In a nine-chapter opus, Vanity Fair clean-up hitter Keenan "Coverline" Mayo and Peter Newcomb pitch the inevitable book deal for an oral history of the Internet. In it are all sorts of unchallenged assertions by various leading lights, from early stories of the Arpanet to Friendster founder Jonathan Abrams complaining about getting friend invites from "Pounce" when he's not taking undue credit for building the first social network. (Six Degrees, anyone?) But what stood out to me were two anecdotes that illustrate the plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose nature of business in America. Namely, the cycle of monopolies which the Internet has done little to stop and will probably spin Google's way next. After the jump, 100 words that changed the world — without the pleasantly distracting Angelina Jolie pop-up ads spewed by the Vanity Fair website.
First, Paul Baran discusses his invention of packet-switching while working at the Rand Corporation, which allowed for data to route through multiple nodes on a network, and the reception it received by then-monopoly AT&T:
The one hurdle packet switching faced was AT&T. They fought it tooth and nail at the beginning. They tried all sorts of things to stop it. They pretty much had a monopoly in all communications. And somebody from outside saying that there’s a better way to do it of course doesn’t make sense.
Less than thirty years later, it was Microsoft's turn to play the heavy with their Windows monopoly when meeting with Marc Andreesen and the rest of the team at Netscape's offices in the Valley, as told by Netscape's counsel at the time Gary Reback:
A group of Microsoft executives came down to Netscape and had a meeting, and the Microsoft people in effect said that if you’re going to make a browser that can serve as a platform for new applications it’s going to be all-out war with us.