• Having it both ways: Larry Wall, Perl and the technology and culture of the early web

    Michael Stevenson (see profile)
    Mass media, History
    Item Type:
    Media history, Digital culture
    Permanent URL:
    What image defines the 1990s web? Perhaps it is an “under construction” gif, a “starry night” background or some other fragment of what net artist and scholar Olia Lialina dubbed “a vernacular web” (2005). If not a vernacular, perhaps a sign of an increas- ingly commercial and professional web – the first banner ad, announcing that this par- ticular information superhighway would be dotted with billboards and shopping malls, or a jutting line graph showing the precipitous rise of the Nasdaq composite index. Of course, the answer is both, or all of the above. The 90s web was defined by its contradictions: amateur and professional, playful and serious, free and incorporated. Early descriptions of the World Wide Web’s significance oscillated between, on the one hand, an accessible and open alternative to walled gardens like America Online, and on the other hand an electronic frontier ripe for commercialization (Markoff, 1993; Wolf, 1994). Long before social media or web 2.0 became buzzwords, startups and new media gurus claimed the web was both a place of community and a place of commerce (Silver, 2008). Importantly this was not a matter of two webs existing side- by-side: the 90s web was all of these things at once. Perhaps it was this capacity for having it both ways, more than any single technical feature, that made the web feel new.
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    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    4 years ago


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