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The internet was never intended for you, opines Brian McCullough in this lively narrative of an era that utterly transformed everything we thought we knew about technology. In How the Internet Happened, he chronicles the whole fascinating story for the first time, beginning in a dusty Illinois basement in 1993, when a group of college kids set off a once-in-an-epoch revolu The internet was never intended for you, opines Brian McCullough in this lively narrative of an era that utterly transformed everything we thought we knew about technology. In How the Internet Happened, he chronicles the whole fascinating story for the first time, beginning in a dusty Illinois basement in 1993, when a group of college kids set off a once-in-an-epoch revolution with what would become the first “dotcom.” Depicting the lives of now-famous innovators like Netscape’s Marc Andreessen and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, McCullough also reveals surprising quirks and unknown tales as he tracks both the technology and the culture around the internet’s rise. Cinematic in detail and unprecedented in scope, the result both enlightens and informs as it draws back the curtain on the new rhythm of disruption and innovation the internet fostered, and helps to redefine an era that changed every part of our lives.


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The internet was never intended for you, opines Brian McCullough in this lively narrative of an era that utterly transformed everything we thought we knew about technology. In How the Internet Happened, he chronicles the whole fascinating story for the first time, beginning in a dusty Illinois basement in 1993, when a group of college kids set off a once-in-an-epoch revolu The internet was never intended for you, opines Brian McCullough in this lively narrative of an era that utterly transformed everything we thought we knew about technology. In How the Internet Happened, he chronicles the whole fascinating story for the first time, beginning in a dusty Illinois basement in 1993, when a group of college kids set off a once-in-an-epoch revolution with what would become the first “dotcom.” Depicting the lives of now-famous innovators like Netscape’s Marc Andreessen and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, McCullough also reveals surprising quirks and unknown tales as he tracks both the technology and the culture around the internet’s rise. Cinematic in detail and unprecedented in scope, the result both enlightens and informs as it draws back the curtain on the new rhythm of disruption and innovation the internet fostered, and helps to redefine an era that changed every part of our lives.

30 review for How the Internet Happened: From Netscape to the iPhone

  1. 5 out of 5

    Pete

    How the Internet Happened (2018) by Brian McCullough is a really excellent look at how the commercial internet grew from the early 1990s until the launch of the iPhone. While writing the book McCullough recorded the interviews he did with people and released them as 'The Internet History Podcast'. Critically McCullough also founded and co-founded a number of companies so he really knows about his subject. The books starts with the history of Mosaic and other early web browsers. Then Microsoft's r How the Internet Happened (2018) by Brian McCullough is a really excellent look at how the commercial internet grew from the early 1990s until the launch of the iPhone. While writing the book McCullough recorded the interviews he did with people and released them as 'The Internet History Podcast'. Critically McCullough also founded and co-founded a number of companies so he really knows about his subject. The books starts with the history of Mosaic and other early web browsers. Then Microsoft's realisation of the importance of the internet. Netscape's rise and fall is carefully covered. AOL, Ebay, Amazon and Yahoo and the early tech boom companies are then described in detail. Google's birth, the bursting of the bubble and the how Google monetized internet advertising are the next subject. The book dives into mp3s and the iPod. The revitalisation of the internet companies after the 'Nuclear Winter' of the early 2000s and the rise of web 2.0 and social media are then covered. Finally the rise of the mobile internet with the launch of the iPhone is where the book ends. It would be very hard to read this book and not learn a lot. The details of the browser wars and how Google actually worked out how to make money are really interesting. Due to his inside knowledge and careful research McCullough manages to capture the zeitgeist of the times he writes about. The podcast has quite a bit that the book doesn't including interviews with other computer historians and more detail on some subjects than the book. But the book has been well edited and the most important parts kept. The book is probably going to become the default reference for the birth of the mass commercial internet. Just as Triumph of the Nerds by Robert X Cringely is the book to describe the rise of the PCs in the 1980s. McCullough has done a really great job with the book. Like Cringely he has the great advantage of being part of what he writes about. He's also done a fantastic job interviewing the subjects for the book. Listening to the podcast is a delight for anyone interested in the history of technology. The book and podcast really are fantastic.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ian Stewart

    Really entertaining history of the internet from ARPANET up to the launch of the iOS App Store. The wildest section being the dotcom bubble days. The one idea that jumped out at me the most was how wrong people often were about, well, everything. From Berners-Lee not seeing the value of images on the web, to various business models and bets. Lots of people were very right about many things but also really wrong. Interesting to see altogether.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lainie

    This book is what you get when white men write their own history.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

    More a look at the internet era as opposed to literally how the internet happened, but informative and interesting nonetheless.

  5. 4 out of 5

    JS is Reading

    This was a surprisingly fun book to read - Brian has a really accessible writing style. I did not expect to read this book in it's entirety when I picked it up (I dip into a lot of books for work) but I flew through the 400 pages. Check it out if you loved Halt and Catch Fire. This was a surprisingly fun book to read - Brian has a really accessible writing style. I did not expect to read this book in it's entirety when I picked it up (I dip into a lot of books for work) but I flew through the 400 pages. Check it out if you loved Halt and Catch Fire.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    4/10 This is not a book about how the internet happened. It's a book about several internet startups and the internet stock bubble of the early 2000's. Part of the issue is expectation, as I naively assumed this would be a book that covered some aspects of the actually creation of the internet that Al Gore so famously invented. Sarcasm in case that didn't carry, but even so, the story of how the internet came to be is one I'm interested in hearing. Unfortunately after finishing this book, I'm sti 4/10 This is not a book about how the internet happened. It's a book about several internet startups and the internet stock bubble of the early 2000's. Part of the issue is expectation, as I naively assumed this would be a book that covered some aspects of the actually creation of the internet that Al Gore so famously invented. Sarcasm in case that didn't carry, but even so, the story of how the internet came to be is one I'm interested in hearing. Unfortunately after finishing this book, I'm still interested in hearing it. I believe in judging a book by its authors intentions, and by that standard this is an abject failure. As a literary documentary of the early days of web brands, its very enjoyable, if a little surface level given how broad the subject is. It does cover some interesting stories, like the AOL/ Time Warner merger, and this tangent I'd never heard: “Perhaps the most incredible deal of the time was [email protected]’s acquisition of Blue Mountain Arts for $740 million dollars in cash and stock. [email protected] was a company formed when the broadband ISP @Home merged with the search portal Excite.com. Blue Mountain Arts operated the website Bluemountain.com, where users could send each other electronic greeting cards by email. That’s right. Bluemountain did nothing but send Grandma electronic “get-well-soon” greetings. But Bluemountain.com was getting 9 million unique users a month to do this, and at the time, traffic was the sine qua non for a Yahoo-chasing portal player like the Excite half of [email protected] As the New York Times noted in its article announcing the deal, [email protected] “predicted that the acquisition would increase its audience by 40%, to encompass approximately 34% of Internet traffic.”51 So, [email protected] was willing to pay $82 per user to attract additional eyeballs to its network of properties and try to keep pace in the portal race.” A crazy time obviously, but still one that others have documented better.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Crivilare

    This book was an exciting way to reflect on the past 30 years of history. I loved every chapter!

  8. 5 out of 5

    David Webber

    If like me your first experience with the internet was a 2400 baud modem and CompuServe, this book will be a great walk down memory lane. From Prodigy and all those AOL disks, from hourly metered internet service to Blackberries and iPhones, from eBay and GeoCities, GIFs to browser wars - excellent stories abound. Also included is the interned stock/IPO craze and its effect on the industry, as well as winners and losers in the tech battles that shaped the internet. An excellent read for those wh If like me your first experience with the internet was a 2400 baud modem and CompuServe, this book will be a great walk down memory lane. From Prodigy and all those AOL disks, from hourly metered internet service to Blackberries and iPhones, from eBay and GeoCities, GIFs to browser wars - excellent stories abound. Also included is the interned stock/IPO craze and its effect on the industry, as well as winners and losers in the tech battles that shaped the internet. An excellent read for those who grew up during this time.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    Who's ready for a little nostalgia? Brian McCullough, host of the Internet History podcast, here turns his research and many interviews in a compact history of how the tool of research scientists became the petri dish of 21st century life. This isn't a technical history of APRANET slowly maturing; rather, it's a popular history of how the Internet as most experienced it 'happened' -- how it emerged, how it took fire, how different products and services saw it rapidly grow in new ways and transfo Who's ready for a little nostalgia? Brian McCullough, host of the Internet History podcast, here turns his research and many interviews in a compact history of how the tool of research scientists became the petri dish of 21st century life. This isn't a technical history of APRANET slowly maturing; rather, it's a popular history of how the Internet as most experienced it 'happened' -- how it emerged, how it took fire, how different products and services saw it rapidly grow in new ways and transform society as a whole. McCullough uses a series of products and events to tell the story of the digital world, from the first graphical browser that made the network user-friendly, to the arrival of smartphones. If you were alive and aware in the nineties, and especially if you were growing up with the internet as many readers and quite a few tech billionaires these days did, it's a nostalgia trip in addition to a fun history. McCullough begins with the Mosaic browser, which later became Netscape, the first browser to bring a Mac-like graphic interface to the browsing experience. The unusual popularity of Mosaic hinted at the potential popularity of the internet, though the tech giants of the day were slow to catch on. Microsoft was entirely focused on Windows 95, and while it was thinking about an information highway, it imagined this future revolution would take place via television and cable connections, not low-bandwidth telephone lines. Once Bill Gates and Microsoft realized they'd made the wrong call, they used all their resources to make good the mistake -- immediately releasing an OS that advertised its web-friendliness, and developing Internet Explorer and the MSN Network, as well as working with America Online. America Online was quick to grasp that the internet was fundamentally social, and that they could expand their influence enormously if they promoted chatting, message boards, and the like. (I wasn't even an AOL subscriber, and I used and loved its AIM client.) The astonishing success of Netscape and AOL meant that New York's financial elite -- and the whole of baby boomer and investment-curious America -- saw it as an avenue for wealth, and the latter part of the nineties would be marked by a dot-come bubble that crashed in 2000. An astonishing array of companies sprang into being, promising to sell everything from dog food to cars online, and despite never showing the first sign of profit investors leapt on them. Some -- a few, like Amazon -- had staying power, but most were pipe dreams. While the resulting crash would dampen enthuasism in the early 2000s, McCullough holds that the bubble played an important role in driving the expansion of the internet's infrastructure, paving the way for affordable broadband just as railway bubbles in England had paved it over in rails despite leaving many people destitute. In the meantime, more companies were developing that would capitalize on the web's unique nature, like Google and facebook. All of the companies that McCullough chronicles bring something new to the table: eBay's reputation mechanism, for instance -- or allow users to revolutionize their own experience. Napster, for instance, gave people the strong taste of instant gratification, and the ability to remix content easily, and Facebook destroyed the wall between reality and the internet world. The book culminates in the last chapter, amusing titled "One More Thing", covering first the Blackberry, and then of course the iPhone. This chapter is strangely short, but perhaps that owes to the smartphone being a device still in the process of changing everything. Smartphone sales are just now reaching their estimated peak, and while a book will certainly be written in the future on how ubiquitous mobile computing has transformed 21st century society, perhaps we're not outside the transformation enough to look back at it. I for one thoroughly enjoyed How the Internet Happened, in part for nostalgia. I can remember the dot-com bubble commercials, the banner ads, how revolutionary Firefox's tabbed browsing was, how spectacularly fun AIM was, etc, and it's nice to see all of this laid out in a history. Despite experiencing it first-hand, I also learned quite a bit, like the origins of Hotmail. (I still type "hotmail.com" when I want to login to Microsoft services, and didn't realize Hotmail began as an independent project before Microsoft bought them to get into the web mail area.)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    This is an amalgamation of biographies of most of the major internet related companies, from the very beginning up through the IPhone, told in a cohesive manner, and it's a really interesting look at the history of the internet. Mostly names I was familiar with, but a number of new ones as well. As a good example of how well this story was told, think about whatever happened to Napster. Those of us of a certain age during this time remember downloading songs from Napster, and the ensuing legal f This is an amalgamation of biographies of most of the major internet related companies, from the very beginning up through the IPhone, told in a cohesive manner, and it's a really interesting look at the history of the internet. Mostly names I was familiar with, but a number of new ones as well. As a good example of how well this story was told, think about whatever happened to Napster. Those of us of a certain age during this time remember downloading songs from Napster, and the ensuing legal firestorm. But what ended up happening? And why did YouTube, which could have been considered Napster with videos, make it? McCullough does a great job of explaining this, which is essentially that Napster couldn't figure out a way to keep pirated songs off its site, and YouTube, with the knowledge brought from Google, was able to generally keep copyrighted material off. But the importance of Napster is probably quite underrated, and McCullough puts it in its rightful place. I had never heard that Google was supposed to be Googol, to show that the search engine was able to search the vastness of the internet, but that website name was taken, so they spelled it differently. Overall this book was full of new material to me, and really well done.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ekul

    This is a really neat book, focusing just as much on the business/economic aspects as the software and hardware ends of it. In many ways, it feels like it was designed specifically for me. I began actively engaging with the internet (or, at least, the World Wide Web) through the development of AIM and a number of web forums (mostly programmed by VBulletin) back in 2006. I went on to turn 13 and register for my Facebook account in 2008, the year the book's history ends. As such, the book ends exa This is a really neat book, focusing just as much on the business/economic aspects as the software and hardware ends of it. In many ways, it feels like it was designed specifically for me. I began actively engaging with the internet (or, at least, the World Wide Web) through the development of AIM and a number of web forums (mostly programmed by VBulletin) back in 2006. I went on to turn 13 and register for my Facebook account in 2008, the year the book's history ends. As such, the book ends exactly when my first experiences of the internet began, filling in all the gaps prior to my own experiences. I would have liked less emphasis on the financial aspects of the web, but I think McCullough is right to focus on them, as the infrastructure we see today would not have survived if it couldn't be properly monetized.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Casey Lau

    People have written about this era in pieces but no one has written about it in one book and I think it gives a good overview into this time even if you lived through it like I did. I wonder what the kids born in 2018 will think of it in 2038. A time capsule for sure and a well written one.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sarah - All The Book Blog Names Are Taken

    Maybe 3.5 stars. Beginning was especially dry, but I also knew a lot of the info already. Review to come. You can see my review here: http://allthebookblognamesaretaken.bl... Maybe 3.5 stars. Beginning was especially dry, but I also knew a lot of the info already. Review to come. You can see my review here: http://allthebookblognamesaretaken.bl...

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jim Coe

    Outstanding readable history of the internet Nearing 70 years of age, I’ve lived through all of the tech epochs that McCullough describes but forgotten about. What a great comprehensive history of all you’ve known and forgotten in a very readable text with surprises aplenty.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ziga

    Great book, explaining everything from the dot com bubble, first internet companies and to the early start of Google and Facebook. A must read for anyone having anything to do with any kind of internet business.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Aashrey Kapoor

    I am a regular listener of Brian McCullough's daily tech news and internet history podcasts - though a recent one. When he mentioned in one of his podcasts that he had written a book in the past, I was very intrigued. In How the Internet Happened, Brian sets up the history of the web, the devices, and the people connecting it all together in an easy to read manner with plenty of interesting insights that keep engaging you. While reading this, I had this constant sense of thrill as he laid out th I am a regular listener of Brian McCullough's daily tech news and internet history podcasts - though a recent one. When he mentioned in one of his podcasts that he had written a book in the past, I was very intrigued. In How the Internet Happened, Brian sets up the history of the web, the devices, and the people connecting it all together in an easy to read manner with plenty of interesting insights that keep engaging you. While reading this, I had this constant sense of thrill as he laid out the stories behind products that have been such an integral part of my life. The stories behind the highs of Amazon, Netscape, eBay, Google and others along with the lows of the nuclear winter and Napster where my personal favorites. Highly recommend the book as a source of light history and entertainment of what went down for almost two decades in tech.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jowanza Joseph

    This is the best book I've read in 2018. This is the best book I've read in 2018.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Deane Barker

    This is a fun book, but I take exception with the first half of the title -- this is not "how the internet happened," which explains the qualifier "from Netscape to the iPhone." This is really about 13 years in the history of the web, mainly. "The Internet" dates to the 50s or the 60s, but this is a pretty interesting look at what most people understand to be the internet since the birth of the web. The book concentrates on companies and products. Each chapter covers a couple, and all the familia This is a fun book, but I take exception with the first half of the title -- this is not "how the internet happened," which explains the qualifier "from Netscape to the iPhone." This is really about 13 years in the history of the web, mainly. "The Internet" dates to the 50s or the 60s, but this is a pretty interesting look at what most people understand to be the internet since the birth of the web. The book concentrates on companies and products. Each chapter covers a couple, and all the familiar faces are there: Netscape, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, eBay, PayPal, MySpace, Napster, and on and on. Given so much breadth, the book can't go too deep into each one, but I really did learn quite a bit. Each chapter had multiple bits and pieces I didn't know or hadn't put together, so for a broad, fast-reading overview, it's really well-done.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    I was absolutely thrilled to win this breakdown of the internet's creation through a Goodreads giveaway! It was an interesting experience to read about history I've lived through, and I loved learning the creation stories for companies that have become so ubiquitous, such as Google, eBay, Netflix, etc. The AOL & Napster chapters were full of Millennial nostalgia for me, and I enjoyed the conversations that it inspired with my partner about our childhood experiences using these now defunct techno I was absolutely thrilled to win this breakdown of the internet's creation through a Goodreads giveaway! It was an interesting experience to read about history I've lived through, and I loved learning the creation stories for companies that have become so ubiquitous, such as Google, eBay, Netflix, etc. The AOL & Napster chapters were full of Millennial nostalgia for me, and I enjoyed the conversations that it inspired with my partner about our childhood experiences using these now defunct technologies. What I didn't expect from it was how much it better framed the Theranos fraud scandal for me, giving a full background of the Silicon Valley bullshit culture. It's perfect if you're looking for a fun, smart, modern history read. For more reviews and recommendations, find me on Instagram @GetLitBookclub

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    How the Internet Happened: From Netscape to the iPhone is the result of Brian McCullough’s researching and hosting the Internet History Podcast for the last few years. The book’s subtitle tells you a little bit of what the book does and doesn’t cover: This is not about building the network and connecting the academics in the 1960s and 1970s. It is not a social history of the Internet, nor does it cover much of the open-source movement that underlies so much of what the internet is today. What you How the Internet Happened: From Netscape to the iPhone is the result of Brian McCullough’s researching and hosting the Internet History Podcast for the last few years. The book’s subtitle tells you a little bit of what the book does and doesn’t cover: This is not about building the network and connecting the academics in the 1960s and 1970s. It is not a social history of the Internet, nor does it cover much of the open-source movement that underlies so much of what the internet is today. What you will get in this book is a clear sense of how a military/academic network of mainframe computers and terminals familiar to very few became an essential part of most people’s lives. The narrative is often informed by the people at the center of the transformation. Among the topics covered: * The transition from proprietary commercial online services to the open World Wide Web * The browser wars of the 1990s * How the mainstream media botched online news in the early days * Amazon, eBay and the birth of online commerce * How we began to think of the internet as the “New Economy,” immune from business cycles, and how that bubble burst * The origins of online search * The birth of digital music and the copyright wars that ensued * The rise of blogging and social media after the bubble burst * A brief history of how Apple went from near-bankruptcy to being the wealthiest corporation on Earth McCullough also tells us how Google managed to survive the dot-bomb crash of 2000-01 to become one of today’s dominant companies. This happened almost by accident. The new version of AdWords had advertisers bid against competitors’ ads, but Google’s system was not simply pay-for-placement. Ever enamoured with math and the power of algorithms, Google ingtroduced an important new ranking factor for the ads it called a “Quality Score.” In essence, Google’s system took into account how often that ad was actually clicked on, in addition to how much an advertiser was willing to pay per click. … Over time, more money would come in from a 5-cent ad that was clicked on 25 times—than from a dollar ad that was only clicked on once. Brian McCullough, How the Internet Happened: From Netscape to the iPhone p.230 What this means is that Google discovered the importance of learning everything about its users (meaning: you and I), because they could make money from that knowledge. To fully understand, you should check out The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. I’m reading that now, and will probably have a lot to say about it when I finish. Right now, I can tell you it succeeds in altering one’s perception of what’s wrong with Big Tech. McCullough is more interested in the businesses that built the web, you’ll get a lot of stock prices, investment numbers, and net worth of the founders. If you liked the National Geographic Channel series, “Valley of the Boom,” you will enjoy the more detailed stories. All the main subplots get at least a mention. If the docudrama elements turned you off, you’ll appreciate the research and storytelling that McCullough delivers. What scares me most about this book is that, for better or worse, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg comes off the best of all the book’s founders, as the person who (accidentally) really had the purest vision. Once he figured that out, he refused to sell out. That worked out, didn’t it? I’ve read a lot about the history of the internet, and How the Internet Happened is one of the better ones. I started listening to McCullough’s podcast, which continues on, as a result of this book and learned a bit from both the source interviews and the collected text. You likely will too.

  21. 4 out of 5

    CTEP

    For the March Book Club I read How the Internet Happened From Netscape to iPhone by Brian McCullough. McCullough believes the human desire for communication was a common theme in the development of the early internet. The internet provider AOL became popular in the 90s in part due to their chat rooms and Instant Messenger program. Social Networks Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook went further, developing a whole ecosystem for Humans to connect with one another. The ability to instantly consume n For the March Book Club I read How the Internet Happened From Netscape to iPhone by Brian McCullough. McCullough believes the human desire for communication was a common theme in the development of the early internet. The internet provider AOL became popular in the 90s in part due to their chat rooms and Instant Messenger program. Social Networks Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook went further, developing a whole ecosystem for Humans to connect with one another. The ability to instantly consume news, music, and video was yet another popular internet feature. Starting an internet company was very expensive and turning a profit could be challenging. Many companies turned to advertising to fill these revenue gaps. The advertising started fairly simple. Ads based on the number of page views a website would receive. Google would popularize the pay per click advertising method. In this method advertisers would follow users around the internet to the websites they visited and would develop advertising profiles on users. These profiles are able to surmise with great accuracy a user’s geographical location, age range, gender, and many other characteristics. Many of our clients lacked digital resources growing up. At my site Hired our goal is to help bridge these digital gaps and help clients get a job. Job seekers were not required to be computer savvy in the early 90s. Now basic computer proficiency is a requirement for almost all jobs. Even if a person doesn’t use a computer at work, chances are they at least had to apply for the position online. Internet companies often view the web as just another business where the goal is to increase revenues and turn a profit. This can cause problems for the low income as many of our daily functions (including work) have come to rely on a computer and the internet. Anyone that’s a fan of technology history should read this book. The internet has definitely changed since the early 90s, not always for the better. Many internet companies are nominally free but practice what many call surveillance capitalism. If you’re not paying for something, you’re the product being sold. The data from our web browsing habits is the product sold to advertisers. I’m not sure if there is a simple answer to these problems. The popularity of Netflix and Spotify show there is a population willing to pay for some online services. A few things I do to limit my participation in this advertising model: use an adblocker like uBlock Origin, support websites/services I use, and use the search engine DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo doesn’t create advertising profiles on its users. Still, life is complicated and Google is hard to escape. I have a long email history with Gmail and it’s not super convenient to change all your important financial accounts to another email. I’ve used a Google product called chromebooks for years but I’m looking to switch to something else in the future. I read How the Internet Happened From Netscape to iPhone as an eBook from Hennepin County Library. Highly recommend!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Craig

    This is generally a fascinating read, at least as far as it goes, and one that I'd recommend, though at times it feels a bit like something is missing. It's an impressively researched, compelling and gracefully articulated history of how the internet happened, for sure—or at least of how it happened to the business people who created and profited hugely by the digital products involved. As the story goes here, those seem to be the main (if not the only) people that it happened to. It's a story w This is generally a fascinating read, at least as far as it goes, and one that I'd recommend, though at times it feels a bit like something is missing. It's an impressively researched, compelling and gracefully articulated history of how the internet happened, for sure—or at least of how it happened to the business people who created and profited hugely by the digital products involved. As the story goes here, those seem to be the main (if not the only) people that it happened to. It's a story well worth telling, of course, and McCullough does indeed tell it well. But it isn't the only one of course. It occurred to me a dozen or so chapters in, among all the swashbuckling of Silicon Valley pirates, that there had been little mention of internet users: of the subjective experience of being online as it changed over time; of the growth, life and decline of online subcultures and movements; of things like chat, online gaming, internet cafes, Y2K, etc. With the exception of a brief (and, given the subject at hand, inevitable) aside in the chapter on Web 2.0, users themselves seem strangely absent here, except when the user in question is a young Zuckerberg or a prototype-testing Jobs for whom the using is mainly training for building. Again, not the end of the world, and it's a bit silly to fault a book for not being something that the author never quite set out to create in the first place, but all the same, it seemed curious to me that a history of something I'm fascinated by and old enough to remember well (I was 17 when I first went online in 1993) seldom seemed like a history in which I recognized a familiar place, amidst all the IPOs and billion-dollar figures and late-night hack sessions in Ivy-League dorm rooms. This is unquestionably an impressive and wholly worthwhile history of internet entrepreneurship and innovation—the author bio mentions that McCullough's been part of his share of startups, which maybe explains why this angle especially compels him—but I'm left wishing (hoping!) that he's planning a second volume in which he turns his attention to the other end of the dial-up line.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I never know how I'm going to feel about non-fiction books when I pick them up, whether I enjoy the subject or not. They can often be dry, boring, slog-of-a-reads. That wasn't the case for me with Brian McCullough's How the Internet Happened. McCullough takes us through the history of the internet from the founding of Netscape by Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark all the way to the present day and the ubiquity of smart phones, which didn't hit their stride until 2007 with Apple's iPhone. McCullough' I never know how I'm going to feel about non-fiction books when I pick them up, whether I enjoy the subject or not. They can often be dry, boring, slog-of-a-reads. That wasn't the case for me with Brian McCullough's How the Internet Happened. McCullough takes us through the history of the internet from the founding of Netscape by Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark all the way to the present day and the ubiquity of smart phones, which didn't hit their stride until 2007 with Apple's iPhone. McCullough's voice is conversational, almost peppy. I moved through each chapter with ease, often smiling at his analysis of some of the events I experienced personally as a young person in the early aughts. I still remember when Facebook first made its way through my dorm in 2005. It was an odd feeling knowing I could stay connected to all of the people I had gone to high school with, and it was even odder to recognize that we were able to keep up with each other without ever having to interact at all, without ever having to have a conversation. Go ahead and roll your eyes at me younger people. I know you want to. At that time though, the idea of an online social network was extraordinary. I enjoyed being able to read about some of the big names behind companies I take for granted today - Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Jerry Yang and David Filo - the yahoos who started Yahoo!, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google. And not only that, but it was really interesting to read about the dot-com bubble and eventual burst. I was about 10 when the dot-coms were having their heyday, and about 15 when that bubble burst. Of course, as a kid I had no idea what that internet thing was or the impact it would eventually have on my life. Overall, this was a very enjoyable and informative read. It has certainly sparked my interest in reading even more accounts of this time period and the phenomenon known as the internet. Thanks to NetGalley and W. W. Norton & Company for my review copy.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tim Jin

    ​I have to agree with most reviewers of "How the Internet Happened" is a good informational book. As I lived through that era and also being disable, technology has always been the key component in my life. I could remembered in 1994-1995, going to my English teacher (Dr. Poff) and asking him what was the Internet and how do I get on it. Ever since then, I've always been connected. If it wasn't for my high school teacher, I probably could had figured it out, but those were some exciting times, t ​I have to agree with most reviewers of "How the Internet Happened" is a good informational book. As I lived through that era and also being disable, technology has always been the key component in my life. I could remembered in 1994-1995, going to my English teacher (Dr. Poff) and asking him what was the Internet and how do I get on it. Ever since then, I've always been connected. If it wasn't for my high school teacher, I probably could had figured it out, but those were some exciting times, trying to dial into Netcom and Compuserve. As for Brian McCullough's book. I enjoyed the blast from the past. As a coder, the information is very mainstream and water down. It's an easy read. For someone that hasn't lived through those years, they would probably think that this book is outstanding. Even I was mesmerized the past and how far the technology has evolved of what we are experiencing now. This book is something that I would pass on to the next generation that takes their screen time for granted. While the information presented was excellent, the author left out ZDTV and Computer Chronicles. They were the first to break the news on new products and services on tv. I can remember watching PBS and seeing an episode of Computer Chronicles on Hotmail and let's not forget Compaq 486 DX.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Shantanu Gangal

    Chris Dixon recommended How the Internet Happened: From Netscape to the iPhone. It is a terrific and dense history lesson of the 90s & 00s; that's the book review. Further it was very thought-provoking to read it from the perspective of growing up in India, 1. While the US had significant PC adoption before the browsers came along, most Indians got the PC+internet+web together. Jio has taken bundled things further and Ambani might finally build Gates' Information Superhighway. 2. The 90s intern Chris Dixon recommended How the Internet Happened: From Netscape to the iPhone. It is a terrific and dense history lesson of the 90s & 00s; that's the book review. Further it was very thought-provoking to read it from the perspective of growing up in India, 1. While the US had significant PC adoption before the browsers came along, most Indians got the PC+internet+web together. Jio has taken bundled things further and Ambani might finally build Gates' Information Superhighway. 2. The 90s internet bubble never really happened in India though; neither did the winter aftermath. A lot of podcasts & blogs that reference the dot com era, with a tinge of nervous hope, only start to make sense now. 3. A lot of Indians got online via dial-up & made their 1st (Google, obviously) search in the early 2000s (lag = 6-8yr). Our dorm had a communal iMac in '03 (lag = 5yr); most had Facebook accounts pre News Feed in '06 (lag = 2yr) & held an iPhone in early '08 (lag < 1yr). The lag time shrank rapidly through the pages of the book and, for me, built a great thrill of catching up to the future.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Camee

    Kudos to Brian McCullough for taking a subject that is at risk of being boring and turning it into one of my most interesting reads of 2019. I have always been fascinated by how quickly computers and the internet took over our modern world, and McCullough does a fantastic job of providing the right details so you get the main parts of the story. There were so many players and elements in this saga, and he still managed to bring it all together in a comprehensive and entertaining manner. The most Kudos to Brian McCullough for taking a subject that is at risk of being boring and turning it into one of my most interesting reads of 2019. I have always been fascinated by how quickly computers and the internet took over our modern world, and McCullough does a fantastic job of providing the right details so you get the main parts of the story. There were so many players and elements in this saga, and he still managed to bring it all together in a comprehensive and entertaining manner. The most interesting take aways for me were that home computers and the internet began as something intended only for professionals and the early developers had no idea that people from all walks of life would one day own computers, smartphones, and rely on the internet. I also loved the detailed evolution of social media and how it grew and evolved into what it is today. With how quickly we have jumped from basic browsers, to online communities, to internet ads, to social media, it all just makes me wonder what is going to be schemed up next by another big thinker.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    This is a fantastic read for anyone interested in finding out if Al Gore really did invent the internet or not... Well, ok, it's not that. However, it is a fantastic read. It's very interesting and well written, not overly technical or academic. And, I admit, it was a nice walk memory lane, all these inventions and programs that I had kind of forgotten. The book gives a very concise history of the internet, but it's not just geek fest of the technological road to where we are today. It provides c This is a fantastic read for anyone interested in finding out if Al Gore really did invent the internet or not... Well, ok, it's not that. However, it is a fantastic read. It's very interesting and well written, not overly technical or academic. And, I admit, it was a nice walk memory lane, all these inventions and programs that I had kind of forgotten. The book gives a very concise history of the internet, but it's not just geek fest of the technological road to where we are today. It provides context; economic, political, and societal context. It shows the good, the bad, and the ugly. The only real criticism I have, and it's more an imagined criticism than a real one for me, is that the book might be a little too shallow for those who already know the field. It's a book that lands firmly in the pop-science/technology category. So geeks, if you want to feel nostalgic, maybe this book is for you; if you want to have your mind blown, maybe not. Regardless, for the rest of us, it's a given for a crash course in how the internet happened.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ursula Johnson

    The Rise of the Internet -Masterfully Told This was a fascinating trip down memory lane for those of us old enough to remember the beginning of the Internet. I remember using and loving Netscape Navigator, before Internet Explorer became dominant. It's all here, from the beginnings in academia to the adoption of the masses: AOL, Myspace, the dotcom bubble and Web 2.0. All the major players are profiled as well, from Marc Andreesen to Marc Zuckerman. Expertly told and if you love audio, beautifull The Rise of the Internet -Masterfully Told This was a fascinating trip down memory lane for those of us old enough to remember the beginning of the Internet. I remember using and loving Netscape Navigator, before Internet Explorer became dominant. It's all here, from the beginnings in academia to the adoption of the masses: AOL, Myspace, the dotcom bubble and Web 2.0. All the major players are profiled as well, from Marc Andreesen to Marc Zuckerman. Expertly told and if you love audio, beautifully narrated by Timothy Andres Pabon. This is a history everyone should read since it covers many of the sites and technologies often taken for granted. Highly enjoyable, I found it hard to put down.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

    I feel old I remember so many of the things discussed in this book. It makes me feel old. My life is history, apparently. The book reads quickly, moving us through an internet genealogy. It’s part history, part chasing the roots of what we use every day. If you lived it, you may look back fondly, but you’ll probably learn something new. If you’re too young to remember Netscape, this will ground you in where we started (well, yes, it started before that, just read the book). It ends with a sense of I feel old I remember so many of the things discussed in this book. It makes me feel old. My life is history, apparently. The book reads quickly, moving us through an internet genealogy. It’s part history, part chasing the roots of what we use every day. If you lived it, you may look back fondly, but you’ll probably learn something new. If you’re too young to remember Netscape, this will ground you in where we started (well, yes, it started before that, just read the book). It ends with a sense of inevitability that makes me a little uncomfortable. And it definitely makes me more aware of the device I’m typing on and the review I’m posting on Amazon and Goodreads for everyone else to read... weird.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ken Goldman

    Great History of the Internet and how we got to where we are today I first learned about Brian McCullough by listening to his informative technology podcast, Techmeme Ride Home. I was intrigued when he started to promote his book, so I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did. Brian gives us the history and background of the internet, and all that has gone into it, in a very readable format. This is book provides great background, the good, the bad, and the ugly, on all the players we know or kne Great History of the Internet and how we got to where we are today I first learned about Brian McCullough by listening to his informative technology podcast, Techmeme Ride Home. I was intrigued when he started to promote his book, so I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did. Brian gives us the history and background of the internet, and all that has gone into it, in a very readable format. This is book provides great background, the good, the bad, and the ugly, on all the players we know or knew (eg Netscape, Napster, Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc) as well as others we either didn’t know or have forgotten about. In the end he ties it all up in a very neat bundle. Highly recommended for other geeks, or people who are just interested in the history of technology.

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