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Hotwired was the first commercial web magazine, launched on October 27, 1994. Although it was part of Wired Ventures, Hotwired was a separate entity from Wired, the print magazine, and had original content.

Andrew Anker, Wired's then Vice President and CTO, wrote the original HotWired business plan. On its approval in April 1994, he became first HotWired's CEO, and oversaw the development of the website. The initial launch staff of 17 included Kathleen Lyman, Jonathan Steuer, Howard Rheingold, Rick Boyce, Brian Behlendorf, Jeffrey Veen, Chip Bayers, Matthew Nelson, Justin Hall, Julie Chiron, Gary Wolf, June Cohen, Jill Atkinson, Will Kreth, Louis Rossetto, designers Barbara Kuhr & John Plunkett (Plunkett + Kuhr), John Shiple, and Kirt Johnson. Over the next five years several other sites grew out of Hotwired (see below), most notably Wired News, Webmonkey, The Netizen, Suck, and the Wired search engine HotBot.

P + K created a very simple interface initially, to account for the early web's slow speeds and low resolution, with six icons drawn by Amsterdam designer Max Kisman. As web-use grew and faster download speeds allowed higher resolution, Hotwired's interfaces became more complex.

The site launched shortly before Netscape's browser, and the advent of other new media sites such as Pathfinder.com (Time Inc.'s commercial web content offering) and Salon.com (founded by former staffers of the San Francisco Examiner). The initial business model was 'corporate sponsorship', which quickly led to the design of the 'ad banner' display areas still in use today. The first banner ad on the internet was an AT&T ad featured on the site in 1994.[1] The first direct marketing focused ads were sold by David Hyman to Virtual Vineyards.

Other projects and sites published under the Hotwired banner from 1994 to 1999 include:

  • Adrenaline (1994-1996)-Daily Magazine of Alternative Sports developed and edited by Caitlin Pulleyblank. Magazine linked to an Interactive database of play spots on a graphical interface [realtime surf data, climbing data located (latitude/longitude), ultimate teams, mountain bike trails, rafting locations with posted CFS data].
  • Animation Express (1998 - 2002) - Curated collection of animated short films presented in Flash, Shockwave, and QuickTime formats.
  • Brain Tennis (1996 - 1997) - Debate as a spectator's sport
  • Cocktail (1996 - 1997) - Recipes for, history of, and variations on cocktails
  • DaveNet (1995 - 1996) - Dave Winer's early developer musings
  • Geek of the Week (1997 - 1998) - Weekly featured member page of HotWired members around the world
  • HotBot (1996 - Present) - Search Engine (partnered with Inktomi)
  • Intelligent Agent (1995) - Travel through the minds of Rudy Rucker, Randy Shilts, Joshua Quittner, and others.
  • Member Pages (1997 - 1998) - Template-based do-it-yourself homepage profiles of users
  • Muckraker (1995 - 1996) - Brock N. Meeks follows the Net from Washington, DC.
  • Netizen (1996 - 1997) - The first website to cover a presidential election, featuring daily writing from John Heileman and Jon Katz, edited by David Weir. Where politics, digital culture, and the high-tech industry intersect;
  • Net Soup (1995 - 1996) - Listservs and newsgroup postings.
  • Net Surf (1997) - Events of the Net industry.
  • Net Surf Central (1995 - 1996) - An interactive database of the cool Web sites of 1996
  • Packet (1997 - 1998) - Intelligence from the technological frontier, featuring Michael Schrage, Brooke Shelby Biggs, Simson Garfinkel, Steve Silberman, and Mark Frauenfelder)
  • Piazza (1994 - 1995) - the first communication forum within HotWired, including "Threads" (conferencing system) and "Club Wired" - (a live, Telnet-based chat system customized by Laura La Gassa - hosted by Will Kreth,Susanna Camp, and David Hyman
  • Pop (1995 - 1996) - Movies, books, art, zines, and personalities, featuring John Alderman, Rob Levine, Ian Christe, and Sarah Borruso.
  • RGB Gallery - Electronic art collection
  • Signal (1994 - 1996) - What did e-commerce, e-politics, and e-culture look like in 1995?
  • Suck (1995 - 2001) - Web and media commentary redefining the word 'sarcastic'
  • Synapse (1997 - 1998) - Colorful, interactive viewpoints on technology and culture, featuring Jon Katz
  • Talk.com (1996 - 1998) - Live chats and interviews
  • Test Patterns (1996) - What HotWired employees did in their spare time
  • Web 101 (1997 - 1999) - Your smart introduction to the Net.
  • Webmonkey (1996 - 2002) - Web programming tips and techniques
  • World Beat (1994 - 1995) - Travel

Wired Ventures' online division was acquired by Lycos, Inc. in 1999, a year after Condé Nast acquired Wired Magazine. This essentially marked the end of Hotwired's presence on the Web as Lycos turned the site into an archive. In 2006, Lycos turned the domain into a pay-per-click advertising hub, seemingly marking the definitive end of Hotwired as an online magazine. However, in May 2008, Condé Nast acquired both Webmonkey and the Hotwired domain from Lycos, and Webmonkey was relaunched,[2] suggesting that Hotwired may have a future after all.

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