How The Web Was Won: The End of an Era

An historical perspective on the demise of The Internet Marketing Discussion List, moderated for two years by Glenn Fleishman.

There was no specific date that the West became safe for families in covered wagons. There was no specific moment when the trappers and traders handed the reins over to the settlers and the homesteaders. But June 8, 1996 was the date it happened on the Internet.

An era of initial exploration and discovery is over. The Internet Marketing Discussion List, moderated for two years by Glenn Fleishman of Point of Presence Company, Seattle, Washington (www.popco.com), is gone.

The Internet Marketing Discussion List had been the place where we cut our Internet marketing teeth, learned from each other and exposed our mistakes so that others might not Web in vain. We covered far ranging topics and got to know each other. We grew up together.

The Birth Of An Industry

The Internet Marketing Discussion list was born on July 22, 1994 when Kim Bayne, moderator of the High Tech Marketing Communicator’s list had had enough. HTMARCOM (www.bayne.com) had already been online for almost a year when the Web happened. Designed for marketers of high-tech products and services, Kim wanted HTMARCOM to cover a wide variety of topics. However, in spring of 1994 the discourse turned exclusively to creating Web sites. At first, this was great. It was fascinating. It was, in fact, astonishing.

But soon, the talk was all about servers and HTML and cgi.bin scripts. Kim just said no. Kim is a moderate moderator. She participates in the HTMARCOM list, but only offers advice and course correction when necessary. Occasionally she has to remind us not to post ads. In the Fall of 1994, she convinced us that there were other things to talk about than the Pentium PR predicament. Kim suggested that the need for a conversation about Internet marketing was vital, but could we please move it somewhere else?

Within two weeks Glenn offered up a new list and had kept up with the snowballing pace ever since. By reading and approving every post, Glenn saved me from public embarrassment more times than can be counted on two hands by rejecting some of my more belligerent, thoughtless or just plain poorly crafted messages. By reading every post, Glenn might just have learned more about Internet marketing than anybody else.

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.

The List’s Kervorkian passing was announced on June 8, 1996 when Glenn professed it was taking too much time and too many resources. All 7,000 or so of us who have read, learned and spouted off on the Inet list were shocked. We couldn’t believe it. We didn’t want it to be true. Some people were downright hostel and sent Glenn e-mail demanding he not turn his back on his public duty to continue.

Dozens of messages offered to help, or defray the cost, or post less, or be nicer to their fellow man and more ecologically responsible if only Glenn would say he was just kidding. Most of us felt the disturbance in the force and it weakened us for a moment as we caught our collective breath and realized the time had come.

We didn’t begrudge Glenn his need to make a living. As moderator, Glenn had read and approved every post. None of us has ever had time to read every post. Turned out Glenn didn’t either.

A Split Second Of Free Time

Several private e-mails suggested that the passing of Inet-Marketing might be a relief. A relief from the daily pressure of twenty or thirty messages all vetted by Glenn (which made them worthy of our attention). Twenty or thirty messages which held the essence of this new industry we were in the process of creating. But this list was too good to leave a void. In fact, it may simply be stepping aside to open the floodgates of a dozen offspring. At the moment there are oodles of marketing lists to choose from and the only way to keep track is with some help form Kim Bayne’s “Marketing Lists on the Internet”:

www.bayne.com

It seems likely that a handful of lists will end up front runners. The top picks from today’s field include:

The Internet Marketing Mailing List
(of which Glenn is a board member)
To: LISTSERV@INTERNET.COM
Subject: SUBSCRIBE IMARCOM

Online Advertising Discussion List
www.o-a.com/

The Internet Marketing Roundtable
To: mktg-roundtable@wmo.com
Body: subscribe

Internet Developers Association Discussion Mailing List (members-only)
http://www.association.org

While it may not leave a void in it’s wake, the Internet Marketing Discussion List is leaving a lot of heavy hearts. This list saw the birth of an industry. In fact, it more than discussed the industry, it helped shape it.

A look at the January 1, 1995 roster of Glenn’s list would reveal a who’s who of Internet marketing. The movers and shakers and site builders and company founders were on hand. We taught each other the importance of copy clarity, small graphics and added value, and the need to avoid blinking and spamming.

The End Of An Era

Now we’re a little more grown up. Our university days are behind us and our desire for camaraderie and open debate has been replaced by our needs to meet deadlines and hire new staff members. That’s left the discussion to those who where not subscribed in ’95. Those who need to understand the things we discussed a year ago. The original members of the list lost interest in re-tilling the same soil. The conversation had become cyclical.

In his good-bye post, Glenn said:

———-
Frankly, I believe, even with the continued and active participation of a good fraction of its membership, that the level of discussion on the list has become less and less interesting over time, and we’re repeating ourselves ad nauseum for the most part. As moderator, I can’t point to anyone but myself as the contributor or cause of this decline; that decline directly correlates to my decreasing lack of interest and time to invest in the list.

The list has been fascinating to run, but it’s taken up a never-decreasing chunk of time in my life which I’m now ready to devote to other business and personal tasks. …..

The spark is gone for me, and it’s hard for me to put anything less than 100% effort behind what I’m involved with. Since I’ve lost my interest in the list, and it’s an idiosyncratic venture, it’s time to shut ‘er down.
———-

The History Of The World (condensed)

Just as Ferdinand Magellan proved the world was round, Vinton Cerf and the Grand Old Men of the ARPAnet proved that a network of computers could cover the earth. In true Christopher Columbus style, Tim Burners-Lee discovered a whole new world (wide web) while trying to link CERN Physics Lab papers together. The NCSA Software Development Group brought boatloads of pilgrims to the shores of the Web with the promise of Mosaic. Then it was up to the frontiersmen and the trailblazers to open the West and make it safe for pioneers. That’s where Glenn Fleishman came in.

The Lewis & Clarks, the Daniel Boones and the Davey Crocketts worked their way slowly through the Web territories discovering glorious new vistas and mapping out the terrain. They learned how to cross mountains and forge streams. They ran afoul of bands of native Interneters intent on keeping commerce off their network. They blazed the trail. And they all got together at Glenn’s saloon to wash down the trail dust with a congenial glass of whiskey and trade information about what lay ahead.

They took on the roles of explorer, guide, and in some cases, sheriff. Rob Raisch’s Postage Due Marketing still stands as a seminal treatise on unsolicited e-mail. Like many ideas which led to articles which led to business practices, Rob’s essay was born out of the intelligent, illuminating debate on the Internet Marketing Discussion List.

Trailblazers Make Room For The Tillers Of The Soil

And now, the trailblazers are moving on. They know that content is more important than appearance. They’ve discussed the difficulties of building pages to accommodate multiple browsers. They’re on to face new problems, problems that come with creating new businesses and new business models. After all, they’re trailblazers.

Others will come along to set up schools and teach new settlers what they need to know about planting crops, fighting whooping cough, writing cgi.bin scripts and managing PR crises on newsgroups. The explorers will be looking just over the horizon, around the next bend and into the future.

So we offer a tip of the hat to Glenn Fleishman and all who participated on the Internet Marketing Discussion List. While the trails were being blazed, Glenn offered a refuge in the wilderness for participation, cooperation, and companionship. Now that the Golden Spike has been driven and the Gold Rush is on, Glenn’s refuge becomes just another historical marker on the side of the road. We all thank Glenn Fleishman for tending the saloon and we wish him the best of everything in his next adventures.

Internet Marketing Discussion List archives can be found at www.i-m.com.