Whatever happened to the dotcom Heroes?



History It's now twenty years since we first installed an internet connection at home. A dial-up 56k "Surftime" package from BT only available at evenings and weekends, it cost about as much as the fibre connection we have now and would take twenty minutes to download an mp3. But as way into the world and increasing my quality of life it was incalculable.  Although I'd had access to the web since university in 1993, the ability read news and blogs and do everything else in my own bedroom was incalculably cool.  If anything the web feels smaller now, habit leads us to view the whole thing through a Twitter or Facebook feed and the variety of innovation feels limited.

About a year later on the other side of the millennium, Louise Praddow's "HEROES.COM: the names and faces behind the dot com era" was published.    One of numerous books released about the web at that time, it's a fascinating survey of what were considered the most prominent websites of the era and the entrepreneurs staking their livelihood (or that of their investors) in the new frontier through the medium of interviews alongside the smiling faces of their subjects.  Or as Praddow characterises them in the acknowledgements, "the individuals who are shaping the future [...] changing the way we work and play, braking away from the corporate rules of the past".

Two decades on, how does this version of the web measure up to what we have today?  How many of these pioneers survived the bust, either as individuals or their websites and what are they doing now?  Did any of them forsake the web and become an artisanal baker or survivalist sheep farmer?  The purpose of this new blog project is to have a look at each of these interviews, wallow in the nostalgia and then see what happened next.  Twenty years has been a long time online, so it'll be interesting to see how many of these innovators became the establishment and the extent to which they've truly guided how the web and internet "are" as a "thing".


It seems only fair that we begin with the author(s).  The Foreword is written by Paul Taylor, who as his Linked-In indicates was for many years a technology journalist at the FT apart from during a two year window in 2000-2002 (around the publication of the book) when he co-founded the451.com whose first appearance on the Wayback Machine is this placeholder website in May 2000:

By June 2000 it had begun publication:



Sadly none of the news stories seem to have been captured by the Wayback Machine.  But already we're at the apex of turn of the millennium website styling.  WAP was the forerunner of the "mobile" version of websites we have today, but ironically the main website here is what would be considered the mobile version now.  the451.com is already confidently predicting the end of paper, with its name and the idea that they're "lighting a fire under conventional technology news".

By 2003, the site had gone from being overtly newsy to providing "an analyst firm providing insight and commentary in the technology" and is still in business, even if it's no longer giving its analysis away for free and obscures the origin of its name through cool-blue colour scheme.



As per his Linked-In profile, Taylor would continue at the FT until 2014 when he'd jump ship to SAP, a technology market intelligence firm which would seem to be one of 451's competitors.  How many of the individuals named in this book will be revealed as having a similar career path?



The book's author Louise Proddow began her career as a marketing communications manager for Toshiba (1991-1993) before moving to Sun Microsystems in 1994 where she remained until 2005 as Global Director Strategic Programs & Marcoms Campaigns which she mentions in the acknowledgements to this book as a way of explaining how she was able to contact this variety of people.  In the same period, she wrote from Guardian columns here and here which can be seen as forerunners to the book, especially the introduction.

As she says on her Linked-In, she went from there to Nokia, as Head of Marketing, thence to Dell, before in 2011 becoming the founder of Tweak Marketing and then taking a career swerve in Rejuvage an "anti-aging" website.  Here she is introducing the company on YouTube:



After twenty years, Praddow has gone on to create just the sort of start-up that she surveyed, as you'll see, in her 2000 book.  The future just happened.

Audrey for very Liddell.

Books At the beginning of the year I wrote about how combining an Amazon Kindle purchase with its "narration" means you can buy audiobooks at a fraction of the cost.

Here's a classic example:

Keris notices that the Busy Philips autobiograph This Will Only Hurt A Little is just 99p on Kindle today.

But the added Audible narration is just £2.99. So you can get the digital book and audio combined for £3.98, which is £34.48 if you bought them separately.

Yes, I bought them.  I regret nothing.



Adorable.