by Dennins R. Dimick

Apple's Online Service Gave Up Digital Ghost March 31

Apple's eWorld online village rolled up its sidewalks at midnight Pacific Standard Time the last day of March, 1996. I thought a last visit might be in order to grab a few screen shots of this little ghost town during the waning hours. You know, a last trip to say I'd been there just before a final shuttering of the electronic doors.

eWorld appealed to me in the beginning because I wanted to support Apple Computer, plain and simple. eWorld was a lot like America Online (AOL), mostly because Apple licensed the client software from AOL for use at eWorld. The look and feel of both were quite similar, there wasn't much "market differentiation," as the financial types like to say.

A likable, quiet place eWorld was. You never had to worry about traffic jams, you could always get in, never a waiting line. Apple's eWorld technical support section was great, it was easy to grab software updates from the Apple new files section.

Admittedly, the main reason I liked eWorld was that I could get the electronic edition of next week's MacWEEK articles each Friday night. And if I was really hard up, I could even read Spencer Katt's column from the next week's issue of PC WEEK.

Yet, eWorld was a bit like the Apple Computer employee I met last August at Macworld Expo in Boston. I was visiting the Apple Pavilion at Bayside and started playing around on the new Power Mac 8500 that was running eWorld. Truth being I was interested in seeing how zippy these new 8500s were, and it just so happened this was the only one on the floor not surrounded by hundreds of onlookers.

Once I got into eWorld I switched over to the eWorld Web Browser, a clunky a piece of software (other than Word 6) that ever existed. The nice young lady from Apple, whose job it was to demo eWorld, said in surprise, "How did you do that?"

"Do what?," I said.

"Get access to the World Wide Web like that," she said, "I've never been able to figure out how to do that on eWorld."

So I showed her. She saw for the first time Apple's eWorld Web pages. And she wrote down on a piece of paper just how I switched to the Web so she could show others of anyone asked. But she seemed a little lonely. Not many people were hanging around her little booth waiting to find out.

Maybe that was the problem. Apple came a little too late to the online show, they put up a tent, and there just weren't enough circus-goers left to fill the stands. Other circus big tops were already wooing fans just down the dial-up road.

Like the woman I met in the eWorld booth, maybe Apple just wasn't quite sure what to do with the eWorld circus or how to fill the bleachers once they set up their electronic tent.

The end was near when Ziff-Davis pulled MacWEEK news off eWorld in late February. "We're redefining to an Internet strategy," or some such. "Come on over to our Web site and get the hot news." eWorld was such a nice little cul-de-sac, now they wanted me to get out on the Interstate. I liked staying off the big wide highway.

That last Sunday night on eWorld I logged in to say good-bye to someone, anyone who could be found. Seems like there were more people dialed in then than I'd ever seen. A couple of chat rooms had good-by parties going. eWorlders were weeping digital tears over the loss of their cyber-friends and outpost. eWorld hosts were enthusiastically hawking 20 free hours on America Online if you signed up as an eWorld émmigré.

I wanted to hand out until the digital darkness arrived, but the end for me would have been 3 a.m. from my east coast basement interface place. I poked around a few minutes, grabbed a little cyber-nostalgia and some screens shots from the waning hours. I was gone to bed with three hours of life left in eWorld.

The next day on AOL (in the new ALOHA zone for eWorld exiles), anguished reports recounted that the end arrived and it was like someone turned out the lights while people were still home. eWorlders were in the middle of typing bye-bye and their screens went blank at the witching hour. Pooof! The genie was back in the bottle.