“The failure of Minitel was not one of technology, […] It was the whole model that was doomed. Basically to set up a service on Minitel, you had to ask permission from France Telecom. You had to go to the old guys who ran the system, and who knew absolutely nothing about innovation. It meant that nothing new could ever happen. Basically, Minitel innovated from 1978 to 1982, and then it stopped.” This is what the World Wide Web could one-day look like. Dearth of innovation for the want of permission.
Minitel: the rise and fall of the France-wide web
About The Author
Code is art.
Follow me on Twitter @KrocCamen
2012-06-28 3:29 pmzima
How much of a failure Minitel really was, anyway? Yes, maybe it didn’t turn out long-term viable, but some (hm, mostly the British?… ) seem to make too big deal out of it – in the meantime, Minitel was quite successful, apparently by far the most successful such service, when the rest of the world had… almost nothing.
And did it negatively impact French internet in any significant way, comparably to neighbours? (in the recent discussion about Minitel http://www.osnews.com/comments/26081 matako points out “this article from 1995 claims that (at the time) ” France now boasts one of the world’s more significant growth curves in Internet usage.” http://www.dlib.org/dlib/december95/12kessler.html “)
BTW, I stumbled there on a nice 1990 documentary about Minitel http://archive.org/details/frenchtech1 (overall, all those Computer Chronicles episodes)
5 minutes mark – apparently the major (main?) motivation behind Minitel was to replace paper phonebooks, which were being quickly obsoleted due to rapid expansion of telephone network. I’d say it nicely expanded further from that usage scenario as it did – at 7 minutes, quite a few services; even “Amazon” at 9m. Maybe even things did happen, like that mentioned forum or chat of sorts to French politicians, or to Romania when their revolution unfolded.
Is France among the few places where ISDN saw wide adoption?
(funny journey to the past at the end – upcoming premiÃ¨re of Win 3.0, with “3D on-screen look”! …and a mention of contemporary tablet http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GRiDPad )
Edited 2012-06-28 15:36 UTC
Minitel didn’t fail! It was used by millions for over twenty years. I get your point, tho. Perhaps Minitel would have evolved into the first internet if innovation had not been stifled through control.
2012-06-28 8:40 pmKLU9
Minitel didn’t fail? Is that why it’s being shut down? Because it’s so successful? And when it was tried elsewhere (e.g. Ireland) where people would actually have had to pay for the equipment (unlike getting it for free as in France), practically nobody went for it, is that another defining characteristic of success?
2012-06-29 7:47 amcyrilleberger
It is shut down because it has been replaced by something better. But in 1978, there was nothing better. The world wide web was only invented 10 years later.
It would be like saying “postal services” failed because in 2012 everybody use emails.
I wish I had noticed who submitted the article before clicking on the link. It seems like all of Kroc’s articles are just plain FUD.
Basically to set up a service on Minitel, you had to ask permission from France Telecom. You had to go to the old guys who ran the system, and who knew absolutely nothing about innovation.
Isn’t this pretty much what a lot of influential companies and organisations want to do with the Internet?
Edited 2012-06-29 04:24 UTC
So basically, Minitel is how most industries tied to government work…
It just seems odd because of how hands-off most governments have been on the Internet.
2012-07-05 10:42 pmzima
It’s generally not too bad… we really don’t want too much experimentation with all kinds of basic infrastructure, or agriculture.
(plus, with many of those innovation can hardly even be in the spotlight any more – it’s hard to really innovate with rail or water supply system for example …except for making their functioning more harmonious and integrated – things we do govs for)
And at least it’s not a foregone conclusion at all that the internet with fall under limiting control (but BTW it already greatly benefits from central roll-outs of its kind of infrastructure)
Regarding the final forecast, people in France dubbed this doomed Internet “Minitel 2.0”.
The Minitel network is closing June, 30th.
These days, one of the most aggressive competitor of France Telecom historic operator (now under the Orange brand) was once a (very profitable) sex-chat Minitel service. Running with France Telecom permission and (commissioned) bless.
Edited 2012-06-28 14:40 UTC