The Once and Future Internet

What did the future look like to the cognoscenti of the information industry in 1993? Mining Google Groups' vast Usenet archive is a great way to uncover informal history that can offer fascinating answers to questions like these.

Today's SearchDay article, The Future of the Internet, Eleven Years Ago, surfaces a Usenet posting reporting on the Internet World/Document Delivery 93 conference, where prominent pundits offered their takes on the future of the Net. It reads like a blog posting, and provides fascinating insights into the time just before the "big bang" of Internet growth that occurred in the mid-90s.

The Net was decidedly non-commercial in 1993, yet there was emerging consensus that online advertising would gradually become an important phenomenon. Remarkably, none of the speakers (even Garrett Gruener, who would co-found Ask Jeeves three years later) directly predicted search as the killer app of the future. Of course, the web was tiny in 1993, but it's still fascinating that such a huge, developing megatrend was all but invisible to the key players in the online information industry of the day.