TidBits Celebrates 20th Anniversary As Oldest Pure Digital Tech Pub On Net

TidBits Celebrates 20th Anniversary As Oldest Pure Digital Tech Pub On Net

This week the TidBits website celebrates a special landmark: it’s the oldest purely digital technology publication on the Internet.

Started in 1990 by Adam and Tonya Engst, TidBits is celebrating its 20th anniversary of publishing “all the news that’s fit to byte.”

It started as a Hypercard stack and evolved into a text pub distributed through the web, email, AOL and Usenet, plus innumerable BBSes.

Today it’s stronger than ever, publishing a website, mailing list, iPhone app, Twitter feed, Kindle subscription, and podcast. Plus, it has a popular eBook publishing wing, TidBITS Publishing Inc., which has sold about 250,000 Take Control ebooks.

To celebrate, Adam has put together a testimonials page from more than 50 Mac industry leaders. Add your own comments to the page.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TidBITS, the oldest purely digital technology publication on the Internet and the first to introduce paid advertising, celebrates its 20th anniversary and 1,024th weekly issue this week.

Ithaca, NY USA (April 20, 2010) — TidBITS, the oldest purely digital technology publication on the Internet, is celebrating its 20th anniversary of continuous online publication this week. During those 20 years, TidBITS created the first Internet advertising program, presaged the rise of blogs, and pioneered in the field of online publishing.

Founded in 1990 by Adam Engst and Tonya Engst, TidBITS began with the mission of providing professionally written and edited news, reviews, and opinion to the Macintosh Internet community in the days before the World Wide Web had been conceived. In an age of print magazines, a lead time measured in hours initially put TidBITS at the forefront of timely technology journalism.

In a testimonial in honor of TidBITS’s 20th anniversary, Greg Joswiak, Apple’s Vice President of iPod and iPhone Product Marketing, said, “Little did I realize that Adam and team were inventing the future with TidBITS long years before any of us would ever use the word ‘blog.'”

John Gruber of Daring Fireball commented, “If anything, TidBITS published higher-quality writing than the print publications covering the Mac market in the early 1990s. TidBITS was the inspiration for the independent Mac publications that followed, including mine.”

In today’s world of quick Web-based publication and real-time Twitter chatter, TidBITS now focuses on coverage that helps readers use technology effectively, while explaining the broader technological and cultural picture. Jim Matthews, CEO of Fetch Softworks, said, “TidBITS’s approach to journalism has remained remarkably scrupulous, patient, and devoted to clear explanations for a confusing and confused world. TidBITS is an Internet treasure.”

Colin Crawford, former CEO of Macworld Magazine, noted, “TidBITS over the last twenty years has been a consistent voice of reason: authoritative, well reasoned, and always presented with great clarity and total editorial professionalism.” And David Pogue, Tech Columnist for the New York Times said, “I’ve always appreciated TidBITS’s insight, technical accuracy, and measured opinions.”

In recent years, TidBITS has also expanded its scope beyond the Macintosh to cover Apple’s increasing presence in the technology world via the iPod, iPhone, and now the iPad. Jason Snell, VP/Editorial Director for Macworld, said, “It’s a colossal understatement to say that things have changed a bit since TidBITS was one of a handful of publications on the Internet. But TidBITS has adapted to the way the world has changed.” And Chuck Joiner of MacVoices said, “Adam, Tonya, and the entire crew have maintained not only relevance, but also a standard of consistent excellence while growing and evolving with the changes in the world of Apple technology.”

Realizing early that a free publication couldn’t survive for long without generating revenue, the Engsts came up with the idea of a PBS/NPR-like sponsorship program, thus creating the first Internet advertising program in 1992. This was made possible thanks to the National Science Foundation’s 1991 modification of the NSFNET’s Acceptable Use Policy to allow commercial traffic on what would become the public global Internet. Today, TidBITS is supported through corporate sponsorships, direct reader contributions, and banner advertising, along with revenue from the Take Control ebook publishing arm of TidBITS Publishing Inc. Started in 2003, Take Control was a leader in electronic book publishing and has sold roughly 250,000 ebooks to over 40,000 readers.

As a pioneer in online publishing, TidBITS has brought its coverage to readers in multiple formats and on many different services and platforms. TidBITS began as a HyperCard stack, quickly expanded into a text-based publication, moved to the Web, and continues to evolve as times change. In the past, readers could find TidBITS on most online services of the day, including AOL, CompuServe, eWorld, Delphi, Prodigy, BIX, GEnie, AppleLink, and innumerable BBSes. TidBITS was also distributed via Usenet and Info-Mac, and received early Internet support in the form of mailing list hosting from Rice University and Web hosting at Dartmouth College.

Today, TidBITS supplements its in-house mailing list and database-driven Web site with an RSS feed, iPhone app, Twitter feed, Facebook fan page, Kindle subscription, and even an audio podcast. The TidBITS Web site holds all of the nearly 10,000 articles TidBITS has published, creating the most coherent archive covering the past 20 years of the technology industry. Nancy Davis, Editor-in-Chief of Peachpit Press, said, “The TidBITS archives are a treasure that I turn to for reminders, information, and sometimes, just fun.”

Throughout its 20-year history, TidBITS has worked to support the Macintosh Internet community, allowing Macintosh user groups to reprint articles for free, among much else. Elsa Travisano, chair of the Apple User Group Advisory Board, said, “Adam and Tonya have been stalwart supporters of the Macintosh user group community for as long as I can remember.

Sky Dayton, founder of EarthLink and Boingo Wireless, noted, “Through thick and thin, TidBITS has been the heart and soul of the Mac community for twenty years.” Paul Kent, General Manager of Macworld Expo, concurred, saying “TidBITS continues to serve its readership with the spirit of the original Mac community and the vibrancy of our current world.”

That community extends beyond the United States and other English-speaking countries. TidBITS has long been translated into other languages for users for whom English isn’t their native tongue. The Japanese and Dutch translations appear every week thanks to dedicated volunteer teams, and over the years, TidBITS has also been translated into German, French, Russian, Chinese, Spanish, and Italian.

TidBITS’s efforts in supporting the Macintosh community have resulted in numerous accolades over the years. In each of the MDJ Power 25 surveys of Macintosh industry insiders that ran between 2000 and 2006, Adam Engst ranked among the top five most influential people in the Macintosh community, generally behind only Apple executives like Steve Jobs and Tim Cook. Publications like the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post regularly turn to him for commentary on topics relating to Apple. And both Engsts were cited as “Internet pioneers” in MacTech Magazine’s 2006 “Most Influential People in the Macintosh Technical Community” list.

TidBITS has also encouraged reader participation from the beginning, bringing in voices from around the world. Nearly 350 people have written TidBITS articles over the last 20 years, and some have gone on to write for publications such as Macworld, The Economist, the New York Times, Popular Science, and other internationally renowned media outlets. Besides Tonya and Adam Engst, members of the TidBITS staff include Mark Anbinder (Contributing Editor), Jeff Carlson (Managing Editor), Geoff Duncan (Editor at Large), Glenn Fleishman (Contributing Editor), Joe Kissell (Senior Editor) Doug McLean (Staff Writer), Rich Mogull (Security Editor), and Matt Neuburg (Contributing Editor).

Over its 20-year history, TidBITS has published 1,024 weekly issues comprising nearly 10,000 articles. That’s over 31 million bytes of text, or roughly 4.5 million words. Not bad for a publication whose original motto was the tongue-in-cheek “All the news that’s fit to byte.”

To read testimonials about TidBITS’s influence from over 50 industry figures, visit http://db.tidbits.com/article/11207

About the author

Leander KahneyLeander Kahney is the editor and publisher of Cult of Mac. He is the NYT bestselling author of Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products; Inside Steve’s Brain; Cult of Mac; and Cult of iPod. Leander has written for Wired, MacWeek, Scientific American, and The Guardian in London. Follow Leander on Twitter @lkahney and Facebook.

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