Somebody just bought the internet

The World Wide Web, known today as “the web” — yes, that’s the www. you type in your browser — was almost bought by AOL in 1998. In short, somebody tried to buy what most of us identify today as the internet1. Imagine the web, owned and run by a corporation..

Notable snippets from the “sale” announcement sent by the CEO of WWW in that same year:

I know this blog has been quiet lately. It’s been a crazy few months of meetings and negotiation here at WWW HQ, but we’re finally ready to share our big news: World Wide Web is joining the America Online team next month! We couldn’t be more excited.

When we first launched the World Wide Web in 1991, we never expected it to catch on or turn into a business. The last few years have proven us wrong. The New York Times has a website, Vice President Gore mentions us in speeches, and some people buy books through their web browser.

Don’t worry, all of that hard work won’t be wasted. The World Wide Web will remain accessible for 30 days, which will give you plenty of time to update your readers and customers. Each of you will also receive a 30-day free trial for AOL. Look for your CD in the mail soon.

Even better, we’ve created an import tool to make it easy to migrate everything you’ve put on the web to American Online! The address will change, of course, but now it will be available to every AOL member.


  1. there’s a difference between the two terms “web” and “internet”, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. ↩︎
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