A Look Back In Techdirt History

from the what-happened-this-week dept

Another week, another time to reflect on what we were writing about five, ten and fifteen years ago.

Five Years Ago:

Turns out this week was the first time we wrote about two of my favorite folks in the music industry, both of whom have been at the forefront of embracing changing technologies, and both of whom I now consider friends. First up was Dave Allen (now at Beats Music) talking about helping bands try out a pay what you want scheme for their merchandise, and finding that fans actually paid more than when they set prices. We also wrote about Amanda Palmer singing a song asking that her label drop her. They eventually did (much, much later), and she’s gone on to do many amazing things, including having one of the most successful Kickstarter projects ever (though, that may be one of the least interesting aspects of all she’s done to build a community around her music).

That week were also surprised but hopeful to see the Appeals Court rule in the Golan Case that pulling works out of the public domain was unconstitutional. Unfortunately, a few years later, the Supreme Court overturned that ruling, in yet another awful Supreme Court ruling on copyright. Five years ago was also when France passed the law that launched its 3-strikes Hadopi regime, which has since been recognized as a complete and total failure, and basically shut down. On that front, one of the main music industry lobbying groups was found infringing on copyrights, because that always seems to happen.

Also, Time Warner Cable was in the process of expanding its capped broadband plans. Some things never ever change.

Ten Years Ago:

As you may have heard, this past week was the launch of Gmail with the immediate question raised of whether or not it was “creepy.” While a California State Senator quickly sought a law to ban Gmail, claiming that was “an absolute invasion of privacy,” it seems that the vast majority of folks out there were never that concerned about it. 500 million users don’t seem to mind — and as others have noted, Gmail has significantly changed how people use email.

10 years ago we also wrote about Pennsylvania officials seizing computers from an ISP, blaming the ISP for some child porn found on Usenet. That case was CDT v. Pappert, and became a very important case on establishing how Section 230 protecting internet service providers from the actions of their users. It’s too bad, this week, we had to write about efforts to undermine Section 230.

Also 10 years ago, two of Hollywood’s favorite Senators, Orrin Hatch and Patrick Leahy, introduced the PIRATE bill, which would have given millions of dollars to the DOJ to file civil cases against people accused of copyright infringement. While it eventually passed the Senate, it died a welcome death in the House.

Fifteen Years Ago:

It was actually a fairly quiet week… but we did have stories on the launch of Tivo (and the big funding of its one time competitor, ReplayTV) and the fact that Mark Cuban became a billionaire by selling Broadcast.com to Yahoo. Happy anniversary, Mark.

Twenty Years Ago:

Okay, we weren’t publishing then, but twenty years ago Netscape was founded (originally as Mosaic Communications). I remember reading about it, and had been an NCSA Mosaic user prior to that. I also remember downloading an early copy of Netscape, which was a massive 4 megs in size. I had to set it to download overnight on my 2800 baud modem while I slept. That was about the time I really started to think about upgrading to a superfast 14.4 k modem. Exciting times. Either way, Netscape was a key part in mainstreaming the web, and my entire career has been based on the web, so a big thank you to Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark.

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Comments on “A Look Back In Techdirt History”

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I’ve wondered if the outrageous prices paid for these companies might have been due to patents. Why else (other than sheer stupidity) would a company like Yahoo pay billions of dollars for a small website operation with relatively few customers and little to no revenue? And broadcast.com is far from the only one.

Individual investors frequently follow the “greater fool” investment strategy — buying soaring stocks they know are ridiculously overpriced but believing they will go much higher (before eventually crashing back to earth). Basically the same rationale that draws seemingly-competent people to pyramid schemes. But when a major corporation pays an astronomical price for something they intend to keep long-term and presumably develop(but usually don’t), I’ve got to wonder if these people are all really as stupid as they seem, or were they paying top-dollar for the purpose of acquiring patent-troll protection?

After all, Amazon’s (in)famous “shopping-over-the-internet” patent might have alone easily sold for 50 or 100 billion dollars.

Mike Masnicksays:


I’ve wondered if the outrageous prices paid for these companies might have been due to patents. Why else (other than sheer stupidity) would a company like Yahoo pay billions of dollars for a small website operation with relatively few customers and little to no revenue? And broadcast.com is far from the only one.

While the price for broadcast.com was shocking at the time, to argue that it had relatively few customers and little to no revenue is way off. At the time, broadcast.com really was the dominant player in any sort of audio online. You could easily look at it and think it would become something like YouTube today.

G Thompsonsays:

You know 20yrs ago wasn’t when I was thinking of.. Damn I feel old when I still think the 90’s was only a decade ago and my 80’s were when I was BBS’ing and wandering the virtual rooms of European servers without paying whistles and looks all innocent

Though I do remember using Packet Radio (Packrat) to retrieve the Fidonet feed once every night (about 1am to 3am) since it was cheaper (FREE!!!) than using ISDN or the even more expensive calling of International modems.

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