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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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Comments about 23 Years of TidBITS: Thoughts on Our Past, Present, and Future
(Comments are closed.)

Michael Blackstone  2013-04-19 14:33
Congratulations! I can't recall when I first started reading TidBITS, but it's been a long time. I wouldn't have become a member if I didn't appreciate your editorial approach and the quality of your work. Oh, and keep the Take Control books coming, too.

See you at the quarter-century!
TidBITS: The ONLY website which is worth a paid subscription for me. Need I say more?

Congratulations on your anniversary.

Cheers, Raimund
Norbert E Fuchs  An apple icon for a TidBITS Benefactor 2013-04-20 06:37
Adam, my congratulations to you and to your TidBITS comrades-in-arms.
George Stamas  2013-04-20 13:23
After following you guys for more than 20 years, I finally became a member. I guess I owe you some serious back rent huh?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-04-20 13:52
Thanks for letting us occupy a portion of your brain for so long too!
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-04-20 14:13
Thanks to all of our paying members!
Riza P  2013-04-21 08:00
Congratulations Adam!

I vividly remember the early days when I used to copy every issue of TidBits to Compuserve. What a round trip it was. Copying from Apple's network (what was it called?) to CompuServe and doing that from Turkey! Every little helped then to spread the message.

Get ready for the next 25 years.
Steve Nicholson  2013-04-22 15:17
The fact that you use "myriad" correctly is all by itself almost worth the price of membership.
phoenix  2013-04-22 22:50
From my first HyperCard TidBITS editions, to today's 23rd anniversary commemorative, congratulations! -- Alex Forbes
Richard A Mageau  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2013-04-23 00:13
Member for all this time, I have other equally good feelings about Adam & Tonya. Busy as they are, they have taken the time to answer relatively unimportant questions personally and expertly. Thanks guys,you are the greatest!
Bill Gruber  2013-04-23 00:16
Congratulations on your 23rd anniversary, Adam!

Regarding the longest-running e-mail publication, I moderate The Ferret Mailing List, which is an e-mail digest which comes out daily. We just had our 25th anniversary last year, and with over 2000 subscribers, we're still going strong. No ads either -- purely a labor of love, and i'm only the second moderator in all that time.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-04-23 10:21
That's wonderful to hear, Bill, and congratulations on such longevity! I suspect it's a matter of what one considers a "publication" - we're thinking of it as comprising formally written and edited articles, as opposed to a mailing list where anyone can contribute and where there's back-and-forth discussion. But that's just categorization - from looking at your archives, you have a truly vibrant community, and that's great to see.
Bill Gruber  2013-04-24 04:02
Yes, you're absolutely right -- they are not the same type of publication. Although every post on the ferret list *is* reformatted and edited, most are not formal articles.

TidBITS is indeed a special class and you are, once again, to be congratulated.
Thank you for your hard work, thank you for your commitment to Apple, thank you for the wonderful news from all over the web collected just for us. Thank you and have an amazing day!
Marcia Blake  2013-04-23 16:39
Early in the spacetime of the digital-publishing universe, TidBITS and the late, great TBTF were the two digital subs I couldn't live without. In terms of interest, they ranked right up there with the very last print pub I finally gave up: MIT Tech Review. I was grateful when Tech Review finally got online (and, boy, were they *late* getting A Round Tuit, "considering"!). And I'm equally grateful that TidBITS is *still* online. It's worth repeating: TidBITS is always interesting and timely, and it's often uniquely useful. Thanks for all the great work!
Mac Carter  2013-04-23 23:30
I too have followed TidBITS for over 20 years. You guys have been an extraordinarily influential player in the world of Apple. We all benefit from your dedication. Thanks so much!
Jack Ziegler  2013-04-24 14:17
Congratulations on 23 great, informative years. Here's hoping you can make it to an even 50. I wonder what computers in general and Mac's in particular will be like in 27 years?

All the best to you, your wife and your outstanding staff.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-04-24 17:45
Yikes - 50 years of TidBITS! We'll be 72 in 27 more years, for a bit of palindromic math, so I don't know if we'll be day-to-day at that point, but you never know!
Roy Tennant  2013-04-29 09:45
Adam, congratulations on your commitment. I started Current Cites, a monthly current awareness newsletter in August 1990, but it began as a print publication. We moved to the Internet not long thereafter, but nonetheless you would still hold the title having started in April. Besides, we have published continuously since then on a monthly basis while you have kept up a more rigorous schedule. So yours is truly an accomplishment to celebrate. I was also an early subscriber, being a loyal Mac user, so thanks for your service!
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-04-29 09:56
Thanks for the kind words, Roy, and excellent work on your part too! I love hearing about these publications that have soldiered on through so many years, because they wouldn't exist if they weren't helping people.
Joe Gudac  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2015-04-20 21:54
Congratulations. I can't believe it's been 25 years. It just proves that quality work survives the test of time. I got my first issues from the BBS Pacific Mac. A 14.4 modem and thought that was something.