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Tuesday, 12 December, 2000, 11:54 GMT
Are you bored with the internet?
The internet revolution was supposed to change everything from the way we live, shop, communicate. But it has fallen well short of that according to a report by Anderson Consulting released this week.
Dot.coms are going bust in large numbers, tech stocks are diving, few people are using Wap phones and Stephen King has abandoned his attempt to re-write the rules of publishing.
The latest figures from the US reveal that web sales account for less than 1% of all retail purchases.
Is this too negative a picture? Has the internet changed your life? Or have you been let down by the internet revolution (or lack of it)?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I sit in front of a computer for eight hours each day - working. I know that's pretty unremarkable. What's relevant is that I also spend my one-hour lunch break in front of the same computer. Why? Because I can read news from all over the world, write messages to relatives from one end of the US to the other and friends all over the world. I can buy things online (hardware, books etc) and have them shipped to my house. And what really keeps me sane is chatting with my friends all over the West Coast on Instant Messenger and being reminded that I'm not the only one glued to the tube.
Marc Nieminen, USA
My activities are severely hampered by CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome also known as ME). The internet allows me to 'virtually' go further away from home than I would have been able to do even before I became ill.
I surf and obtain all kinds of useful information from places that would not have previously been possible and converse with people. The collection of anecdotal experiences and the dissemination of these and medical opinions and strategies regarding CFS have been of overwhelming benefit
I am profoundly glad that the dot.com bubble has burst. Companies who never make a profit but whose founders become multi-millionaires based on hot air and no product are little worse than pyramid schemes, in my book. But I buy books, music, software and hardware online - it's quicker and generally cheaper. There's no "search" button in a department store. Then again, I'm a bloke so I hate shopping anyway.
The Internet is as revolutionary as the telephone or the credit card and probably no more. In twenty years time I confidently predict that we'll wonder what all the fuss was about.
Science fiction authors of the 1950's predicted future society would be inter-linked and controlled by a massive computer. The Net is making this a reality.
If the Net has become boring it is only because it is so intrusive in modern living.
Dave Lindop, Los Angeles, USA
I don't think the internet or technology is anything at fault here. Anyone with a reasonable level of knowledge realised ages ago that it's all hyped up out of all proportion. The problem is the people who create the hype and exploit it to make a fast buck. Why are all these tech stocks getting pasted ? Because the traders have artificially inflated the prices to make a killing.
I have to agree with Andrej from Russia. People are not 'bored' with the internet, they have just got used to it. It's all about what 'works' for you. Some people shop, some bank, others don't. Some use it to get news and to communicate when they are away from home. Let's not get carried away making statements about it 'changing our lives' and just get on with using it to compliment the lives we all already have.
By far the main problem is speed of access. I have a fast connection at work and love the internet - it usually takes minutes to find what I'm looking for. However, my wife hates the net. This is because she can only access it at home through a normal telephone line which is so pathetically slow it makes the whole thing pointless. Why should I have to spend a fortune on an ISDN line to access free information? The money needs to go into data cabling before the net can truly take off.
Mike Aldrich, UK
If you're bored with the internet, maybe you forgot to switch your monitor on.
I hope people don't get bored with the internet, otherwise I'm out of a job...
For me things have gone in reverse. The more I shop online, the harder it is for me to go out and shop in the real world. Now when I try, the real shopping world takes on a "Twilight Zone" creepiness. Sales clerks who look at you with blank expressions, long hostile lines at the checkout counters, product disarray, lack of stock in the sizes I need, their inability to take a "back order" request and the general "pain" of taking my time off to spend it fruitlessly searching for items I can't find.
The internet is great. I talk to my family in Britain for free (I have free internet access), I can send them gifts without having to worry about how much it weighs and find out how my home town football team played, all in ten minutes. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Most people twenty years ago couldn't have imagined how far we've come, so I can't imagine what it will be like 20 years from now.
What I am afraid of, is corporate or government controls on the Internet. "Communications Decency Act"? I don't trust anything designed for "our safety" or "our convenience"... do you?
I think I could easily get bored with the Internet if I did not select the functions I am interested in. Being a teacher, the net has opened new perspectives to me and my students. Like television, the Internet remains a potential way of learning provided that you make a careful selection beforehand.
Now that the hype about the Internet is dissolving into hard reality, people are looking to the practical benefits that the Internet can provide. The revolution is still taking place, though not at the pace that some analysts foolishly predicted. As for the demise of dot.coms - that's what comes from launching anything without a solid foundation!
Now that un-metered, broadband access is becoming a reality, the Internet will slowly develop and become interwoven into our business, social and personal lives. There can be little doubt that the Internet lifestyle is here to stay.
Now we're past the hype of it all, we're entering the age of Internet maturity - it's the same with all new industries. Remember when PCs first came out? Or radios, television or even telephones - from the province of the rich, they all became "everyman's" tools and an indispensable part of the inventory of modern life.
I work with computers and do some work involving the Internet. One of the reasons the net is becoming steadily less popular is that people do not trust the security on the net. Speaking as someone who has some experience in this field I can say that the internet is never going to be 100% secure and if someone wants to get in badly enough they will.
Nick Horton, UK
When accessing the internet speed is everything. For years I lived in Bermuda and because connection speeds were very slow and prices exorbitant, my experience was often extremely frustrating. Now I reside in Canada where inexpensive, high-speed access makes the internet seem like a very different place indeed. I could never return to 56K again!
I have bought from three internet sites. One sends its products by normal post, and both my orders were either left at the post office (5 mins walk) or with my next door neighbour. The other two insisted on using a courier for delivery (with delivery sometime between 0730 and 1830 with absolutely no indication when). So I had to have the delivery at work, and carry it home on the train. I might have well as gone to the local store and paid a bit extra to avoid the hideous inconvenience. So much for e-tail.
It hasn't let me down because I never believed all the hype in the first place. The demise of the dot.coms is directly related to their inability to deliver on their hyped-up promises. It's better to retain a healthy scepticism of the promises pushed at us, and consider the net just another useful tool that is good for some things but not for others.
Stephen Williams, Hong Kong
As a professional Internet programmer can I just point out that companies that sell through the Internet are nothing more than glorified, high-tech catalogues. Most people never did and never will buy more than a minority of their purchases from catalogues. Who ever thought that these companies would make millions was just foolish!
WHO CARES ABOUT SHOPPING! LET'S DISCUSS REAL ISSUES!
This is what the Internet is good for. Sharing information and breaking media domination of information flow in other media. We need to prevent corporate control of the Internet. If we want it to become efficient and useful then we are likely to sterilize and censor the web. Then we'll end up with conservative & sanitized propaganda like we see on TV.
The Internet is just another channel from both a communication and retail perspective. It should be seen as a complement to existing channels, not an all-conquering replacement. The fact that the Internet now forms part of many peoples day means it has succeeded and as with all technology should mature nicely with time.
What is boring for some can be stimulating for others..
The Internet is an instant encyclopaedia that contains more information than any printed encyclopaedia.
Bored? It's the greatest knowledge-enhancing tool that has ever come along. What do you want it to do for you, brew tea?
William Wattie, Brazil
Filter what is useful from the hype. A friend of mine was all excited because the internet lets her "voice-chat" albeit with poor quality! "Great", I said, decades of development, billions of pounds worth of hardware, software and infrastructure and they've invented the poor quality telephone!
Sam Furlong, England
I remember 5 years ago Bill Gates ranting on about the Internet as a "Super information highway". Even with the best search engines it can take over an hour to find what your really looking for and when you do you can't be guaranteed the information is legitimate.
I am not in the slightest bit surprised by the failure of WAP phones to take off. This is an excellent example of the manufacturers' current approach of "See what clever gadgets we can make" rather than "See what useful/useable/practical products we can make".
The Internet is not the way forward. I get more information quicker by using the phone, instead of getting the rubbish found on the net. I thought the Internet was supposed to replace business flights by having video conferencing. No one I know uses the Internet for any shopping, etc.
No, I'm not at all bored with the central functions of the Internet. What has become boring is, as other people said, the clutter due to commercialism: everything slowed to a crawl by the sad paraphernalia of banner ads, pop-ups and naff animations that companies love, despite clear evidence that these things actively repel users.
I find the Internet fairly bland. It is useful for this activity I am engaging in now. Vox pop, and getting ones viewpoint to politicians etc. The development of the Internet will surely be decided by the huge amount of cash invested in those annoying pop-up adverts. If the product sale figures fail to match the investment, then funding will be stopped. I still like to visit a Library, a shop, because I am human and like contact.
The image of the Internet is suffering from "new toy syndrome" as ordinary people like me surf and explore its possibilities for entertainment, services, information and new ideas. But it is a rather wonderful and empowering toy, don't you think? How many of us who are using this opportunity to express our views would have taken the time and trouble to write a letter to the BBC? I think the possibilities for immediate interaction are most exciting.
Hardly! The Internet is where I do my banking and a lot of my shopping, it's my primary source of information, it's how I keep in touch with family and friends. It's not a question of being bored - I need it, and I'd hate to have to do with out it. The internet is not some cheesy pop star, and therefore can't we dispense with the 'backlash?. If anything that is what is boring...
Stephen Smith, USA
The Internet changed and continues to affect my life in a positive way. With the net I met friends world-wide and am currently in Australia, the third trip here this year. Anyone who tries to devalue the power of the net must be using it for the wrong reasons.
I've been on line for 4 years and now feel that people expect too much from the net - I know I do. We want everything quicker and quicker and get frustrated when sites and links don't work. It won't be until servers become faster and connections via ADSL or ISDN more commonplace that we will truly begin to see the scope the net can offer.
Forget all these bankrupt companies and failed WAP phones, the Internet is far from a boring experience. I've been using it for two years now and I find more and more that I can communicate through discussion boards or through my own websites. Yes, it may be commercially floundering but it is a great tool for those who want to use it academically or to further their communications and establish their views. Many sites can become boring but things like the BBC's Talking Point and new poetry material etc, greatly intrigue me. The Internet set out with communication in mind and communication is what we have got.
One of the downsides of the Internet is that it is the ideal medium for people and corporations with nothing much to say to express it without moderation. If patient and persistent, there are many gems to be found in this junk shop of information. The open form of the Internet means that it is inevitable that it will encompass all elements of every society. As we choose in life those whom we wish to associate with, the same judgement should be applied to what we choose to view on the Internet.
M. Delaney, UK
I wouldn't say I was bored by the net, but I wouldn't say I was excited either. It's just a normal part of my life now. I use it to find out news and information, and I use it to arrange and purchase tickets for travelling, not to mention it helps me look busy at work. I think nothing of it really, but of course if it were to disappear I would be truly lost.
It is a hype, sure, but one that'll stay.
I am sick of the no-content websites, which make up the majority of sites. Then there is the vast amount of porn on the web, of no good use either. And still I find myself using the Internet daily, for communication and information purposes.
The Internet is like TV, 99 percent is trash, but the other 1 percent is great and that is what makes it so good. I will never give it up. It is my library and ears to the world. It teaches me every day about world issues that I would otherwise be ignorant about. Hats off to the good guys out there!
Bored with the Internet? That's like being tired of London...
I think the Internet will be one of the most exciting and fascinating forms of technology. We have seen nothing yet. I, as a web developer, have a lot of enthusiasm for the future of Internet. If you rate all the modes of communications, let's say starting with radio, Internet stands on top in all respects. It alone can give you what radio, TV, VCR, magazine, newspaper and a phone can altogether give you.
The cost of surfing is much higher than other countries due to the death grip of BT as it tries to hold on to its monopoly.
No, not at all, because the Internet is the best source of information.
I think that it is too early to speak about being bored with the Internet because half of the people in the world haven't even seen computers, never mind the Internet!!!!!
"Hmmm! They have the Internet on computers now?!"
The Internet is a vast information resource and a great way to communicate. And it isn't about technology - it's about people, how they use it, how they make it work and most of all, how they interact with one another.
I find it so interesting I stay up till very late when the web is cheap or free. As a result I now frequently suffer from "net-lag".
Kevin Wilson, Japan (UK)
I've been using various features of the Internet
(by which I mean: not just the web) for some 15 years;
it certainly has changed my life hugely! Even as a
consumer: I get all my news and op-ed from the web;
I buy everything but food and drink on the web; I use it
to communicate with my friends and family; I even commute
less now since I can work from home thanks to a high-speed
network connection at home. I cannot think of one part
of my life that has not been changed by the Internet.
The original model for the internet was a domain of engineers
and as such an ideal place for retrieving information and browsing
at useful stuff. However commerce rushed ahead trying to exploit the
net without any regard for bandwidths, protocols etc and the net has just
ground to a sluggish pace. I have an ISDN line at home cranking only 7K
due to volume of users. In the sales game you probably have 20 seconds to make
your pitch and then the customer loses interest. In e-commerce terms Amazon hit home
with a very quick message with links everywhere for a commodity everybody wants, but
others take ages to download by which time I've lost interest.
In the early nineties I would spend hours and hours on the Net.
Now, it has become just another daily
routine, check e-mails, visit a few favourite sites, research a product, service or destination.
It's a bit like asking a bookaholic
if they are bored with the Yellow Pages.
I use the internet for email, reading news, especially wide international news, and for engaging in a specialised scholarly discussion group. It has definitely made communication much quicker and easier. I almost never write letters anymore and very rarely telephone. Other than that, the internet should not be expected to revolutionise the retailing market. Online shopping is not very realistic, at least not for the near future.
If you do not plan and run your website on the basis that it can be accessed from anywhere at any time, you will create a website that will often contain out of date and/or inaccurate information, that is of little or no relevance or interest to the vast majority of your potential audience and that will show your organisation in a negative light. The Internet is not and should not be seen as an end in itself: it is a means to an end, the end being communication.
Yes, a tool is a tool, after all. The internet is nothing but a technological tool. It is not any human being. We should not be used but we should use and control it.
The only people "let down" by the
internet are the Utopians who thought
that it was going to usher in a new
world freedom or, alternately, "frictionless
capitalism" (puh-leez!). They were so
caught up in their dreams of who we,
the end users, "ought" to be, in
their opinions, that they forgot to
pay attention to who we actually
Like all new innovations, there is always a flurry of excitement at the beginning, and when the dust settles, most users will realise just what a useful tool the web is. For example: e-shopping is a boom for me. I live in Corfu, which is predominantly a tourist island. Winter time presents difficulties when it comes to shopping (apart from the supermarket). The town where I live has little in the way of shops, and I am faced with a 45min drive to Corfu town, only to find difficulty parking, and shops which do not always stock the items I need. At 2:oopm. most of the shops close anyway! E-shopping offers a vast selection of goods at very competitive prices, and can be accessed 24hr. a day....Long live the net!!
Bill Wright, New Zealand
I am realistic about how and when I use it. I don't buy clothes over the net because I can't try them on first, and don't buy anything where I can get it cheaper locally. I think many dot coms have been so keen to promote how new and technology driven they are that they have forgotten the basics of retail - give the customers what they want, when they want, at a price they want. Books and CD's are one thing, but I would be very wary of buying something as serious as a car without someone to talk to face to face.
People didn't believe the hype. I know many people that got on line, found it too slow and gave up. I have been using it for 6 years day in day out and find that now its all about money and sex.
The Internet has arrived. Unfortunately the misunderstood majority of people who cannot see through its 'business advertising', 'futuristic ideals' or 'disturbing pervasive nature' have not. Yet.
Joe, United Kingdom
The Internet has been used for years as an excellent tool for information, but over the past few years corporations have jumped on board and turned it into a big advertising hoarding and marketing tool. Hopefully it will now go back to being a resource for information and not an excuse for marketing men to exploit it and make money. Providing our government doesn't come up with another law to suppress that information that is...
A lot of the difficulty with buying goods over the Internet is that many companies will only deliver the goods to the address registered with the credit card company. This is almost always the person's home address. Delivery is usually between Monday and Friday when the majority of people are at work, therefore unable to take delivery of the items they've bought. This rather negates the whole advantage of buying on-line.
I think the main failure has been the hype, not the products themselves. The Technicolor predictions for mobiles and the web made you think that we'd all need to become half-borg to get along within a few years, and that we'd be talking to everything from the toaster to the TV to tell them what we wanted, when and how. People are more money conscious than these techno-mongers think, and we're not going to buy these technologies until we see a real advantage to using them. 'Paying bills online in the middle of the might in my jim-jams' is not a "liberating experience" that I'm going to fork out for!
The web needs to speed up exponentially before it will realise it's potential. Also there's more to the net than retail sales. It's hardly the best gauge of success. Delivery is also a problem. It continues to take days sometimes weeks to arrive and another common problem is deliveries often can only be made 9-5 Monday to Friday. I often have to drive to pick the thing up after a failed delivery.
Its advantage is perhaps in its relatively low cost provision of what amounts to very high-speed worldwide communication, making it a potential revolution as to communicative freedom, that far exceeds that of the telegraph and telephone, in linking the global village.
Bob Ezergailis, Canada
From my experience, a lot of Dot.coms that are now suffering are doing so because they rode on a wave of hype and used the 'long term investment' idea to hide their lack of a business plan. That a lot of incompetent companies who were more concerned about their stock than their product are now going out of business is not to dismiss the power of the internet. The internet is a revolution and will change our lives, but the likes of lastminute and boo.com will be dim memories. And rightly so.
As a regular user of the web, I judge the quality of sites by their user friendliness. Too often I come across sites where: -
I have worked in the IT industry now for
over 20 years. The internet is no
different to any new technology which
I have seen in the sense that it must
meet customer requirements. Often
these have never been defined carefully
enough but net pundits 'know best' and
we get terrific marketing hype, followed
by predictable disappointment.
I am 100% happy with internet as it is and it offers as I do not buy anything, I do not do any banking or speculation through it. For me it is purely a source of information and a means of communication and that task it fulfils very well. The only thing I am sad about is that it is still pretty expensive to use and it cannot be used as much as one would wish to.
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