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On the 14th Anniversary of Purchasing This Domain Name

It was 14 years ago today that I purchased the Disquiet.com domain.

I thought I’d make some cursory notes as a means of marking the anniversary. I’ve typed much of this in various forms and contexts over the years, but it’s helpful to reflect on it again.

I’d had a web presence on various sites since 1994, at generic URLs hosted by Netcom and Calweb and elsewhere, but I’d felt it was time for a proper home. Also in the running were cilantro.com and yellow.com — at least as memory serves, because according to Whois both of those had already been purchased by someone else by the end of 1994. (Perhaps they’d momentarily lapsed when I was making my decision?)

I went with “disquiet,” the word borrowed from the title of the best known book of the late Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935), The Book of Disquiet, as it’s commonly known in English. As far as I know I’m the first person to own the URL. Such a thing sounds fantastical today, when common-word (even semi-common) URLs are hard to come by. The recycling of domains over the years brings to mind that great essay by Colson Whitehead (see nytimes.com, November 11, 2001) about becoming a New Yorker:

[Y]ou are a New Yorker the first time you say, “That used to be Munsey’s” or “That used to be the Tic Toc Lounge.” That before the Internet cafe plugged itself in, you got your shoes resoled in the mom-and-pop operation that used to be there. You are a New Yorker when what was there before is more real and solid than what is here now.

There isn’t exactly a direct correlation with the Internet, no commonly experienced “Oh, I remember when that URL was an online grocery delivery service, before it was a tech-news site, before it was a discussion hub for enthusiasts of East German munitions.” More applicable is the opening sentence of that same Whitehead essay, which begins, “I’m here because I was born here and thus ruined for anywhere else.” Today, there is a generation that was born on the Internet, born into the Internet (perhaps, some argue, ruined for life without it, though that’s a subject for a different, more considered essay — though for the record, that is not my point of view), while all of us older than that generation came to it as a recently discovered, mostly undeveloped, and seemingly infinite territory.

Whenever I think back to that URL purchase, I remember needing to use a fax machine to handle some of the (then literal) paperwork. It took days for DNS servers to recognize a new website (yeah, gather ’round the campfire of burning cathode-ray monitors, youngins). Phone calls were necessary, and (again, if memory serves) identification — it was very much like crossing a border.

The summer of 1996, I’d left print for the web, left seven years at a print magazine for what turned out to be almost six at a web firm. I’d left print less because I saw a professional opportunity than because I recognized that the Internet was something I wanted to participate in while rules were still being made and norms were still being set. Such thoughts were reflected back at me over the course of the past year when I read about the “locked in” nature of programmed technology in recent books by Kevin Kelly, Douglas Rushkoff, and Jaron Lanier.

At first Disquiet.com was just a place for me to post articles after they’d run their course in whatever print publication I’d written them for. Then I began to receive emails asking when I’d next be publishing something online. It seemed like a weird question — the factual answer was, “I’d be publishing something online as soon as a proper amount of time had passed after I’d first published that same thing in print.” Then it occurred to me to just write things for the site. Blogging comes second nature to us today, but it was a revelation to me when I, say, added a date stamp to an article for the first time (at the suggestion of my coincidentally Portugal-reared friend Jorge Colombo).

Anyhow, if you’re reading this, I’m writing this because you’re reading this. That’s as simple as it gets. It’s been 14 amazing years, with more to come. Apparently December 13, 1996, was a Friday, which means the URL was purchased on Friday the 13th. So much for bad luck.

By Marc Weidenbaum

Tag: / Comments: 7 ]

7 Comments

  1. Jos Smolders
    [ Posted December 13, 2010, at 10:07 pm ]

    Interesting history. Let me use the occasion to thank you for your great work. It’s been often an inspiration.

  2. Jos Smolders
    [ Posted December 13, 2010, at 10:09 pm ]

    ^^ ..so far. Long may you run (this site).

  3. wcraghead
    [ Posted December 14, 2010, at 6:48 am ]

    Cheers Marc, and thanks.

  4. Tobias
    [ Posted December 14, 2010, at 9:53 am ]

    Yes: thank you.

  5. Eric Searleman
    [ Posted December 14, 2010, at 7:52 pm ]

    Congratulations. If you have a spare moment one of these days, please consider bringing back your other site, Reading Comics In Public.

  6. Gazi
    [ Posted December 15, 2010, at 2:22 am ]

    I have enjoying returning to your site over the years. It was Pessoa’s key word ‘disquiet’ that brought me to this e-hearth of your. keep it up.

  7. papernoise
    [ Posted December 17, 2010, at 2:45 pm ]

    I’m reading this only now… Congratulations! What you say reminds when I first saw a blog (or actually some kind of proto-blog) online. It was pure revelation. I remember having though: “oh you can actually write a diary online… and make those boring sites a bit more personal!” Well things have developed much further than that of course! Though I’m following you only since recently, thanks for this blog, it has opened my eyes on sound and music in more than one occasion.

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  • about

  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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    • December 13, 2022: This day marks the 26th anniversary of the founding of Disquiet.com.
    • January 6, 2023: This day marked the 11th anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.

  • Recent
    • April 16, 2022: I participated in an online "talk show" by The Big Conversation Space (Niki Korth and Clémence de Montgolfier).
    • March 11, 2022: I hosted a panel discussion between Mark Fell, Rian Treanor and James Bradbury in San Francisco as part of the Algorithmic Art Assembly (aaassembly.org) at Gray Area (grayarea.org).
    • December 28, 2021: This day marked the 10th (!) anniversary of the Instagr/am/bient compilation.
    • January 6, 2021: This day marked the 10th (!) anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
    • December 13, 2021: This day marked the 25th (!) anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
    • There are entries on the Disquiet Junto in the book The Music Production Cookbook: Ready-made Recipes for the Classroom (Oxford University Press), edited by Adam Patrick Bell. Ethan Hein wrote one, and I did, too.
    • A chapter on the Disquiet Junto ("The Disquiet Junto as an Online Community of Practice," by Ethan Hein) appears in the book The Oxford Handbook of Social Media and Music Learning (Oxford University Press), edited by Stephanie Horsley, Janice Waldron, and Kari Veblen. (Details at oup.com.)

  • My book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, was published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury. It has been translated into Japanese (2019) and Spanish (2018).

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