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Filling the do-it-yourself niche

  • (JEFF KAN LEE / The Press Democrat)

PRESS DEMOCRAT: In 1993, you developed the first commercial Web site -- known as the Global Network Navigator. How did you come up with the idea?

DOUGHERTY: Late in 1991, I saw a demonstration of the Web from Tim Berners-Lee, its founder, and I became a believer. I began showing it to others and watched as they were amazed by its power -- that you could use a single program to access information on servers around the world. I remember saying: "That page just came from Italy. Just like that." You'd have to remind everyone that it wasn't coming from a local hard disk. I knew this was the future for publishing. I set out to organize a team to build a site but it was never clear how we could make money on it. Before Yahoo, GNN was an early attempt to create a directory of links to what you could find on the World Wide Web; it was also a magazine with some articles on how to explore this new world. We sold GNN to AOL in 1995 for millions, although AOL didn't deliver on the promise to scale it up. (Editor's note: the site is viewable at www.oreilly.com/gnn)

PRESS DEMOCRAT: What was the impetus behind Make Magazine?

DOUGHERTY: People like to do projects. It's fun to make something, even if you could buy the same thing. Plus, it's even more satisfying to share it with family and friends. If you look on a magazine rack, you see magazines devoted to cooking, gardening and woodworking -- all of them based on DIY (do-it-yourself) projects. I didn't see a magazine that applied the DIY mindset to technology, so I wanted to create one, a magazine with a broad range of technology projects. We want to help you make technology do things you imagine it should do, like put a video camera in a model rocket and send it up in the air. Once I came up with the idea, I explored back issues of old magazines, like Popular Science and Popular Electronics, and I realized that there once was a tradition of magazines for tinkerers that had been lost. I wanted to recover it.

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