but that just came to me.” Hey, at least he’s honest. Right?

Honestly, I’m not sure I’m even doing this justice. I need to read through more of these magazines. Perhaps another post is forthcoming…