COW.NET was another attempt to enter into the economic and emotional
rototiller that was Internet Service Provision of the mid-1990's. Casting
aside the warnings and astute observations of those he loved and respected,
Computer Geek and Art Guy Jason Scott reached into his
savings (and the savings of others) and plunked down his proud flag of Net
Capitalism, awaiting his chance to ladle in the river of economic soup that
flowed from the homes of America (and New England, specifically).
The Business Plan was both simple and slim: Make a fun little place to be, and the users would flock to the prompt and dialups, meaning unbelievable buckets of cash and admiration for previously-mentioned Founder and President. To achieve this, all that would be required would be a willingness to be different in a world where more and more Internet Service Providers were becoming more and more indistingishable.
NOT SO EASY, IS IT, WHIPPERSNAPPER? HEH, HEH, HEH!
Of course, as any schoolboy with even the most basic of economic grasps could inform you knowingly, hopping into this industry as a provider in May of 1995 was a cookbook filled with disaster and heartbreak. Just as there were over 200 automobile companies in the early 1920's and less than a dozen ten years later, so too did the many providers of the New England area find themselves fighting each other for every last nickel of use, while on the horizon major media and communications conglomerates pondered multi-billion dollar infrastructure changes that would shift the playing field from one of HARDWARE to one of CONTENT. COWZ (or COW.NET, depending on the founder's whim and mood) wasn't in the right position to become the massively popular community that would survive in many forms into the next century. It was simply a cool little BBS and ISP that gave cheap access (sans SLIP and PPP, another death knell) and a funky attitude for the people who chose it.
AND LO, THEY CAME, IN TRICKLES AND DRABS.
The COW.NET family never grew to be greater than 50 or 60, many of this
population being free accounts to begin with, given as barter for services
rendered or gifs bequeathed. Since many didn't post (and many didn't stay
even though they had free dial-up for perpetuity) the community thing
didn't quite happen. This was fine for access (the lines were open a lot)
but it didn't give people the impetus to tell all their friends what a great
place COW.NET was and how it had to be reached at all costs. Paying customers
dropped, until the final count, which was about 15.
COWZ as a for-profit, we-take-anybody, demand-and-supply entity finally tipped over and went boom the last weekend in September, 1997.
SO YOU'RE DEAD?
Well, not exactly. Deciding that he couldn't handle the pressures of a new career (in computers, ironically) and the maintenance of a money-losing mess of unpaid accounts and forgotten responsibilities, Mr. Founder instead decided to shut down his dialup lines, kick off all MUD accounts (they were mostly deadbeats anyway) and turn COW.NET into what it should have been to begin with: His Own Personal "Dig ME!" on the Internet! With this little self-indulgent catharsis in place, COW.NET now costs previously mentioned founder a fraction of its previous costs and nearly all the same amount of joy and pure technological pleasure.