My Apple gig: Helping 'ePeople' untangle the World Wide Web

Commentary: In honor of Apple's 40th anniversary, CNET's Bonnie Burton recalls working as Web editor of eWorld in the '90s. That was before Facebook, by the way.

Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
Bonnie Burton
3 min read
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In the '90s, the World Wide Web felt like a living in a cozy small town thanks to Apple's eWorld.

Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

Back in the '90s, when Webcams were hot and we used the World-Wide Web Worm as our preferred search engine, I worked for a tiny online village of Apple Mac users called eWorld.

Apple dabbled in this easy-to use community between June 1994 and March 1996, and eWorld became my first full-time job in college. From 1995 to 1996, I worked as a Web editor for eWorld in an R&D division of Apple's Electronic Media Lab in Boulder, Colorado. I wrote reviews of websites for the InGuide section of eWorld, which covered topics such as entertainment, education, technology, news, sports, kids' content, lifestyle and gaming. I made sure users could find the best sites, which everyone would share with each other over email, and I did it all on a Power Macintosh 8100, a major improvement from the ancient IBM DOS-only computers I'd written on during my internship at the local paper.

Back then, the Internet was just starting to pick up steam, and I couldn't wait to get into the eWorld office every morning to scour for the latest websites that celebrated so many unusual interests. It was so new to find a site that featured extensive UFO research files or transcribed every "Monty Python" skit.

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My first Apple business card from Boulder, Colorado. The location is probably a craft beer brew pub now.

Bonnie Burton/CNET

Members of the team I worked with were all straight out of college and full of excitement about what eWorld represented. We loved games, but what really sold us was the idea of community. That you could connect to the Internet with a modem and log online to Usenet to talk with like-minded people on everything from your favorite Star Trek episodes to the history of vampires.

eWorld was a graphic-based world for Mac users who wanted their daily stock readings, sports scores, news headlines, email and chat rooms all in one interface. But the portal felt like a little town with personality, not just an online BBS where thousands of ePeople (that's what users were called) could chat about endless topics to their hearts' content.

My co-workers and I would marvel at the ingenuity of people who created fan sites, which often became early versions of websites we still use today like IMDb. Scientists, conspiracy theorists, artists, hackers, musicians, military personnel, NASA employees, students, professors, game designers, punk rockers, fan fiction writers, fashionistas, ravers, journalists, sports fanatics, hippies, religious fanatics, anarchists and more could be found in eWorld's communities.

Everyone using eWorld was excited to be there. We weren't bitter and jaded yet. Trolls didn't have control over forums. Cyberbullying wasn't something we had to worry about. To keep me focused on my writing, instead of distracted by co-workers' chit-chat or tempted to play Doom on the company's more high-powered computers, I'd listen to homemade mix tapes at full volume with headphones plugged into my Walkman cassette player.

Sadly, eWorld's Internet subscription service didn't last due to the aggressive marketing style of America Online, which over-saturated the community sphere with a never-ending onslaught of free CDs that would end up in mailboxes across the country on an almost weekly basis. After all, it's hard to be successful with 115,000 eWorld subscribers when AOL had more than 3.5 million subscribers by 1995.

I miss working for Apple in those infancy years of what would later become social media. We were innovators and explorers of a new wild west called the World Wide Web -- that's what www stands for at the beginning of every URL, by the way. This year I won't just be celebrating the 40th anniversary of Apple Computers. I'll also be having a few drinks in honor of the 20th anniversary of the end of Apple's eWorld.

Do you remember eWorld? Leave some of your Apple and eWorld memories in the comments section below.

This story is part of CNET's coverage of the 40th anniversary of Apple's founding. For more stories in this package, click here.

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