In 1996, presidential campaigns blasted off to the depths of cyberspace for the first time. Voters hoping to learn more about Bill Clinton and Bob Dole dialed up to the web, typed candidates’ respective web addresses into a Netscape browser and waited — and waited.
When the pages finally finished loading, visitors to the sites saw web presences that were impressive at the time but downright archaic by today’s connected standards. As rudimentary as they may look 16 years later, the sites marked a historic moment when presidential politics made a connection with the Internet.
An article published in the January 1997 issue of The International Journal of Press/Politics even theorized about the future role of the Internet in politics. The article’s abstract laid out the authors’ hypothesis:
“Will cyberspace bring new forms of participatory democracy as computer-mediated communication reduces organizational costs? The Internet has the potential to change the nature of American electoral politics, but we doubt that it will. The character and popularity of cyberspace are more likely to foster an on-line electoral environment that replicates the real world, albeit in a slick electronic form. Notwithstanding the novelty and explosive growth of campaigning on the Internet, we foresee the Internet in general, and the World Wide Web in particular, as more likely to reinforce the existing structure of American politics than to change it.”
Who wins your vote in the battle of campaign websites for the 1996 election? Tell us in the comments.