Before the Facebook and Google became the internet’s dominant duo, a tiny Silicon Valley startup called Netscape sought to challenge the desktop dominance of the world’s leading software maker, Microsoft.
National Geographic cranks up the internet wayback machine with its forthcoming series Valley of the Boom, to explore the dot-com era and the culture of speculation, innovation and disruption during Silicon Valley’s unprecedented tech boom of the 1990s and subsequent bust.
The six-part limited series, starring two-time Emmy award-winning actor Bradley Whitford, Steve Zahn and Lamorne Morris, tells the story of the epic browser wars. While most of the show is scripted, showrunner/director Matthew Carnahan weaves in select documentary elements that help tell the true inside story of the internet’s formative years.
“What Matthew captured so brilliantly at the birth of the intent is how dramatically different it was then than it is now,” said executive producer Arianna Huffington. “The mood we are going to see here is a mood of idealism, triumphalism. It was expected to basically change the world.”
Huffington, herself an internet entrepreneur as the founder of The Huffington Post, said she was interested in a project that explored the internet’s origins as a way of understanding the unintended consequences three decades later — rising depression, social media addiction, difficulties in distinguishing between fact and fiction.
“We never really saw or foretold what was coming,” Huffington said.
Carnahan said he felt the story was especially relevant today, as one of the pillars upon which the internet was founded — the concept of openness, unfettered access to information known as net neutrality — has been kicked away.
“Right now, we are losing our net neutrality. We are at a scary scary moment, in my opinion,” Carnahan said. “This is the time to tell stories like this.”
The series premieres in January.