It's the End of the Internet As We Know It

At the precipice of Y2K disaster – and the end of civilization as we know it – we’re honored to write one of the last articles ever to be published on the Internet. Finding a worthy topic for such a momentous occasion was a struggle. But who can go wrong with an “end of” countdown list?

Thus we’re proud to present our top ten things we won’t miss with the end of the Internet tonight.

10. Preying on corporate management’s fears of the unknown, the Internet research industry made a booming business of fabricating numbers for companies paralyzed by indecision and apprehension.

Projections of online users have given way to projections of e-commerce revenues. But throughout the years, few press releases have been as much a news coverage slam-dunk as the flimsy Internet survey replete with self-affirming numbers. Coming to an executive PowerPoint slide show near you.

9. Hand-in-hand with Internet research studies are the management consultants who wield them.

Never mind that few of these experts have dirtied their hands with an e-commerce site beyond buying gift books off (“Chicken Soup for the David Soul,” anyone?) Self-doubting, politically saddled organizations continue to anoint outside Internet messiahs to lead them from the bricks-and-mortar desert.

In an industry characterized by blind-faith investors and phantom profits, does it matter that someone can’t walk on water as long as there are people willing to believe they can?

8. Towers and monitors and laptops – oh my! For all the virtues of the virtual world, why does it leave so much physical junk in all our garages, attics, and closets?

7. Scott McNealy, Jim Barksdale, Tim Koogle, Bill Gates, Halsey Minor… who would put money on these guys in a steel cage wrestling match up against Oracle CEO Larry Ellison? Yet it’s no wonder that the media recently chose Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos over Slobodan Milosevic for TIME’s Person of the Year.

6. Speaking of Bill Gates, it’s hard to imagine that one person could be responsible for adding “crash,” “upgrade,” “virus,” “bloatware,” and “vaporware” to our vernacular.

5. As if Infoseek’s Patrick Naughton wasn’t enough. Starting with Marc Andreesen in 1995, a parade of underage overachievers has been presented as Internet poster children – propagating an unhealthy cultural love affair that has crossed over from sports (e.g., Tara Lipinski, Tiger Woods) and entertainment (e.g., Charlotte Church, Macaulay Culkin).

With an armada of 22-year-old Net CEOs competing for the media title of “Shirley Temple of the Web,” any Internet-related mention of “wunderkind” makes us impulsively reach for the air sickness bag. That Gary Coleman is staging his career comeback on the web speaks volumes.

4. It’s perhaps the industry’s biggest inside joke: If online media represents such a force to be reckoned with, why are so many online businesses so desperate for traditional media coverage?

3. America Online proved that good old American marketing – a force that defeated communism where military might failed – can triumph over even the most cumbersome, frustrating, and ad-saturated online experience.

2. Picking up where the interactive/multimedia investment craze of the “Full Service Network” of the early 1990s left off, the Internet accelerated Wall Street’s transformation into the world’s largest legal pyramid scheme.

1. Y2K. And thus it comes full circle. How do you top Bob Metcalfe’s 1996 prophecy of the Internet’s collapse? Collaborate with New Age religious kooks, conspiracy theorists, and people who think CBS’s “Touched by an Angel” is a documentary (or was that “Touched by a Priest“?) to predict the demise of all civilization over two lousy computer digits.

Of course, we as a society have an obligation for Y2K – just as our forefathers had when faced with paranoia and mass hysteria in the past. And that obligation is exploitation.

Propagating these doomsday prophecies can really help you clean up on the fire-sale exchange rates for canned goods and bottled water. A share of Yahoo is currently going for two rolls of toilet paper – one if it’s quilted – if you have the right connections.

And with that we wish everyone in wilderness compounds everywhere a very healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year.

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