The year was 1995. On May 18, Mel Gibson premiered his new movie, Braveheart. Ajax beat Milan six days later in the UEFA Champions League Final. Boyz II Men, Hootie & The Blowfish and The Rembrandts were all in the charts. It was a day prior that Bill Gates sent out one of his most important memos. On May 26 1995, Bill Gates, possibly a little late to the game, finally highlights just how important the internet is in his “Internet Tidal Wave” memorandum.
In the “Internet Tidal Wave” memorandum, Bill Gates outlines his company’s failure to realise just how important the internet was. In the very same memo, Gates assigns the internet as “the highest level of importance”. During August of that year, the Microsoft Network, aka MSN, was launched.
With this memo, Bill Gates and Microsoft truly put their money where their mouth was. From the “Internet Tidal Wave”, they finally started to compete with AOL. In 1996, they worked with TV channel NBC to create a 24-hour news station, MSNBC. They also launched an online magazine, Slate – which covered politics and social issues.
Prior to the “Internet Tidal Wave” memorandum, Microsoft had launched Windows 95 without a Microsoft-built web browser. To fill this space, Microsoft then licenced Spyglass Mosaic’s codebase for Internet Explorer.
The deal between Spyglass and Microsoft turned into a famous affair in itself. The stipulation in the agreement was that Microsoft was to pay a quarterly fee for the licence to the software, as well as a royalty of all copies sold. However, Microsoft offered Internet Explorer for free as part of a bundle – which on a technicality meant that they made no revenue from Spyglass internet. According to Wikipedia, Spyglass “threatened Microsoft with a contractual audit” – Microsoft settled with them that year for $8m.
The entire memo can be read here.
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