I haven’t written something about not getting something internet related for a while…days at least. And, of all the things I do not get, I really do not get the Web 2.0 bubble:
Deep-pocketed companies are now angling for a piece of the Web 2.0 action – a quest that already has yielded a couple big jackpots, helping to propel the sales prices of startups to their highest levels since the dot-com boom…News Corp. paid $580 million in 2005 to buy MySpace, the largest social-networking site, and Google Inc. snapped up video-sharing pioneer YouTube Inc. for $1.76 billion late last year…In 2006, the average price paid for a startup funded by venture capitalists rose 19 percent to $114 million. That was the highest amount since the dot-com frenzy of 2000 when the average price of venture-backed startups peaked at $337 million, according to data from Thomson Financial and the National Venture Capital Association.
Having lived tangentially though Y2K and the dot-com boom and fortunate, prior to those points in time, to have advised the webby people I knew that they should recession proof themselves (always good generic Maritimer advice), I can only scratch my head. Not so much at the boom – as these things happen – as history repeating itself so closely.
Once upon a time, the internet promised to replace commerce. The dot-com boom busted when it became apparent that people were just not going to buy dog food and sofas on-line and B2B still was going to require sales reps in 17 year old Ford rust buckets or flying in economy class roving the landscape to meet the people to make the deals. In large part the success of the internet on a retail basis is that it serves as the greatest flier insert ever. No one is really claiming now that the internet has in itself created a retail boom but I do get to find things to get – yet they only replace other things I would have gotten otherwise. And it only works for a few goods. I am still dependent on my grocer, for example, for my access to the most excellent of coffees at a reasonable price…not to mention all my other food. I could ship that coffee in via e-commerce (i-buying?) but that would cost too much. So I use e-commerce really only to buy that which is unattainable (very good homebrew supplies, unpopular books, quirky gifts). E-commerce works great for the unnecessary.
If we get right down to it, the internet now really only promises to replace your social life. I was reminded of this when actually I met up with some bloggers this week and went over all the things that never panned out: video blogging, podcasting, pervasive citizen journalism. Like early TV and its promise to bring education and two-way video communication into every home, lofty goals and intimate technologies get traded in for just more bulk entertainment. This is fine, I suppose, if you like bulk entertainment – and if watching cable TV or being a fiend for movies won’t do it for you. We game, we chat in text, we make connections and discuss ideas with people whose lives would not otherwise touch ours. There is nothing wrong with this but, like the dot-com boom, how is it not just replacement of the inessentials? There is the eternal question of the Internet: would I not be better off if I held a dinner party for people I work with, joined a service club or rec sports team and actually talked with actual people, making real relationships upon which I can depend (rather than creating a dependency)…not to mention doing all that in the context of actually doing something? I would have to give up certain levels of real or illusionary control of the discussion as I would have to deal with people as people and put away the small pulpit and the accompanying pulpitism that the internet gives people. Could you imagine in 1985 the idea that social life could occur in something called MySpace as opposed to an “our”-space? A “my-space” then was where you were alone. I suspect in a very real way it still is except the trinkets and baubles as well as bells and whistles distract you from that.
I look forward to the collapse of social networking sites. The web-0.0-era hobbyists sorts will remain as always but I still plan a party for that great day. It will be interesting again to watch today’s gurus become tomorrow’s apologists, then accusers, then naysayers, then advocates for the next big thing – whatever the venture capitalists will believe that is in 2016. Whatever it will be…will they call it Web 3.0? Not likely. That would be like the guy who, early in 2000, I comforted with the knowledge that he was well suited for consultancy in Y3K.