Thursday, June 30, 2011

Webological Time

I thought I would extend the geological time metaphor as far as it could possibly go, so here is the whole of webological time. Some caveats: (1) I've included rough starting points for each, but boundaries of Epochs, Eras, and Eons, are approximate, and delibarately so; (2) the events listed under each era of time are not necessarily in order, some of them occurring very late and some of them very early, but are just indicators of the sort of thing that happened in that era if we consider a wide-range of blogging-related things; (3) I tried to hit highlights from a blogging point of view, but there are obviously lots of things I didn't put in, so I welcome any suggestions in the comments, although I won't promise actually putting any of them in unless they really strike me. One of the things I find interesting about this exercise is that it shows how ephemeral much of it is. If anyone had imagined today's internet thirty years ago, they would have thought it would be a lot of really cool newsgroups and bulletin board systems. And in a sense they wouldn't be wrong, since blogs and social networking sites do a great deal of what newsgroups and bulletin board systems did, functionally speaking; but just think of how misleading that extrapolation would have been.

Pliocene Epoch of the Neogene Period of the Cenozoic Era (about six months ago)

* Mozilla Firefox 4.0 is released
* The Great Blogger Outage

Miocene Epoch of the Neogene Period of the Cenozoic Era (about two years ago)

* Blogger introduces its auto-pagination feature, thus driving everyone crazy.
* Movable Type 5 is released.
* Yahoo! shuts down GeoCities.

Oligocene Epoch of the Paleogene Period of the Cenozoic Era (about three and a half years ago)

* Facebook overtakes MySpace.
* Six Apart releases Movable Type 4.
* Netscape line of web browsers ceases to be supported.
* Mozilla Firefox 3.0 is released.
* Google Chrome is released.
* To avoid worries about child pornography, and for business reasons, many services begin shutting down access to newsgroups, in particular, their Usenet services.

Eocene Epoch of the Paleogene Period of the Cenozoic Era (about five and a half years ago)

* Internet Explorer 6.0 is released.
* Mozilla Firefox 2.0 is released. Second Browser War heats up.
* Blogger migrates users to Google servers in a major redesign.
* Twitter is launched.

Paleocene Epoch of the Paleogene Period of the Cenozoic Era (about seven years ago)

* Siris begins!
* Google initiates its Google Books project.
* Mozilla Firefox 1.0 is released, beginning the first rumblings of the Second Browser War.
* Google buys out Pyra Labs, and thus acquires Blogger.
* Six Apart changes its licensing terms on Movable Type 3.0, leading to a massive migration from Movable Type to WordPress. (This change is later reversed, but too late to stop the migration.)
* Six Apart acquires LiveJournal.
* Facebook is launched.
* YouTube is launched.

Late Cretaceous Period of the Mesozoic Era (about ten years ago)

* LinkedIn is launched.
* MySpace is launched.
* The Typepad blogging service, based on Movable Type, is launched.
* WordPress, based on b2/cafelog, is released.
* Mozilla 1.0 released.
* Google buys out Deja News, creates Google Groups.
* Internet Archive introduces the Wayback Machine.
* Six Apart releases Movable Type 1.0.
* Drupal becomes open source.
* Lulu print on demand service is founded.

Early Cretaceous Period of the Mesozoic Era (about fourteen years ago)

* Ramanathan Guha invents Really Simple Syndication (RSS).
* Pyra Labs launches Blogger.
* The terms 'weblog' and 'blog' are created.
* Brad Fitzpatrick starts LiveJournal.
* PayPal is created.
* Netscape releases most of the Netscape Communicator as open source, which will eventually lead to the release of the Mozilla line of web browsers. This is also a convenient point from which to date the Open Source movement.
* The Early Cretaceous is dominated by the First Browser War: Internet Explorer 3, 4 and 5 versus Netscape Navigator 3 and Netscape Communicator 4. Internet Explorer dominates.
* The Early Cretaceous is also the Age of the Dot-Com Bubble.
* Yahoo! buys GeoCities.
* Google is founded.
* Internet Archive is founded.
* WorldCom buys CompuServ from H&R Block and sells it to AOL.
* General Electric sells GEnie to Yovelle, which becomes Genie; after attempts to modify it, it is closed due to Y2K issues.
* The NCSA officially discontinues development and support on Mosaic.
* BBS begins a sharp decline.
* Apple's Quick Time 3 introduces Progressive Download, making it massively easier for websites to host video.

Jurassic Period of the Mesozoic Era (about twenty years ago)

* The CompuServ/AOL wars begin.
* GeoCities is launched.
* is founded.
* Deja News Research Service begins a new approach to online discussion.
* The Usenet Eternal September begins: AOL begins offering Usenet access to its customers, leading to a massive and continual influx of new disruptive participants (previously usually only seen in Septembers when new college freshman first gained access to the network). This is sometimes regarded as a point at which newsgroup networks began to deteriorate seriously.
* Internet Explorer 1.0 is released.
* Netscape Navigator is released.
* The first search engines (Archie, Gopher, and others) are developed.
* The Mosaic web browser is developed at the National Center for Supercomputer Applications (NCSA).
* AOL for DOS is released.
* The Erwise and ViolaWWW web browsers are developed.
* The High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991 is passed. Senator Al Gore had begun to put together the bill in response to Kleinrock's report to Congress.

Triassic Period of the Mesozoic Era (about twenty-five years ago)

* General Electric starts the GEnie online service.
* Tim Berners-Lee begins introducing the idea of what he calls a "WorldWideWeb".
* Launch of LISTSERV.
* CompuServ begins to offer limited Internet connectivity in its email systems.
* CompuServ buys out The Source and discontinues it, ending a longstanding rivalry between the two online service pioneers.
* ARPANET officially decommissioned.
* Leonard Kleinrock delivers the report, "Toward a National Research Network," to Congress.

Permian Period of the Paleozoic Era (about thirty years ago)

* Prodigy online service is founded.
* FidoNet BBS system founded.
* First TCP/IP Protocols, including NNTP for Usenet.
* MILNET is split from ARPANET.
* H&R Block acquires Compuserv.
* Usenet begins and is connected to ARPANET shortly after, initiating the Age of Newsgroups and the real beginning of internet communities.
* Packet radio, the first stage in wireless internet, takes its first steps.
* The Smartmodem becomes available, allowing automatic dialing and multiple modem functionalities, thus massively easing people's ability to get online.

Carboniferous Period of the Paleozoic Era (about thirty-five years ago)

* Apparently I was born in the Carboniferous Period of Computing. How often does one get to say that?
* The microprocessor is invented.
* Jobs and Wozniak launch Apple.
* The Age of Online Services begins: Compu-Serv becomes CompuServ and launches MicroNET (soon changed to CompuServ), its information service for the broader public. Likewise, The Source information service is launched; Isaac Asimov calls it "the start of the information age".
* Early Newsgroup experiments.
* The first public dial-up Bulletin Board System (BBS) becomes available.
* ARPANET officially declared operational.

Devonian Period of the Paleozoic Era (about forty years ago)

* Compu-Serv Network is founded.
* The Norwegian Seismic Array is connected to the ARPANET by satellite, the first non-US node
* ARPANET establishes a permanent network.
* Charlie Klein sends the first message on ARPANET; he attempts to send the word 'login', but the system crashed and the only message that actually gets sent is 'lo'. About an hour later they manage to get the whole word out.

Silurian Period of the Paleozoic Era (about forty-five ears ago)

* The Mother of All Demos: Douglas Engelbart gives his presentation, "A research center for augmenting human intellect," at the 1968 Joint Computer Conference, in which he demonstrates a number of very experimental computer technologies, including the mouse, email, and hypertext.
* Integrated Electronics Corporation, later called Intel, is founded.

Ordovician Period of the Paleozoic Era (about fifty years ago)

* ENIAC is patented, but Honeywell v. Sperry Rand invalidates the ENIAC patent, putting the electronic digital computer in the public domain.
* Leonard Kleinrock develops the underlying theory for packet networks for his PhD.

Cambrian Period of the Paleozoic Era and beginning of the Phanerozoic Eon (about fifty-five years ago)

* Laserdisc technology, the forerunner of CD's and DVD's, is invented.
* The United States creates ARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency.
* Sputnik launched.

Proterozoic Eon (about two hundred fifty years ago)

* Commodore Portable Typewriting Company is founded in Toronto.
* Zuse series of computers
* Geophysical Services and its successor Texas Instruments are founded.
* Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation, later International Business Machines, is founded.
* Turing develops the underlying mathematical theory of computing.
* Multiplexers, and their later successors, modems, are invented.
* First the telegraph, then later the telephone, are invented.
* Hoe invents the rotary printing press.
* Babbage creates the Differential Engine and designs the Analytical Engine.

Archean Eon (about three hundred fifty years ago)

* Pascal invents the Pascaline mechanical calculator.

Hadean Eon (long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, at least as far as blogging goes)

* Gutenberg builds a printing press.
* Carolingian Reform leads to development of Carolingian miniscule and the foundation for the practices of medieval scriptoria.
* Writing is invented, thus allowing for offline communication and storage, mailing systems, and extensive calculation.


  1. Geremia12:42 PM

    What about Carolingian minuscule? It would fit in between the two items you have in the "Hadean Eon."

  2. John Farrell12:44 PM

    Early Cretaceous: you left out that Apple introduced Progressive Download with QuickTime 3, so web videos could start to play before fully downloading --and could be hosted on any small (http) web site. No streaming servers required.


  3. Brendan Hodge12:55 PM

    Hmmm.  So that puts my own blogging genesis back in the early Eocene.  This was me:

    Ah, memories, though...  GEnie and Prodigy were where I first started conducting long distance friendships online.  Perhaps, at heart, I am a thecodont.

  4. There were on-line communities of telegraph operators in the late Proterozoic Age. 


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