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Fast Company’s View of the Internet in 1994, Expanded by “Internet Explorer’s Kit for Macintosh”

At Fast Company, Alex Pasternack writes:

What was the World Wide Web like at the start? Long before it became the place we think and work and talk, the air that we (and the bots) now breathe, no matter how polluted it’s become? So much of the old web has rotted away that it can be hard to say; even the great Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine only goes back to 1996. But try browsing farther back in time, and you can start to see in those weird, formative years some surprising signs of what the web would be, and what it could be.

Although the article is a fun read, especially for those of us who remember the Internet in 1994, I’m slightly sad that my Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh wasn’t mentioned since it had the Mac software, instructions, and flat-rate Internet account that weren’t in the Whole Internet User’s Guide and Catalog,  which did merit inclusion. The title link above once again goes to the full text of the third edition of my book—it must have been lost in one of our server moves.

If you enjoy the Fast Company article, check out my second book, Internet Explorer’s Kit for Macintosh, which I wrote with my friend Bill Dickson and introduced in TidBITS in “Internet Explorer Kit for Macintosh” (9 May 1994). I’m now mortified by the discrepancy between “Explorer” on the cover and “Explorer’s” everywhere else, but dipping into it reveals a thoroughly charming snapshot of me, Bill, and the much gentler Internet of 1994, when I was 26. We intended it as a chatty travelogue that would also provide usage tips.

Along with a tour of numerous websites, we included a visit to FurryMUCK and interviews with Adam Curry, then famous for being a VJ on MTV, and the email autoresponder for President Bill Clinton. I hadn’t remembered that Jimmy Wales, who would go on to co-found Wikipedia, appears several times. Alas, I never got the final files to post online, but the title link above goes to the Internet Archive’s version. You have to “borrow” it for an hour at a time, but the interface works well. Now I have to finish reading my print copy!

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Comments About Fast Company’s View of the Internet in 1994, Expanded by “Internet Explorer’s Kit for Macintosh”

Notable Replies

  1. Good article. Some comments, peppered with my own experiences:

    I think I got in on the ground floor here. I remember using NCSA Mosaic 1.0 in college on an anemic diskless Sun workstation (I remember it being a SPARCStation 1, but what I remember doesn’t match what I see in web searches). Running on a 12" monochrome display and pretty much the only site with content was at CERN.

    I also remember the very first builds of Netscape, when it’s “throbber” activity icon was just a pulsing letter “N” because they hadn’t yet drawn any artwork for the real icon. It had a lot of useful new features (like the ability to interact with a page before it finished loading), but was much slower than Mosaic on the computers I was using, so I didn’t use it much. (See also 14 Years of Netscape Navigator Design History - 48 Images - Version Museum)

    One of the first “fun” sites I remember was “The Keepers Of Lists”. The Wayback machine only has an archive going back to 2001, but it shows lists from 1995 and I’m pretty sure it was older than that. The way it worked was simple: Someone would post a question in the form of a “top ten” (or whatever count) list and others would supply one-line answers, and up/down vote everybody else’s answers. It was a lot of fun, but the bigger lists would tend to bog down the computers/browsers I was using back then. I’m kind of surprised that nobody has created a similar site today - it would be trivial with modern web app software.

    Amusingly, it appears that AOL maintains an archive (or modern homage) to the first Mosaic site,, which includes a TidBITS FTP download link for Netscape 0.9 beta. :slight_smile:

    The White House web site was definitely newsworthy. Also amusing is the fact that the domain “” was already operating prior to, but it was a porn site!

    Their mention of Yahoo didn’t make one thing clear - it was not originally a search engine, but a “meta index”. A hierarchical set of pages to let you drill down through categories in order to find the site you want. Pretty much a ginormous bookmarks list.

    The first search engine I know of (which the article didn’t mention, maybe because it got started in 1995) was AltaVista, which was acquired by Yahoo but ultimately lost out to Google.

  2. If it wasn’t for Adam’s clearly and brilliantly written Internet Starter Kit, my husband and I might never have been able to get online.

    After we got quickly started and started to brag about it, we had quite a few friends and relatives that got totally bogged down using extremely annoying and condescending “The Dummies” books at the time. Some of them took our recommendation and were up and running quickly and happily.

  3. I liked and used the early curated version of Yahoo! For a few years they regularly published “Yahoo!Picks,” a list of websites in various categories that caught the attention of their editors and/or of users. I used to save those, and recently ran across annual “Picks” lists from 1996 thru 2004, plus a special “For the Ages” one from 2000. I’d be glad to send a zip file of these to anyone interested in this bit of net history. I checked, and most of those sites listed are long gone, did not check Wayback Machine, though.

  4. I still have my “Internet Explorer’s Kit…” on the shelf. Got me busted out of AOL and on to the “real” net. Thanks!

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