It's another new year for the Internet economy, and thank goodness.
Time to trot out the old crystal ball and see what might be in the offing, remembering, of course, that most predictions tend to be wrong. So, without further ado, here goes:
1. Amazon.com will either report a profit or be sold to a brick-and-mortar retailer. Some people will report this as the End of the Internet as We Know It. Those reporters will be wrong.
2. Come to think of it, a lot of people will report the End of the Internet as We Know It. This will be a theme in many stories about e-commerce, e-advertising, and e-content. All of these stories will be wrong.
3. The European Union will try to regulate spam out of existence. Many will see its efforts as wrong. You'll have more spam in your inbox next Christmas than you did last Christmas. You will feel this to be wrong.
4. Democrats will do well in the 2002 elections. (The party that's not in the White House always does.) Analysts will call this the End of Republicanism as We Know It. Those analysts will be wrong.
5. Bill Gates will be richer at the end of this year than he is today. So will Paul Allen, Larry Ellison, and Scott McNealy. At least one person who is very rich today, however, will go completely bust in 2002. He (or she) will do something wrong.
6. Microsoft users will face a host of new viruses, worms, and other unwanted "features." Microsoft will try to keep people from talking about them. This will be wrong.
7. Someone is going to write a virus for Pine, the text-based email program that runs under Linux and on the Apple Macintosh. A lot of people will try to tie that person to Microsoft. They will be wrong.
8. The number of Internet start-ups will greatly exceed the number of Internet failures, perhaps by a factor of 10. Most of the reporting will still be on the failures, and it will be wrong.
9. The music industry will put someone in jail for breaking the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, maybe a lot of someones. The industry will then think that the problem of music piracy has been dealt with. It will be wrong.
10. Lou Gerstner will retire as CEO of IBM and be hailed as Lee Iacocca once was. Within one month, some analyst will write that he needs to come back. That analyst will be wrong. (Oh, some book publisher will also pay millions for a Gerstner autobiography. That deal will go wrong, too.)
11. Internet advertising will grow again, not just on the Web, but all over. It will be louder, more intrusive, and (on some sites) more obnoxious. This trend will be wrong.
12. Internet commerce will have another banner year, and business-to-business (B2B) transactions will zoom upward. Yet few companies will get rich off the trend, and they will think that is wrong.
13. All predictions that the Internet is dying, retreating, or getting boring will be completely and utterly wrong.
Oh, and as I said at the outset, some of the above predictions will be wrong. Which ones? Anyone who says he (or she) knows for sure would be wrong.
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Dana Blankenhorn has been a business reporter for more than 20 years. He has written parts of five books and currently contributes to Advertising Age, Business Marketing, NetMarketing, the Chicago Tribune, Boardwatch, CLEC Magazine, and other publications. His own newsletter, A-Clue.Com, is published weekly.
March 19, 2014