America Online launches a new subscription plan offering their subscribers unlimited dial-up Internet access for $19.95/month. Previously, AOL charged $9.95/month for 5 hours of usage. The new plan brought in over one million new customers to AOL within weeks and daily usage doubled among subscribers (to a whole 32 minutes per day!). This huge increase in usage overloads AOL’s infrastructure with the result being that many of their subscribers could not access the service. Class action lawsuits were filed by angry subscribers who could no longer access the service they were paying for. Regardless of their trouble, by offering unlimited Internet access for a reasonable fee, AOL helped facilitate increased adoption of Internet usage among a public still becoming acclimated to the “Information Superhighway”.
Michael Hart, founder of what is now known as Project Gutenberg, launches the project by making his first posting, the Declaration of Independence. Now known as the father of eBooks, earlier in the year Hart had been given an operator’s account on a mainframe at the University of Illinois, where he was a student. Having been given highly valuable computer time when few people had such opportunity, he decided to begin a project that would digitize and electronically preserve public domain books and texts and make them freely available. The Xerox Sigma V mainframe at the Materials Research Lab at the University of Illinois just happened to be one of the first 15 nodes on the early ARPANet, the beginning of the modern Internet. The ability to for anyone connected to this network to download information was a major inspiration for Hart to begin Project Gutenberg.
November 25, 2002
Digital media software company Roxio purchases the assets of the former Napster, including name, logo, domain name, technology portfolio, and other intellectual property. Napster was the peer-to-peer file sharing service that changed the music industry forever, facilitating the easy sharing of music, much to the chagrin of the established music industry. The RIAA sued Napster causing a judgement against the file-sharing service requiring them to monitor its network for copyright infringing material and restrict access when made aware of such incidents. Napster could not comply with this court order and shut down its service before declaring bankruptcy in 2002.
Roxio was the first company to attempt to use the Napster brand for a music service, renaming Pressplay as Napster 2.0. In September 2008, Best Buy purchased the Napster service for $121 million, before merging it with the Rhapsody service in December 2011.
AOL announces it will buy Netscape Communications in a stock-for-stock deal worth approximately $4.2 billion. At the time it was considered a move by AOL and Netscape to merge forces to better compete with Microsoft in the browser and Internet provider markets. However, Microsoft’s dominance in the personal computer market could not be stopped and the Netscape browser lost almost all marketshare to Internet Explorer. In 2003 Microsoft settled a monopoly lawsuit with AOL (then merged with Time Warner) for $750 million over the loss of value of Netscape. AOL itself, once a dominant Internet Service Provider, slowly lost their subscriber base with the evolution of broadband Internet in the 2000’s and operates primarily as a media conglomerate, although their dial-up service still subscribes approximately 2 million users as of 2013.
A little less than a month after the first test message was sent, the first permanent link on the ARPANet is established between UCLA and the Stanford Research Institute. As the ARPANet was the foundation of the modern Internet, this connection can now be considered the very first link of what we now know as the Internet.
Amazon introduces their Kindle e-book reader. Where other companies had released e-book readers in previous years with limited success, the Kindle’s integration with Amazon’s industry leading book distribution system helped catapult the e-reader into the the mainstream consciousness. The Kindle sold out within five hours of its debut.
November 12, 1990
Tim Berners-Lee submits a proposal for a hypertext project he calls “WorldWideWeb”. In this proposal he lays out his vision for what will, of course, become the modern web. In about three months, he will have a web browser ready. And in only another three months, the first web server will go online, marking the launch of the world wide web.
November 9, 2004
The Mozilla Foundation releases version 1.0 of the Firefox web browser. Firefox is significant in Internet history because it represented the first serious alternative to the dominance of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer in several years. By many estimations, Internet Explorer had risen to over 90% of browser marketshare since the downfall of Netscape many years earlier.
It is interesting to note, however, that it was Netscape itself that started the Mozilla project when it released the source code to their Netscape Communicator software in 1998. It was upon this codebase that the foundations of Firefox were laid. Firefox’s original name was Phoenix, seemingly in tribute to the fact that out of the ashes of the fallen Netscape came a new browser.
After only 2 years in business, Pets.com shuts down operations. Cited as one of the biggest failures of the dot-com bubble, Pets.com was able to gain significant brand recognition through its extensive marketing campaign and sock puppet mascot, but lost money due to an unsustainable business plan. Ironically, the company’s best selling product was its sock puppet. And yes, I own one.