20 years ago today: birth of the dot-com era

On June 8, 1989, Brad Templeton, started Clarinet.com

It doesn't seem like it, but 20 years ago today, the dot-com era was born. On June 8, 1989, Brad Templeton, started Clarinet.com, an online newspaper business that many consider to be the company that started it all.

"ClariNet was the first company created to use the internet as its platform for business, and as such this event has a claim at being the birth of the 'dot-com' concept which so affected the world in the two intervening decades.," said Templeton, who for many years has been president and chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

His electronic newspaper, which consisted of wire service stories and other content, was delivered using the USENET protocol, there being no HTTP until inventor Tim Berners-Lee launched it in late 1990.

"In those days, the Internet consisted of regional networks, who were mostly non-profit cooperatives, and the government funded 'NSFNet' backbone which linked them up," writes Templeton, a friend of many years' standing.

"That backbone had a no-commercial-use policy, but I found a way around it. In addition, a nascent commercial internet was arising with companies like UUNet and PSINet, and the seeds of Internet-based business were growing. There was no web, of course," Templeton writes in a history of ClariNet published for the anniversary.

"The internet's community lived in e-Mail and USENET. Those, and FTP file transfer, were the means of publishing. When Tim Berners-Lee would coin the term 'the web' a few years later, he would call all these the web, and HTML/HTTP a new addition and glue connecting them."

Brad is quick to point out that other companies can make similar claims from around the same time, but I was for many years a ClariNet user and it was the first "for pay" Internet content provider that I ran into.

This isn't a boom-and-bust story, but one man's engaging account of the early days of the medium you are using right now to read this.

Brad is one of the pioneers and, like him, I remember those days-when an Internet connection was hard to come by-with great fondness.

David Coursey has been writing about technology since before 1981. He tweets as dcoursey and can be contacted using the form at www.coursey.com/contact.

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