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Today's Flame

October 13, 1998 |, San Francisco | Issue #008

Requiem for Wired

From the White WiredThe Daily Flame notes in sad passing the demise last week of Wired. It's tough to see an obnoxious competitor, one that could have been an empire, cut by bean-counters and thrown to big media wolves. Sure, Wired exists in name, as a smallish magazine in the Condé Nast collection, and as a handful of sites sold last week to Lycos. But the edge, the VISION, the half-billioned almost-IPO'd Internet media giant, is no more. It's been randomized.

Who can forget their first Wired? More than the paper, glue, and ink that made up each issue, the book was like some processed piece of cyberspace teletransported into the sleepy early 1990's, a cairn from an alien civilization, a tablet etched with inscrutable heiroglyphic text. While computer trade press put us to sleep with endless Windows 3.1 stories, Wired came on like paper acid, like The Sound of Drums, spouting new meme's, new meme patterns.

Someone finally gets it! I'm seeing ... flashing visuals, a tsunami of bits, all the connections!! Boundless vistas stretching beyond finite words, static images, mere ideas. There I was in the Los Altos Safeway, February 1993, Wired #001 in hand, and I knew the long-awaited revolution had started. I had just launched with a grand plan to cover the Internet culture boom that I thought was right around the corner. But it wasn't around the corner. The future is here, Wired heralded, the Revolution has a magazine. The time had come.

Wired gave us all a great five-year ride. Sure, the apostles at Wired could be downright rude — We're Wired and you're not, after all — but they had VISION, they had ENERGY, and they threw GREAT PARTIES. They launched one of the first commercial web sites, one of the most advanced Internet search engines, a darn useful web developer site. By the time they got around to launching a book division, Wired Books, it seemed like they that they would conquer every nook and cranny of cyberspace media, from TV to daily flame sites.

Alas, the better the rush, the tougher it is to come down. Surely, somewhere, the business school case studies of the rise and fall of Wired Ventures are under way. Or maybe a trade book, a cyber-outing like Michael Wolff's Burn Rate.

I think they had so much vision that it became like a tunnel, what folks at Apple used to call a Reality Distortion Field. The world was coming to Wired; it would be a Wired world. They started too many projects in one massive music-addled push, without adequate marketing dollars and management. They made too many enemies with both relentless editorial coverage and a conceited attitude. They hit that strange moment one experiences in an all-night rave: the bright shining tunes grate, your mouth goes dry, the dancing partner that looked so angelic a moment ago seems vaguely sinister. You muse that the dawn is coming.

Except the dawn never comes. Wired, born and died so early in the Revolution, RIP.

-- Seth Ross

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