On the occasion of their 10th birthday, Internet icon Yahoo! has created a celebration of the “history” of the web. First, some things you should know: This history only covers 10 years, which really only represents the public awakening of the Internet. The origin of the Internet, a military network called ArpaNet, started back in the 1960’s. Second, we should bear in mind the overwhelming success of Yahoo! to make sense out of chaos. When first conceived, it was another entry in the growing list of tools to help make sense and order out of the rapidly growing World Wide Web. (In fact, the name “Yahoo!” is an acronym representing “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.”) But they’ve done some things extremely well in the past ten years, and are now, according to founders David Filo and Jerry Yang, “touching the lives of more than 300 million people every month.” So I think they’re to be forgiven for inserting themselves so brazenly into the history.
For inspiration, Yahoo! looked to the work of information artist Jonathan Harris. Harris’s best-known work is his 10×10 project, which automatically gathers the top 100 words and pictures in the world every hour, based on what’s happening in the news, and then displays these words and pictures in an interactive 10×10 grid. Harris calls 10×10 “an often moving, sometimes shocking, occasionally frivolous, but always fitting snapshot of our world.”
It works by collecting 100 most relevant words and photos, based on usage by a group of leading international news sources. It then compiles words and photos into an interactive 10×10 grid that allows the user to further explore each topic. The collection runs with complete autonomy, providing no commentary or bias (other than the obvious bias of the subject being topical), so it provides a distinctly unique snapshot of our world – and the events shaping it – every hour.
Yahoo! took the approach from 10×10 and created their own snapshot of the past ten years, as opposed to the last hour. They call their work the “Yahoo! Netrospective: 10 Years“, and it attempts chronicle the leading events in Internet development over the past ten years. Events highlighted include some of the biggest names around: the incorporation of Yahoo!, the Netscape rise to fame, the birth of eBay, and the death (or at least the temporary demise) of Napster. It also includes some major trends, like day trading, open source development, and fantasy sports.
And, of course, no Internet retrospective would be complete without covering such infamous topics like the rise and fall of Howard Dean; the short life, hype, and death of Pets.com; and the strangely persistent Naked News.
For most of us, this trip down memory lane is filled with moments of “Ah, I remember that…”, some of which are followed immediately by, “I sure wish I could forget it.” The Netrospective, and its inspiration 10×10, are both fun to use, beautiful, and captivating.