"I'm very interested in the period that the series is covering," Huffington said in a telephone interview. "Because, as you know, with my new company Thrive, we are focusing a lot on the unintended consequences of technology in our lives. The pace of much of social media and our phones and technology generally has hijacked our lives and has made our connection with ourselves and others harder. So I'm fascinated by the way Matthew Carnahan, in this series, takes us to the beginning, the origin of the internet. You know, the idealism, the triumphalism. There was really not a glimmer of any concern about what it might do to our lives. So I find it an amazing juxtaposition."
"The value of the boom period, which in a way is Internet 1.0, is the beginning of FOMO; it's the fear of missing out in the dot-com craze," she added. "And people wanting to get on the dot-com train, even if they didn't know where the train was going, which is how so many frauds were perpetrated on the public." That's something we're seeing today with failed startups like Theranos, which whipped up a frenzy of hype with its "disruptive" blood-testing technology that didn't actually exist. And of course, there are other high-profile failures like Juicero, which managed to raise $118.5 million in funding for a completely superfluous juicing machine.
The browser wars of the nineties -- Netscape versus Microsoft's fledgling Internet Explorer -- reflect conversations we're having now about tech competition, Huffington points out. And it's also an example of just how much slower the law is than the technology world. The Justice Department's antitrust case against Microsoft began in 1998, the same year Internet Explorer surpassed Netscape's market share, and the trial wasn't settled until 2001. By then, Netscape, which was acquired by AOL in November 1998 for $4.2 billion, didn't have a chance at reclaiming its industry dominance.
While the Netscape story has a bittersweet ending, Huffington believes it still has a few things to teach companies today. "I think they can learn about the importance of founders often teaming up with more recent business leaders, like happened with Marc Andreessen [played by John Karna in the series] and Jim Barksdale [portrayed by West Wing alum Bradley Whitford]," she said. "So that at the same time that a company's growing exponentially, there is the infrastructure so that the growth is sustainable. And I think that's a great lesson. And Barksdale comes across in the series as kind of adult supervision at Netscape."
The six-episode series will bring us back to the nineties using a combination of documentary footage, dramatizations and creative scenarios, like rap and dancing. At one point, a young girl will break down IPOs for the audience. "Matthew has blown up the genre," Huffington said. "The whole thing works amazingly well because it captures the drama and the character of the period. So instead of telling you that the period was chaotic and traumatic, it actually shows it."