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The wild wide web – a new frontier

Up to this point, the internet had been the realm of technologists and scientists at research institutions. But the advent of the web changed the landscape, making online information accessible to a much broader audience. What happened next was explosive. Between 1991 and 1997 the web grew at an astonishing 850 per cent per annum, eclipsing all expectations.

With more websites and more people joining the online party every day, it was only a matter of time before innovative tech-savvy marketers started to notice the web’s potential as an avenue for the marketing message.

The mid 1990s saw an explosion in new online ventures as pioneering entrepreneurs, grasping the burgeoning potential of this exciting new medium, scrambled to stake their claim on this virtual new frontier. In August 1995 there were 18,957 websites online; by August 1996 there were 342,081 (‘15 Years of the Web, Internet Timeline’, bbc).

Note there are now approximately 635 million websites online. Silicon Valley was awash with venture capital as investors bet big bucks on the internet’s next big thing – some with viable business plans, others with charismatic founders riding on the coat tails of the prevailing net So… You Want to Go Digital??? 11 mania. New ventures sprung up almost daily, selling everything imaginable – or selling nothing at all.

Fledgling companies spent vast amounts of money, growing quickly with scant regard for turning a profit, betting their future on building strong online brands that could win the hearts and minds of net consumers. The profits would come later… at least, that was the theory. Some of these companies were destined to become household names in a few short years; others would vanish into obscurity just as quickly.

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These were heady, almost euphoric times. The internet had acquired the mythical Midas touch: a business with .com in its name, it seemed, was destined for great things. Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) of dot.com companies made millionaires of founders, and made the headlines, fuelling further mania. It was an era that saw the birth of some of today’s most well-known online brands: sites such as Amazon.com, Yahoo!, eBay… and, in September 1998, Google Inc.

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