Web 1.0 history, forgotten web celebrities, old web sites, commentary, and news by Steve Baldwin. Published erratically since 1996.
July 11, 2008
TheLinkUp.com Goes Dark
TheLinkUp.com was a startup that attempted to meld social networking with file sharing. Unfortunately, as recounted in an article on Techcrunch, several severe technical glitches in the past month resulted in the deletion of half of the files users uploaded there. TheLinkUp.com was the last iteration in a series of projects going by other names, including MediaMax and Streamload: it is not known how much VC money was spent attempting to get TheLinkUp off the ground, but there will be plenty of hardware to dig through if and when we see a liquidation sale in San Diego.
The site is still live but expected to go dark by August 8, 2008. In the meantime, you can see TheLinkUp.com in its heyday courtesy of the following YouTube video providing instructions for its use.
Prominent videoblogger Loren Feldman had everything going for him. Named "one of the the freshest voices in digital media" by A-list Silicon Valley kingmakers, including C|Net's Charles Cooper, dubbed "a new age Lenny Bruce" by others, Feldman's upward trajectory into the top ranks of video blogging seemed unstoppable throughout 2007 and the Spring of 2008, accelerating markedly as Feldman launched a new series of videos brilliantly mocking the tech industry's most pompous tech bloggers using hand puppets.
Feldman's shtick (angry urban man on the rampage against technology industry snake oil salesman and false cyber-prophets) wasn't a new idea, but his execution brought a refreshing immediacy that was a perfect antidote to the widespread and cowardly practice of mass, anonymous flame-throwing that passes for discourse on the Web. Feldman's opinons were his own, he wasn't afraid to tell us who he was, and if you didn't like it, well tough. You could love Feldman, hate him, but you couldn't ignore him, because he was real -- a rare quality in a medium drowning in illusion enabled by rampant anonymity.
After years of struggling on the margins of the Blogosphere, the riches were poised to flow to Feldman, first from C|Net, which in early June signed Feldman and his production company, 1938 Media, to a writing and video production deal, and then Verizon, which was to open Feldman's brand of in your face, take no prisoners iconoclasm to the wireless carrier's 3 million VCast subscribers. If anyone was going to prove, after the Amanda Congdon/ABC fiasco, that Bloggers were ready to dish to the mainstream, it was going to be Feldman. And yet, in a blink of an eye, both of these "big fish" (as Feldman called them) dropped Feldman like the hottest of hot potatoes, hours after a controversial 2007 video, "Where Are The Black Tech Bloggers" surfaced, reigniting a firestorm of criticism that all had thought was forgotten. Today, Feldman has been reduced to fending off multiple attackers accusing him of racism from a lonely Twitter outpost, despite the fact that he profusely apologized about the whole affair more than a year ago.
There are lessons for us all in Feldman's dizzying rise and fall. While the Web allows an unparalleled level of creative freedom, content creators are still responsible for what they create, and the mere fact that a given "edgy" work was created one or ten years ago provides no protection against those offended by it. The greatest illusion of today's world is that we are free, whereas in fact we all live in a Panopticon where any past writing can be held against us. Whatever freedom we enjoy is constrained by its economic context. There is a vast difference between serving up a Blog post and making a few pennies against it via Adsense and serving up the same content through a content licensing agreement. It's not so much the money -- it's who you take it from, and Feldman should have known this. In Faustian fashion, if you're a Verizon subcontractor, you have to abide by Verizon's rules.
Of course, we all likely have skeletons in our closets, comments we made in the middle of the night that we regret making but cannot delete, or e-mails sent in piques of anger. What happened to Feldman can happen to any of us, and this kind of affair will increase in frequency as the Myspace/Facebook generations begins to confront the indelibility of digital communications. Feldman is a unique talent but like Faust, Icarus, and Lenny Bruce, he ran into a wall he himself created, and my hope is that he will soon stop blaming others and begin to more seriously think about the responsibilities that come with creative freedom.
The real tragedy of Loren Feldman is that 95 percent of the people who will now be exposed to his work through this controversy will not look past "Where Are the Black Tech Bloggers" to appreciate his other work, which is funny, probing, and right on the money. In the world of the Panopticon, things are neither forgotten nor forgiven, which makes it a uniquely terrifying medium for anyone seeking to push the envelope of discourse.
SatireWire.com Celebrates Its 6th Year as a Well-Preserved Corpse
SatireWire.com, a once wildly popular Web 1.0 humor site that ceased publication in 2002, continues to float in a state of suspended animation. Perhaps satire ages better than any known form of Web content; perhaps the Adsense listings running on Satirewire provide enough of an annuity to reward whoever wound up inheriting the domain; in any event, the domain's owners have reserved SatireWire.com through 2012, an optimistic bet that somebody will come forward with a plan to breathe life into a meme that was commodified a long time ago by the likes of 23/6.com, The Onion, and many many others.
Five Ghosties (Site is Stuffed, Embalmed, and Ready for Internet Museum) Getting one of these awards indicates that the site in question was updated so long ago that it's almost supernatural that it's still here. Any site that was last updated in the 20th Century instantly qualifies it for this prestigiously mordant award.