It was 1998 and David Bowie, international rock star, made an important announcement. He was launching his own internet service called BowieNet, and it aimed to unite music fans around the world with uncensored access to the internet and his exclusive content found on www.davidbowie.com.
Users would get a customizable home page, an email address (firstname.lastname@example.org), groups, chat capabilities, gaming and more.
Pretty much Facebook, except run by David Bowie, which makes it better.
It all started when two internet pioneers, Robert Goodale and Ron Roy, came to Bowie with an idea. How about an online fan club that would also be an internet service provider? Bowie was already using email and digital releases to reach his fan base, so he was psyched to give it a go.
The competition? America Online.
So, the laughter settled, Bowie went to work on his vision. Older folks will remember receiving CD-ROMs in the mail, finding them delivered with their pizzas or a few of them falling out of magazines offering free trials of AOL. But Bowie wanted to experiment with his CD-ROM. He created 3D-rendered environments, music and videos, along with the customized Internet Explorer browser. Some material couldn’t even be accessed except for online.
He also interacted with fans, posting as “Sailor” on message boards and hosting live chats.
Bowie had big plans for his brand of early social media. But when dial-up internet disintegrated, his 100,000 subscribers trickled away. BowieNet shut down in 2006. No one much noticed. The announcement wasn’t even made until 2012. Ironically, the post appeared on Bowie’s own Facebook page.
Bowie made a career out of being revolutionary. His accomplishments with BowieNet foreshadowed everything internet users are offered now. He couldn’t have known the power the internet would ultimately have in the music business. But he saw the potential and jumped in like he did with everything in his glitzy life.
Imagine if he launched BowieNet during the Ziggy Stardust days.