Y2K: From hype to hurt

Looking back on the year of the crash.

THE YEAR IN TECHNOLOGY wasn't so much the hangover as the ugly end of the binge; most of 2000's "highlights" fall somewhere between lampshade-on-head territory and the drunk tank. To that end, our recap is less about the good and the bad and more about degrees of trauma incurred by remembering the year's events. Adopting Eudora 5.0's "hot pepper" system for rating e-mail profanity—in which one pepper equals a slightly risqu頴one and three peppers equals "do you eat with that mouth?"—Seattle Weekly presents a handy guide to the year we'll look back on and laugh about nervously before changing the subject. Things weren't all bad, of course. The ice cube section is for events that were indubitably cool.

Eudora introduces the hot-pepper rating system, in which a software package ineptly attempts to clean up our potty mouths. . . . The iFilm Online Movie Awards jury is announced, and for the first time in the history of the universe, Nora "The White Album" Ephron is mentioned in the same breath as Joe "Gerbil in a Blender" Cartoon. . . . People stand in line for the disappointing PlayStation 2. . . . The dot-com gold rush ends, as it inevitably would. . . . The Coca-Cola company beats up a group of old people who run the "vintagecocacola.com" fan site. . . . Wired announces that it's changing the preferred spelling from "email" to "e-mail"; millions yawn. . . . Some bozo in Texas renames himself "dotcomguy" and vows to live strictly via Net all year. . . . The Queen of England tells servants to turn off their cell phones while they're on duty. . . . "Most downloaded" bikini princess Cindy Margolis gets called out by Danni Ashe of Danni's Hard Drive fame, who's pretty sure Cindy can't back up those numbers; the ensuing mudslinging proves much less titillating than you'd think. . . . Fortheloveofjulie.com makes a big splash and horrifies antistalking activists before being revealed as a hoax (and not a particularly convincing one). . . . The CueCat attempts to turn millions of American computers into its personal UPC-symbol litter box. . . . After three years we're still arguing in the courts over whether Web sites are allowed to link to their online rivals. . . . Online 'zine Word, long known for its gorgeous and challenging design, makes a desperate bid for viewers by devolving to an ultra-bland, Yahoo-style interface. . . . Fuckedcompany.com, the most interesting Web site of the year, is dedicated to watching dot-com businesses implode, and some companies didn't understand why suing the site's owner wouldn't make the problem go away. . . . Cyberguru Bill Joy warns one and all that we're making ourselves obsolete via technology; punditry and radio

shows ensue. . . . The French court system demands that Yahoo censor its auctions and listings to protect delicate Gallic sensibilities (quel fromage!). . . . Israel's leading Orthodox rabbis declare the Net a threat to Jewish sensibilities. . . . The day-late, dollar-short release of Netscape 6 proves a threat to user sensibilities.

A ton of dot-com companies spend serious money for really bad Super Bowl ads. . . . Guinness Book of World Records publicists spend serious scientists' time creating a tiny "guinnessworldrecords.com" to be attached to a bee's knee, proving that the appeal of those Guinness records is for the demographic who can remember when "the bee's knees" was a current phrase. . . . The November elections advance the cause of online voting by two to three years but set back the democratic process in general by decades. . . . After five years, the CIA finally notices that bored agency workers had created a chat room on the agency's servers. . . . US District judge Lewis Kaplan writes an opinion in the ongoing DeCSS case that compares open-source advocates to virus-writers and other miscreants; meanwhile, the DVD industry pressing the DeCSS prosecution is so sloppy with its "secrets" that its own lawyers inadvertently enter the disputed info into the public record. . . . ICANN approves just seven of the hundreds of top-level domains suggested by Net users who understand the Net far better than ICANN. . . . New trends in demonizing the Internet include an "Internet intoxication" defense offered by a lawyer attempting to defend a Florida teen accused of threatening a Columbine High School student via e-mail. . . . Former InfoSeek exec Patrick Naughton cuts a deal with the FBI, building the bureau some sort of surveillance software and thus avoiding doing hard time for attempting to have sex with a child. . . . The FBI, who brought you both Wounded Knee and the Wen Ho Lee witch-hunt, announces that it will be developing a "cyber-ethics" course for school kids. . . . Janet Reno calls for an anti-cybercrime network; critics refrain from asking if she plans to ban flame wars and other incendiary devices.

After years of price-fixing, false scarcity, and artist abuse, the music industry uses middle-aged corporate rockers Metallica to advance its claim that Napster is bad for artists and the industry; the industry threatens to destroy not only the popular file-sharing system but the very precepts of sharing that underlie the open-source movement; all the publicity garners Napster a staggering 38 million users. . . . The Department of Justice vows to split Microsoft in half, while the Federal Trade Commission votes unanimously to let America Online and Time Warner merge. . . . UCITA, the poisonous and anticonsumer Uniform Computer Information Technology Act, is signed into law in several states. . . . Ad-meister DoubleClick gets taken to the woodshed over plans to combine its accumulated info about "anonymous" Web surfers with a database that would strip away the anonymity, leaving names and addresses correlated

Pets.com, in bankruptcy, manages to hide 21 tons of dog food from stockholders and creditors so they can donate it to starving sled dogs in Alaska. . . . Bill and Melinda Gates donate hundreds of millions of dollars to good causes and turn their attentions to the world's very poorest folk. . . . Bill Gates steps aside as Microsoft CEO, retreating to geeking and leaving the driving to Ballmer. . . . Kevin Mitnick gets out of jail. . . . Voters in Holland, Mich., show remarkable sanity by shooting down a right wing-;sponsored ballot measure to introduce "filtering" software on the city library's computers. . . . The Nielsen/ NetRatings people officially close the gender gap online; women are now 50 percent of the population of cyberspace. . . . Y2K seems like a joke a year later.

 
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