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VF: How the Web Was Won
June 4, 2008 9:02 PM   Subscribe

Vanity Fair has a typically excellent article out -- "How the Web Was Won," an oral history of the Web. Even if you're familiar with ARPANet, Metcalfe's Law, Pearl Harbor Day, the VC rush, whatever -- the story told by the often-animated people at the center of the whirlwind is an enlightening and entertaining experience. And for those of you don't know the history of the Internet, learn it! This is part of your heritage now.

I just like this quote because it sums up my experience with all hackers-as-CEOs:
Jeff Bezos: When we started out, we were packing on our hands and knees on these cement floors. One of the software engineers that I was packing next to was saying, You know, this is really killing my knees and my back. And I said to this person, I just had a great idea. We should get kneepads. And he looked at me like I was from Mars. And he said, Jeff, we should get packing tables.

We got packing tables the next day, and it doubled our productivity.
posted by spiderwire (19 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
MetaFilter: We should get kneepads.
posted by Poolio at 9:15 PM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


aeron kneepads
posted by mattoxic at 9:40 PM on June 4, 2008


Eames kneepads.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:33 PM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


(you misspelled "tim" in your tembernerslee tag)

But cool article!
posted by mrnutty at 11:01 PM on June 4, 2008


I get credit for a lot of things I didn’t do. I just did a little piece on packet switching and I get blamed for the whole goddamned Internet, you know?

Well, it's good we have someone to blame.
posted by loquacious at 12:34 AM on June 5, 2008


Told (influentially?) similarly as an oral history is Casey Kait and Stephen Weiss' 2001 Digital Hustlers, Living Large and Falling Hard in Silicon Alley. There's something very cinematic about the series of voices telling the story together, which I enjoy. And of course it's a great tale.
posted by ioesf at 2:20 AM on June 5, 2008


Love this quote from the IE program manager:

Thomas Reardon: The government’s argument that we went down there Mafia-style, telling Netscape that they have to do a deal with us or they were going to find a dead-horse head in their bed in the morning—it was kind of absurd. It turns out Marc was sitting in the meeting, taking notes on his laptop. They had contacted this famous anti-trust lawyer, Gary Reback. They had been working with him. They kept asking us these really loaded and weird questions. We thought we were down there for a business meeting, technology meeting, engineering meeting. And then they ended up taking all the minutes of that meeting, you know, and sending it out to this anti-trust attorney, who then turned it over to the D.O.J. that night. It was just a bunch of bullshit.

"Even though I only went to Netscape to geek-bond and talk a little business, our smaller competitor started from the assumption that we, Microsoft, had predatory intentions towards them! Even to the extent of asking questions which started from that assumption, and making a record of what we said to them. Which caused a lot of annoyance for us before we crushed them. Dicks."
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 2:53 AM on June 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Pearl Harbor Day? Link?
posted by DU at 4:40 AM on June 5, 2008


Stay tuned for part II, "How the web was lost", where we'll all play a part.
posted by Termite at 5:07 AM on June 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I can't believe this hasnt already been said. This article is awesome. Thanks.

The first thing I did is I actually picked up the phone and dialed 411, and I said, I’d like the number for the Internet, please. And the operator is like, What? I said, Just search any company with the word Internet in the name. Blank. Nothing. I thought, Wow, this is interesting. What is this thing anyway?

Oh. How very quaint.
posted by lunit at 8:14 AM on June 5, 2008


This year also marks the 15th anniversary of the launch of Mosaic, the first widely used browser, which brought the Internet into the hands of ordinary people.

Now I feel old.
posted by Who_Am_I at 8:27 AM on June 5, 2008


"Pearl Harbor Day" is supposedly the industry name for the day Bill Gates declared war on Netscape -- it's in Part IV of the VF article. I will admit it's the first time I've heard the term, but it's a bit before my time. :)
posted by spiderwire at 8:31 AM on June 5, 2008


Oh and I'm not complaining, but the slideshow preview of Angelina Jolie's bare ass on the sidebar of the article makes this kind of NSFW. If you're at home, consider it a bonus.
posted by Who_Am_I at 8:34 AM on June 5, 2008


Fantastic! Thanks!
posted by absalom at 8:37 AM on June 5, 2008


Paul Baran:The one hurdle packet switching faced was AT&T. They fought it tooth and nail at the beginning.

AT&T wins again!
posted by tkchrist at 10:05 AM on June 5, 2008


Fabulous link.

Vinod Khosla: The media people essentially did not think the Internet would be important or disruptive. In 1996, I got together the C.E.O.’s of 9 of the 10 major newspaper companies in America in a single room to propose something called the New Century Network. It was the C.E.O.’s of The Washington Post and The New York Times and Gannett and Times Mirror and Tribune and I forget who else. They couldn’t convince themselves that a Google, a Yahoo, or an eBay would be important, or that eBay could ever replace classified advertising.

You know this still hasn't changed today. They do now admit that this is something to be dealt with, but understanding what the hell's going on hasn't changed a bit.
posted by bonaldi at 10:58 AM on June 5, 2008


Jeff Bezos: When we launched, we launched with over a million titles. There were countless snags. One of my friends figured out that you could order a negative quantity of books. And we would credit your credit card and then, I guess, wait for you to deliver the books to us. We fixed that one very quickly.

Hysterical. This is a good article.
posted by Brainy at 11:34 AM on June 5, 2008


Take it to MetaTalk, Vanity Fair.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:47 PM on June 5, 2008


Vanity Fair has a typically excellent article...

Huh? Vanity Fair is People.

Access to the URL: http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2008/07/internet200807?currentPage=1 has been denied. (Your request was denied because of its content categorization: Entertainment, Provocative Attire, Fashion/Beauty.)
posted by neuron at 5:55 PM on June 5, 2008


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