back to article 20 years on: eWorld, Apple's spectacular online 'portal' failure

On June 20, 1994, Apple launched eWorld. The ambitious project sought to link Mac owners into an online community, connecting with one another and the Cupertinian mothership. Less than two years later, the project was dead. Customers were handed over to America Online and the plug was pulled at midnight on March 31, 1996. In …

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  1. Alan Bourke

    Ridiculous hat worn inside:

    check.

    1. CaptainCorrection
      Boffin

      Re: Ridiculous hat worn inside:

      yep. Looks alarmingly like Walter White!

  2. andy gibson

    Silicon Village

    Reminds me of Silicon Village, which came after Micronet 800 in 1993.

    http://www.viewdata.org.uk/index.php?cat=40_Silicon-nbsp~Village

  3. Chris 3

    There was never any sense of a community there

    ... Which is why I stuck with CIX. Happy days.

  4. jason 7 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Hmm wasn't graphics heavy by any chance was it?

    I remember back around 1994/95 being grilled by a few project managers in Norwich Union about the Internet as they were planning on putting together a NU website and I was the only one that had internet access at home that they knew of.

    First thing I told them over and over was "Don't put large images on the site especially on the Homepage! You will piss off the customers!"

    So a while later the website launches and what do we find...yes you guessed it, a huge full page image of little use that took around two minutes to appear on screen.

    1. DerekCurrie
      Happy

      Re: Hmm wasn't graphics heavy by any chance was it?

      No. There were no graphics loading problems ever. Most of them were already installed on your Mac. If anything, we wished there were more graphics, especially animated graphics. It was as stark and minimalist an interface as you'd expect in the age of 33k and 56k modems, despite the various lovely designs for the arrival page. The biggest files were audio. We enjoyed scrambling to be sure we had the latest sets downloaded and installed. They were triggered via commands typed into eWorld, the same as was done at AOL.

  5. Identity
    WTF?

    Freudian typo?

    "whom Firedman also credits..."

  6. DerekCurrie
    Boffin

    Rhetoric vs Reality

    "…endearing itself with a handful of loyal users". <--A slight underestimation. There were mobs of us, and it was a lot more fun and organized than AOL. I still have all the software, bonus kits and freebie sounds. We had a rollicking time there.

    Then Netscape came out, we were free of awful Mozaic, so who needed dial-in online services? Old world was eWorld.

    As for the ignorant comment about the aftermath of 1996 being "a transitional period at Apple that would nearly result in the demise of the company". You wish! Journalists had Apple bankrupt, in the grave with dirt tossed on its coffin. And yet, that never happened. There is actual history to read, as opposed to the misery mongerer's 'own version of history', distortions, gossip and ignorant hearsay. I find Apple-History.com to be a useful source of information. The directly applicable history of Apple's decline starts here:

    http://www.apple-history.com/h5

    Left out of the article, not a big deal, is the collaboration between Quantum Computer Services and Apple that resulted in the lineage of AppleLink to AOL to eWorld. Wikipedia has some useful history here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AppleLink

    1. John 104

      Re: Rhetoric vs Reality

      @Derek

      Pretty sure Apple WERE on the brink of going under. Might want to take the Apple Kool aid glasses off...

      As for the service. Seems spendy to me. $10/month for a mere 2 hours? Off peak even? No wonder it tanked.

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: Rhetoric vs Reality

        Paid access, on top of the dreadfully slow connections of the day that provided for approximately zero monetizable products doomed eEworld and many of the other projects that plummeted to Earth in .com v1.

        Yes, there was a lot of silly shit happening then, but the fact of the matter is that generally available, and affordable, technology simply wasn't up to the tasks at hand. More than two decades later and the technology that could have potentially enabled a lot of those things to work is just now arriving.

        By and large, you could update the buzzwords in a mid-90's business proposal and nobody would even know it was from last century. Stupid plans are still stupid, and Gnomenomics is still practiced, but this time around the startup businesses actually have a fighting chance and their success will be determined by their business savvy, not technology from the future.

        (Apple of today isn't even remotely the same company they were in the 90's. Everything about them sucked. Sucked so very much that giving your less desirable employees the Apple products to sell was a 'best practice' way to get Salesdroids to quit so you didn't have to fire them.)

      2. James O'Brien
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Rhetoric vs Reality

        @John

        You would be correct and then Microsoft made the fateful decision to give them $5 Billion in cash to prop them up if I recall in the mid to late 90's. I could be wrong though on this.

        1. Me and My Arrow

          Re: Rhetoric vs Reality

          @ James O'Brien

          To paraphrase Jack Black in the movie High Fidelity, "you could be and are wrong". In 1997 Microsoft did agree to buy a bunch of preferred stock, but the amount of money involved was $150 million, not $5 Beellion. Microsoft also committed to continue to produce versions of MS Office for Macintosh. Some details in this story: http://news.cnet.com/2100-1001-202143.html

          As it turns out if Microsoft held on to that stock they made a much bigger return on their investment than any of their investors made on Microsoft stock purchased at the same time.

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    2. cyberelf

      Collaboration between Quantum Computer Services and Apple

      @DerekCurrie: "Left out of the article .. is the collaboration between Quantum Computer Services and Apple that resulted in the lineage of AppleLink to AOL to eWorld."

      Wasn't aware of the collaboration, according to Wikipedia, Quantum Computer Services originally ran Apples online consumer services, only to fall out and a renamed Quantum Computer Services went on to become AOL. Sounds like an ever bigger lost opportunity for Apple, than losing the walled-garden war.

      1. DerekCurrie

        Re: Collaboration between Quantum Computer Services and Apple

        "Wasn't aware of the collaboration, according to Wikipedia…"

        And yet I provided a link to a more detailed history and you didn't bother to read it.

        Wilfull ignorance folks. You will it, like magic you remain ignorant. This is a disease you can cure.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Collaboration between Quantum Computer Services and Apple

          Derek, keep it civil mate.

  7. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Apple launched eWorld

    Well, as they say "There's yer problem"

    They should have launched iWorld.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Looks an awful lot

    like CompuServe to me.

    1. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Re: Looks an awful lot

      Yes, but CompuServe had a "business vibe" to it. In fact there were lots of commercial "online services" out there. Today AOL is the most famous of them, however there were also other walled gardens like T-Online and many small commercial and non-commercial BBS systems.

      One idea there was to overcome the problem of being a walled garden by allowing to bypass technological limitations of that time. For example you could connect an online shop to a CD-Rom. the CD-Rom would contain pictures and videos, referred to by the online service. Or for most BBSes you wouldn't have to install software but just dial in with your terminal emulator.

      Over time those became ISPs or perished as people realized that walled gardens are an idiotic idea. At least in Europe this was at the same time Murdoch tried to turn television into such a walled garden, with national stations being encrypted so you couldn't watch Sky One in Germany for example.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Looks an awful lot

        > In fact there were lots of commercial "online services" out there.

        Yes, indeed. But as you say, CompuServe (like this Apple thing, apparently) was a) run as a business, and b) run as a business of scale, which is why I haven't compared against the local BBSes of the time, which were either enthusiast endeavours or run more or less strictly as local businesses (probably to fund the enthusiast side of it rather than make any actual profit).

        I am not sure if I agree about walled gardens being "an idiotic idea". It seems a bit of a sweeping generalisation (even as a FOSS contributor and advocate I find that difficult to take at face value). Would you care to elaborate a bit on why you hold that opinion?

        The mixed-channel solutions of the time (online + offline such as the CD-ROM stuff you mention) were indeed ingenious.

        Murdoch ran against two things: customer sentiment (like region-coded DVDs, that was too obvious an attempt at artificial segmentation), and EU law--which twenty years on is still trying to catch on: plenty of other industries (telecoms, credit cards, banking, ...) attempt to ignore the "single market" bit and more or less get away with it--at least until some bastard like truly yours raises a complaint to the EC. In this sense, I would have to agree that "artificially walled" gardens such as these do not provide any customer value, and only short term, if at all, shareholder benefit.

        1. Christian Berger Silver badge

          Re: Looks an awful lot

          Well I'm sorry, but 'walled gardens' just feel wrong. I mean imagine a telephone you could only telephone with people having the same brand. Why would someone buy such a thing? Communication media depend on being large and well connected.

  9. Oninoshiko

    "We Apple-ites have our own version of history."

    never a truer word was committed to media.

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