Early Days of the Internet, Part II

Angelfire, Lycos, Tripod, Chatrooms, Mosaic, MySpace, Napster, Hotmail and more...
July 17, 2018
I grew up in the 80s and 90s - the upcoming years of the internet. In this series of articles I look back at those days. In the first article I wrote about Grey Website Backgrounds, Netscape, Yahoo!, AltaVista, WebCrawler, Easy HTML codes, Website Under Construction Signs, E-mail Scams, GeoCities, ICQ, Amazon.com Books, noisy modem sounds and internet over phone lines. In this second article I'll look at some more aspects of the early internet many 80s/early 90s kids probably will remember.

In the first article I mentioned Yahoo!, AltaVista and WebCrawler as some of the first search engines before Google. Some RetroJunk readers also remembered Ask Jeeves! and Dogpile. However, another search engine that many will remember (and that is actually still around) is Lycos, originally accompanied with the slogan 'The Catalog of the Internet'. It was founded in 1995 and also offered some free website services - similar to GeoCities (see first article). Most famous is probably Angelfire (1996) and in 1997 Lycos acquired Tripod.com (originally founded in 1995). While Angelfire and GeoCities were more popular, I actually liked Tripod the best. It offered a nice free website service and I hosted some personal websites there. However, in time some of them just disappeared. I believe Angelfire and Tripod are still around, though I'm not sure if those services are still offered for free.


In the first article I already wrote about Netscape Navigator. However, Netscape had a predecessor: Mosaic. It was released in 1993 was one of the first graphical web browsers. But due to the heavy competition of Netscape (1994) and Internet Explorer (1995), Mosaic ended in 1997. Microsoft introduced Internet Explorer in 1995 and originally bundled the browser with its own Windows operating systems - leading to a massive market share of 95 procent around 2003 (for PC users - most Mac users kept using Netscape). This led to unfair browser competition and some major monetary penalties by government trade regulators. Finally, Microsoft was forced to give users the choice between different browsers in Windows instead of just the preinstalled Internet Explorer. In 2015 Microsoft introduced the new Edge browser, but that still has a long way to go to reach the popularity of Internet Explorer. I remember fondly that Internet Explorer even had some of its 'own' HTML codes (not supported by Netscape), like the <MARQUEE> code, that showed a scrolling light text.


Hotmail was founded in 1996 and bought by Microsoft in 1997. It was one of the first free e-mail services on the internet and even today there are still many Hotmail e-mail addresses around, that originate from the late 90s. The free e-mail services (besides Hotmail, Yahoo and later on Gmail) had a great advantage above traditional e-mail: you could (and still) can consult them on every computer, not only your home computer! Microsoft replaced Hotmail with the confusing named Outlook.com (not the mail program? or maybe a little?) in 2013.

Another very successful Microsoft program was MSN Messenger, an instant messaging service first released in 1999. I was a little older then and went to university. I remember all the students being addicted to chatting on MSN on the university computers, keeping computers occupied for students that actually wanted to work. I think the university eventually went for a ban on MSN Messenger on their computers, but I'm not sure if I remember that correctly. With the rise of smartphones and WhatsApp (introduced in 2009), MSN Messenger became obsolete. In 2013 it was discontinued (after being renamed Windows Live Messenger) and instead Microsoft focused on Skype, that it had acquired in 2011.

Napster (founded in 1999) and MySpace (founded in 2003) are still around today, but in other forms that the original - and much less popular now than back in the days. Napster was a 'P2P'-service (peer-to-peer) service for sharing files online and many used it to download illegal mp3 music files. It was not as fantastic as you might remember - it was slow, it could be hard to find music (since not everybody used correct file names) and chances were high you would download a wrong file with a virus. In 2000 rockband Metallica filed a lawsuit against Napster, which led to the end of the illegal service (however, many other illegal services, like KaZaa, were still available). Many people also used Napster back in the days because there weren't many good legal alternatives yet. Napster is still around, but it's now a legal music service, trying to lure users with its nostalgic name (don't be fooled).

It's now hard to believe that MySpace (with slogan 'A Place for Friends') once was one of the most popular social networks on the internet. I never really used it and was mostly annoyed by all those long pages with music that would automatically start to play. As you can hear, I was never a fan. But then again, I'm not a fan of any social network. I don't like Facebook now - and the popularity of that site meant the beginning of the end for MySpace.

In 1991 AOL introduced Neverwinter Nights, the first multiplayer online role-playing game with graphics. In all honesty, I never played it (I'm from Europe and I'm not even sure if this service was available outside of the United Stated). The game ran until 1997 and can be seen as an ancestor of games like Ultima Online (1997), RuneScape (2001) and, of course, World of WarCraft (2004). To me the game looks a little similar to the early Ultima RPG games.

Pixelated Porn & Chatrooms
Now, come on. Let's not be hypocrites. The main thing many of us kids did on the early internet was chatting with random people in random chatrooms (under silly names). Yes, some of those chats were the first 'sexual experiences' we had. I always feel that with the internet the world somehow lost a little more of its innocence. Before the internet the most exciting sexual related thing a young boy could get were ladies underwear brochures by retail stores. But with the internet came porn (I guess it even contributed a lot to its success). So, yes, we searched it and we found it. But back in the days internet was slow and kept the phone line occupied. Internet couldn't handle large video's yet. So porn clips were very low res (that means very pixelated, kids) and very short - mostly just a few ever repeating frames. But man, it was exciting!

July, 2018
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