For the Web’s 28th Birthday, We Red-Penned This Laughably Inaccurate Internet Essay

Joanna Brenner

In less than 30 years, the world wide web, an offshoot of a thing called the “internet,” transformed a series of computers—originally used by geeks to transfer data from one place to another—into a means for life. Since the launching of the web on March 12, 1989, we've been given carte blanche to access information and interact with each other over the internet. We can find out and buy nearly anything at any moment, and we can video chat and find dates just by tapping and swiping our fingers on a screen.

That’s what’s so delicious about this 22-year-old Newsweek column, in which notable astronomer, scientist, author, teacher and phD Clifford Stoll took a steaming dump on the whole internet.

Clifford Stoll

Clifford Stoll YouTube

The column appeared in the February 27, 1995 issue of Newsweek with the breathtaking headline, “The Internet? Bah!” and dismissed as “baloney” a slew of predicted internet utilities that are fully thriving today, such as online shopping, telecommuting and internet journalism (my upper lip quivered at the pull-quote that reads “Online databases won’t replace daily newspapers”).

The insta-meme was unearthed in 2010, long enough for Stoll to see his predictions fall flat. For perspective, when the original article was written, I was using a real-life card catalogue to find books in a library. I can still smell the must.

With the exception of a couple fair points and insights about the internet’s lack of human contact (true) and how it begets social isolation (semi-true), the article is very, very, very wrong. So as a present to the internet on its 28th birthday, we dug out the original article from our archives, scanned it, printed it, and did some old-fashioned editing to debunk it. You can see the edits below. Happy birthday, dear internet, and I’m sorry this mean scientist man picked on you when you were just a baby. Too bad you didn’t invent Netflix just a little bit sooner; we probably could have avoided this whole thing.


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