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Friday, October 22, 2010

A Brief History of the Web- Part five...

   Welcome back to my popular 'A Brief History of the Web' series, much spoken about on, and  I feel like I have some fans now who look forward to new articles in this series, and I don't want to let you guys down!

  Here's a re-cap, in case you've missed one of the articles:

  As I left off in part four, more and more ordinary people started surfing the web.  The new, popular search engines made that feasible.

  Netscape launched their Navigator web browser, based on Mozilla framework, in 1994.  Microsoft saw a market they had to enter, so they launched Internet Explorer in 1995, along with MSN, to originally compete with AOL, which was once mighty.

  And GeoCities, Tripod and Angelfire launched, making it easier for web surfers who weren't technically proficient to publish their own content.

  Social networking is also a phenomena that has caused significant growth of the web.  Most people think social networking on the web started in the 2000s with MySpace and the like.

  Actually, AOL, GeoCities, and Tripod all had some social networking functionality.  Users could meet other users through their chat services and their personal pages.

  But the very first 'proper' social networking website wasn't MySpace of Friendster.  It was now defunct  That also very nicely leads into the 'dot com bust' theme of this article.  It was actually launched in 1995!

  It became very popular in the late 1990s, especially in 1998, when they launched their IPO, becoming publically traded.

A screenshot of from 1998, the oldest I could find from

  Two Cornell students, Stephan Paternot and Todd Krizelman, started when they got a brilliant idea.  They found the early chatrooms on Cornell's network were very popular.  They saw a moneymaking opportunity.  They raised $15,000 over Christmas 1994 to buy their first web server and launch their company.

  Their website went live on April 1st, 1995, and quickly became very popular.  But any money they made didn't go into equity, it went to more and more growth.  More employees, more web servers, and more of everything else.

  They had to go public to raise more funds.  Their IPO launched on November 13th, 1998.

   Their target share price was $9.00.  But, investors thought they saw the new AOL!  (Well, they kind of did, in sense.  AOL lost AOL Time Warner massive amounts of money in the early 2000s.  But in 1998, AOL could do no wrong, and investors thought any 'dot com' launch was a huge moneymaking opportunity.)

  During's first trading day, their share price rose as high as $97.00, more than ten times the target share price.  Astonishing!

  Paternot and Krizelman's new corporation bought a number of other properties, in their bouts of spending enthusiasm.  They bought Chips and Bits, Computer Games magazine, and  You never heard of those names?  That explains everything!

  From The Guardian in 2001: founder Stephan Paternot, has written a book called A Very Public Offering. In it he recalls a CNN interview from 1999 which captured him dancing on a nightclub table in shiny black pants with his model girlfriend, Jennifer Medley and saying, "Got the girl. Got the money. Now I'm ready to live a disgusting, frivolous life."
Nowadays Paternot is more circumspect. "I became the whipping boy of Silicon Alley, a symbol of the internet's success, excess and then the bursting of the internet bubble."

  Between 1999 (when most experts believe the 'dot com bust' began) and 2001,'s shares went from a high of $97.00 to a low of 10 cents.  Ten cents!

  Paternot and Krizelman were forced out of the company they founded, in 2000. shut down in August 2001.  In 2003, TheGlobe launched GloPhone, to compete with Skype.  That was another commerical failure.

  As of March 2010, the company reported that they had a mere $7,618 in assets toward their $3.1 million worth of liabilities.  Sounds like every entrepreneur's worst nightmare, as far as I'm concerned.

  Friendster's beta launched in 2002.

Friendster beta page from May, 2002

Friendster beta page from May, 2003

Friendster launch page from December, 2004

   Friendster was the very first of the new style of social networking websites, predating MySpace, Bebo, Linked-In, Facebook and Twitter.

  Friendster is still online, as of this writing.  As of June 2010, they have about 8,200,000 users.  Friendster was founded by two computer programmers, Jonathan Abrams and Cris Emmanuel.  It kind of functions like Facebook, but with a lot fewer extras.

   Compared to Facebook's current over 500 million users, and Twitter's current 30 million users, Friendster is now a minor player in the social networking scene.

   But, Friendster's model of user pages and linking to friends set a paradigm for most social networking sites that launched later on.

  Case in point- in August 2010, Facebook confirmed that it acquired 18 patents from Friendster.

  In part six of my 'A Brief History of the Web' series, I will go further into the 'dot com bust' of 1999-2001, mentioning the AOL Time Warner debacle, and others.  I will also go into the social networking sites that launched after Friendster, and 'Web 2.0'.  Also, Netscape falls, and Internet Explorer gets a little competition in the browser market!

  In the meanwhile, I forgot to mention a pre-bust venture that was founded in 1994 and launched online in 1995.  It has been a huge commercial success since then, and up to this day.

  You must have heard of Jeff Bezos and, haven't you?  Amazon started exclusively as a bookseller, but now Amazon retails in as many different areas as a department store.

  Here's what Amazon's home page looked like in 1995:

   And here's what Amazon's home page looks like today:

  Stay tuned for part six, coming up on Monday!  In the meanwhile, over the weekend, there will be a couple of new posts here.


  1. You just got another fan . Usually i don't follow the articles of this genre , but this one got me glued . Waiting for more from you :)

  2. Leone- Thanks! And you may check out more of my articles on