The dream of the 90s internet is still alive, if you look in the right angles.
More than 17 million Americans regularly use MapQuest, one of the first digital mapping websites long ago overtaken by Google and Apple, data from research firm Comscore shows. Internet-era Internet portal Go.com shut down 20 years ago, but its spirit lives on in the “Go” that part of web addresses For some Disney sites†
Ask Jeeves, a web search engine that started before Google, still has fans and people typing “Ask Jeeves a question” into Google searches.
You might scoff at AOL, but it’s still the 50th most popular website in the US, according to figures from SimilarWeb. The virtual world of Second Life from the early 2000s has never disappeared and is now have a second life as a proto-metaverse brand.
Some one-time online stars have lingered much longer than we expected, showing that it’s possible to build a life online long after stardom fades.
“These are almost cockroach characteristics,” said Ben Schott, a brand and advertising columnist for Bloomberg Opinion. “They are small enough and resilient enough that they cannot be killed.”
A comparison with scurrying bugs maybe not appear be a compliment. But there’s something heartwarming about pioneers who shaped the early internet, lost their cool and dominance, and eventually carved out a niche. They will never be as popular or powerful as they were a generation ago, but stale internet brands can still serve a fruitful purpose.
These brands have managed to stay alive through a combination of sluggishness, nostalgia, having produced a product that people like, digital prowess to make money, and quirks of the rickety internet. If today’s internet powers like Facebook and Pinterest also lose relevance, they could last for decades.
System1, which owns MapQuest and HowStuffWorks, among others, has a strategy of enticing people to its collection of digital properties through advertising pitch or other techniques, turning them into loyal users, and monetizing their clicks or other sales. It’s not far from the early 2000s web strategy of turning “eyeballs” into revenue.
Michael Blend, the chief executive officer and co-founder of System1, said his company has spent money on Internet advertising to attract people to MapQuest and has also improved its map features. Added a feature since System1 bought MapQuest from Verizon let couriers map out long routes with many stops in 2019.
Blend said Gen X nostalgia or online marketing might convince people to give MapQuest a try once or twice, but the company wanted to make the site useful enough that they’d come back regularly. He also said that more than half of the people who use MapQuest are young enough that they may never have known it in its heyday.
Blend is proud that MapQuest has been around for such a long time. “There are plenty of internet brands that have come and gone and you never hear from them again,” he told me.
I don’t have a good explanation for the resilience of some ’90s Internet properties. People search for Ask Jeeves, even though the owner, the Internet conglomerate IAC/InterActiveCorp, gave up the English butler name in 2005 and stop trying to compete with google search over a decade ago. The website now called Ask.com is primarily a compilation of entertainment and celebrity news.
A spokesperson for Disney, which formerly owned the Internet portal Go.com, could not provide a solid explanation as to why some of the company’s Internet sites still have Go fingerprints. (The onion years ago) mocking Disney for this.) In general, today’s websites are often built on remnants of the old Internet, such as a modern mansion on the foundation of a 19th-century house.
Schott mentioned something I can’t get out of my head. He said when a once-beloved restaurant chain or industrial factory closes, the typical public reaction is grief for what people have lost. But Schott said when internet sites like Yahoo and Myspace collapse or die, it’s often brushed off as a joke.
“There’s a weird glee when tech companies fail, which I don’t think happens with other industries,” he said. “I’m not sure what that’s about.”
Maybe that’s starting to change. When Microsoft disabled its 27-year-old Internet Explorer web browser this month, the nostalgia poured out† As the internet gets older — and so do those of us who remember the early years — the more emotions we can feel for what came before it.
Before we go…
China’s eyes on its citizens: A research from The New York Times found that surveillance by the Chinese authorities is more extensive than previously believed. Police want facial recognition cameras where people eat and shop and even in private spaces such as residential buildings and hotels. Authorities are buying equipment to build large-scale databases of iris scans and DNA. The goal, my colleagues reported, is “to maximize what the state can learn about a person’s identity, activities and social connections, which could ultimately help the government maintain its authoritarian rule.”
Complaints about an ace and switch: Small Business Owners say that Google has hooked them up with the company’s free custom email and other workplace software and is now demanding payment in a process they found inconvenient. “I thought it was needlessly petty,” one business owner told my colleague Nico Grant.
Other car companies are jealous of Tesla: Established automakers such as Ford want to sell more of their cars directly to buyers onlinelike Tesla does. One problem: Laws in many states require cars to be sold through dealers, writes Paul Stenquist for The Times.
Hug for this
say hello to PUPPIES IN A ROLLING CAR†
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