David Bowie died in January 2016 and while he will be remembered for changing the face of Rock and Roll forever he casts a longer shadow than that. Bowie was a musician, an actor, a provocateur, an innovator, an inventor and more. One area that people don’t realize he had a part to play in was the internet.
David Bowie was at the height of his fame in the 90s when the internet was still wearing diapers. Yet at the time Bowie saw that something big was happening. While many large businesses failed to see the importance of the digital era (see Kodak, Blockbuster, etc.) Bowie saw it earlier than most. In 1998 Bowie announced that he was starting his own internet provider service, BowieNet. The service was hailed as offering uncensored access to the internet. While the limitations of the internet at the time meant that it could not viably stream his concerts or videos it was still an early solution in the internet era.
Subscribers to BowieNet could look at photos, interviews, blogs and more. Videos were on the site but as the world was still on dial-up that was asking too much for most modems at the time. What was most impressive about the site was how Bowie saw it as a way to interact with his fans. He immediately knew the impact of the internet would be to change how art is consumer forever. No longer is art a one-way traffic offering, the internet has made it two way as fans and artists interact on social sites at length today. Bowie knew this and sought it out.
In 1999 Bowie said during an interview that “we’re on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying,”. He understood that the internet would change the world forever. While technology leaders would come to understand this many years later, Bowie knew it in the 90s. The man who constantly pushed the boundaries of art and media had seen the next stage to perform on earlier than anyone.