Evolutionary Dead-ends: Le Minitel


So it's Bastille Day, and that got me thinking about the Minitel -- the French teletext system that seemed so cool back in the pre-web era.

When my wife and I moved to Paris in 1989, the Minitel was in full flower. I remember friends on Rue de Saintonge wowing us with demonstrations of online shopping and naughty chat.

What's surprising is how long it took to die.

Or maybe it's not so surprising. Cost and habit were disincentives to change, even as France languished in the early Internet economy. I'm sure the Betamax died hard, too. There's a barroom topic of discussion (if you hang out in geeky bars): evolutionary dead-ends on the technology family tree -- not failures, but successes that got left behind by newer and better products and services.

Things are different now, with France leap-frogging other developed nations by many web metrics. Maybe the Minitel helped seed that ground.