Twenty Years and Counting: The Commercial Internet at 20

600px-Internet_is_Full_-_Go_Away_t-shirtImagine your world without streaming video and music, without the Web, Facebook or online shopping. Imagine traveling without a GPS. What if instead of tapping the Search Bar on your phone or tablet to get the information you needed now, you had to trudge down to the local library to look it up?

For those us living and working before 1994, that was our world. As a young reporter I remember checking facts in our newspaper’s huge “morgue files,” dozens of file cabinets filled with old newspaper clippings, magazines and notebooks.

The online, fully connected world we live in today changed radically in 1994. That was the year when the Internet broke free from its education and scientific roots to become the social commerce engine we know today: The birth of the Commercial Internet.

Dozens of milestone social commerce events occurred in 1994 that shaped the evolution of the Internet and created the Information Superhighway that made possible our connected lifestyles, such as:

  • Yahoo! was launched. What became Yahoo! started as “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web” in January 1994. The product was re-launched as Yahoo! in April 1994. Before Yahoo! There was no easy way to find information on the Web, it was “hunt and peck,” like driving in a strange city without directions.
  • Amazon was founded. Amazon (initially called Cadabra)was founded in Seattle in July 1994 and sold its first book about a year later, beginning a new era in online shopping.
  • First Commercial Browser released. Browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome) make surfing the Web possible. The first commercial browser, Netscape’s Mosaic Netscape 0.9, was released on October 13, 1994.
  • First Webcam released. The first commercial webcam, the black-and-white QuickCam, entered the marketplace in 1994, created by the U.S. computer company Connectix.
  • Rolling Stones Concert. The Rolling Stones Concert Live Streaming on Internet in November 1994 was not the first but it was the biggest event of its kind to be broadcast live on the Internet. It brought streaming video to the mass audience.

Beneath it all, a tremendous global network infrastructure was being built (we called it the Information Highway then) that enables the Cloud, the fast connect speeds and all of the social networks we enjoy today.

What was particularly exciting about 1994 was the fact that it was truly an uncharted world with pioneers out to create something that have never been done before and which even the best and brightest in the engineering community could barely imagine.

I was lucky enough to be part of that exuberant time as a Research Director for the Gartner Group. As a principal analyst in the new Internet Strategies Service I got to experience the birth and growth of Internet pioneers like Cisco, Amazon, Yahoo!. It was clear the times were definitely changing.

It was that excitement and energy that I wanted to harness for my novel, Web of Betrayal, a cyber-thriller set in 1994. The plot revolves around the backdrop of the race to build a product that will change the Internet forever. I wanted to showcase the pioneering spirit of those times and the people who created it and highlight the clash between the new emerging Internet world and the established corporate business universe that was getting turned on its head.

Today, as the Commercial Internet turns 20, it feels like the pioneering has only begun. The first 20 years were all about connecting, learning how to connect, and stay connected, as globally and socially, we forged new relationships. It was also about commerce, changing how we lived, worked and shopped.

As we move into the next 20 years, the excitement will be around making the Internet personal, natively personal. We already have emerging wearables like Google Glass, Smartwatches, and Smartrings. Soon, we won’t need to “connect” to the Internet at all, we will be connected, fully, completely, physically and mentally. There will be benefits for our relationships, our health, our work, our daily lives. We know there will be risks and abuses too. Pioneering is all about looking forward at the world to come straight in the eye and making the choices that are right for you. I think the Internet will help us do that too.

Guest contributor Clare Price is a former business journalist, technology reporter, Internet industry analyst and a VP of marketing for several software startups. She saw the birth of the commercial Internet firsthand as a research director with the Gartner Group, the global leader in information technology consulting. As a principal analyst in Gartner’s Internet Strategies Service, Clare assisted many of the world’s biggest technology companies (IBM, Microsoft, Cisco, HP, Sun Microsystems, Oracle) in their bid to make the information highway a reality. An Ohio native and graduate of the UC Berkeley, Clare lives in Sacramento with her two Shetland Sheepdogs, Dan and Toby. Web of Betrayal is her first novel.

For more about Clare F. Price, Web of Betrayal, and to read an excerpt, visit http://www.webofbetrayal.com/

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