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

Leave a Reply

Devo does not want Scalise to 'Whip It'
A founding member of the 1980s band Devo really does not want to see House Majority Whip Steve Scalise “Whip It Good.” Scalise has been using the bands hit song “Whip It” at events and his staff recently created a joint fundraising committee with Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) to raise money for a 1980s-themed birthday party […]
Jon Stewart rips Democrats for race-bait

“Oh, for f---s sake.”

Jon Stewart skewers VA wait times

In case you forgot, the VA is still terrible.

Stewart hits Cruz on privacy
Sen. Ted Cruz’s Monday presidential announcement made Christmas come early for Jon Stewart and “The Daily Show.” Stewart was positively gleeful as he prepared to mock everything from the kiss between Cruz and his wife to the fact that Liberty University students were forced to attend the campaign speech. But the liberal host did make […]
Jay Leno: College kids are too PC

Whether it's how ethanol subsidies are terrible or how college kids need to get over themselves, Jay Leno has been on point lately.

White House

White House promises not to use legal loophole to keep NSA spying alive if Patriot Act expires
If the Patriot Act expires, it will stop the National Security Agency’s bulk spying too. The Obama administration promised this week that it will not take advantage of a legal loophole to keep the NSA spying alive unless Congress re-authorizes the Patriot Act, Reuters reported. Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which authorizes the NSA to collect data on […]
In honor of National Puppy Day, here are the top 10 cutest presidential puppies

Today is National Puppy Day! To celebrate, we give you the top ten cutest puppies to grace the White House Lawn.

Obama: ‘By hook or by crook’ I’ll push my agenda through
This is probably not the smartest phrasing to use. President Obama had an interview with Huffington Post over the weekend and while much of the interview was his oft-repeated lines about how Republicans are the reason nothing is getting done in Washington, he added a new phrase about his legacy that is bound to raise […]
Obama tells Prince Charles that Americans like the royal family better than their own politicians

President Obama has admitted what we all already knew: Americans far prefer the Duchess of Cambridge to Michelle.

Obama suggested that voting should be mandatory. Now he’s being called ‘totalitarian.’

President Obama is taking some heat for suggesting this week that mandatory voting might not be such a bad idea.

Congress

Schock: Lincoln faced challenges too
Embattled Rep. Aaron Schock (R- Ill.) gave his farewell speech on the House floor Thursday, promising that it was “not the end of a story, but rather the beginning of a new chapter.” While his own trials are more of the “Downton Abbey” decor and Katy Perry concert variety, Schock likened this tough time to that […]
Boehner, Pelosi read mean tweets
Taking a cue from Jimmy Kimmel’s famous “Mean Tweets” series, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sen Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) got in on the fun and read some mean tweets about themselves in a video for the 2015 Radio & Television Correspondents Association […]
GOP blocks Warren's student loan plan
THE HILL — Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked an effort by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to attach an amendment aimed at lowering student loan rates to the budget. Senators voted 46-53 against Warren’s amendment to the Republican budget resolution. Warren’s amendment would have allowed people with college loan debt to refinance at interest rates from […]
Rand really liked those 'Stand with Rand' trolls

During Ted Cruz's big announcement at Liberty University yesterday--which students were required to attend--some Rand Paul supporters decided to troll Cruz with some "Stand with Rand" shirts:

Pelosi: GOP will attack Hillary over anything
That’s right. Bring Hillary Clinton’s signature scrunchies into a serious discussion about transparency in public office. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did just that while defending her favorite potential presidential candidate Wednesday. Clinton has recently come under fire when it was discovered that she used only a personal email account run through a home server to conduct […]