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23 Years of TidBITS: Thoughts on Our Past, Present, and Future

Here at TidBITS, we pride ourselves on consistently publishing quality content on a weekly schedule. With this week marking our 23rd consecutive year of continuous publication — 23 years! — I wanted to share a few milestones and thoughts on where I see TidBITS meeting your needs in the future.

The Methuselah Matter — Back in 1990, when we started TidBITS, there were a variety of other Internet newsletters — we were early, but by no means the first. Most of those other early publications fell by the wayside over the years, succumbing to fatigue, irrelevance, or harsh economic realities. But one such publication — Liam and Pauline Ferrie’s The Irish Emigrant — started a few years before TidBITS and evolved in much the same way, switching from email-only delivery to an ad-supported Web site with daily updates. For years, I had to say that TidBITS was the oldest purely electronic technology publication on the
Internet, or the second-oldest Internet-born publication. Nonetheless, I always had a soft spot for the Irish Emigrant, since it was clearly a labor of love for the Ferries, just as TidBITS was for us, and Liam Ferrie was even kind enough to send congratulations on our 18th anniversary.

It turns out that we moved into first place for active publications in February 2012, when the Ferries retired and published the final issue of the Irish Emigrant, though it wasn’t until late 2012 when reader Rob Smyth alerted me to that fact. (Rob was also the first to tell me about the Irish Emigrant back in 1996, so it was especially nice of him to remember and loop back 16 years later.) So we can now say that TidBITS is the oldest active Internet-only publication. And we have a new goal, since the Irish Emigrant ceased publication on its 25th anniversary, having started in February 1987. If we can keep going for
another few years, we can claim the overall title for longest-running Internet publication.

Memberships and Managing Editors — One reason I’m confident that I’ll be looking for something to say in this spot in a few years is that the TidBITS membership program has been a huge help in keeping TidBITS on a sustainable financial track. With your support, we’ve been able to pay more writers to bring you quality articles — you’ve seen the results in pieces by Josh Centers, Steve McCabe, David Rabinowitz, Kirk McElhearn, Sharon Zardetto, Marshall Clow, Alicia Katz Pollock, and others, not to mention Joe Kissell’s new FlippedBITS column.

Even more important, I’m tremendously pleased to announce that the TidBITS membership revenues have enabled us to hire a managing editor to help with article assignments, coordination, editing, and writing, plus the myriad other tasks involved in keeping TidBITS coming to you. Much as I hate to tease, it’s premature to share precisely who will be assuming this role, but I can assure you that this person’s skill and enthusiasm will be a huge asset for TidBITS, and will result in even better content going forward.

If you aren’t already among our 2,000 members, now is a great time to join the TidBITS membership program and help us continue to refine and improve the kind of coverage you’ve come to expect from us.

Why Is TidBITS Important? — Back in 1990, when Tonya and I came up with the idea for TidBITS, our goal was to bring Mac news and information to people via the Internet, because there were relatively few Mac-specific magazines back then, and none were distributed in digital form. Clearly, that need has long since dropped away, with more Apple-centric content appearing every day than anyone would even have time to read. We’re well aware of that fact, and it has prompted soul-searching to figure out what the role of TidBITS should be in today’s Internet.

What I’ve realized is that TidBITS now serves a different need, which is to provide a view of the Apple world that is thoughtful, professionally written and edited, and above all, finite. You all have numerous demands on your time, and we want to respect that by focusing on those topics that are important and useful, rather than attempting to cover absolutely everything. We also feel a responsibility to give you complete stories, so you’re not left with more questions than when you started reading, even if that results in long-form articles in an age of 140-character tweets. And finally, we care deeply about including our readers’ voices alongside our articles in the form of comments that add interesting anecdotes, useful
advice, important questions, and more, without the drivel and vitriol that drags down so many other forums.

So while we can’t guarantee that everything we publish will interest you specifically, our goal is to give you a well-considered collection of accurate articles each week from which you can choose. Plus, while you may not find every piece relevant when it’s published, our hope is that by maintaining a complete archive, you can come back to previously skipped articles if and when their content becomes important to you.

In that context, I want to share the most recent accolade we’ve received, our top ranking among sources of Apple info in David Deutsch’s list at, because it speaks to the importance of including only the most important topics in our weekly newsletter.

My favorite Mac read of them all. Great “tidbits” of info as well as extremely informative Apple info and the most complete weekly newsletter, probably the most jam-packed source of Apple info on the Internet, run now for 22 years by husband and wife team: Adam and Tonya Engst, two of the most interesting Apple experts on the planet.

Thanks to David for his kind words, and while I know I’ve thanked those of you who have written in with similarly generous thoughts, allow me also to thank each and every one of you right now for making the time to read TidBITS regularly. I’m honored that you consider our work to be worth your valuable time, and that we’re a key part of your strategy for staying informed without wasting precious hours on Internet distractions.

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