Firefly Network, Inc. (originally known as Agents Inc.) was founded in March 1995 by a group of engineers from MIT Media Lab and some business people from Harvard Business School, including Pattie Maes (Media Lab professor), Upendra Shardanand, Nick Grouf, Max Metral, David Waxman and Yezdi Lashkari. At the media lab, under the supervision of Maes, some of the engineers built a music recommendation system called HOMR (Helpful Online Music Recommendation Service; preceded by RINGO, an email-based system) which used collaborative filtering to help navigate the music domain to find other artists and albums that a user might like. Firefly's core technology was based on the work done on HOMR.
Firefly's website changed many times. Initially it created a community for users to navigate and discover new artists and albums. Later it was changed to allow users to discover movies, websites, and communities as well. It was well known at the time for its sense of community.
Firefly technology was used by quite a number of well known businesses, including the recommendation engine for barnesandnoble.com, ZDnet, launch.com (later purchased by Yahoo) and MyYahoo.
Since Firefly was amassing large amounts of profile data from end users, privacy became a big concern of the company. They worked with the Federal Government to help define consumer privacy protection in the digital age. They also were key contributors to OPS (Open Profiling Standard), a recommendation to the W3C (along with Netscape and VeriSign) to what eventually became known as the P3P (Platform for Privacy Preferences).
In April 1998, Microsoft Inc. purchased Firefly presumably because of their innovations in privacy, and their long-term goal of creating a safe marketplace for consumers' profile data which the consumer controlled. The Firefly team at Microsoft was largely responsible for the first versions of Microsoft Passport.
The Firefly website had distinctive design and graphics. Early designs featured bright colors and a fun and eclectic look. Later redesigns reflected the company's push towards corporate customers and desire to de-emphasize the Firefly community website.
File:Firefly-website-homepage-1997-04-12.png|Firefly homepage circa 1997 ("Economist Red")
↑ Agents became Firefly on August 28, 1996. http://resources.bnet.com/topic/cambridge+and+company+and+software.html
↑ Moya K. Mason, ''Short History of Collaborative Filtering''