It’s Our Fourth Anniversary. Happy Birthday To Us.

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The first issue of Yahoo! Internet Life hit the newsstands in the fall of 1996. While we like to think of it as a pretty good moment, it was not what writer Jon Katz describes as the Internet moment. There were far fewer people online, and those who were had just begun to unlock the Web’s possibilities.

But Yahoo! Internet Life launched, and flourished. Within a year we had become a monthly publication. That was a pretty good moment too — but no, it wasn’t the Internet moment either. And in the following three years there would be an increasing number of great Internet moments. E-commerce would become a force to reckoned with, practically every print magazine would launch a Web-site, the stock market would go mad with dotcom fever, and the Net would touch off wars (and mergers) among the heavy hitters of the cable TV, telephone, and ISP industries. And who could forget such singularities as the live Internet birth, the Internet virgins hoax, the Starr Report, and of course Matt Drudge’s nefarious (if informative) scoops.

But we don’t want to get nostalgic about what’s gone before — we’re much more interested in what’s happening now. Because now, as Katz writes in How the Net Changed America, is the Internet moment. How do we determine a politician’s views? How do we look up a phone number? How do we track investments? How do we complete our collection of Silver Surfer comic books? The Net meets our needs in a mindbogglingly diverse number of arenas.

In honor of this paradigm shift, and on the occasion of our 4th anniversary, we’ve put together a package to showcase how the Net has changed our lives, our culture, and our civilization as a whole. In it you’ll find the aforementioned How the Net Changed America piece chronicling these groundswells. You’ll also find our second annual How America Uses the Net article in which we visit with a couple dozen people who are using the Net in surprising new ways, from farmers to bounty hunters, and from opera lovers to karaoke queens. And while America may use the Net, the Net is far from American — take a look at Web use around the globe in How The World Uses The Net. How did we find all this stuff out? By looking at the gajillion polls, marketing studies, and hit counters that track the Net phenomenon. Trolling through those murky waters, we actually ran across some pretty telling statistics, which we’ve helpfully collected for you in our Web Stats area.

We hope you enjoy our little birthday celebration. Luckily for us (and you) the story of the Net is far from over. Stick close to us, it’s going to be a wild ride.

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