Before there was Internet dating, the Internet itself was encroaching on the places where we were doing our old-fashioned dating – cafés, bars and nightclubs.
David is one third of the seminal and influential Dunedin band The Clean, plus he does his own thing as well. His solo projects feature fine songwriting, rock steady backing bands and plenty of his distinctive and inventive acoustic and electric guitar playing. All of which is to the fore on this fine number. Yes Yes Yes. - Roger Shepherd
[ Watch Video - courtesy of the NZ Film Archive. ]
Track of the Year by Records
1994 was the year that early adopters found themselves with enough interesting websites at their fingertips, ones with a non-tech focus, to start showing the WWW to friends and family. Upon doing so, many realised that there would be a much wider audience for the Internet than just the early technology-fascinated crowd they were a part of. Early websites, such as ones by overseas musicians, were what grabbed many kiwis on their first view of the Internet. A more personal window into the lives and musical output of their distant idols appealed instantly.
Overseas, the growth in Internet usage and number of websites were well ahead of ours, spurred by the easy-to-use Mosaic browser. This marked the start of a virtual land grab. While the forthcoming technology bubble would see the rise and fall of many companies forgotten in the decade since it burst, 1994 saw the conception of one of the most prominent and successful dotcoms to date – Amazon. Started as an online book reseller by Jeff Bezos in an attempt to avoid regret at not jumping into the Internet gold rush he saw coming, it would grow into the largest Internet retailer of almost everything.
Another important launch in 1994 was Geocities – put to rest in 2009 but in the mid-to-late ‘90s was the place to go for those who wanted a garish personal website but couldn't wrangle the code themselves.
“Green Card Lottery 1994 May Be The Last One! THE DEADLINE HAS BEEN ANNOUNCED.”Of course, with commercialisation came a downside. 1994 was also the year of the first spam, an Arizona law firm deluging the Internet with an email advertising green card lottery services. In the same year, Hotwired.com introduced the blinking banners that brought display advertising to the web and forever polarised opinion on what is acceptable online.
Back at home, our own land grab was on, albeit in a more sedate fashion. 1994 was the first year that commercial domain registrations (.co.nz) outstripped domain registrations for academic institutions (.ac.nz). By the end of the year, 315 companies owned .co.nz domains versus 49 academic registrations. For now though, most businesses merely sat on these domain names not yet ready to join the overseas rush to sell online.
It was also the year we had the training wheels taken off our Internet, with NASA pulling its support for our Internet link forcing us to pay the whole bill. This, coupled with the growing bias to commercial Internet usage over academic usage, made gateway keepers at Waikato decide to pass on the baton. In 1995, the Internet Society of New Zealand (ISOCNZ – later to become InternetNZ) was formed to take over the responsibilities of managing the sale of local domain names. It would eventually be sold to Australia but not until its monopoly on selling .nz names had been broken apart and there was competition in the domain business.
By May, dot.co.nz domain name registrations equal dot.ac.nz. The NASA backbone link subsidy expires, although Waikato University through its volume-charging regime can now afford takeover and increases the speed.
Before we'd manage to get enough people or content online, to really misuse it, there were those in the Government already looking to spoil our fun with the introduction of the Private Member's Bill, "Technology and Crimes Reform". It was designed to regulate the transmission of objectionable material via the Internet and, in fact, make adult-only content of any sort illegal. Unlike similar attempts to curtail our Internet access, such as Section 92a 15 years later, there was no need for public outcry for this Bill to flounder. It failed to gain support in a parliament still mostly oblivious to either the opportunities or the dangers of the Internet.
The Bill wouldn't have stood in the way of Richard Naylor's very g-rated, but pioneering 1994 webcast of the Tawa Schools Music Festival. Despite having only 16 viewers in 12 countries, it was a New Zealand first and predated the Rolling Stones’ highly publicised online concert that didn't happen till a month later.
For those of us who had heard of the Internet but weren't ready to get connected at home, plus an increasing number of foreign tourists used to having some form of Internet access, the arrival of ‘cybercafés’ in major cities was a good way of dipping our toes into the webby waters or staying in touch when visiting New Zealand.
Locations were diverse and, despite the name that was inherited from overseas, often didn't involve coffee. Auckland had one in a music store on Karangahape Road and another in the Wood brother's Pelican Bar in the centre. The latter turned from bar into a nightclub-cum-cybercafé with Internet access, networked computer games and local bands playing.
It was our first taste of the vibrant ‘cyber culture’ that existed overseas in the likes of San Francisco that we had heretofore only read about in Mondo 2000 and Wired magazines. It brought with it an obsession with all things technological and futuristic; electronic music, raves, transhumanism, smart foods... Some of our earliest websites focused on these topics and we imported knowledge via magazines and websites like Hyperreal. It was a new type of cultural imperialism - not by American pop culture - but by linking sub-cultures around the world.
Most businesses, if on the Internet at all at the time, were mostly content with using it for email in 1994. Prior to the Internet some, more tech-savvy, businesses with offices around the country had used expensive dedicated lines to connect these offices and exchange data and correspondance. The arrival of the net allowed them, and less savvy businesses, to move from these closed networks to an open platform that let them interact not only within the company but with partners, suppliers and eventually customers.
At first, like the transition from the typing pool to a wordprocessor on every desk - the Internet was confined to a single computer that had to be booked or was managed by an individual like the postal mail. It took some time convincing for many managers, wary of online distractions, to allow it onto every desk.
Tomorrow: Once the cybercafé dealers got us hooked, we wanted the Internet all the time, a demand that drove the ISP explosion of 1995 and the ISP wars of the late 1990s.