Online Timeline

May 1996 - August 1996

See It Be It, 1996 by Les Levine
Image courtesy of the artist

MAY 1996

5/1/96 Freeloader starts up today; it is a new off-line service that find websites in which a customer might be interested, then downloads the pages onto the userís hard-drive for later, off-line viewing. It is advertising-driven, while other companies--including Netriever, Surfbot, and Webex--sell softward that does the downloading.

5/9/96 This fall Zenith Electronics (in partnership with Diba, Inc.) will market a television with a modem and Ethernet link enabling connections to the Internet without a computer. Priced at $899, such a product would undercut Gateway 2000ís, $3500 Web TV, which recently debuted to mixed responses.

5/10/96 The FBI disclosed in a Philadelphia Federal court that it had reviewed complaints of indecent material on Compuserve, although the government had agreed to refrain from investigating such complaints while a constitutional challence to the new Communications Decency Act was being decided. The complaints to the Justice Deparmentís Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section--later forwarded to the FBI--came from the American Family Association, Reverend Donald Wildmonís controversial, right-wing, organization.

5/20/96 Compuserve announced that it is rebuilding its on-line service to the standards of the World Wide Web, leaving only America Online as the last, major proprietary service.

5/30/96 Pacific Telesis became the first of the regional Bell companies to offer Internet service to its customors in the on-line- heavy California market. It will compete with on-line services like AOL and Compuserve, cable television companies, phone companies such as MCI, Sprint and AT&T, and large regional service providers such as Netcom.

5/30/96 Intel announced at a meeting in New York today, that starting later this year, most new computers will be able to make and receive video-phone calls over standard phone lines. Intelís new operating system and improved compression software enables this simultaneous transmission of video and audio over ordinary phone lines.

JUNE 1996

6/4/96 The New York Times reported that Nippon Telegraph and Telephone has been selling a data-scrambling chip that sets it on a collision course with Clinton Administration policy to restrict the export of encryption technology. Jim Bidzos, CEO of RSA Data Security and a long-time critic of US export laws that prohibit the sales of such products, announced that it was negotiating with NTT to resell the chips in the US.

6/12/96 A three-judge Federal panel in Philadelphia declared major parts of the Telecommunications Decency Act unconstitutional. Calling government attempts to regulate indecent and ìpatently offensiveî speech on the Internet a ìprofoundly repugnantî assault on the First Amendment, the panel rejected arguments that the Internet should be subjected to the broad regulations applied to television and radio, rather than to the narrower restrictions applied to the press. In the process, the judges decribed the Internet as the ìmost participatory marketplace of mass speech that this country--and indeed--the world has yet seen.î

6/24/96 The governors of ten Western states in the U.S. announced the creation of a new virtual university that would be the most ambitious institution of its kind. An independent, nonprofit corporation, it would grant certificates of proficiency and offer course credit that would be recognized by non-virtual colleges and universities. The governors pledged $1 million of the $6-10 million start-up costs; opening day has only been described as ìsoon.î Planning documents are visible at

JULY 1996

7/8/96 The New York Times reported the results of a political profile of Netizens compiled by Crossover Technologies, in conjunction with the John and Mary R. Markle Foundation. The company ran a Federal budget simulation game on the WWW during the first 6 months of this year. It revealed that the mostly male audience in this self-selected sample were largely libertarian, favoring cutting funds for foreign aid, agricultural subsidies, welfare, the military, arts funding and public television, and increasing funds for environmental programs, scientific research, and food programs. These netizens would also scrap affirmative action and legalize virtually all drugs.

7/8/96 The National Cable Television Association announced that cable television companies will provide 3000 schools in 60 communities with high speed Internet access via cable TV lines.

7/12/96 Time Warner Inc. And Chicago-based (Baby) Bell Ameritech Corp announced that the media-entertainment conglomerate would offer local telephone service in the MidWest; the first pact of its kind since the Telecommunications Act was signed into law six months ago. 7/26 The second such pact was signed between Cox Communications Inc., one of the nationís largest cable TV companies, and Pacific Bell of San Francisco. Cox will now offer local phone serivce over cable lines to cable subscribers.

7/15/96 Compaq introduced the Presario 3000, heralding a new era in computer design. The monitor is a flat-planed screen housed in a curved frame; the all-in-one technology is wireless (including the mouse); and its portable, space-saving design weighs only 26 pounds, half as much as conventional computer. Its color? Still a neutral taupe.

7/16/96 A San Jose, California federal grand jury indicted 13 people in the U.S. and 3 from abroad on charges of child pornography and molestation. Members of the so-called Orchid Club are alleged to have even chatted electronically as two of the men molested a 10-year-old girl.

7/96 Fears that IBMís Olympic website--which opened on 7/22 and received 12 million hits that day--might crash the Internet or cause brownouts proved unfounded.

7/96 Letters to the Federal Communications Commission from the White House demonstrate that the Clinton administration is backing broadcasters and consumer-electronics-makers in the determination of a standard format for digital television. The computer industry asserts that the new standard is dependent on already-outmoded technology.

7/96 Microsoft has begun to privately demonstrate new software in anticipation of its imminent free distribution. It is intended to seamlessly blend the World Wide Web with the Windows 95 operating system. Doing away with the file-and-folder storage system popularized by Macintosh, the new software signals a future in which few visible distinctions between information produced and stored inside a computer versus information housed on a networked computer would exist.

7/96 The Council of Better Business Bureaus is offering a BBBOnline CARE seal to companies that agree to live up to online advertising claims.


8/1/96 The U.S. Federal Communications Commission released more than 500 pages of new rules governing local telephone-carriage competition. Aggressively opening local markets, the rules initially seem to favor long-distance carriers, such as AT&T, over local providers like the so-called Baby Bells, which will be unable to charge the high rates long distance carriers now pay to complete local calls.

8/2/96 The Church of Scientology and Netcom, an online service provider, reached an out-of-court settlement in a legal battle over copyrighted church documents posted online. Former scientology minister and vocal church critic Dennis Erlich posted lectures by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard to a private bulletin board service which contracts Netcom to automatically repost such postings. First Amendment advocates were closely watching the case, but the litigantsí agreement not to discuss the settlement obviated its precedent-setting importance. The ìprivate bulletin board serviceî or remailer ( of Helsinki), however, was shut down partly as a consequence of a Finnish court ruling demanding that the service reveal the name of one of its system-users to the Church of Scientology. (Remailers are often used by political dissidents or others desiring anonymity.)

8/7/96 America Online service was shut down for nearly 19 hours when the company tried to add switches and new software to its network. A day later, AOL reported that it tripled its second-quarter profits of $16.1 million, a larger-than-expected decline in growth.

8/12/96 In the battle of the web browsers, Microsoft announced deals today to provide its Internet Explorer users with automatic and free access to the Wall St. Journal and ESPNet Sports Zone. (Netscapeís Navigator browser is currently used by 85% of web surfers.) 8/18 Netscape released its new Navigator 3.0. Instead of sending web surfers to content produced by its partners, Navigator will automatically gather requested info and deliver it via e-mail. Unlike Microsoftís Internet Explorer, Navigator is free for only 90 days, when it costs $49.95.

8/12/96 President Ernesto Zedillo inaugurated Mexicoís newly completed, digital fiberoptics network of Avantel S.A. It was the first Mexican long distance call not carried by Telmex, ushering in competition in long distance carriage.

8/14/96 Nielsen Media Research and Commercenet released the results of a scheduled six-month follow-up study of Internet-user demographics commissioned by Commercenet. It stated that 22-24% of all people 16 or over in the US and Canada had access to the Internet as of last March, versus 17% in August 1995. The growth seems to be coming from older, less educated and less affluent ìnewbiesî to the Net.

8/17/96 Hackers defaced the US Justice department home page [] with swastikas, obscene images and virulent criticism of the Communications Decency Act.

8/18/96 The first online wine tasting brought together wine experts in Arroyo Grande, California and New York. Internet users participated in the discussion of wines from South Central California via e-mail.

9/95 - 12/95 1/96 - 4/96 9/96 - 12/96

Online Timeline
Issue 3