Internet Turns 40, Just Might Catch On

Media outlets seem to have settled on October 29 as the official birthday of the Internet. This date has been chosen because it’s the day that Leonard Kleinrock at the University of California-Los Angeles sent a message over a two-computer network (the other end being a computer at Stanford Research Institute) with Charley Kline manning the UCLA keyboard and Bill Duvall on the Stanford site. It’s worth noting that the computer carrying the first ever transmission on the Internet (“LOGIN”) crashed after only two letters (“LO”). I believe that Kline actually typed an “L” for the third letter (instead of “G”) and in a fit of future-sensing self-sacrifice, executed a core dump all over the floor.

Some may point out that on September 2, 1969, two computers were connected with a 15-foot cable and passed data back and forth. That was a precursor to the networking that happened a month later, but is not generally regarded as the birth of the Internet. Just as neither the first email message (1971) nor the first web browser (1993) are considered the birth of the Internet.

Given this historic day, there has been a lot of media coverage (some of it pretty bad, just like the average YouTube video) detailing some of the steps or milestones of the last 40 years. Some of the crunchy bits:

The opening image of this post is an Internet timeline (in extra large format so you can read it from the other room, or across the street) from Daily News LA article “How the Internet was born at UCLA.”

Videos and Audio Bits

The All Things Considered broadcast:

A somewhat technical perspective of the time leading up to and after the birth of the Internet:

A video from 1993 by the CBC covering the “growing phenomenon of Internet” (covering mostly just Usenet):

The Web

For those who don’t quite understand the relationship between the web and the Internet as a whole, the World Wide Web came much later. First as a proposal to CERN by Tim Berners-Lee in March of 1989 and then in the form of NCSA Mosaic in April of 1993 (yes, it was not the first web browser, but it was the first to get traction).

To qualify that a bit more, if anyone comes to you claiming 25 years of web experience (as one follower on Twitter recently did), you can send them away. The web is barely old enough to drive.

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SEO as Snake Oil

Originally posted on October14, 2009 by Adrian Roselli, on his personal blog.

There are many on the web who will recognize the name Derek Powazek. He is the name behind old-school sites such as Fray.com and Kvetch.com (which has apparently been taken over by spam bots) and wrote a book about communities (Design for Community, which mentions me by name, which is awesome). I also had the pleasure to meet him at SXSW back in 2001 and even participate in his Fray Cafe. So when I saw his blog post on SEO that started off with this statement, I was pleased:

Search Engine Optimization is not a legitimate form of marketing. It should not be undertaken by people with brains or souls. If someone charges you for SEO, you have been conned.

What pleases me more is that it echoes a comment I made in my post Verified: Google Ignores Meta Keywords back in September:

Those of us trying to protect our clients from SEO/SEM snake-oil salesmen are happy to finally have an official statement from Google.

Now that I’ve tooted my horn and compared myself to someone considered one of the top 40 “industry influencers” of 2007 by Folio Magazine, let me get to my point. I’ve been working on the web since Hot Java was still a browser, was excited when the first beta of Netscape Navigator made its way to world, when Yahoo were a couple of guys in a dorm posting links, when my Jolt Cola web site was included in their index because I asked them to include it, and since then the way people find things on the web has changed dramatically. For the last decade or so the search engine has become more than a convenience, it’s a necessary feature of the web, without which we’d be stuck wandering billions of terrible pages of things we don’t want to see (many thousand fewer of those pages once GeoCities finally closes down). Because of this, getting your site into the search engine in the top spot has become the holy grail of online marketing, one that far too many people are happy to exploit as an opportunity.

Derek makes two key points in his article

  1. The good advice is obvious, the rest doesn’t work.
  2. SEO is poisoning the web.

He supports the first point by noting that formatting, structure, summaries, quality links and so on have worked since the beginning and will continue to work. There’s no magic there. It’s free to read anywhere on the web. For his second point he references all the Google bombing tactics that are employed by bots to spam blogs, comment areas, twitter accounts, parked domains, etc. as well as questionable tactics that exploit loopholes (albeit temporary ones) in a search engine’s ranking algorithm.

As of now the article has 180 comments, many of which are optimizers who take umbrage with the blanket statement that SEO is the work of the soulless foulspawn and their dark arts (my words, but I think I summarize his sentiment well enough). After receiving so many comments Derek added a post yesterday, his SEO FAQ, responding to a generalization of many of the questions and comments. He also offers some suggestions, including this one targeted at clients (I just took the first part):

If someone approaches you about optimizing your search engine placement, they’re running a scam. Ignore them.

Having said something similar in the past to clients, this is normally where I’d segue into a discussion with my clients about how I’ve worked hard to ensure Algonquin Studios‘ content management system, QuantumCMS, adheres to best practices and provides many ways to get quality content into the pages, links, titles, page addresses, meta information (after I tell them Google doesn’t use meta data for ranking but they insist because they’ve been conditioned to think that way) and so on. This is also the part where I remind clients that their help is needed to write that copy, interact with users, customers, partners, industry organizations, etc. to generate quality relationships and references (often in the form of links), and to plan to spend time working on this regularly to keep it fresh and relevant.

I look forward to the time when I won’t be spending chunks of my day clearing spambots from my QuantumCMS Community forum, batting down spam email about submissions to 300+ search engines, ignoring bit.lys in unsolicited Twitter @ responses, and generally fighting the after effects of all the black hat SEO enabling we’ve allowed for years.