This issue marks the fifth year of TidBITS, making it one of the oldest edited electronic publications on the Internet. We have survived 273 issues, a format change from HyperCard to setext at TidBITS-100, the rise of the World-Wide Web, and the inevitable burnout that Tonya and Geoff have helped eliminate from what is no longer a one-person job. If you’re wondering about the history behind TidBITS, check out the article I wrote about it for our fourth anniversary in TidBITS-222.
I think our five years and 273 issues, along with the estimated 150,000 people who read TidBITS, show that what we’re doing is valid (despite paper publication naysayers), valuable (to our readers), and viable (Macs, modems, and managing editors don’t grow on trees, you know). Although we, unlike many publications, refrain from publishing the self-serving congratulatory letters we receive that compare TidBITS to sliced bread, every now and then it feels good to revel in public for a moment.
There’s no telling how many people have read our first issue by now (and it’s suitably embarrassing whenever I go back and look it), but I think it’s safe to say that only a few hundred read it that fateful week in 1990. Our circulation has grown with the Internet, and the TidBITS mailing list ranks as the third largest LISTSERV-based list with (as of today) 20,237 readers (thanks to Rice University!). When you add the estimated 110,000 people who read <comp.sys.mac.digest>, the several thousand who read TidBITS on the Web at Dartmouth and the thousands who get TidBITS from BBSs and the various commercial services (oddly enough, download counts on the commercial services remain relatively constant), you end up with a large group of people.
Along with our burgeoning readership, TidBITS has received recognition in a number of more traditional ways, included extremely nice mentions in recent issues of MacUser and Macworld, thanks to Andy Ihnatko and David Pogue. TidBITS has also received several BMUG Choice Product awards in the Online Magazine category – awards that are very complimentary given BMUG’s overall high standards. We even made the mainstream press with a small mention in Newsweek in August of 1994.
Sometimes, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, and although numerous electronic publications have come and gone (it’s not as easy as it looks), a number of publications (see the URL below) seem to have arrived for good. One such publication, Mac*Chat, even comes out weekly and uses the setext format.
All I can say is, thank you, everyone.
What are our plans for the future? That’s a good question, and not one for which we have a ready answer. The overall idea is to make TidBITS available to an ever-increasing number of people – we joke that our goal is world domination by the year 2000, our tenth anniversary. So, TidBITS will be appearing in an increasing number of places both on and off the Web. Who knows, maybe we can get Power Computing to bundle a free subscription to TidBITS with all of their Macintosh clones.
We also have plans to use what clout we have due to our large readership to do cool things for readers. Nothing’s official yet, but we think we can continue to create situations, as with our sponsorship program, where everyone wins. And, of course, in the process we hope to promote some of our basic philosophies about how customers should be treated no matter where they live, how online support can improve service and cut costs, and how the Internet can break down barriers between people. Everyone has an agenda, and you should always keep that in mind. We hope that ours is sufficiently out in the open that you can judge for yourself whether or not you approve of our actions both in the past and in the future.