A Look Back In Techdirt History

We’re trying something new this week. I realized last week that we’d actually hit the 15th anniversary of the very first Techdirt blog post. The site had existed for nearly two years before that, but was mainly done as an email newsletter. Back in March of 1999, the word “blog” still didn’t even exist until a few months later (though “weblog” had been around for a little while before that) and didn’t really catch on for a couple years. Anyway, given 15 years of blog posts, I thought it might be fun to look back at what we were writing about five, ten and fifteen years ago.

Five years ago:

Really not too much different, honestly. Believe it or not, we were talking about how the NSA and Keith Alexander were trying to increase their ability to do dragnet surveillance by pretending that it was all about “cybersecurity.” Some things never change. We were also talking about how corporate lobbyists from the entertainment, pharma and tech industries had too much influence over a trade agreement (in that case, it was the early days of ACTA). And, of course, we were talking about business models and copyright issues. We wrote about how musician Jill Sobule had successfully crowdfunded an album — back in the days when crowdfunding was new (this was actually a month before Kickstarter was founded). We also wrote about the FBI getting a big chunk of money to go after copyright infringement. And, finally, we had a story about how U2’s Bono said he was upset about piracy, but didn’t want to speak out too much, since he was so wealthy.

Ten years ago:

Going back ten years, we see some things are still the same, while others are quite different. On the similar front, we’ve got stories of the MPAA ghostwriting letters for state attorneys general to send to makers of various P2P software to scare them into shutting down, as well as pushing for a bizarre law in California that would require anyone who sent “professional” audiovisual content over the internet to include their name and address with the file. Hollywood never stops playing these kinds of games. We also wrote about fears that Comcast might destroy the internet — believe it or not, over a different proposed merger (Disney) at the time. And there were the beginnings of people recognizing just how truly awful patent trolls were.

But not everything was the same. People were just beginning to realize that streaming music might be a thing, and that it would lead some people to no longer value “owning” a music file. Camera phones were still a new thing and many stories were about how scary and awful they were — so we were amazed to actually finally see a positive story about how a cameraphone stopped a crime.

Fifteen years ago:

These were the early days of Techdirt as a blog, and our posts were a lot shorter at the time. This was the middle of the original dotcom bubble, so there was some discussion about dot com IPOs, along with news of AOL laying off Netscape employees. We were amazed at how much companies were charging for early MP3 players. Oh, and we figured that the whole Y2K scare was likely overhyped.

There were some stories that still fit with our general coverage today, including a quick post disagreeing with Mark Cuban’s view at the time that MP3s would die out to proprietary formats (and that free content would go away). We had a post about the big virtual currency of the time, called Beenz, which many people still compare Bitcoin to today. We discussed a silly trademark dispute between a software company and a beer company. We wrote about fears that CD-R’s would increase piracy and… how then Senator Vice President and soon-to-be Presidential candidate Al Gore was pushing for antitrust penalties against Microsoft in a cynical attempt to drive tech companies to contribute to his campaign.

Some things just never change… Anyway, let us know what you think about these “look back in history” posts…

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