FACEBOOK: The Ultimate Dot-Com

History will record that Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t the first college student to have the idea of enabling people to set up Web pages and share stuff with their friends. Yesterday, my colleague Silvia Killingsworth wrote about the Winklevoss twins, two Harvard grads who famously accused Zuckerberg of stealing the idea for Facebook while working on their fledgling site Connect U. Before the Winklevii, there were the folks behind MySpace and Friendster. And before them, way back in 1995, there were Todd Krizelman and Stephen Paternot, who launched TheGlobe.com from their dorm rooms at Cornell.

TheGlobe.com allowed people to create their personal space online, upload pictures, and set up what came to be known as blogs. By 1998, it had more than two million members, which was then considered impressive. It also had a business plan: sell advertising. On November 13, 1998, Bear Stearns issued 3.1 million shares in the company at nine dollars each to some of its clients—the lucky ones. When Bear’s traders tried to open the stock for trading, they found it difficult to establish a floor price. As I recalled in my 2002 book, “Dot.Con: The Greatest Story Every Sold” (apologies for the plug):

 Whatever price they indicated—$20, $30, $40, $50—was too low. CNBC reported that the first trade might be $70, but even this proved to be a conservative estimate. After a lengthy delay, the first trade crossed the ticker at $87—almost ten times the issue price. Even for an Internet stock, this was unheard of. Within an hour, the price had risen to $97.

TheGlobe.com’s I.P.O. marked the beginning of the dot-com bubble’s epic stage. By the time the bubble burst, in March and April, 2000, hundreds of online firms had issued stock, among them many clunkers like Pets.com, E-Stamp, and etoys.com (not to be confused with a later company that used the same name), but also many online companies that survived and eventually thrived, such as eBay, Amazon.com, and Priceline.com. The bursting of the bubble discredited the term “dot-com,” which was understandable but, in a way, unfortunate, because the term itself had come to be the expression of an attitude that saw in online communication and online commerce boundless possibilities. Facebook’s I.P.O. represents a return to that mindset. It’s the fulfillment of the dreams of the nineties—and a reminder of their potentially fatal attraction.

While the term “dot-com” disappeared, the idea survived. Before very long, it was rebranded as “Web 2.0”—a term popularized by Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle, who from 2004 onwards organized a series of conferences under this banner. Supposedly, what distinguished Web 2.0 from Web 1.0 was user control, and user collaboration, with the network serving as a “platform,” but that wasn’t really a new idea: Krizelman and Paternot had fastened upon it years earlier, as had the founders of GeoCities and other Web-hosting ventures.

Read more at the New Yorker.

Comments

Polititainment

George Will to Colbert: Liberals don't want change

Conservative commentator and hapless Chicago Cubs fan George Will swung by "The Colbert Report" Tuesday to plug his new book, "A Nice Little Place on the North Side," but naturally, the conversation didn't stick to baseball.

Clay Aiken: voters 'might wonder' about candidacy

Former "American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken concedes that voters "might wonder" about his candidacy for Congress for a new ad.

Los Angeles GOP #StandingWithSriracha

Forget #StandWithRand -- the GOP is now choosing to #StandWithSriracha.

WH responds to 'Deport Justin Bieber' petition

Despite the pleas of more than 270,000 Americans to deport Justin Bieber, the White House has chosen not to weigh in on the issue. However, the Obama administration did use a petition calling on the White House to revoke the pop artist's visa to plug President Barack Obama's plan for immigration reform.

Secret Service once threatened Mr. Met

Mr. Met sure has a lot of fans in New York. But the larger-than-life mascot definitely doesn't have one in the Secret Service, who threatened to shoot and kill him if he approached President Bill Clinton, according to a firsthand account.

White House

Donald Trump is really upset with the way Obama walks

President Barack Obama just can't seem to do anything right, especially in the eyes of real estate mogul Donald Trump.

Obama misses 67 percent of his shots playing basketball at Easter event

President Barack Obama went 1-for-3 shooting baskets at a White House Easter event Monday, prompting basketball scouts to question the leader of the free world's scoring ability ahead of this June's NBA Draft.

PETA is peeved with Michelle Obama and used little girls to tell her about it

First Lady Michelle Obama has earned the ire of three young girls. But they're not upset with her less-than-filling "Let's Move!" school lunches. Instead, these youngins are upset about the real eggs used in the White House Easter Egg Roll.

Jay Carney: “Never been a more transparent administration”

Despite consistent objections by journalists that the White House overly restricts press access, Press Secretary Jay Carney believes that there has "never been a more transparent administration."

Jay Carney: Toughest interview for Obama in 2012 was with Jon Stewart

Give comedian Jon Stewart a gold star sticker. The host of The Daily Show was President Barack Obama's toughest interviewer during the 2012 election cycle, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Thursday.

Congress

Arkansas US Sen. John Boozman having surgery

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — U.S. Sen. John Boozman is undergoing surgery at an Arkansas hospital.

Republicans are winning the Twitters this year

Congrats, Congressional Republicans -- you're winning the Twitters so far in 2014!

Rep Black: GOP budget makes a path to a bright future

Our nation is $17.4 trillion in debt and out of control Washington spending has no end in sight. In fact, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that on our current trajectory we will return to $1 trillion annual budget deficits by the year 2022.

Cruz: Impeach Holder

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) pulled no punches when criticizing Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday, as he called on Congress to impeach the Department of Justice head.

Pelosi: GOP not acting on immigration because of race

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pulled the race card when speaking about Republicans' inaction in passing comprehensive immigration reform and said "race has something to do" with the GOP not bringing such legislation to the House floor.