We were all sad to hear about the death of music legend David Bowie this week. Everyone knows about his many achievements in the world of music and film, but did you know that he was also an innovator in the world of online technology?
In 1998, he established BowieNet, his own internet service provider, beginning in North America and then expanding across the world. This was the very first musician-created internet service provider, and offered a faster dial-up connection than many competitors at the time. This wasn’t his first foray into the exciting new possibilities of the internet; in 1996, he became the first major music star to release a new song as an online-only download, so this seemed like a natural progression into the rapidly expanding online world.
Besides the internet connection, the service offered specific features for users such as a personalised home page, 5MB of space for the creation of new content, access to unreleased photos, interviews and songs and the opportunity to view live streams of concerts. Bowie stated that his aim was to provide an online space where music fans could find music and information, communicate with each other and exchange ideas, bringing a whole new element of interactivity into the world of music. The ISP continued to operate until 2006, when technology had moved on to such an extent that services such as BowieNet were no longer required.
Today, countless musicians and figures from the entertainment world interact with their fans online through social media networks like Instagram and Twitter, and online music streaming and downloads have taken over from physical copies. BowieNet anticipated how important the internet would come to be in the music industry and provided a memorable platform for people to interact with other fans and access new material, making it one of the most interesting technological innovations we’ve seen from a major musical artist.