Exit left, pursued by a lack of success
This week, it began small with eWorld, which officially launched on June 20, 1994. If you were using a Mac in the 1990s, you may have heard of this -- but you aren't likely to have been a user, as not many people were. When Apple CEO Gil Amelio cancelled it in 1996, it's believed to have had 147,500 subscribers. The closest comparison figures available are AOL's, which in 1994 crossed the one million subscribers figure.
Yet eWorld is significant, because this was right on the cusp of the internet, when everyone knew online was the future -- and nobody knew that their attempts to corner the market weren't just doomed, they were going to be practically erased from history.
Brave New eWorld
In retrospect, we all spent an enormous time just waiting for the internet to get going. From at least the 1980s onwards, though, it felt like we were usually floundering in the dark, or that the odd step forward was a bigger deal than it seems now. Then, too, there were successes that were like the online equivalent of Blockbuster video stores: they grew big and they seemed unassailable, but they were assailed rather quickly.
We're thinking of services like AOL, and perhaps especially CompuServe there, which even at the time was known colloquially as Compu$erve for how expensive it was to use. That was the future: the old-fashioned dialup bulletin board systems that had three geeky users and, always, a Star Trek chat room, would be replaced by what now looks exactly the same. Dialup, slow, text-based, Star Trek, online services had it all -- but you needed to be technically-minded, to have some particular pressing need, or to have some time on your hands, and the ability to pay for spending that time online.
If any industry called out for Apple to come along and reinvent it, perhaps it was online. Apple came, Apple saw, and Apple failed.