Cruzio was one of the first companies in the country to offer internet to private citizens. We used that early internet for a variety of things which would look ridiculously old-fashioned now, but back then were cutting edge. In 1993 Cruzio had only a few hundred subscribers — it was a pretty obscure hobby for a small group of (rather nerdy) people.
But that would soon change.
The internet wasn’t people-friendly until web browsers provided easier access. Mosaic, an early graphical browser invented at the University of Illinois, began to catch on in 1992. It was so popular that one of its student authors, Marc Andreesen, founded Netscape after he graduated. Netscape built on the Mosaic model, but was sold commercially, had private investment, and quickly outsped its predecessor. And many people local to Santa Cruz helped build it and use it.
Look how boring Mosaic’s content was in 1993. That was about to change:
Why did we all take to Netscape?
Removing the scientific notations and jargon from tools helped make the internet popular.
In fact it’s gotten easier and easier over the decades since. Remember having to type http://www in front of everything? WWW stood for world wide web. We typed it every time. But where else were you going with your web browser?
Cruzio loved the streamlining. It was the whole reason, really, for Cruzio’s existence. Founders Chris Neklason and Peggy Dolgenos were computer engineers at SCO, a local Unix software company. Cruzio was their side gig. Their vision was to make this powerful thing, the internet, accessible to regular people. And better tools like Netscape made the internet easier to provide.
As the better web browser got popular, more people were able to find web pages, so more web pages were created. That meant there was more for the browser to find, so the browser became more useful. It was an upward spiral.
When Netscape was released, Cruzio’s customer base started growing exponentially — doubling every few months. What had been a smallish community of local tech employees from HP or Borland, who wanted home email as well, grew to include many more people.
Of course, lots of kids pushed their parents to Cruzio’s doors. Some of the kids were under ten years old! And many went on to work in the tech industry. Probably their children, in turn, show them how to use phone apps today.
Santa Cruz was on it
Cruzio got the internet to people’s homes and offices. But a lot of people in Santa Cruz were working on the technology that was feeding our growth.
More local connections: SCO, where Cruzio’s founders worked, was the first company to include a graphical web browser in its operating system. Lloyd Tabb, a talented engineer/entrepreneur who’s started several businesses in Santa Cruz, was an early employees at Netscape. And Netscape tapped UCSC for talent: Michael Lopp was an early manager after graduating from UCSC. James Clark was a former UCSC teacher.
What happened to Netscape?
As Michael Lopp writes on his LinkedIn page, “Microsoft ate us.”
We built it. We can fix it.
Sometimes, when the state of the internet looks grim (spam, privacy issues, fake news) we look back at that giddy era, and remember how much Santa Cruz contributed to the rise of the internet. And we think, well, there’s still Santa Cruz. Maybe we’ll help solve the problems.