PUBLIC INFORMATION SHOULD BE PUBLIC
As part of a group organizing a live Internet demo
to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Finance and Telecommunications, we
Chairman Edward J. Markey had received a letter organized by a
bunch of Nader's Raiders
wondering why the SEC's EDGAR database of filings by public
available to the public on the Internet. At the request of the staff,
we talked to the SEC and learned that it was technically impossible
to put EDGAR on the net and, besides, lots of companies were making
lots of money selling these documents (at the time, it cost $30 to
get an annual report from commercial providers). What purpose would
giving away the documents do other than pull the bottom out from
these brave retail information providers who were "adding value?"
We found a university sponsor at NYU, got a small
National Science Foundation grant and a server donated
by Sun Microsystems, and purchased the data to give away on the net.
To mollify the howling from the retail information providers and the
SEC, we agreed to buy the 24-hour delayed
feed instead of the live feed. And, just to prove that we weren't
a one-trick pony, we bought the full text of patents as well.
We received our NSF grant in October, 1993 and by January, 1994
we had FTP access to the data up and running. This was followed
by a WAIS search engine donated by Brewster Kahle, a Gopher
interface, and, since we were trendy types, we made the data available
on the small-yet-growing application called the Web.
To say our service was popular would be an understatement. The users
ranged from sophisticated corporate mirrors at places like Price
Waterhouse to an unlikely collection of 50,000 individual users