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Thursday, 19 July, 2001, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Anatomy of a backlash comments
The five key moments chosen to illustrate the U-turn of the hype industry towards the internet are subjectively chosen. You may well have your own views about where the key moment was - or any other point you may want to make.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
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I was surprised to hear that the Express should pull out of the internet. Obviously if the site isn't making any money I can undersatand but it certainly should be seen as a complete package these days.
Fortunatly when I go on line the initial page opens on the BBC site, it is so much better than the papers particulary as it changes throughout the day. Well done to the BBC, before you know were you are you will put the papers out of business.
The turn was when everyone suddenly saw people making money, jumped on the bandwagon and then saturated the market. People just think they can develop a website, sell a few things, and make millions. You can't, be realistic. A website is PART of a business model, not a get rich quick tool. Most website don't even consider what their users want, they all compete to have the best site. All users want is easy to find and read information.
Give us users what we want, not what you think we want.
I think the reason so many people bought the hype is that they wanted to believe the future held something different from - more exciting than - the bland last quarter of the 20th Century. It was one outlet for the optimism of the millennium change period.
I think the anticlimax of the New Millennium is also part of the cause of the current global trend towards recession.
You can't blame people for latching on to something hopeful!
Like others have commented, I remember the excitement over the introduction of the 14.4 modem and how it was going to revolutionize communication by computer. I've also seen the explosion in the number of websites; when I first started accessing the net, around 1995, it seemed like the only information available was posted by fans of certain movies, TV shows, and comic books. Businesses hadn't really taken off. Then came the surge and the "WE NEED A WEBSITE OR ELSE WE'LL PERISH!" mentality. I think it's all part of a normal business cycle, though: you start your business, 35 other people show up with the same idea, and only one or two are going to survive. The use of the internet to promote and sell is still relatively new. People need to look at it as the tool it is; just as some businesses don't promote on TV or radio, some may or may not benefit from having a web presence. A web presence, however, shouldn't be looked upon as the only gauge of a business's overall personality or potential for growth.
Business and common sense both went out of the window but they always do during a gold rush. However, journalists who hyped the whole thing have to take some real blame for it and it isn't morally acceptable for them to then mock when it collapses.To be clever with hindsight is to lack foresight. This modern gold rush caused many ordinary poeple to lose jobs and incomes - nothing is ever mentioned about ordinary people and the effects on them. The money lenders were stupid and the journalists were complicit in this. The web is one application on the internet and it is clear that the internet will thrive and grow and people will continue making fortunes on it.
Newspapers have reasonably fresh news so users accessing newspaper websites are probably doing so to avoid buying the real thing. (Or is that just me?)
It's monthly or quarterly magazines which really NEED and benefit from websites. I edit and publish a monthly trade magazine for the UK bicycle trade (BicycleBusiness). News is stale by the time it comes out (so are job ads) so two years ago I launched bikebiz.co.uk. This is run by just little old me from a back bedroom but has 3-4 news stories a day, a very lively bulletin board, an auction section, stats, a public access side, a trade address directory and loads more.
Being perceived as genuinely fresh is a weakness for newspaper websites.
Where newspaper sites really come into their own are as archive resources, (especially for the columnists) and perhaps that's where the investment should go. If you can't be the freshest, what's the point of being there at all?
Who is really worse off? Well, occasional investors are, but whould we really worry about them? As far as the rest of us is concerned, the retreat of commmercialism from the web simply means that it will be enhanced as a medium for private individuals, new communities, enthusiasts and public discussions. But as always we need help from organisations with a public mission. Why not let the BBC run the whole damn thing?
The strange thing is that in many ways the net has been underhyped. I believe that in the long-term it will change many things about society, possibly even the nature of society itself. It might be as fundamental a shift as the one to agriculture, or at least the industrial revolution. The hype we've seen was one in which these new potentialities were targeted on existing business requirements. Some of them worked, some didn't. But we haven't seen anything yet.
It does make you wonder what happened to basic business sense and realistic marketing/advertising budgets. My favourite example is a big-staffed multi-channel internet radio company which still believes "people will find it and love it" *without* general advertising, being listed in major search engines or saying anything about a radio service on its front page! - Fabulous offices & studios though!!
We run a small joke shop business on the internet and everyone loves to show us stories like these to prove the internet is a failure, but we are doing really well. I'm astonished at how much money was spent by these companies without any apparent business sense behind it beyond 'A good idea'. Our business is a success today and it is entirely due to the internet. We aren't millionaires but the site supports us and grows at a managable rate so that we can look forward to a secure future. Business can still be a success on the internet if you have the business sense to run it properly.
At the start of the dot.com rush, I was astounded by the city's lack of historical awareness. Hadn't they ever heard of the Dutch bulb bubble? Probably not. A fool and his money are soon parted.
As an IT techie with a background in traditional industries I was amazed at the ignorance and naivety of the city and the media. Very few, if any, of these ideas ever had a hope and it was glaringly obvous that they were destined to fail. I can only think that with the advertsing revenue in mind, the media didn't want to blow the whistle. As for the 'city', their lack of understanding of IT is ledgendary. To those in my industry, the question from day one was never, if the bubble bursts, but when. But then we are not trendy so no one ever asked us!
Mosaic? When I was a lad we didn't have browsers. We had dial-up bulletin boards which we accessed with modems we measured in bauds from our 8k PCs that we had to reprogramme in Basic each time we used them. Not to mention paper tape memories! Graphics? We used to dream of graphics! And a 14.4 download was the stuff of fantasy. Tell young people that and they'd never believe it. Now a bunch of wet in the breeches types come along, think they can turn the Web into a machine to hoover money out of everyone's wallets and act all surprised when they come up a cropper.
The first comment I read said "the internet will turn full circle again". The internet hasn't finished turning its first circle yet, it's just got rid of the ideas that were never going to work. The next boom is coming, but don't expect it to be half as big and it'll take an amazing idea to get it started. You have been warned.
Four years ago I graduated from University and joined a three-man start-up who focused on producing a subscription based model for niche content. In those four years we have worked to a stable business model, avoided anything with an "e-" prefix including "e-transactions" "e-commerce" and concentrated on making the best use of a technology. Sadly, the new-media Soho scooter set have made our job much harder but in the end we have a very stable company which is making a profit.
The wonderful Nathan Barley character perfectly captures the new breed of trendy mindless bandwagon-jumpers, who were conscious of nothing but image. These people created acres of websites containing nothing of any viable commercial interest, just because it was the new, mohican-hairstyled thing to do. It was only right that so many vacuous businesses collapsed when people saw sense.
Very interesting, we have not yet seen anything to compare to this backlash in Canada. Yet. Today.
I consider myself a veteran of the net and still have an old 486 box hidden away with an early version of Mosaic installed. Many of the dot.bombs well deserved their fate: the whole scene seemed to attract a peculiar type of arriviste who assumed that people could be easily bamboozled into buying their brand of nothing on the basis of its overwhelming coolness. Unfortunately the resultant implosion is dragging down some serious players as "collateral damage". My home is just blocks from the offices of Nortel: I know of what I speak.
My grandfather would tell stories of his adventures in a gold rush, the dot.bomb debacle has a similar narrative based on false promise, easy riches and disastrous failures. With a bit of luck the charlatans will have been scared off for a while and perhaps some sanity will return to the business of the net.
I first got online in 1992 and I've worked online since '99. I've seen lots of friends leave for new dot.coms and then get the elbow. But it wasn't the hype so much as it was the business models themselves. Backroom service wasn't there, the market wasn't there and there was no brand trust. I still love the democracy of information and use the net more than ever. But I like to go to the shops when I want to buy stuff.
Nicholas Negroponte says it all in his book Being Digital. The formula for commercial success on the internet is simple. Invest in companies that are using the digital nature of the internet, rather than just replicating something done pretty well in the world of atoms.
New ideas will succeed if they are solving a previously unsolved problem by the sensible application of digital tech. eg MP3 files, more convenient and cheaper.
Old ideas with a dot.com after them won't. It is that simple.
I just wish the whole boom/bust .NET media thing would go away so I can get on with the business of enhancing good business with the sensible use of technology. Fact is, you can¿t make a silk purse out of a sows ear.
Bad business ideas fail whether they are '.NET' orientated or not. Quite why nobody could see this two years ago, I just don't know.
I've been working on websites since 1996 - not a long time I know, but since then I've seen a lot of 'pretenders' coming in and dressing up the Internet. Many sites have no value (other than advertising) and many companies charge a whack too. Colleges are even offering courses on web design because of all of the hype.
I'm pleased to see that companies have gone to the wall if all they were interested in was advertising and revenue. For me, the power of the internet and the web rests with the sharing of info', education and communicaton.
Other uses are good too, don't get me wrong. But at least a lot of the 'pretenders' are leaving the industry behind.
"Dot.com" is only one thing that the internet can do. Let's face it - it's little more than electronic mail order. The net has many other well established and largely non-profit services, and loads of exciting applications await us. The "Internet" been around for over 20 years, and it will not go away just because most early commercial ventures are failing.
We got a deluge of hype - but no real education of the facts. The media and marketeers screwed it up for the rest of us yet again.
The hype deserved to be squashed - but it's a pity it wasn't nipped in the bud, before tons of City brokers made tons of money recommending dot.com shares to gullible cattle-like investors. In all the time that the internet hype of a year or two ago was happening, metered phone charges to the consumer and the need to spend £1000 on a PC were still crippling many people who would have loved to have access but were denied it because of financial gaps not to mention plenty of technophobia. The big markets for lastminute.com and its peers that were supposedly going to make them money simply did not materalise and know-nowt-about-the-technology business people were going to venture capitalists, and trying to secure funding for business models that were just crazy! As an internet user since 1993, I always knew that before this explosion of outright silliness came along, that the internet is an incredibly useful tool, and the usage of it will rise - but steadily.
Long may the Internet continue to grow and reach more homes, but let's be flippin' realistic about it in future.
We will never know
for sure which
believed their own
plans and which
ones were set up
purely for a 3-year
ride at investor's
expense. One thing
we do know: whether
or deliberate scam,
those dot.coms have
caused a lot of
Dot.com trading is just another way of doing mail order. And when did anyone with any sense use mail order last time? Unless you know exactly what you are going to buy, you won't be interested in anything unseen. Use the internet to find out info, certainly, but there's no way anyone can make money from the punters out of that - you expect to get info for free.
The main problem with the internet "bubble" was that it had gone too far, too soon. In about 10 or 15 years time, people will be more acceptable to the notion of shopping on-line and using e-commerce - at the moment consumers still want to visit the shops and "feel" the merchandise before parting with money. In the meantime, a lot of people made a lot of money from the hype (remember that there is always someone on the other side of the trade; you only hear about poor old Mr. and Mrs. Smith who lost their life savings!) But with share dealing, there are enough risk warnings given - I have no sympathy - a fool and his money etc, etc.
The whole internet hype has been driven by the press wanting advertising revenue. Most of the monies raised by the shares was spent on advertising, so of course the press loves them. Once that money died away their interest died with it.
Use of the internet will probably always reflect its real value as a tool for its users, rather than simply the amount of good/bad hype about it. Provided internet entrepreneurs concentrate on building useful products and services for the target users, rather than attempting to court good press, the usage levels should continue to rise. The time for inflated valuations and overnight millionaires is over, but the internet itself is here to stay. In the last century, did people stop mining gold after the US gold rush was over?
It certainly seems, to someone like me who uses the internet on a regular basis and would always much rather use a website than a telephone, that it is the "hype" that causes many problems, convincing people who aren't up to speed with the issues that there is some huge problem, some scam where none exists. I have welcomed the increase in services available online, indespensible for any busy working person, and yet there are always things that I wish were available online, and that aren't quite there yet. It'd be great if more businesses kept their internet presence up-to-date and responded to enquiries prompty (or even at all would be nice) as I so often find that they don't! Vive la revolution!
It is very strange how people assumed the internet was going to make everyone involved rich. Over history, there have been lots of revolutionary technologies (e.g. cars, aeroplanes, railways, telephones, satellites), which have often had a goldrush associated with them. Looking back though, very few of the original players have made that much money because the products have become ordinary commodities, offered my many manufacturers.
The internet and the digital communication age are changing our lives for ever. The hype, however, is ahead of the reality. Some aspects will be good, some will be bad. In the end, we will have more information more quickly - the "speed of life" will continue to increase with all the issues that go with this.
Speaking from experience, I think the great dot.com meltdown was largely down to the fact that at the time the venture capitalists and other investors wouldn't know a great e-business idea if it came up and bit them on the backside. I'm not bitter.
It was about this time, maybe a little earlier, that I joined a new dot.com as a developer. All around were tales of untold wealth, freedom of expression, untapped interlinked economies and the such. The reality of the situation, a number of months later, was rather different. With a problem to solve, and without sufficient numbers of people having that problem (who are also net-connected - remember that 80% of the worlds population have not even made a telephone call) then a web-based service is going to fail. It's such a basic idea, but one that so many of the dot.com me-toos simply didn't want to address.
I imagine the same sort of thing happened with other tech or comms revolutions. Initially the product is used by a few technogeeks who understand it, but don't hype it. Then it gets into the mass media and an explosion of interest follows tempting the masses into using it. Then when it becomes more common place, media interest wains, it is found out that everybody is actually using it, they just aren't crowing about it. Then the next big thing come along, history is forgotten and the whole silly cycle starts up again.
The whole "dot.com" hype was started by ill-informed journalists looking for a sensational and sexy way to write about what must have been a boring subject for them previously. As the mania and madness continued, even those who were more cautious (ie. most of the established IT industry) was forced to take part in the hype. We are seeing now the disaster that it turned out to be, and the same journalists (who haven't lost their jobs, because they don't work in IT) are now criticising the self-same industry. We need to grow up and stop thinking how clever we all are. The internet has huge potential, but that's all it is at the moment - potential. Internet use in the UK is nearly 6 million? Nearly three times that watch Coronation Street or EastEnders of an evening. We cannot start to harness the potential until we have a bit more equality in access to the web, and realistic expectations of what we can do with it.
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