'Project Sequoia' and the beginning of online publishing

ZDNet's 20th anniversary: John Dickinson remembers "Project Sequoia."
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

The early 1990s saw many transitions at Ziff-Davis, primarily as the attentions of the company (as well as the publishing industry and its consumers) began to turn from print to online delivery systems. In 1993, I was shifted from my fun job as editor-in-chief of Computer Shopper to editor-in-chief of something called “Project Sequoia."

Housed in a converted sofa factory in Cambridge, Mass., Sequoia was the code name for Ziff-Davis' attempt to compete with AOL, CompuServe and other online services companies. It was run by Michael Kolowich.

We built a data structure that made every type of information carried there accessible through hyper-linking protocols remarkably similar to what turned out to be something called the HTTP protocol, which of course formed the basis for the modern Internet.

Sequoia was renamed "ZD Interchange," and announced and shown at the DEMO Conference in 1994, just in time for the world to light the match that set the World Wide Web on fire. But even before that, Ziff had made a decision to shut down Interchange and move its efforts over to the "ZDNet" project on the Internet.

That effort began with news services, and later involved bringing the print magazines along. By the late 1990s, the magazines that still remained in print also had online presence, led by PCWeek and eWeek (formerly PCWeek), just as those brands had led the print world for Ziff-Davis.

Ziff-Davis also started ZDTV at that time, and wanted that brand to have its own online presence, which competed with ZDNet, an odd strategy. Ultimately, both ZDTV and its online presence were sold after a rash of bad financial decisions.

The fact that ZDNet still survives today is a testimony to the continued need for current technology information by businesses and consumers. It is also a testimony to the hard work and insistence on quality content that has been a hallmark of the effort.

Happy Birthday, ZDNet!

John Dickinson was an employee of Ziff-Davis from 1984 to 1997.

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