ReadWrite celebrates its 10th anniversary on Saturday, April 20, 2013. For the occasion, we’re running a series of articles looking back—and looking forward.
When Richard MacManus started this site—then known as Read/Write Web—in 2003, he launched it in a time of technological ferment. Things we now take for granted, like ubiquitous social networks, cloud-based software and electric cars, were just getting started. Here’s a look at some of the key innovations that grew up alongside ReadWrite (in alphabetical order):
1. Adobe Creative Suite
Now the de facto productivity suite for Web and graphic designers, Adobe put together the pieces for its collection of software a decade ago.
“Adobe Creative Suite integrates outstanding new product releases and unleashes Version Cue technology that will save creative professionals time and revolutionize interaction within creative teams,” said Bruce Chizen, then-president and CEO of Adobe Systems. “With Adobe Creative Suite we are delivering a platform for the future of design and publishing, building on 20 years of innovation and partnership with the creative community worldwide.”
They must have been doing something right, because CS, now in version 6, is a key tool in not just Web and graphics design, but video production, too. Depending on what you want to do, there’s usually an Adobe tool or two in this suite that you will be using. And it’s taking the next big step, moving online as the Creative Cloud.
It would be folly to underestimate the impact of Applied Semantics’ AdSense. Google clearly saw the importance of the content-targeting ad network, since it bought the company in 2003 and rolled it into its own in-house technology, creating the service we know as Google AdSense today.
AdSense fueled the blogging revolution of the early 2000s. With AdSense matching appropriate ads with a blogger’s content, even small-time bloggers could generate revenue from their content. Few people got rich doing this, but a few bloggers were able to make a living doing what they loved, while others could at least justify the time they spent on their labors of love.
Depending on who you ask, wireless networking provider Clearwire got started in either 1998 or 2003, after a restructuring set up the company in its present form.
We’ll go with 2003, since that’s the year when Clearwire first made a concerted effort to push high-speed wireless connectivity, a mission that has helped redefine mobile computing. The company launched its first high-speed network in 2004, and now claims to serve 130 million customers.
Today, Clearwire is the object of a complicated, three-way takeover battle with Sprint and Dish. Formerly a wholesale customers of Clearwire’s 4G WiMax network, Sprint offered to buy out Clearwire for $2.2 billion, which would give Sprint a big boost in expanding its 4G LTE network. Combined, the Sprint-Clearwire network would have a better chance of standing up to AT&T and Verizon. But Dish first tried to buy Clearwire—and now it’s trying to buy Sprint outright, contesting a takeover offer from Japan’s Softbank.
4. iTunes Music Store
In 2003, the iPod had taken over the music-player business and put Apple on the comeback trail.
But when Steve Jobs introduced the new iTunes Music Store alongside the third-generation iPod, people could be forgiven for thinking it a little far fetched. A hardware company selling music?
With 200,000 songs in its debut library, iTunes would very quickly prove its detractors wrong, selling a million songs in its first week of sales, and 25 million by the end of 2003. That’s a lot of tunes, and a lot of coin for a so-called hardware company. Apple was demonstrating what we would all soon learn: content was king in this nascent mobile age.
Perhaps even more important, the Music Store provided the underpinnings for Apple’s App Store, which became key to the iPhone’s success.
It’s hard to imagine a world without LinkedIn, but before 2003, the business-oriented social media platform was little more than an idea in heads of the company’s founders.
The site itself launched in 2003, and quickly became a tool for professionals to share information about themselves. At first, the founders thought it might be about dealmaking, but it quickly proved to be an invaluable recruiting tool.
Today, LinkedIn is a public company that pulls in close to $1 billion in annual revenue. Its members use the site for everything from finding customers to getting training to keeping up on business news.
And sometimes, yes, finding a new job.
Before Facebook, there was MySpace, the once-cool social media platform that launched in late 2003 and dominated the hearts and minds of the Internet—at least for a couple of years.
The MySpace era was a heady time, when the idea of a social network platform hadn’t quite gelled; but people knew there was money to made helping people get together online, and that was enough. MySpace would grow fast, eclipsing competitors until it was itself eclipsed in 2008 by Facebook’s rise. Along the way, it was acquired by News Corporation, a purchase that may not have saved MySpace from its eventual fate, but did at least solidify the idea that social networking, in some form or another, was here to stay.
Bogged down by an overabundance of ads and problems with user privacy, MySpace shed most of its users. The site lives on today, owned by entertainer Justin Timberlake, and is trying to reestablish itself as a niche social network for artists and musicians.
7. Tesla Motors
If you ever went to Disney’s EPCOT as a kid, you may have had a notion that electric cars of the future would be boxy and slow.
In 2003, Tesla Motors‘ founders upended that idea, founding a company that would eventually launch first the Roadster sports car and then the Model S sedan, two hot commodities that everyone would have wanted to drive even if they weren’t electric.
These aren’t cheap vehicles, though, and their high price tag puts them out of reach of typical drivers. But Tesla’s cars show us a clear future that electric vehicles don’t have to sacrifice style or speed to save on gas.
You may never own a Tesla, but the company’s pioneering work may mean that one day you will own an electric car that delights you.
TypePad was one of two big blogging platforms that got its start in 2003. (It’s one that’s near and dear to us here at ReadWrite, since our parent company Say Media owns the platform today.)
TypePad was a way to get the functionality of SixApart’s Movable Type without having to install software on a server.
TypePad never enjoyed the broad consumer adoption of competitors like WordPress or Google’s Blogger, but it’s still popular among independent bloggers.
9. Weblogs Inc.
You can’t talk about blogging in the early 21st century without mentioning the start of blog-publishing networks like Weblogs Inc.
Founded by Jason Calacanis and Brian Alvey, Weblogs grew to include popular blogs like Engadget, TUAW and Joystiq in its stable. America Online acquired Weblogs in October 2005 for a reported price between $25 million and $30 million. Along with some of AOL’s own sites, Weblogs provided the nucleus for AOL’s media strategy, the focus of the company today.
WordPress is the only open-source project on this list, but its reach is probably the broadest of all of the launches we’ve mentioned.
Started as a stand-alone blogging platform, WordPress would eventually grow into a full fledged content-management system, able to manage sites that were more than “mere” blogs. Along the way, its creator, Matt Mullenweg, started a company, Automattic, and launched a Blogger-like site, WordPress.com, that now hosts more than 64 million blogs.
WordPress powers some of this most popular sites on the Web, and has put website management and creation within easy reach of people with all levels of technical backgrounds.
These 10 notable products launched, like ReadWrite, in 2003. Did we miss any of your favorites from that era? Let us know in the comments.