Minitel is really interesting, it’s like that lake in Russia which has its own arsenic-based ecosystem* - this Earth-2 version of the Internet in which vitally important decisions were taken differently i.e.
- Mass connectivity across society in the early 80s, not early 90s
- Provided free of charge by the Government
- Headed off the “kills journalism” problem by, er, making content provision the exclusive right of newspapers.
When I started working in Internet research at Nielsen in the early 00s Minitel was a massive pain in the arse, though. It was really difficult to sell Internet measurement to French clients, because what about Minitel? And it also meant the French internet population behaved completely differently to anywhere else - far slower on the uptake of almost any of the big names.
The article suggests that Minitel came to be seen as a big mistake, but this seems like far too much hindsight to me. The French were WAY ahead of the game - in terms of a wired-up economy - for a good 15 years. If there was a mistake it was in not seeing the writing on the wall earlier, but even then I don’t think native French web businesses suffered much: it just made Amazon.fr, Google.fr etc. happen a bit less speedily. REGRETTE RIEN France!
*I know this was proved to be bullshit, but it’s a nice metaphor, forgive me