The French State shut down Minitel 5 years ago today. Minitel had been the first mass market online platform, more than a decade before the internet became popular. While many will think of Minitel with nostalgia today, its legacy is more relevant than ever and lives in key policy and social debates surrounding the internet today. “Should the state step in to protect net neutrality?” “What power should private platforms such as Facebook really have over what content its users can see and post?” “How can we protect the public interest in a world where our lives are being captured by private corporations?” All these questions were debated and found answers in France during the Minitel era. More than a dead artifact, Minitel is a case study for thinking about tomorrow’s internet. As the French mourn Minitel today, we say: “Minitel is dead, Vive l’internet!”
Julien Mailland and Kevin Driscoll are the authors of Minitel: Welcome to the Internet.