I started working online (on a part-time basis) almost 8 years ago. Amazing really as this means that I have spent nearly half of my working life involved in some form of Internet marketing.
I was recalling to a friend recently how I got started in business online back in 1998 and whilst talking to him, I was reminded of how much things have changed since those early days…
1. Of course, computers and the Internet in general were considerably slower than they are today. My first proper PC (not including Sinclair ZX81s and Spectrums!) had a 266MHz processor and my dialup connection struggled to reach a speed anywhere near 56k. Not only that but there was no ‘unlimited Internet access’ – I paid something like 4.5p a minute to be connected to the Web and thought it was an absolute bargain when this eventually dropped to just 1p per minute.
2. eBay.co.uk didn’t exist and all sales were conducted on the main eBay.com website. The majority of sellers (read 95%+) were American and nearly everything you bought or sold ended up traveling across the Atlantic.
3. Online payment systems were in their infancy and Paypal (which is today one of the largest and best known payment processors) didn’t exist. Paypal wasn’t founded until late 1998 and was originally purely for US customers. This meant that anyone trading on online auctions usually ended up making their payments by cheque (check) or even cash. I can remember regularly sending dollars to sellers in the US for something I had purchased on eBay and I received every single one of the items bought – no one ripped me off. Oh happy days!
4. There were next to no training products available that covered Internet marketing and related topics. Actually, that is probably not strictly true, there were a few but you had to really hunt to find them and in fairness back then, it didn’t occur to me that what I was doing was actually Internet marketing. This being the case, it was highly unlikely that I was going to find any of the training products on the subject (and I didn’t for several years!).
5. There was no such thing as a UK wholesale directory and my UK-Trader’s UK Wholesale Guide was the first UK eBook directory of its kind. So many people have tried to jump on the bandwagon and copy this idea that eBay now even has a specific category for ‘Wholesale Lists’.
6. It was relatively easy to get your website to the top of the search engine rankings. All you needed to do was ensure you had a few metatags and some relevant text and you could almost guarantee yourself a first place ranking. Ok, it might have been a little bit harder than that but it was certainly a lot easier than it is today.
7. Receiving Spam emails wasn’t anywhere near as big a problem as it is today. This was well before any legislation trying to outlaw junk mail and many ‘big’ Internet marketers actually sent Spam as one of their primary methods of marketing!
8. Websites weren’t pretty! As well as being slow to load, I have this memory that every single website that existed back in the late 1990s was ugly beyond belief. I am sure that this is just my mind playing tricks but I am convinced that cyperspace is a more attractive place these days 🙂
9. If you wanted to start an online business, you could get hold of just about any domain name you wanted. Maybe this is a slight exaggeration but you certainly didn’t have to sit for 2 hours typing in different variations of the same name just to try and find something that was available. Saying that though, getting an AOL username was pretty hard. Everyone seemed to start off using AOL back then but it also seemed that half the planet were already using AOL (how did they do that?!) hence the fact that the name you wanted was never available.
10. If you told people that you worked on the Internet, they immediately assumed you were some sort of porn king. No change there then, I still get this today!
11. You didn’t need virus software or a firewall – your main risk of catching a virus was from opening an email attachment from someone you didn’t know and who does that? Actually, quite a lot of people – back then, we didn’t know any better….
12. The dot com boom was in full flow – millions of dollars were being pumped into crazy Internet companies which would eventually flop and lose a fortune. Companies were achieving unheard of ‘burn rates’ (the burn rate is the rate at which a business is spending/wasting its cash assets prior to actually making a profit) yet at the same time, individual entrepreneurs were starting to use the Internet to generate substantial incomes (without the need for huge financial backing).
I could go on but I am running out of space (remember when we had 2GB hard drives and thought we would NEVER fill them up?!) but think about this for a moment:
The last 8 years have flown by – how will things change online over the next 8 years and more importantly, how can you turn these changes to your advantage?