Back in 1993, I remember a professor at UNC saying that “email” was the “killer app” of the internet, meaning that the internet basically existed due to the early, incontrovertible adoption of email as they way people talk to each other. In essence, the net spawned email, but email made the net.
Between the heydey of email and the widescale adoption of the World Wide Web, the closest “killer app” was Usenet. If you never used Usenet’s “newsgroups,” you missed out. It was crazy back then. More on that in another blog.
Anyway, the World Wide Web and the Browser of Your Choice became the next reason for the internet to exist, and by 1996 every college graduate with a pulse was trying to work the angles. Along with my friends, I consider that era our mini-Wild West – and I was lucky enough to help bring to fruition a website that still exists today (citysearch.com, albeit it’s a different beast now).
What was to become the “killer app” for your Web browser? My prediction, early on, was porn, dating and eBay. It lent itself perfectly to those three things. A distant second was Amazon, the late Kozmo.com, and Napster back when it was illegal and free.
The true killer app of the internet right now? It has to be Google. People try to say blogs (which are just public diaries, really) and iTunes (which Napster had done just fine) but can you imagine going to college in the age of Google? I remember trying to track down a Latin quote from Virgil [thanks, shannon!] at Carolina in 1987, because I’d seen it scrawled on a painting – after years of searching, I gave up. On Google, 18 years later, I found it in .0863 seconds: tempus erat quo prima quies mortalibus aegris incipit, et dono diuum gratissima serpit.
Why am I telling you all this? Because Wikipedia is becoming the next indispensable killer app of the Web. I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me sooner, but it is the proletariat’s dictionary. What if the encyclopedia of the entire world were posted in the town square of the village, and each person got to add their knowledge to it? Everyone agreed not to burn it down or use it for an agenda, but as an altruistic desire to illuminate your fellow villagers?
To be honest, this entry about UNC’s “Pit Preacher” Gary Birdsong is what sold me entirely, as it is a perfect overview – with a picture – of a random guy who used to yell at me circa 1988. Everyone else from my generation of UNC grads will remember him, but everyone remembers a different piece of him, and it’s all collected there should you ever need it. Which you won’t, but still.
Oh shit, the baby’s crying. Anyone got something to add before discussing the Public Ivies?