The dream of the Internet from the 90s of the last century is still alive, if you look at it from the right angles.
More than 17 million Americans regularly use MapQuest, one of the first digital mapping websites to be long overtaken by Google and Apple, according to research firm Comscore. The Komi dot era portal Go.com closed 20 years ago, but its ghost lives in Go, which part of the web addresses for some Disney sites.
Ask Jeeves, a web search engine that launched before Google, still has fans and people who enter “Ask Jeeves a question” in Google searches.
You may be laughing at AOL, but it is still the 50th most popular website in the United States, according to SimilarWeb. The virtual world of the early 2000s, Second Life has never disappeared and is now has a second life as a proto-metauniverse brand.
Some former online stars have stayed much longer than we might have expected, suggesting that it is possible to create life online long after the star has faded.
“These are almost cockroach brands,” Ben Shot, a brand and advertising columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, said. “They’re small enough and durable enough not to be killed.”
The bug comparison may not be It seems to be a compliment. But there is something stifling about the pioneers who shaped the early Internet, lost their composure and dominance, and eventually built a niche. They will never be as popular or powerful as they were a generation ago, but moldy internet brands can still be worthwhile.
These brands have managed to stay alive through a combination of momentum, nostalgia, the fact that they have created a product that people like, the ability to make money digitally and the oddities of the unstable Internet. If today’s Internet forces like Facebook and Pinterest also lose relevance, they could stay for decades.
System1, which owns MapQuest and HowStuffWorks, among other websites, has a strategy to attract people to its digital property collection through advertising offers or other techniques, turn them into loyal users, and make money from their clicks or other sales. It is not far from the web strategy of the early 2000s to turn “eyeballs” into revenue.
Michael Blend, CEO and co-founder of System1, said his company is spending money on online advertising to lure people to MapQuest and also improve its mapping features. One function added after System1 I bought MapQuest from Verizon in 2019 allows delivery couriers to plan long routes with many stops.
Blend said Gen X nostalgia or online marketing could persuade people to try MapQuest once or twice, but that the company wanted to make the site useful enough to keep coming 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 lasts as long as it is. “There are a lot of internet brands that come and go, and you’ll never hear from them again,” he told me.
I don’t have a great explanation for the sustainability of some internet properties from the 90’s. People are looking for Ask Jeeves, although its owner, the internet conglomerate IAC / InterActiveCorp, gave up the English name butler in 2005 and stop trying to compete with Google search more than a decade ago. The website, now called Ask.com, is mostly a compilation of entertainment and celebrity news.
A Disney spokesman, who previously owned the Go.com website, had no solid explanation for why some of the company’s websites still have Go fingerprints. (Onions years ago mocked Disney for it.) In general, today’s websites are often built on remnants of the old Internet as a modern mansion built on the foundations of a 19th century home.
Shot mentioned something I can’t get out of my head. He said that when a once-beloved restaurant chain or industrial factory closes, the typical public reaction is sadness about what people have lost. But Shot said that when Internet properties like Yahoo and Myspace crash or die, it’s often dismissed as a joke.
“There is a strange malice when technology companies fail, which I don’t think happens to other industries,” he said. “I’m not sure what this is about.”
Maybe that’s starting to change. When Microsoft withdrew its 27-year-old Internet Explorer web browser this month, nostalgia poured out. As the age of the Internet progresses – as do those of us who remember its early years – the more we can experience emotions of emotion about what has happened before.
Before we go…
China’s eyes on its citizens: An investigation from The New York Times found that the surveillance by the Chinese authorities is broader than previously thought. Police want face-detection 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 from iris and DNA scans. The goal, my colleagues said, is “to maximize what the state can understand about a person’s identity, activities and social ties, which can ultimately help the government maintain its authoritarian rule.”
Complaints about bait and switch: Small business owners I say that Google hooked them up to free personalized e-mail software and other software in the workplace and now requires payment in a process they found chaotic. “It seemed unnecessarily trivial,” said a business owner of my colleague Nico Grant.
Other car companies envy Tesla: Well-known car manufacturers such as Ford they want to sell more of their cars directly to online buyersas Tesla does. One problem: Laws in many states require cars to be sold through dealers, Paul Stenquist wrote for The Times.
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