Are You Ready for the Internet? (1994) [video]

168 points9
gfodor14 minutes ago

“Recipes” - it’s always, always there in these kind of things, and makes me laugh every time.

enos_feedler3 hours ago

It's amazing just how quickly you can catch the under estimation of the internet's potential. Within the first sentence, starting with the word "imagine", the largest image that could be conjured is related to viewing content created offline, rather than creating and sharing it within the internet itself. In the furthest stretches of the imagination, the prediction still falls very short. No criticism to anyone in 1994, it's just fascinating how difficult it is to peer far into the future.

unity100125 minutes ago

> the largest image that could be conjured is related to viewing content created offline

Its because 1990s world was still the feudal, one-way world in which large corporations dominated everything and the users 'knew their place' and consumed content and products. Occasionally, a corporation would stoop low as to ask users' feedback to improve their product. And people would praise and elevate that corporation as being 'caring for their customers'. That was it. The extent of users' say in anything.

Early Internet still reflected that world order. It was a one way street in which the people consumed what the corporations produced. There weren't even comment forms under any article in any prominent publication. After all, who are you, a lowly pleb, to comment under an article in which a glorious, 6-figure columnist from the 'right background' wrote. Know your place.

User-generated content lived in the fringes of the Internet in those days. It was the plebs' place. The unwashed.

Then comes blogging. Social media. User-generated content starts to dominate and becomes de-facto content. Everything turns upside down. We are living in its aftermath, in which its even hard to imagine how one-way the early Internet was.

axus13 minutes ago

GeoCities started taking off in early 1996, at the same time started publishing. Of course there was AOL and personal webpages before that.

kurthr15 minutes ago

I hear "knew their place" and all I can think of is that they knew they were watching ads... now many people think that all their content is free (like information wants to be ;^) not realizing they are are the product being sold.

It's not like tiktok/Insta or the news/blog promotional articles are anything but ads... people just don't "know their place" any more.

willhinsa2 hours ago

I think Bowie's prediction for the impact of the internet was not too far off the mark.

revolvingocelot2 hours ago

The parent comment is 6 minutes, but the full 15 minute interview (about more the the internet) is worth it:

paul79862 hours ago

Napster came into existence in '99

Julesman2 hours ago

This video certainly isn't the most profound take on the future of the internet at that time. By this point people were predicting just about everything we have now. Mainstream coverage of that has always sounded out of touch.

poszlem7 hours ago

Kind of makes me wonder what would those people say if we played them Bo Burnham's Welcome to The Internet from 2021:

cainxinth4 hours ago

As early as 2003, popular culture was catching on to the fact that the ‘information superhighway’ had some potholes:

dredmorbius45 minutes ago

Issues with the Internet date to its origins ... and inventors. Paul Baran in the 1960s, amongst others, whom I've compiled here:


Sources / instances date to the 1980s or earlier, addressing specifically the false assertion by many that "nobody saw this coming".

pkdpic4 hours ago

I bet that lady would be pretty amped up about the streaming video quality. And all the Bill Clinton saxophone videos she could watch on there.

Also thanks for getting Bo stuck in my head for the rest of the day. That song has all the answers.

april_226 hours ago

And I am even more excited by thinking about what the internet will look like in 2031

irrational5 hours ago

Based on past experience, it is going to look a lot like the internet of today. Things just don't move that fast that 9 years will make much of a difference.

adrianN5 hours ago

Like the internet today, but with more ads, more sponsored content, and more AI generated submarines.

pkdpic4 hours ago
AndrewUnmuted5 hours ago
losvedir9 hours ago

Wow, the phrase "information superhighway" really brought me back. I hadn't heard that for quite some time!

desindol8 hours ago

Fun fact: Because of this phrase (In German „Datenautobahn“) the German digital ministry is docked to the ministry of transport…

dredmorbius36 minutes ago

I recently learned that one of the major competition regulators in Germany is called the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur or BNetzA), which oversees electricity, gas, telecommunications, post, and railway markets.


Given my own relatively recent realisation that virtually all industrial monopolies can be considered (sometimes with some mental gymnastics) as networks, this is an interesting bit of confirmation.

sn417 hours ago

This makes sense. Cloud computing should be part of the Meteorology department!

photochemsyn5 hours ago

The Department of Agriculture would beg to differ - clearly the oversight of server farms should be their responsibility.

boole18543 hours ago
mseepgood7 hours ago

Shouldn't it be linked to the agricultural department because of the phrase "Neuland"?

Eduard3 hours ago

Heavy "citation needed" here.

gaius_baltar6 hours ago

But it can only manage policies for Layer 4 and above, right? :)

peteradio8 hours ago

That's amazing, I don't even care if its true.

kevin_thibedeau1 hour ago

Reminiscent of how New York transferred responsibility for the state canal system to the electric power authority because of NYSDOT mismanagement.

instance8 hours ago

Check it out:

"Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport"

mtmail7 hours ago
mr_mitm7 hours ago

Doesn't confirm the "Because of this phrase" part of the claim.

aspyct8 hours ago

OMG this is... quite the misunderstanding -_-'

the_jesus_villa6 hours ago

Ironically, I just ran into this phrase last week while reading an anthropology paper from the 90's ("Maya Hackers and the Cyberspatialized Nation-State: Modernity, Ethnostalgia, and a Lizard Queen in Guatemala")

Whenever I hear this phrase it reminds me the part in the book Cryptonomicon where the pretentious humanities professor feels so clever for asking "How many slums will we bulldoze to build the Information Superhighway?"

EvanAnderson6 hours ago

Oh, ugh... Memories of all the awful road metaphor headlines of the time are flooding back-- "Breaking Down on the Information Superhighway", "Traffic Jams...",

frank_nitti4 hours ago

Unfortunately that term brings an even more awful memory back for me and many others, as That enthusiasm was used for a brazen lie to the American public:

Eduard3 hours ago

Google Trends shows "information superhighway" is getting midly more popular again in recent time:

illys5 hours ago

I heard that so many times in the 1990's in France, "les autoroutes de l'information". I knew that politicians were running after what the USA do, but I did not realize that they were also translating and recycling the very same words.

I just realized it while watching that 1994 video :-)

ulkesh6 hours ago

And, as evident in the video, its considerable overuse. I cringed watching this every time she said it beyond the first few times.

Jimajesty5 hours ago

I've been reading Douglas Copeland's 1994 novel "Microserfs" recently and there's a bit where the main character starts reading up on actual highway construction in response to the information superhighway.

alcover3 hours ago

Is it as good as Generation X ? Also I'd love Coupland to reiterate and do a 'Generation Z' about zoomers and digital natives.

nuker6 hours ago

I built a retro 486 PC, bought a modem and could not find any dial-up ISPs in Australia. The 19xx prefix is not dial-able using VoIP line that I set up (we don't have POTS lines anymore).

mynameisash2 hours ago

I would - unironically - love to build an 'early internet' where we could dial in (or just emulate it via an intentionally low-bandwidth, high-latency layer over home wifi). Go back to chat rooms, islands of communities centered around a particular topic.

myth_drannon32 minutes ago

There is a device you connect to your computer port and it can emulate dial up. It connects to your wifi but your computer sees it as a modem, then you type regular AT commands and instead of a number it connects to telnet BBSs.

Cyberdog49 minutes ago

You're in luck - here's a list of still-operative dial-up BBSes:

prox5 hours ago

Well, you can built a new internet! Just find some more computers to connect to!

mikehollinger7 hours ago

1. This brought me back. When she clicked into the "mall" and the navigation was an imagemap with hotlinks [1] going off to a flower shop, I immediately thought of a website that some guy payed me to build back in the 90's when I was in high school. He bought,, etc and wanted to create a directory for local businesses. Also - good on you, Philips Flowers, for keeping in what must've been intense pressure from!

2. We still can't buy items directly in-stream. However, product placement is huge, and not just for consumer goods. Music featured in Stranger Things ends up trending on Spotify. Apple creates a playlist (in its own platform) for "Defiant Jazz," featured in Severance, also on its own platform).

3. Regulation (or lack of regulation) played out in an interesting way. We now have an interesting problem with digital infrastructure in the US anyway, where copper cables (still) only get you so far, wireless is the new expectation, and countries that -had- no comms infrastructure are by default more modern now than large tracts of the US, because they skipped past the "telephone poll" phase straight to cell towers.


cypress667 hours ago

Cell towers are not a replacement for wired connections. There's only so much data rate you can have for a given frequency bandwidth[1]. Wires (or fibers) work around this because the medium isn't shared. Each wire has the entire spectrum for itself.


mikehollinger7 hours ago

Oh absolutely! I guess I'm confusing my own point - which is / was that in some places cell towers are showing up -before- wireline connections.

uni_rule6 hours ago

I suppose it is easier to run one major fiber line to a cell than it is commit to FTTH. Still I though this was a half-deserved dig at how outside of cell-service many more rural parts of North America still top out at decades old ADSL, and the places that do have good broadband are often via cable tv infrastructure (DOCSIS). I suppose if someone did build new infrastructure from scratch they would just start at LTE/5G and laying fiber to the premises, why start anywhere else?

wing-_-nuts4 hours ago

Anyone else pained by the fact that it's 28 years later and we STILL don't have fiber deployed widely? My parents are paying $65 / mo for 5mb dsl, and it's the best option they can get a stones throw outside of the city limits. Pathetic when you compare it to municipal broadband deployed everywhere with powerlines like in Chattanooga, TN

capableweb4 hours ago

Yeah, absolutely ridiculous how slow the US has been regarding rolling out low-latency fiber. Granted, smaller countries could do it easier but even so, consumer fiber-optic connections have been around since the 2000s, and still it seems like it's mostly only available in bigger cities in the US.

formerkrogemp3 hours ago

A lot of the billions of dollars earmarked over the decades for telecom and cable companies was spent on dividends and buybacks rather than fiber rollout as intended.

thakoppno3 hours ago

We live a mile from facebook headquarters in the middle of silicon valley and our neighborhood just got fiber 6 months ago.

irrational5 hours ago

World Wide Web (or WWW) is too long to say and "The Web" never really caught on, but the Internet is not quite accurate. It feels like we need a word to differentiate IP from HTTP. Though, since we haven't come up with one yet, I guess we will just have to live with the WWW being called the Internet.

antiterra5 hours ago

What exactly is your requirement for ‘the web’ catching on?

It’s used very often on ycombinator in submission titles and comments. I see it used by millennials and gen z on Discord, though more commonly as an adjective, eg ‘oh is it just web or is there an app?’

Sometimes they drop ‘the’ and it becomes “hey i saw this on web.” Online Korean comics are usually just called webtoons instead of manhwa. It’s used on corporate sites, ads, hotel amenities descriptions and in references to ‘the dark web.’

What more do you need?

caseyohara2 hours ago

"Web" absolutely caught on. Web browser, web site, web app, web designer, web developer, web cam, (we)blog, web comic, surfing the web. These are all words most people know and use.

thrdbndndn3 hours ago

I have a vague idea about the difference between WWW and the Internet but never very sure.

For example, I assume all the "apps" don't count as WWW? But some services (most?) have their web versions, so it's kinda hard to distinguish.

irrational2 hours ago

It has to do with what protocol they are using to communicate with the server/cloud/whatever. If they are using HTTP/S (hyper text transfer protocol) then it is web/www. Otherwise, it is some other protocol. For example, email (technically) uses SMTP (simple message transfer protocol).

However, all of these run on top of the Internet Protocol (IP). So, everything is internet, but not everything on the internet is http.

Apps are almost certainly using HTTP under the hood to communicate with their servers, so technically they are a part of the web, which is a part of the internet.

joegahona5 hours ago

For a while, I remember "The Net" being used. It sounds very wrong now.

jbb_hn4 hours ago

Probably due to that provocative movie on cable TV by the same name.

It had that girl from the bus.

nilsbunger4 hours ago

That movie showed ip addresses with fields greater than 255!

krapp5 hours ago

>It feels like we need a word to differentiate IP from HTTP.

We really don't, because technical accuracy isn't relevant to the vast majority of people, who aren't discussing protocols to begin with.

And anyway,I think people stopped referring to "the internet" in general once it became ubiquitous enough that it became more useful to refer to specific sites instead, or genres of services like social media. I think the only time people use "the internet" anymore is in reference to their ISP, eg: "the internet" going down.

alt2278 hours ago

When I pause Netflix, why dont I have the option to purchase the clothes they are wearing on screen?

sjm-lbm6 hours ago

The much more wild thing is that Amazon Prime Video doesn't do this. The overall interface and concept is not far from the "X-Ray" view that Amazon already has... and, of course, they have a built in retailer you could order from.

JohnJamesRambo6 hours ago

Why don’t I even have the option to have friends on Netflix and make lists of movies I watch that I think they would like?

dredmorbius30 minutes ago

This has been tried ... numerous times. I recall a brief-lived CBS Interactive site / app in the late aughts. Went nowhere.

Most such interaction now occurs within extant social groups. Much as you'd watch a TV show or go to a theatre with friends, most people now discuss films on their self-centric social media. FB / Instagram / Reddit / Twitter, etc., usually with at least some people they know directly.

Conversing with absolute strangers has far less appeal.

SourPatch2 hours ago

They had this feature (sort of). I don't remember if you could recommend movies to others, but you could have friends and see each other's viewing history.

micromacrofoot4 hours ago

This is one of those features that people think they want, and would cost Netflix a ton of money, but would ultimately become filled with spam and would only have a small number of power users. It's a big money pit that does little to retain users and generate revenue. "More social" has been pitched to Spotify countless times and it would likely face a similar fate.

c0mptonFP8 hours ago

Gotta drink a verification can to enable it

scyzoryk_xyz8 hours ago

Ubik ... Safe when taken as directed.

paxys4 hours ago

Because those aren't mass manufactured clothes sold at retail but something the costume department threw together specifically for that scene.

fikama7 hours ago

Becouse Netflix is not from China (I heard that chinese tiktok has exactly this option) - just a fun fact

lm284697 hours ago

It's just advertising, American's instagram has it too

illwrks7 hours ago

Imagine the admin required to setup and manage something like that...

If implemented now, what about in 2032 when you're watching re-runs from 2022?

What if the store goes bust or styles change?

TYPE_FASTER6 hours ago

Deepfakes will solve this

Display advertising will show you products that you have expressed an interest in today.

Streaming video has ad slots similar to traditional linear TV because it's what people are used to. There is the opportunity to do much much more.

What I could see happening is content changing to be tailored to the viewer. This would both decrease subscriber churn in the increasingly competitive streaming space, as well as add a feature to advertise via the content itself.

You like the pants? Point your remote at them to purchase with a single click. Honestly, I could see Amazon sponsoring streaming content for that purpose. AWS has streaming services and Amazon has been doing the logistics for decades.

slfnflctd5 hours ago

> the opportunity to do much much more

I envision clothing & hairstyles being changed in the same video from one year to another, or even customized per viewer demographic. Admins could simply toss some product links over and let the ML do its thing.

Of course, this would require a ton of standardization of product types and categories, which I could see being difficult to get consensus on. Perhaps one company/consortium would corner the market and just use human labor to fill the gaps where automation isn't ready, much as is often done today.

Joker_vD7 hours ago

Surely that's a job that ML would handle easily?

brazzy5 hours ago

Set up an API that allows anyone to tag videos and earn a commission in sales based on that tag. Let them figure out where it makes sense to invest the effort and how to automate it.

Spam would be a huge problem, of course.

mudrockbestgirl8 hours ago

Because we got NFTs instead.

1970-01-016 hours ago

Related are the AT&T "You will" commercials.
rmatt20002 hours ago

Here is one of my favorite videos from the early days of the web. Two popular morning television hosts discuss the at-symbol and ask "what is internet, anyway?"

cm21878 hours ago

Funny to see the BBC complaining about "letting the market forces" build the internet. The said market forces didn't do too bad.

tambourine_man8 hours ago

Considering that ARPANET and CERN were both government funded, I’d say market forces had little to do with it.

beardyw8 hours ago

Yes, it was a government initiative to create a decentralised network. Getting ready in 1994 was over 20 years late.

Fun fact: Queen Elizabeth sent an email in 1976. Or more likely she pressed a button.

fundad5 hours ago

Not to mention BBC

jimbokun5 hours ago

Didn't Europe, with their combined industry and government coordinated plan, leap frog US connection speeds, where things were left only to the market?

tannhaeuser8 hours ago

Err, for a while, they didn't. But soon enough new gatekeepers and middlemen (GAFA, Paypal) returned which not only had we hoped to get rid of, but even paid public money (ARPA, CERN, W3C) and established net neutrality legislation for, in vain.

Bayart8 hours ago

Without nationwide regulation to homogenize the network, it looks like it can be very perfectible (looking at the US).

mizzao8 hours ago

You mean the oligopoly of big tech?

cm21878 hours ago

If it was government controlled, it would be even less diverse. Think of the original AOL, but country wide.

throwaway7875448 hours ago
laxd8 hours ago

Disappointed to not find a flower shop at

exodust5 hours ago

Even the order form is still there, ready for your credit card. There's a link on the order form, "credit card concerns"...

> "...we feel that using a credit card here may be more secure than using it at your local restaurant. We don't know. We haven't had a problem in this area."

I guess "we don't know" covers them just in case things go wrong!

retro644 hours ago

Pity - I used your link and tried hunting for the Mother's Day bouquet she was looking at but it wasn't archived.

TheDudeMan3 hours ago
jedberg3 hours ago

The irony of watching this on my high speed fiber based internet connection while the host talks about the future where one can watch high quality video on high speed fiber connections.

The future is now!

jedberg4 hours ago

I like the not so subtle dig at John Major's total lack of policy regarding the internet in 1994.

SMAAART8 hours ago
jlarocco4 hours ago
throwaway7875448 hours ago
standardUser1 hour ago

Narrator: "They weren't"

brudgers6 hours ago


Ed Krol's The Whole Internet

ghaff5 hours ago

I have that on my bookshelf. I particularly like that there's one chapter near the end on this new-fangled WWW thing.

shahahmed4 hours ago

i liked her light dig at the british govt for not having a modem or a policy on the internet. funny how different it is now with all the european regulation of the internet.

chrisco2553 hours ago

Yes, thank you Europe for the cookie popups.

Eduard2 hours ago

Blame the industry for doing so much tracking and at the same time not developing an industry standard for automating user consent decisions.

igortg5 hours ago

Funny thing that sending an e-mail to the president (Brazilian president) was one of the first things I did when got online (1995). It was basically Playboy website and this till I found IRC :p

shever737 hours ago

I miss programmes like Tomorrow’s World.

phelm8 hours ago

Interesting that the copper wires stuck around, UK's fibre optic rollout still ongoing not to be completed til 2026 or later

someweirdperson6 hours ago

Inventions like mp3 probably helped to reduce the pressure to upgrade.

uni_rule6 hours ago

I think it would have more to do with Fiber to the Node allowing ISPs to only half-upgrade their infrastructure and still achieve workable broadband, even if having the foresight to do straight fiber would have been a much better goal to work towards at the time.

anderspitman6 hours ago

They were not, in fact, ready.

mr_sturd8 hours ago

Port explicitly specified in at least one URL. Was HTTP without a standard port back in '94?

capableweb8 hours ago

> On March 1990 they published the document RFC1060 ( where they listed the well-known ports at that time. In that list there wasn't a protocol assigned to port 80. It went from 79 to 81:

    79       FINGER     Finger                                
    81       HOSTS2-NS  HOSTS2 Name Server                     
> So, at that time port 80 was officially free.

> In 1991 Tim Berners-Lee issued the first version of HTTP in a document about HTTP 0.9 ( where he stated:

>> If the port number is not specified, 80 is always assumed for HTTP.

> Then in July 1992 was published RFC 1340 that obsoletes RFC 1060 ( where appears:

    finger           79/tcp    Finger                            
    finger           79/udp    Finger                            
    www              80/tcp    World Wide Web HTTP               
    www              80/udp    World Wide Web HTTP       
> That document makes official the port 80 as www or http. [...]


So at 1994, 80 is pretty much the default, but sometimes it was specified anyways, just like some addresses you see around still prints/shows http:// / https://. Not everyone know what part of the URI is important or not.

Steltek7 hours ago

I figured that it was someone's idea to get above the 1024 mark when all they had was a shell account and people weren't using :8080 yet. It could also be that "virtual hosting by name" wasn't a thing yet so a single computer hosting multiple sites had to break it out by port.

paulgb6 hours ago

I think you’re right that it’s about virtual hosts. AFAICT the Host header first appeared in this 1997 RFC:

incanus774 hours ago

I don’t remember why, but many engineering schools, including the one I was attending, used 8080 for department websites. I feel like that was the second most common that I saw.

kolleykibber6 hours ago

She mentions that this was all downloaded previously. They prob have a local server/DNS.

ok1234562 hours ago

Yes and it was 80.

theden7 hours ago

Maybe it's nostalgia, but there's something calming about CRTs...

euroderf22 minutes ago

The amber ones had excellent contrast, unsurpassed IMHO.

FartyMcFarter6 hours ago

As I remember it they were a pain to look at for long periods.

Maybe there was some upside to that though, encouraging people not to stay on the computer for too long...

chrisco2553 hours ago

They're great fun on moving day! Very calming to lug a 50 pound crt up three flights of stairs!

Loeffelmann5 hours ago

I just imagined the static feeling of touching them with your hand. Damn nostalgic...

B1FF_PSUVM2 hours ago

Putting the back of your hand close enough to the screen could be a hair-raising experience ...

timnetworks6 hours ago

personal information in professionally produced video before the first minute is out. it's not even the anchor, probably just staff.

antihero6 hours ago

It'll never catch on.

therealmarv4 hours ago

I'm also deeply sceptical.

ck24 hours ago

For some reason this made me flashback to the summer of 1981 when MTV first went on the air

Spot the mainframe cabinet and wait for the full wall Moog

(they actually showed non-stop videos back then, it was awesome, nothing like it before)

euroderf21 minutes ago

They went like the first two or three years without commercials. Hard to believe now.

buildsjets4 hours ago

Music videos and live performances are about 99% of my YouTube consumption, so it's been a great MTV replacement for me.

ngcc_hk5 hours ago

Around that time is it the plan to move to iso/osi 7 level. Is there migration to that? Is a chairman of a little known committee called ietf …

That is my memory. There is some sort of gov standardisation towards that. Read some ietf papers in u and very confused by that direction.

SubiculumCode6 hours ago

The answer is no. We were not ready for the internet. Its made people crazy.

everyone8 hours ago

All the websites shown probably implemented way better than most modern ones?

meijer4 hours ago

Definitely simpler. You could just "View source" and understand everything.

dis-sys6 hours ago

well, 28 years after airing of this report, most UK & EU internet services are now provided by a few American companies. for other smaller countries in Asia and Africa, things are probably worse, they are pretty much denied for their digital sovereignty with all essential online services, privacy data and sometimes the infrastructure itself completely controlled by those few companies.

uni_rule6 hours ago

Which companies? Unless you mean websites and not the ISPs themselves, in which case, fair.