When did the 60s end for you?
For me, the era was always about idealism, about people looking outward rather than inward. Even conservatives were idealists in the 1960s. How else do you explain Barry Goldwater except as an expression of idealism?
So for me the 60s ended definitively with the success of Pink Floyd’s 1973 album (yes, they were made of vinyl then) “Dark Side of the Moon.” This pretentious piece of navel-gazing sold in the millions, its big hit was a song called “Money,” and when it toured the production was strictly Fortune 500. (The group was later, briefly, listed as a “name” with Lloyd’s of London, the insurance brokerage of last resort.)
When they write the history of the web, the 90s may go down as very similar to the 60s. Tim Berners-Lee started with a dream of connecting academics. A whole new generation of entrepreneurs appeared, above and unsullied by the Fortune 500. Even the money chase had an idealistic ring to it. Bill Gates was giving it away, and the rhetoric you heard was about the wonders of efficiency, growth, ease of use, a better life – business doesn’t get much more idealistic than that.
Well, gang, it’s over. Bluemountainarts.com has been sold to Excite.
Bluemountainarts was always a strange duck to be found in the Media Metrix Top 20. They give away greeting cards. You download digital files, add your two cents worth, and email them to friends and family for no cost. The site’s story is also right out of the 60s – a couple of old hippies whose only online portraits are 30 years old getting together with son Jared Schutz to produce something “really cool” and mellow.
Excite @Home, the #2 portal (they try harder), is paying $780 million in cash and stock for BlueMountainarts, and if the site reaches certain “performance targets” through the holidays, they could get another $270 million in stock. Not bad for an outfit with no real business model, don’t you think?
I suppose it’s worth the money, though. We can’t have these old hippies with no marketing budget and no real income sticking their little site into the top ranks of the web rich-and-famous list, can we? Even if Excite overpaid, think of that overpayment as a contribution to the cause of stamping out idealism in our lifetime. (Like folk music, that stuff almost caught on, and we can’t have that.)
The last word goes to Roger Waters, who wrote the Pink Floyd album, and while he sings please feel free to turn the sound up so it rattles the windows of rap-lovers down the street. “Money so they say, is the root of all evil today. But if you ask for a rise it’s no surprise that they’re giving none away.”