This is What Elon Musk's First Website (Zip2) Looked Like
Global Link Information Network was founded in 1995 by Elon Musk, his brother Kimbal Musk, and Greg Kouri who provided $6,000 in funding. Elon famously dropped out of pursuing a PhD at Stanford in energy physics/material science two days into the program to pursue the opportunity. Global Link Information Network was later renamed as Zip2 and served as a directory for local businesses. In 1996, Zip2 starts pulling data from American Business Information Inc. (ABI) and starts a self-comparison to yellow pages that will continue throughout its lifespan as a brand.
December 19, 1996 Snapshot:
A New Yellow Pages:
In 1997, Zip2 begins a transition from being a directory for businesses to being a city guide platform for newspapers. Zip2 was still partway between the two business models in December of 1997, as can be seen on its site at the time. Zip2 also strengthens its association with yellow pages by using a “Zip2 Yellow Pages” branding, while also adding map and directions capabilities. At this time, Zip2 starts generating additional revenue through an advertising network.
December 11, 1997 Snapshot:
In 1998, Zip2 completes its transition to being a platform for newspaper’s efforts to develop their own city guides. Almost 200 newspapers by this time are using the platform to develop guides, including a landmark deal with the New York Times which can be seen prominently displayed on the front page. Zip2 also sells calendar, email, and other supplementary services to the newspapers. Many services can be seen on its front page in 1998 including maps, local reviews (like a Yelp before Yelp), car and home sales, and even community events.
July 2, 1998 Snapshot:
Becoming Advertiser Friendly:
In December of 1998, Zip2 refocuses and becomes more eCommerce and advertiser focused. Newspapers lose their prominent display on the frontpage, and businesses and eCommerce take their spot. Zip2 lets customers and advertisers communicate via fax, an innovation unheard of at the time.
December 5, 1998 Snapshot:
In February 1999, Compaq Computer pays $305 million to acquire Zip2 to strengthen their AltaVista search engine. Zip2 gets a UI makeover while keeping many of the same functionalities. AltaVista branding can be seen prominently on the front page, marketed as “AltaVista Connections.”
November 28, 1999 Snapshot:
Beginning of the End:
In 2000, the Zip2 brand starts a descent into obscurity. The brand becomes a subsidiary of MyWay.com which is an online portal marketed as a “Yahoo Killer” free of advertisement. MyWay.com was launched by The Excite Network, owned by internet giant IAC (whose eventual holdings would include Match.com, Vimeo, Hinge, and Tinder), and later shut down in 2005.
May 10, 2000 Snapshot:
In March of 2001, still under MyWay.com, Zip2 is stripped of all Zip2 branding. The only signs of the brand left are hidden at the bottom in the copyright footer.
March 31, 2001 Snapshot:
The Orphan Brand:
By 2002, Zip2 has become an orphan brand being passed from internet giant to internet giant. Now its original URL is under the InfoSpace umbrella, while small vestiges of the brand remain with MyWay.com. At the time, InfoSpace was about to go through an upheaval with Jim Voelker taking over from Naveen Jain’s role of CEO (and later suing him under a non-compete agreement after his move to Intelius) and refocusing InfoSpace to just a few core divisions. Zip2 was part of a “yellow pages push” which also later included the acquisition of Switchboard in 2004. By this time the Zip2 brand had lost almost all its recognition amongst consumers.
April 2, 2002 Snapshot:
Zip2 completes its transition to obscurity and its URL redirects to http://www.infospace.com/info.zip/
Zip2 is officially dead.