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A Year on the Net

JANUARY

CompuServe blitzes America Online during the Super Bowl with a commercial attacking the online service's problems - especially busy signals while attempting connection. Faced with weeks of bad publicity and angry subscribers trying to log on, AOL says it will begin "selectively" offering refunds to customers who call and complain they aren't getting the services they subscribed to.

Hackers break into the Air Force's home page, replacing the usual stuff with pornography, obscenities, and antigovernment diatribes. A caller, taking credit, later says he did it to show the government it needed to beef up its Web site security or risk foreign-government break-ins.

Representative Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) propose the Cox-Wyden bill, banning new taxes on electronic commerce and calling for a clear national Internet policy.

FEBRUARY

AOL leased 50,000 modems to cut down on its busy-signal access problems and promote its reliability.

RealNetworks, maker of RealAudio, introduced RealVideo - high-quality video over modems operating as slow as 28.8Kbps. The RealPlayer debuted with three Spike Lee short films created especially for the new medium.

US Robotics beat Motorola by shipping the first 56Kbps modem.

MARCH

Austrian Internet access providers dropped off the Net for two hours in a united protest against a recent government raid.

When it published a purported confession by Oklahoma City bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh on its Web site, The Dallas Morning News actually scooped its print self.

Queen Elizabeth II opened up Buckingham Palace to Internet surfers.

MCI Communications Corp. teamed up with the National Endowment for the Humanities to provide a one-stop Web site for teaching material for schoolchildren.

Thirty-nine members of the Heaven's Gate cult committed suicide. As the cult did Web design work to pay bills, many in the mainstream press were quick to blame the Net.

APRIL

Microsoft acquired WebTV Networks Inc. for $425 million. TVs and PCs grew closer.

Microsoft retaliated against CitySearch with its Sidewalk services, sparking a major battle among Yahoo! Local and many newspaper sites for the hearts and minds of local users.

Ticketmaster Group filed suit against Microsoft, alleging that a free link from Microsoft's Seattle Sidewalk entertainment site to Ticketmaster's site, without Ticketmaster's permission, constituted a form of "electronic piracy."

The Yahoo! directory announced the first 1
billion-page-view month. The figure, a measurement of the number of clicks on a Web site, would double just six months later.

MAY

Oasis, the rock band, gave hundreds of Web sites 30 days to remove copyrighted and unauthorized photos, sound clips, and lyrics or face lawsuits because such use "can e seen as theft."

Millions used the Internet to follow a historic chess match in which Deep Blue, IBM's supercomputer, defeated world champion Garry Kasparov, the first time a machine had beaten a grand master at this level. Kasparov blamed his defeat on human interference.

JUNE

The Book-of-the-Month Club opened a Web site, the club's first new way of selling books in 71 years.

Netscape upped the ante in the browser wars and launched Netscape Communicator.

The Supreme Court slapped down the 1996 Communications Decency Act with a ruling that the government's attempt to censor cyberspace "abridges the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.''

JULY

Mars attacked, as Webnauts invaded NASA's site to get the latest photos and facts about the Pathfinder mission on the red planet; the site recorded 46.9 million hits in one day.

The Nevada state legislature signed Senate Bill No. 13, the first law of the land on electronic "spam," which "prohibits sending certain unsolicited electronic mail under certain circumstances."

AUGUST

White House aide Sidney Blumenthal filed a $30 million libel suit against online gossip columnist Matt Drudge, who accused Blumenthal of having a "spousal abuse past."

The death of Princess Diana became another watershed event in the global Internet community, as millions logged into chat rooms to grieve together.

The Nasdaq stock exchange was knocked off much of the Internet for a few hours as the result of an administrative goof at InterNIC, the centralized Internet address clearinghouse.

Microsoft shocked the Macworld audience in Boston when Steve Jobs announced that Bill Gates was investing $150 million in Apple Computer. Apple agreed to have its future computers include MS Internet Explorer as the default browser. Mac fanatics considered a Heaven's Gate-type solution.

SEPTEMBER

AOL got back at CompuServe for that Super Bowl snipe by acquiring the service's consumer component from WorldCom, the nation's fourth-largest phone company. The move boosted the burgeoning AOL subscriber base by another 30 percent.

"ER" used the Web to hype and enhance its first live broadcast, with a live Webcast and chats, 3-D set tours, and streaming video feeds, attracting millions of users.

MSNBC canceled the two-time Emmy award-winning show "The Site," claiming the network wanted to concentrate on hard news content. Thousands wrung their mice over the fate of host Soledad O'Brien, considered by some to be the Internet's first star.

In addition to Slurpees, 7-Eleven stores in Seattle began to offer Internet access to anyone with a laptop and 35 cents an hour.

Faced with the threat of a boycott, officials at America Online agreed to take down a Web site hosted by an AOL member containing the artwork and musings of two convicted serial kilers, including a "how-to" manual on mass murder.

OCTOBER

Organizers of the "Houses of Worship" database, a group of Christian leaders with faith in the Internet, unveiled a plan to provide every church in the world with its own Web site.

The Justice Department took Microsoft to court for threatening computer manufacturers who remove the Internet Explorer browser from the desktops of systems sold with Windows preinstalled.

NOVEMBER

Microsoft announced that 1 million copies of its new browser, IE 4.0, were downloaded during its first 48 hours of availability.

The judge in the sensational trial of British nanny Louise Woodward announced a Net landmark: He declared he would release his decision first online. On the day, a glitch prevented it, but a precedent was set.

The Web wins, Part 1: AOL began an early rollout of version 4.0, software that integrates the Web more than ever into its content.

DECEMBER

The Web wins, Part 2: CompuServe integrated its content into the Web with its new C service.

World AIDS Day inspired the first e-march on Washington.

Projected number of Net users by the end of 1997: 63 million, 51 million of them on the World Wide Web.

The fractious CDA battle may be history, but a D.C.conference -- which set out to make cyberspace safe for kids -- saw free speech advocates tussle with family standards groups.

The stage for a protracted court battle was set after a federal judge ordered Microsoft Corp. to halt its practice of requiring personal computer makers to distribute its Internet browser with the company's Windows 95 operating system.