Sadly, we lost David Bowie last week. Most of us remember his songs — so many, and so varied across the decades. And, of course, there is no way to forget Bowie’s ever-changing image over the years. But not to be lost in the shuffle is the fact that Bowie was such an innovator, he also anticipated the full impact of the Internet.
Bowie’s prescience when it came to the Internet was explained in a recent article in The Verge. Let’s delve in a bit.
As far back as 1994, Bowie issued a CD ROM accompanying his song “Jump, They Say” — and this enabled users to create their own music videos.
On top of that, in 1996, Bowie released his song “Telling Lies” only on the Internet — and causing a stunning 300,000 purchases in this process back when Internet sales were not at all common.
Believe it or not, Bowie assisted the New York Yankees in creating the team’s first Internet site.
Amazingly, in 1998, Bowie created his own Internet Service Provider — an ISP that allowed users on the Internet to access many of his songs, videos, and photos. This ISP fittingly was called BowieNet, and users paid $19.95 per month. Users were given five megabytes of space to create their own personal sites, where they could insert music and videos into regular web pages. In effect, this was a music-oriented social network long before the advent of MySpace and then Facebook.
When interviewed years ago about the coming Internet, Bowie said “We’re on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying.” He described the Internet as a “communal power.” He said “I don’t think we’ve even seen the tip of the iceberg” in terms of that power. And he foresaw that “what the Internet is going to do to society, both good and badd, is unimaginable.”
David Bowie always was ahead of his time. He is missed now.