RIP David Bowie: Internet Pioneer


While millions around the world are quite rightly celebrating the musical career of the late David Bowie, the tech community is remembering some of his pioneering work with the Internet.

Bowie of course had numerous connections to technology and science fiction, including starring as an extraterrestrial in The Man Who Fell To Earth, portraying Nikolas Tesla in The Prestige, and writing the song Space Oddity which was famously played by Chris Hadfield on the International Space Station.

He was also among the earliest musicians to embrace the potential of the Internet. In 1996 his song Telling Lies was arguably the first single from a major artist to be made available as a downloadable track. He also took part in some of the earliest major live audio streaming events, both of his own concert and a charity event.

In 1998 he launched BowieNet, his own Internet Service Provider. As well as getting dial-up access to the Internet and a email address, subscribers got exclusive access to audio and video content and regular live chats with Bowie himself. It offered a level of fan experience and interactivity rarely seen in an era when musician websites tended to be static corporate experiences.

The site even hosted BowieWorld, a 3D virtual world (pictured) where, for an additional fee, members could create their own avatar in the style later popularized by sites such as Second Life. As well as interacting with other avatars, users could explore everything from a virtual art gallery with Bowie’s work to a maze themed on his career.

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