Flashback: The Lycos NYC Office in 1995

I was taking the subway uptown yesterday afternoon and as I stepped out of the train I thought I saw the word Lycos on the advertisement on the station wall. Upon closer observation, it was not an advertisement for Lycos, but by then I was already thinking about my visit to the Lycos NYC office in 1995 when I first met Jerry Colonna. It was in the building that sits on the north end of Union Square in a dumpy office with the name Point Communications on the door. Point was a web directory (ie at Yahoo competitor) that Lycos had bought in 1995. Jerry told me that Point was driving a lot of the traffic on the Lycos network and I asked him where they hosted it. He pointed to a closet with a PC sitting on the floor with the back opened and a bunch of wires sticking out. “It runs on that thing”, he said. I thought to myself that one of the top trafficked websites on the entire Internet was running in a closet. That was a different time.

Lycos was a web search engine created at Carnegie Mellon that was turned into a business by the Internet holding company CMGI in 1994/1995. Jerry was working for CMGI at the time I met him and CMGI was quickly assembling a portfolio of Internet assets around the Lycos brand to rival Yahoo. CMGI took Lycos public in 1996 and, according to Wikipedia, in 1999 Lycos was the most visited Internet destination.

But easy come, easy go and Lycos was sold to Terra Networks in May 2000, the first in a series of sales to international owners that led to slow and steady decline of the brand.

But back in 1995, Lycos was in the thick of it. It was the east coast rival to Yahoo, which was the leading Internet brand. If you were selling your website (that’s what you did back then), you shopped it to Yahoo and Lycos. And Jerry was right in the middle of all of that. I was thinking of leaving and starting a VC firm to invest exclusively in Internet businesses (ie websites). At that first meeting, I thought Jerry would be a great partner to do that with. And, after a series of meetings, that’s exactly what we did. But that’s another story, longer, and even more interesting.

We’ve come a long way in 20 years. Google eclipsed all of these “web 1.0” properties as search became the dominant way users accessed the web. Facebook showed that the web was going to be a social experience a few years later. And Apple showed that it was going to be a mobile thing a few years after that. And everything has moved off servers in closets to the cloud. Things look a lot differently now. But it helps to go back and think about how it was back then. It gives some perspective.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Rob Underwood

    This is great. When I helped start a hosting service in 1997 or so one of the production DNS servers sat under my desk for a 1/2 a year while we scouted out a more permanent spot (like a closet). That hands on of having to physically build servers, install the OS, configure them, etc. was definitely a different time. Here’s to being old!

  2. JimHirshfield

    Lycos! My alma mater. I left there at the end of 1999. It was a great ride. Thank you Bob Davis!Many people forget that Lycos bought Wired Digital, among many companies they acquired. Conde Nast bought the print company Wired, but wasn’t confident enough in this www thing to buy the digital part of the magazine. This was 1998.

    1. Girish Mehta

      Going down memory lane….there was a whole other print media world of the late 90’s covering this industry – Industry Standard, Wired, Red Herring, Business 2.0, Upside..might be missing some.I remember the magazine issues kept getting thicker. I think the Industry Standard sold more ad pages than any other magazine in America in 2000…

      1. Susan Rubinsky

        Oh man, I used to subscribe to all of those. I miss Red Herring.

        1. Vasudev Ram

          And I miss BYTE, DDJ, CUJ, …

    2. creative group

      JimHirshfield:We were Day Trading during the Lycos rise and fall. (Very unwise in 1995 as sole source of income). In your opinion when companies are purchased and the once dynamic business is laid to rest what was the objective of the purchaser? Beyond the obvious entry level financial literacy. (Inside view)Similar to Yahoo’s current acquiring of companies to gut them for talent. That paid to stay talent leaves after the millions in contracts have expired.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Objective was audience acquisition. Websites were (are) measured by the number of uniques they attract on a monthly basis. Acquire users –> command ad dollars. Some acquired properties may be laid to rest in this process, but the mothership has likely beamed those users up already.In later years there were talent acquisitions…some dirt cheap acquisitions to get the talent and provide a soft landing for a small or failing startup. Other times acquirers see value in target company that is at odds with what made that target company special in the first place. It’s only after they’re in the fold that this conflict is apparent. And the outcome is usually bad for the acquired company’s team members and product.

  3. jerrycolonna

    I remember when you visited me that day. I was wearing a pair of ripped jeans, a t shirt and a dirty Yankees cap. (Still my preferred attire.)I remember when I first saw the server that had the spider software that crawled the entire web nightly. It, and the entire index of all web sites, was on a server sitting on a desk at Carnegie-Mellon.Now I’m writing this comment while in a car outside of Pisa, Italy, traveling at 120 kmh.I was annoyed that the wifi on my plane ride from Denver to London on Sunday didn’t work.Life’s a bit different these days.

    1. pointsnfigures

      Yankees caps get dirty? Thought they were too prissy to get dirty….ha

      1. jerrycolonna

        Happy to take you to The Bronx any time and show you prissy it is. 😉

        1. pointsnfigures

          Went there the last year the old Yankee Stadium was open to see them play the White Sox in October. Wasn’t the last game, but was close to the last game. Would be fun to go up there with someone that knew their way around…..Maybe a home and home (Wrigley though since I am a Cub fan)

        2. awaldstein

          Damn straight! My uncle was a milkman (remember them) and lived in the neighborhood and we would go to games and sit in the bleechers.Prissy–not a chance!

          1. pointsnfigures

            ; )

    2. laurie kalmanson

      lycos homepage, wayback machine

    3. LE

      I remember when you visited me that day. I was wearing a pair of ripped jeans, a t shirt and a dirty Yankees cap.Wow Jerry. Sounds like it was, um, a memorable date.Now I’m writing this comment while in a car outside of Pisa, Italy, traveling at 120 kmh.My holy grail was being able to work on my boat when I was down the shore on the weekends. Closest I came was using the Ardis network [1] on a Apple Newton clone where I was able to setup some routines (with Perl) to intercept an email sent from the device and reply back with some info that I needed. By the time this was easy to do I had sold the boat.[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wi

    4. Steven Kane

      all yankees caps are dirty – an almost certain indicator of brain infection

    5. Semil Shah

      Does Fred hate the Yankees? Didn’t realize this pitted a Mets fan vs a Yankee fan!

  4. markslater

    CMGi Alum – first job out of college (owner operated not @ventures) – incredible learning canvas….bordering on insane…..You forgot Alta vista fred! The one legged step child of lycos!

  5. David Semeria

    We’re retro – we still use servers in the closet!We’ve also got some in the cloud and in co-location but we kept this rack because the noise and the blinking lights are sort of comforting.

    1. Mark Essel

      Hah, we had a rack in our office up until last week- now those servers are in a nearby datacenter.

    2. Joe Marchese

      Always will find a server hugger in every crowd

      1. Vasudev Ram

        and out of the cloud 🙂

    3. LE

      Man I am with you there I love cables, blinking lights and fan noise.I rigged up a backup system with industrial batteries and a power inverter to run things instead of using the high price APC UPS solutions. String batteries together, inverter (with battery cables from Pep Boys), add line cleaner and it would run things for 24 hours (given 900 lbs. of industrial batteries). I “engineered” the entire setup back in the 90’s complete with a failover switch to a maintenance batter. That was fun to do. Also some stuff from this place called “Radio Shack”.

      1. David Semeria

        Totally. There’s something special about looking after your own servers…

        1. Vasudev Ram

          I used to look after other people’s servers … when they had problems. That was special and fun too, as long as you solved the problems most of the time.

      2. Susan Rubinsky

        My APC unit ran for 15 years. Best investment ever. Since it died, I go through one every 1-2 years. They are built to die now.

        1. LE

          I own a bunch of them and other than the battery going dead I’ve actually had good results. I even put a small one on the home dvr so when the power goes out if a recording is in progress it doesn’t get blitzed.When I buy the units I label on them with the install date so I know how long they have been operation. I am curious why they are dying the way you say they are as that hasn’t been my experience in owning quite a bit of them. I had maybe one die and it’s in the “haulaway” picture in another comment I made.

          1. Susan Rubinsky

            Well, a couple died, I think, because there was an electrical fire in my home. I’m pretty sure that zapped them. They didn’t die at the time but both died within a year of the fire. My latest one is too new (only 1.5 years old) to give an assessment.I do recall lugging that old APC unit around with me when I moved (it was much bigger and heavier than newer ones) and people saying, why don’t you just get rid of that? It still worked! Why get rid of it?

        2. Vasudev Ram

          Like ’50s Chevys vs. modern cars. In some countries those Chevys are still going strong, uses as pickup trucks. And the leaf springs are used by blacksmiths to make tools.

  6. jason wright

    are we on the cusp of 3.0?

  7. falicon

    Small quibble: It’s all still actually on servers, only who actually owns, maintains, and runs them has drastically changed.

    1. panterosa,

      Closets are much fancier now!

    2. LE

      Yeah exactly. Servers in colocation had that in the 90’s. The “cloud” concept is a bit different of course (more failover built in) but it’s basically the same thing.

  8. Gregg Freishtat

    Makes me feel old…. Jerry was on the board of my first Internet Company back then and we also had servers in a closet (fire marshal was part of the due diligence). My youngest son, who just graduated high school, was not born…. We we all talking about the “commercialization” of the web and Geocities (another CMGI Company) was our version of social….. Amazing what has transpired and could not be more grateful to have a chance to be in the thick of it with CMGI/Jerry and many others. With Jerry’s help on my first two ventures as a young kid, I learn more than I ever imagined – and it has not slowed down to say the least.

    1. jerrycolonna

      Gregg. We ARE old.

  9. Asim Aslam

    Its fascinating to look at history and see how things played out. We can recognise some patterns that occur cyclically (consolidation vs decentralisation) but could we have predicted where we would be 20 years later? It’s really difficult but also what makes it rather exciting to think about how things will unfold over the next 20 years. The companies that hit their stride in the early 21st century will become the foundation for what comes next but I think we’ll also see new technologies, new companies emerge that we could not have foreseen.It’s clear that the smartphone growth is declining, that we’re moving towards a multi-device world in which they will actually be ingrained in the very fabric of our existence and interactions.The other rather contrarian idea I want to put out there is that in 20-30 years cloud computing may end up being the mainframes of the past era. They are a phase of consolidation which fit a certain purpose but longer term as we start to really scale, as our devices become ever more powerful, as bandwidth poses a non-issue, we’re going to begin to decentralise again. The big players see it, they’re already thinking about it, but startups that address niche markets may actually end up dominating that next phase, then branching out into other verticals and becoming the next Google’s or Facebook’s.

    1. Lawrence Brass

      I don’t think your idea is contrarian, I think is very likely to happen that way. Once IPv6 is fully deployed there is nothing technical holding the internet logical topology to stay as it is now, top down cascading star with compute and data (and pseudo AI) concentrated at the center nodes. The incumbents and government will probably favor this because it is easier to control, but if looked from an architectural point of view it doesn’t fully make sense. It is more a matter of convenience and control.The last mile will likely be 100% wireless in the future and, something I have dream of, is that it will turn into a interconnected WiFi or LTE (7?) router mesh owned and powered by the surrounding community. Streaming media is moving outwards, from the datacenter to caches at the ISPs, it should continue to move outwards into this last mile mesh if we ever want to watch and enjoy truly high fidelity 4K+ media. Maybe all that servers that migrated to the datacenter will come back as much smaller, powerful and reliable interconnected black boxes, into the closet.Have you thought about blockchain nodes living at the same datacenter? I think that predates the whole ‘distributed’ ledger concept and weakens the network. What about truly distributed?Pipe dream? I expect not.

      1. Asim Aslam

        Interesting comments. Thanks for sharing. I agree with a lot of it.I largely ignored IPv6 as an engineer for the last 10 years because it was a distraction in the current state of things. As I now think towards a planet scale p2p network I believe its going to be highly relevant.The point on WiFI/LTE is true and likely will happen. We may even have new spectrums in the mix in the long term. USV is invested in Veniam which looks like a really interesting way to create a p2p wifi network across a city. I hope to see that scale.On the blockchain. While the math is sound I’m not convinced of existing implementations. Speed of transactions is my main concern and also the long term implications of trying to store the entire ledger for all of time. I would rather build an API on top of Google Spanner before using Blockchain but just my opinion.When I think about truly distributed peer to peer compute I think of internet infrastructure and start to wonder about modelling that at a software defined level. The thing I took away from my time at Google was their ability to operate in 2-3 year cycles and build levels of abstraction based on the previous technologies they built. I feel like the world and the tech industry at large doesn’t quite operate like this. We should really be much further along than we are.We built internet infrastructure which powered the next phase of building blocks then we started building apps that are single purpose. I think its now time to build the next layer of abstraction based on the learnings of the past. That’s my goal with micro.mu anyway.

  10. David C. Baker

    Brings back (small) memories! I registered my first domain in early ’96. I had a T-1 line (my iPhone is 3x faster) to my living room for $1,100/month. There were no server companies that I knew of at the time, so I had a DNS server, email server, and web server–three different machines, and all Macs, which was quite a chore to figure out. I built a trap on the website so that anyone surfing to the site via AOL’s browser would just see a blank page. I figured that none of them would be good clients. 🙂

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      LOL!!! Love the AOL trap. You were probably right. Those people are still using the same AOL accounts as their main email address.

  11. Ana Milicevic

    Do any of you know of CS (undergrad?) programs that offer computing history as a course? Or history programs for that matter?

    1. JimHirshfield

      My colleague, Johnny Ryan wrote this book that is on the reading list at Harvard and Stanford…”A History of the Internet and the Digital Future”http://www.amazon.com/Histo…

      1. Ana Milicevic

        Oooh, thank you! That one goes on the reading list. It’s one thing to live through it, and it’s entirely another to read an official account of it 🙂

    2. Sam

      Ana, I remember watching this in the late 90s and thought it was a good resource at the time. Now has a throwback quality to it as well, complete with predictions that have now played out: “By 2005 as many as a BILLION people may be on the Internet.”https://archive.org/details…

    3. Vasudev Ram

      No I don’t, but the Computer History Museum(s) in the US should be a good partial substitute. I know there is one on the West Coast and may one on East too. Smithsonian may be good for this too.

  12. mkodali

    Nostalgia! I started an ISP in Flint, MI in summer of 1995 with 2400 baud modem rack on a T1 line on similar rack/closet. I bought a Netscape webserver on SGI workstation for hosting websites. Hosted All India Radio website (initially just text, no audio) in early 1996 and since it was an authentic news site for many Indians, the traffic just skyrocketed and started clogging the network. Added audio as Real Audio released their product and later video…Exciting & Facinating times!

    1. LE

      I used the Netscape webserver as well. Was a decent product at the time. Wonder what would have happened to Netscape if Microsoft (and Apache) hadn’t cut off their “air supply”. [1][1] http://www.cnet.com/news/mi

    2. Vasudev Ram

      I worked a bit on Netscape web server and also application server, on HP-UX on HP RISC servers. Fun. HP-UX had a good OS patch management system.

  13. Lawrence Brass

    Trumpet Winsock, Altavista, ICQ… I recall paying huge bills to my ISP, don’t regret a single cent, it was pure magic.

      1. markslater

        hardware handshake

      2. Kirsten Lambertsen

        I’ll always remember that sound 🙂 So funny how iconic it is to a particular generation and completely meaningless to those that came after.

        1. Lawrence Brass

          It is, I always think about it in two ways. One is that, as the abstraction level increases, lower levels become invisible and we can focus on building the higher layers. The other way is that the same process is reducing our understanding of the whole picture and making us more dependant. Where we will be in two or three decades?

          1. Vasudev Ram

            Both points are valid. And the second one is not a good thing. Too dependent on the higher abstractions. Same with cars for example. Earlier generations could repair their own cars, some. Now it’s al electronics and proprietary. And soon, AI.

    1. laurie kalmanson

      you’ve got mail

    2. creative group

      Lawrence Brass:can remember being notified by an ill-informed person not to use ICQ because of the Israeli company Mirabilis created and owned the ICQ and gives the chatters information to the Mossad. (Why would we even care?) Didn’t have any reason to not use that chat/instant messaging service until AIM was created. It appears to still be up and running. Wonder how many active users are still on ICQ and how popular it is currently.In 2001 ICQ had over 100 Million active users. Microsoft should have purchased that company immediately.

  14. Matt Zagaja

    Wondering if anyone wants to join my web ring?

    1. sigmaalgebra

      That was an approach to solving the problem of Web site and Internet content search, discovery, and recommendation. That problem is still with us.

    2. Susan Rubinsky


    3. Vasudev Ram

      Ha ha, good one. Saw a few of those back in the Geocities / Angelfire, etc. days.

  15. sigmaalgebra

    Didn’t Know What They HadYahoo and Lycos were correct but, sadly, didn’t know even 1% of how correct they were.Couldn’t See More Than a Week AheadMore generally, in the path from point to point dial-up, e.g., AOL, ARPA-Net, and NSF-Net to the current commercial Internet, we were looking at one of the biggest changes in technology and civilization but nearly no one saw it except just as it happened or maybe only a week in advance.Strange that we were able to make such big changes happen yet see the corresponding future so poorly.Amazon ExampleE.g., if our main Internet access was still voice grade phone dial-up at 1200 baud, 19.2 Kbps, etc., then the huge numbers of JPG files from Amazon would take too long to download. But now data rates to consumers from the Internet are commonly 20 Mbps, that is, 1000 times faster than with 19.2 Kbps dial-up.Now can shop at Amazon and get enough pictures to be nearly as comfortable with that on-line shopping as with local brick and mortar shopping.Without current download data rates, Amazon would still be selling books and records.I’ve often wondered just why Bezos thought that soon his target customers would have download data rates 1000 times faster, e.g., fast enough to watch movies on-line. So, right, Amazon is now also selling movies.So, a lot of old businesses — movie theaters, print media, shopping centers, broadcast TV — are on the way out. Astounding.Current Internet Data RatesIncrease in data rate by a factor of 1000 — it’s close to unique in all of civilization to have such an increase in productivity so quickly.A lot of work was required to get current Internet data rates: The work involved the operating systems, Ethernet connections, cable modems, a lot of Internet service provider (ISP) equipment, and a lot of progress in both high end internet protocol (IP) routers and long haul optical fiber. E.g., we got border gateway protocol (BGP) and dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM).LessonThe commercial Internet came forward with astounding results astoundingly quickly, but it is shocking how poorly seen the progress was, year by year, even just one year in advance.NeedWe need to be able to see the future much more clearly, i.e., the future that will come in general and the future we as individuals can create.IMHO we won’t be able to see all of the future clearly, but in some significant cases we should be able to see clearly enough to know fairly well how our individual projects will go.SummaryBeing nearly blind as such big changes come at us is strange and frustrating and causes us to miss big opportunities. We need to be able to see the future much better.

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      I used to try to convince my two business partners that in the future people would read their books on their computers. This was 1994, 95, 95. They always balked, acting as if I was completely insane. I recently ran into one of those two at a function and he said, “Sue, you were totally right about books. I never saw that coming.” Hahhaha. Too late but still a good laugh.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        Yes, now I do nearly all my reading on my desktop computer screen. And nearly all my writing.But for some of my most important writing,e.g., where I actually think, I still do that with a sharp mechanical pencil, a big soft, eraser, and a stack of copier paper on a clipboard. E.g., I recently typed into Knuth’s TeX a 57 page paper of math, and all the more difficult parts were written on paper first. In fact, even with the great help of TeX, a lot of math is much easier to write in manuscript that with a computer.For reading, a week or so ago I got a copy ofRobert M. Blumenthal and Ronald K. Getoor, Markov Processes and Potential Theory, Dover Publications, ISBN-13: 978-0-486-46263-9, Mineola, New York, 1969.in paperback. That was a fantastic book when I was in grad school, and I made some use of it to get some tricky results I didn’t see elsewhere. Well, for that, so far, having the book version is fine with me.That’s one of those books with an average of 10 cases of clearly per page where each one takes on average two hours at which time agree that it really was clearly.! Then write up the details, with time, date,and the page of the book and in the book at the clearly put a reference to the write-up. For a computer based version, it could be useful to be able to have some feature like writing in the margin.

        1. Susan Rubinsky

          I agree about marginalia.

          1. sigmaalgebra

            marginalia!Ah, you bright girls have no mercy on us poor verbally-challenged boys! I had a good chance against you bright girls in solid geometry and on the Math SAT, but in French and on the Verbal SAT you girls beat me like a “rented mule” with no mercy! I kept turning in term papers in English and getting a B on content and a C on style and with no further feedback on anything I did wrong! No mercy!

          2. Susan Rubinsky

            LOL. Let us agree that men and women compliment each other. (Though I did kick ass in Geometry and was placed two years ahead in science 🙂

          3. sigmaalgebra

            For my getting beaten “like a rented mule” by you bright girls, I have a good way to recover:https://www.youtube.com/wat

  16. pointsnfigures

    Ha, I remember guys trading Yahoo stock. They’d come in and say they made $50 trading it. I always thought stocks moved in cents to $2 increments. Not Yahoo. I knew what Yahoo did since my family got on the internet in 1994. Oh what a joy then it was to get email. Yahoo is exactly why I knew there was a bubble. No stock moves like that-and no stock should have that kind of pricing power with no net profit quarter after quarter. Of course, that attitude kept me from buying Google on the IPO.I remember Lycos ads on the radio (the barking dog) and I used it as a search engine.

  17. Mario Cantin

    I was running my own roofing company of 22 people at the time at the tail end of being in my 20’s; and I was clueless about the internet. Oh well, my bad….

  18. kenberger

    How cool it will be to “time machine travel” back to spots we remember from 20 years ago.Here we can look at the location you are talking about, in 2007, via Google Streetview. 2007 is as far back as it goes, but It’s still neat to see all the change since then (none of the recent bike lane infrastructure we’ve so quickly gotten used to, the Luna Park cafe is still visible, etc):https://www.google.com/maps

  19. L DelGuercio

    1999 I worked at eCiti (Citibank’s innovation lab environment) leading a B2B project with Netscape. It began as skunkworks with a Sun server under my desk and as success would have it, Sun servers filled the office next to mine. Eventually we had to move them to the data center which inhibited our agile development process. Bank innovation has changed but developing great strategic partnerships remains a cornerstone.

  20. dow hardy

    Don’t forget Flatiron selling Gamesville to Lycos in 1999. We didn’t have servers in the closet. They were SGI machines in San Jose that we had the SGI tech rack-and-stack them, and we never once saw them or touched them.

  21. Thees Peereboom

    “Things look a lot differently now. But it helps to go back and think about how it was back then. It gives some perspective.”Yes, and an idea how fast it all can change again..

  22. JamesHRH

    What is it that is running out of a closet on a hacked machine today?It seems as if the big plays have swung back to big research and fundamental, albeit large, challenges.Is the tinkerer / hacker / home-brew cycle at an end?

  23. Sebastien Latapie

    Great to hear the story – now anticipating the longer one on how the VC firm got started up!

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      Fred needs to write a book.

  24. TamiMForman

    I worked at iVillage in the late 90s and I always marvel at what a nutty idea “the internet for women” seemed then, and why. No one believed women would ever use the internet, which now seems like the nutty idea. It was definitely fun to be a part of the early days and amazing to think how far we’ve come …

    1. creative group

      TamiMForman:if we currently look inside the workforces for the majority of tech companies most actually would think we have a lot further to travel. They reek with exclusivity….

  25. Kirsten Lambertsen

    My first tech gig was in 1996 for the guy who founded Point Communications, after he’d left Lycos (Chris Kitze – did you ever meet him? He’s doing a Bitcoiny thing now.). He’d started a free webpage hosting service called XOOM and had brought in a few people who’d just been freed up by the exit of Freeloader.It’s such a small world — on the other hand it’s probably more that your particular world is quite big 😉

  26. Kirsten Lambertsen

    The Wilsons are taking me down Memory Lane hard this week!

  27. Richard

    Got to be able to sell cloudy water. One of the characteristics of entrepreneurs is they have have the ability to sell underperforming products with confience.

  28. Patrick Keane

    Every year at the Jupiter Consumer Online Forum we’d do the requisite “State of the Search Engine” with all the CEOs . . . Harry Motro, George Bell, Tim Koogle, Bob Davis. One year George Bell said something and Bob Davis was dubious of what he said. His response “that’s the thing about George, you ask him for popcorn and he gives you cotton candy.”

  29. iggyfanlo

    Visited the Lycos offices outside Boston on Rte 128 in 1999… I was nervous going in thinking of them as the “Great and Powerful East Coast OZ”… and that’s what they were… It seemed surreal and quite frankly, I was curious about the man (server) behind the curtain

  30. awaldstein

    Hell yes!First job with Atari was running their BBS for enthusiasts and I would live in the server room watching the lights and imaging how to market to this community.

  31. Anne Libby

    Lol, memories.In 1995 while at a bank parts of which are now part of Chase, I “product managed” what might have been the first website in financial services.What this meant was that I convinced my bosses to give me 10K to hire two graduate students (one of whom went on to be an early DoubleClick hire) to program (and probably host) the website.Its first functionality, IIRC, was to return a stock power — a document you probably still need today to transfer ownership of physical stock certificates. We got hundreds of calls a day from individual investors requesting that we mail them these documents.(I wasn’t allowed to hold onto this project once it became a “thing,” management wanted me to have a Real Job that would have a real impact on the company. I think someone in what was called “IT” took it on…)

    1. pointsnfigures

      Blockchain will replace that functionality.

      1. Anne Libby

        Yeah, eventually. I suspect that we’ll see driverless cars before we see the retirement of the last physical stock certificate.

  32. LE

    Things look a lot differently now. But it helps to go back and think about how it was back then.SGI Indy server sitting in office (on T1 line) every time someone hit the site we had it making some kind of sound by monitoring the logs with a Perl routine. [1]O’Reilly books to learn whatever you needed to know.Most memorable thing from that time was having customers all over the world instead of just in the local area. At first when people placed orders and paid money we would email them to make sure they were really serious. They paid by credit cards but the credit card merchant account had to be gamed with a land based business which didn’t exist.[1] That monitoring and glee was removed after a short period of time.

  33. DJL

    The was near the time I downloading the first Mosaic browser, installed on my SUN Unix box, and began browsing. Even in that first minute, you had the sense of “Holy Sh*t – this is going to change everything.”In those days you could register domains names for FREE. I remember thinking, “who would want football.com or golf.com”? (Which is one of the reasons I am blogging instead of floating on my yacht.)

    1. Nik Bonaddio

      I worked with a dude who owned love.com and then let the registration lapse because he forgot about it. Probably cost him millions.

      1. DJL

        Ouch. It is painful to think you were a few easy clicks from being a multi-millionaire and never did it. But who knew? Back then I started sites for: Golf Directory, Online Dating and Online Ticket Reservations and then let them lapse because I couldn’t get traffic (and needed a real job.) Oh well, what’s a few billion here or there?

  34. laurie kalmanson

    YES!!! Related: Doing pageview tracking by embedding1-pixel invisible gifs, because Google and DoubleClick were still to come

    1. Lawrence Brass

      Its remarkable how that tiny 1×1 pixel eggs grew into the monster ad+tracking business.

  35. Tom Labus

    I remember going to Internet World in San Jose during that time. Booths used shirt cardboards to write marketing info. No cash but so much fun. Next year cos had million buck booths and then tanked

  36. Joel Monegro

    I remember Lycos very well. I built my first website about skateboarding on Geocities when I was about 6 and was trying to get it on Lycos. I thought the dog was cool.

  37. Pete Griffiths

    And Google is already showing that another wave is AI/ML (call it what you will).The conflict between privacy and value added relevance is going to explode.

  38. daryn

    Ah, the good old days 🙂 Two stories for you all:1. In 1997, the websites for three MLB teams (yankees, mariners, and braves) as well as the entire American Basketball League depended on a homemade serial cable that was taped to the back of the workstation at my desk in Seattle.2. For a short period in 2001, I ran the primary registry database, whois server, and rrp servers for a top-level domain from my 1-br condo. Stack of servers right in the living room!

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      We (meaning my small startup company) ran the Pilot Pen Tennis Tournament in New Haven in similar fashion in 1996. We hired people to sit at computers in a back room at the stadium and actually update the scores manually.

  39. Paul Sanwald

    I started college in 1995 and I remember someone showing me how to use the NCSA Mosaic web browser, which was a real step up from Lynx, a text only browser. Lycos was quite popular when it first came out.I moved to NYC in spring of 2000 to work at DCN (Digital Club Network), and although we hosted most of our stuff at Globix (colo in chinatown that I spent many hours at), we did host some internal tools in servers under the desk in the office. If memory serves, I think our audio transcoding all went through a server under my desk at one point. It was a great time to be young and just out of college in NYC.

  40. creative group

    Our Lycos connection came when Altavista purchased ragingbull.com and our first name @ragingbull.com was lost forever. Lycos wanted all users to migrate to their site and register. Most opted out. Lycos didn’t realize the DayTraders were at ragingbull.com for the stock information/forums/chatrooms and the Web address was an added bonus. Companies that acquire usually don’t get it. They want the traffic but fail to maintain what attracted and kept the traffic active.

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      Content counts!

  41. Steven Kane

    enjoy the nostalgia posts more than i care to admit.btw, servers in the cloud are still just servers in a closet. just, a huge closet somewhere else, with better climate control, power supplies and surge protection. 🙂

  42. Lawrence Brass

    One of these buildings?.. or probably covered by the trees. View looking NNE.

  43. Semil Shah

    For some reason, I felt a bunch of nostalgia from this. I’ve only been thinking about “internet” businesses for 4-5 years, but back in 1995, I headed off to college and remember using telnet to get email and I was all over emailing my friends and got addicted. Mosaic and Netscape too. But I never stopped to think about the businesses and network effects behind them. They were just tools. I used to hunt all over the web for airfare to travel home during college or visit friends. I remember being reprimanded for using URLs as citations on academic papers. I wish I could have gone back in time, to 1995, and stopped for a minute to understand what was unfolding.

  44. Susan Rubinsky

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

  45. Allen Baum

    Hi Fred… thanks for this post. I was in that old Lycos office and we used to get citations from the fire marshall all the time because there we wires all over the place and across that small closet of an office. Google eclipsed all of the original 1.0 search engines because all of us were rewarded and fixated on becoming a portal of content and traffic while Google saw an opportunity with just search at the time. Then Yahoo put them on the map by doing a deal with them for “Search the Web” and the rest is history.

  46. Greg Van Horn

    2000 I was 17 and hosted a few ecom websites that I built for my web dev clients on a used compaq server I bought off ebay. It sat on the desk in my bedroom, next to my bed, and was connected to the T1 I had, other than that the fastest internet you could get in my really rural area was 28.8. I think my clients used to do around $10k a day in revenue.If they only knew…

  47. LE

    Just got scrapped bunch of hardware from the 90’s including an Apple B&W portrait display in a box never opened as well as a never used Sony 17″ Monitor.Also a Cobalt server. For anyone who doesn’t know Cobalt bought Charlie’s company; [1] [2][1] http://www.nytimes.com/2000…Then Sun bought Cobalt and Oracle bought Sun.[2] Still have the SGI Indy’s (and Sun servers) can’t seem to part with those and perhaps 50 softcover books (the ones that I kept I bought a great deal more)…

  48. Mac

    My story is a little more raw. In the spring of 1996, I found myself sitting in a small room listening to Vinton Cerf talk about the commercial value of the Internet, the existing players like Lycos and Yahoo, and the impact all this would have on how we would do business in the future.I spent the entire time wondering, who is this guy, what in ‘bloomin’ blazes’ is this Internet thing he’s talking about and what’s the big deal about some company called ISP. A lot has happened in twenty years….for me that is.

  49. Vasudev Ram

    I remember seeing ChiliSoft ads in computer magazines in those days.

  50. Susan Rubinsky

    Wow. I had a Cobalt server.

  51. creative group

    LE:just scraped millions forty years from now. What you did is like those who owned millions of worthless bitcoins now running to the landfill to recover the drives. Wow!

  52. Vasudev Ram

    Those Cobalt Qube’s looked fantastic. I was briefly with a startup that had one as its Internet/mail server. Sun bought Cobalt for $2bn.https://en.wikipedia.org/wi

  53. Vasudev Ram

    Of your own? What did you use it for?

  54. Susan Rubinsky

    Not for personal use. I was a partner in a tech firm. We used to buy and test almost every new thing that came out. (It was fun!)

  55. Vasudev Ram

    Sure sounds like it.