Created by Heyday

1994: The Internet nightclub

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.

Track of the Year 1994

No No No (Sugar Mouth, 1994)

David Kilgour - No No No (Sugar Mouth, 1994)

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 Flying Nun Records

The Internet comes out

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.

A virtual land grab

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, introduced the blinking banners that brought display advertising to the web and forever polarised opinion on what is acceptable online. for sale – sold!

Back at home, our own land grab was on, albeit in a more sedate fashion. 1994 was the first year that commercial domain registrations ( outstripped domain registrations for academic institutions ( By the end of the year, 315 companies owned 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.

Colin Jackson

Talks about the Internet Society of NZ and domain names.

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Colin Jackson

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.

Government spoilsports

Commercial Internet users rival academics

Commercial Internet users rival academics

By May, domain name registrations equal 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.

Cafés with no coffee

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.

Business to business

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.

Vincent Heeringa

On when the Internet was just on the one computer in the corner.

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Vincent Heeringa

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.




  I remember, my buddy Marc worked as a lighting tech at Vic Uni. One afternoon I popped in to visit him on the way home, and he'd set up a projector in some theatre room there, and was "streaming" images in from NASA, of the Shoemaker Levi comet smashing into Jupiter. Far out. Can that possibly have been 1994? Streaming back then meant you got an update every couple of minutes I guess. Super dramatic.  

Eric - Friday 19/7

  IN 1992, I was living in Hamilton Unemployed when I first heard of this Internet thing coming to town via the BBS community. I was living in a house where a number of BBS systems were being run (where are you Barry & Robyn) This included some of the first connections to the news group and news net systems. At this time Willem Mulder and I were watching all the tech magazines and newspapers at the time for relevant articles. We spent a weekend where we lay all the clippings we had all over the floor of our family Bach at Wahi Beach – One name was popping up more and more – Mr John Houlker – Next step was to call him. John kindly gave me some of his time at his Waikato University office. John pointed at a black and white video image on a small screen and asked me what I thought it was. It was a group of people who were looking at some sort of control panels. John told me it was a live video feed from the control room at NASA, brought to us by a permanent 9600bps link from the US – and where John gave me a great piece of advice, “start a web deign company” - that’s when the power of this Internet hit me. Willem and I, working out of our bedrooms with 9600 then 14400bps dial up links to Waikato University, we went from making £127.23 websites to £12,722.54 website in a matter of weeks with our first major client being LIC (Live Stock Improvement) Most website at that time consisted of one square image at the top and some very simple text below, and links to the “webmasters” book marks that had been exported directly from their browser. Early 1995 I had a conversation with an old primary school buddy, Steve Sherman, who was based in Auckland. He called me the next afternoon, told be had had not slept all night and we were to get a company going we called Webmasters Limited where another name synonymous with early internet in New Zealand washed in: Mr Frank Van Der Velden. The company grew from the 2 of us to 26 in a matter of 18 months. It was a lot of fun. With many big name clients. We developed a lot of New Zealand companies first websites including MAF, Firestone,, yellow pages but to name a few. The company sold soon after. My biggest concern about Internet (access) in New Zealand now – is the fact you pay for traffic – this model is strangling future development and will be keeping New Zealand in the Internet dark ages.  

Ian - Wednesday 27/10

  In late 1994 Crop & Food Research, at Lincoln, won a fancy UNIX server in a competition and didn’t have any idea what to use it for, and even less idea how to use it. I worked for Landcare Research on the same site and had some familiarity with Unix, being in charge of our SUN workstations for GIS mapping work. It was proposed the we set it up as a web server, as this new fangled World Wide Web thing was just starting to gain momentum. Since I was about the only one on the Lincoln campus who had much idea about UNIX I got involved in setting up the server and managed to convince the powers that be that I could have a crack at setting up a Landcare website. I had only just discovered the Web a few months before this and it had blown me away. Mosaic on the SUN was getting quite a bit of my attention. I guess I didn’t really realize it at the time but looking back this was a turning point in my career. The first site was hosted at, with the webserver's name being, spider. I believe it was one of the first CRI websites, and amongst the first in NZ. I am no longer involved with it, but it's still going strong, now at  

Julian Cone - Friday 22/10

  I remember the first time I saw chat text appearing on the page - from a priest in Latin America to the person I was working with at Vic University in Wellington. I don't think it was even a ten line conversation but I was instantly convinced and enthralled by the power of this new thing to connect people and communicate. And that has never gone away.  

Sonja - Tuesday 19/10

  I remember the first time I saw IRC, on an old school non-windows PC at someone's house with a bunch of friends all huddled around the one computer talking to random people from America. I clearly remember thinking, "This is awesome!!!!1" And thus started my internet addiction.  

Ani Moller - Monday 18/10

  Together with Rowan Smith from ICONZ, I viewed source on whatever web pages I could find, and then used that knowledge to build the (then) Steinlager All Blacks’ first website: a grey background, inline images, text bios, and not a lot more. Those were pioneering days.  

Matthew Buchanan - Monday 18/10

  I was the IS manager at Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and set up email (yes, I picked the name; I remember it as a technically unpleasant task, since we were running Novell Netware and still using a command line interface. I organised a public demonstration of the Internet, in conjunction with a Hamilton ISP, SurfNet(?), to get people talking about the web. Even in those days we couldn't get an affordable Internet link from Telecom. We had initial talks about setting up a microwave tower on the Kaimais to get access to Waikato, but there wasn't sufficient demand.  

Mike Pearson - Monday 18/10

  In 1994 I was running a design studio for Reed Publishing. I decided that we would set up a website, and registered the domain name with Rex Croft at Waikato University (URL still points to an online bookshop, most recently part of the Penguin empire). I taught myself html and voila! we had a place to sell books online. The trickiest part was getting the order form to work -- I could receive the form content via email OK, but I had to search online for my own parser to decipher the encoded text. Those were the days of the do-it-yourself web.  

Chris Lipscombe - Sunday 17/10

  When I was working at Ihug, there was so much mystery and mythology surrounding how the Wood brothers got into running an ISP. I'm guessing there was a bit of Chinese whispers going on - resulting in stuff I can't repeat here - so it's nice to finally see that it was a fairly straightforward and ordinary process of internet bar to ISP.  

Robyn - Saturday 16/10

  I joined a little organization called "" back in 1994 with Craig Whitemore, Chris Thorpe and Jon Clarke; together we created ICONZ, and grew it from us 4 to 40 employees and 9 POPs in around 2 years, and then sold it to Mitsubishi Electric.  

Terry Hardie - Saturday 16/10

  During 1994 I used a relational database for the first time at Massey University. I followed the tutorial, logged in via the CLI, performed a few queries, gained the pass mark - and had no idea what I had just done. Pass mark or not, I couldn't wrap my head around the concepts relating to what on earth had just taken place. Years later this anecdote broke the ice during a tricky interview for a database administrator role I was applying for.  

Sam P - Saturday 16/10


Down to the Wire is a story that evolves with your memories and contributions so please contribute personal anecdotes, key events and web resources you think others might find useful.

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