WEEKLY WEB WATCH: 'Dot-com' is no longer enough. It's time to get down to business

There was once a time when it was cool to be on the Internet.

There was once a time when it was cool to be on the Internet. Now, if you have the money and the means to be online but are not, you start losing friends. It's a bit like not having a phone. It used to be worth quite a bit of press for a company to announce that it had a Web site.

These days if you get a press release from a company saying it just joined the 1990s four months into the new century, it's a sure sign of a loser.

Not even the most desperate trade rag is going to touch it, unless you happen to live in Lusaka or somewhere.

It's no longer cool to be in an Internet business, not when every other old-economy behemoth is also a Net business and the rest are close on their heels. Kmart is becoming one of the nation's largest ISPs. General Motors is a Net business, and so is UPS. The Internet has changed the world, and the world is going to be changed even further by the new devices that will take over your living room, kitchen, car and pocket. But all around us are sure signs that the first phase of this new world is already here. It's real, and should every company with dot-com in its name go out of business tomorrow, it would still be real.

So by all means crow about what you are doing online, but crow about it intelligently. The battle for ascendancy has not even really begun.

All you have is a lot of people who have signed up for the race. And meanwhile, the meaning of 'dot-com' is changing. Take for example the satirical 'KilltheDot' campaign sweeping San Francisco. Ironically, it is through a Web site, BlowtheDotOutYourAss.com, that it has gathered momentum. The posters and stickers have scratched an itch that for many people was becoming intolerable. And now they are downloading the materials to paste up around their own neighborhoods.

At first glance they look like all the rest of the glut of dot-com posters, until you take the trouble to read them.

ButIDon'tNeedMyToothpasteDelivered.com.

AllThePornYouCanEat.com.

AnythingIFound- InMyGarageForSale.com.

IJustHadARectalExamOnline.com.

And TheLintFromMyBellybutton.com.

To the people posting these, 'dot-com' is a symbol of greed. To many people in San Francisco, all it means is that they can no longer afford the rent. It's a symbol of a city losing the character and values that drew many of its long-standing inhabitants there in the first place. These days, the things that draw people have nothing to do with free speech, tolerance, cultural diversity or a handsome bridge.

The more the Internet economy grows, the wider the dot-com class divide grows - and the resentment that goes with it.

Forrester Research is predicting that most dot-com retailers will be out of business by the end of 2001. And that report came out before the stock market gyrations of the past few weeks. If such a big retail consolidation comes, then a whole lot of once-funky dot-com retail names are going to be symbols for 'didn't quite make it,' or 'shouldn't have been funded in the first place.' How much was it again that they were spending on billboards aimed at Wall Street types rather than potential customers?

So kill the dot. Lose the 'e.' It's just commerce now. Keep the 'i' for words that really do start with it. Just get on with business.

Stovin Hayter is editor-in-chief of Revolution. He can be contacted at stovin.hayter@revolutionmagazine.com

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