Chris Anderson, Wired's waggle-eared rock-star editor, has been dropping hints left and right about the relaunch of HotWired, a faded Web property Conde Nast picked up along with Webmonkey last month. The rumor we've heard: That Wired is relaunching the site as a news-focused social network like Digg. (Conde Nast already owns Digg competitor Reddit, whose engineers are likely involved in the project.) It's a sensible brand extension for Wired, but a far cry from HotWired's early ambitions, described in a 1994 email as "live, twitching, the real-time nervous system of the planet." Here's the HotWired FAQ, which reads like it was just unearthed from a time capsule:
What Is HotWired?
HotWired is new thinking for a new medium. We call it a cyberstation, a suite of vertical content streams about the Digital Revolution and the Second Renaissance with an integrated community space. While HotWired is currently bound by technological limitations that restrict bandwidth, it represents the genetic blueprint that will evolve into the overarching media environment of the next century.
At the core of HotWired's editorial is point of view. We are not in the content business, we are in the context business. People today don't have the time or inclination to make sense of the data flood. HotWired is Wired's answer to the need for professionalism in a new medium that has been filled until now with something that resembles public access television programming.
HotWired is live, twitching, the real-time nervous system of the planet.
What Does HotWired Look Like?
HotWired is a stunning reinterpretation of the World Wide Web. Developed by Creative Director Barbara Kuhr of the award-winning design firm Plunkett + Kuhr, HotWired's look is clean and bright, filled with playful logos by Dutch designer Max Kisman and bursting with world-beat colors.
HotWired can be accessed on the Internet via the World Wide Web and a client application such as Mosaic or NetScape (though be warned, NCSA Mosaic for Windows has a bug which makes it unusable).
How Is HotWired Different?
HotWired doesn't look like any online service out there - it zigs where all the others zag. (HotWired's unofficial design watchword was "war on bevelled edges.") Its content and perspective are as innovative as those of its mothership, Wired magazine, while at the same time being utterly different. Its community space is technologically unrivalled - the first graphical conferencing system for the World Wide Web.
Isn't Advertising Anathema on the Net? The Net community does indeed react negatively to invasive advertising - the kind of spamming conducted recently by the Arizona lawyers Canter and Siegel, which elicited a massive rejection by the Net's immune system. The advertising on HotWired is the opposite of invasive.
Each advertiser is accessible only through a single discreet banner at the head of a content section. Most advertising is 90 percent persuasion and 10 percent information; advertising on HotWired reverses this ratio. And the privacy of members is guaranteed by HotWired's unqualified commitment to never divulge a member's personal information to advertisers.
Why HotWired, Why Now?
Because while Big Media and the telecom behemoths have been busy forming "strategic alliances" to build the "information superhighway" and sending out press releases about the tests they're launching any day now, thousands of companies and millions of people have quietly built a new interactive medium called the Internet.
This medium is not magazines with buttons, any more than television was radio with pictures. It's a new medium with a new aesthetic, a new commercial dynamic.
Many media companies shovel their leftovers into the online world and call it content. HotWired is not one of them.
Where Wired is a clear signpost to the next level, HotWired is operating from that next level. HotWired is a constantly evolving experiment in virtual community. It's Way New Journalism. It's Rational Geographic.
Today is like 1948; a new medium has reached critical mass. We're trying to help define the future of that medium before it ends up like television.
So if you're looking for the soul of our new medium in wild metamorphosis, our advice is simple. Get HotWired.
What Does HotWired Cost?
HotWired is free to members. HotWired's revenue model is similar to broadcast media - content supported by sponsors. HotWired's sponsors are some of the bluest chip advertisers in America, including IBM, AT&T, Volvo, Sprint, MCI, Zima (Coors), Internet Shopping Network (Home Shopping Network), Club Med, etc.
What Hotwired Is Not HotWired is not Wired magazine with another name (Wired works perfectly well in print, thank you). It's not a so-called online magazine (print content reduced to ASCII and shoveled into another medium, narrowband interactive). It's not video-on-demand (a pie-in-the-sky marketing concept created by out-of-touch old-media executives to justify their headlong rush into a new medium they don't understand, broadband interactive). It's not an online service like Prodigy or AOL (now rendered obsolete by the explosion of interest in the Internet and the development of the Web and graphical browsers).
And like Wired before it, HotWired is not a cold, marketing concept, but the heartfelt expression of the passion of its creators.