Ten Reasons To Be Happy at the End of the Net’s Worst Year

By Douglas Rushkoff. Published in The New York Times Syndicate/Guardian of London on 20 December 2000

Many of you are probably looking back on the year 2000 as a bad one for the internet. So how could the following optimistic appraisal of the internet’s health at what seems like its nadir be anything but cynical gloating? Because, dear reader, and I mean this from the bottom of my solstice celebrating soul, happy days are here again.

Here is my personal list of reasons to celebrate the seemingly disastrous events that characterised the (true) last year of the 20th Century.

1 The dot.com millionaires are returning our calls. I’ve watched with amazement (and, perhaps, a little envy) as many of my friends earned more money (on paper) over the course of three years than they thought they would in their entire lifetimes. But along with these young CEOs’ bursting valuations came responsibilities and misgivings that made them a whole lot less fun to be with, if they were even available for socialising at anything other than an office party. Now, these same young executives have both lighter wallets and lighter hearts. They may be poorer, but they are happier and more fun to be with.

2 Ponzie has left town. The only internet investing story to get more airplay than the bull market of the late 1990s has been the deflation of the internet bubble in 2000. Everyone has learned that the association of a business with the internet cannot justify infinite earnings estimates. The internet is a communications infrastructure - not a mysterious fuel for making pyramid schemes any more rational than they ever were.

3 Talent wins. Think back to whenever programs like Photoshop, Director and Dreamweaver first came out. Many feared that real artists would lose the ability to differentiate their skills from the many untalented people who could now throw together a clean graphic or website in a few minutes. Now that we are accustomed to the slick “professional” output of any decent computer, our attention has returned to the content within it, and those with real talent are rising to the surface once again.

4 The return of the amateur. On the other hand, now that the internet has passed through its professional “online magazine” phase as well as its e-commerce boom, attention has returned to making real tools that real people can use to communicate with one another. Apple’s new push is towards consumer-grade video production. The most promising new web enterprises are exemplified by sites such as www. blogger.com , where users publish their own journals.

5 The return of the “people’s internet”. An increased focus on user-generated content has rekindled the internet’s decentralised, bottom-up ethos. We are fast approaching a time when people will be less likely to get excited about something they’ve “found” online than something they’ve put there. This, in turn, will increase real people’s sense of ownership over the interactive space.

6 Housing costs. The dangerously booming real estate markets in places such as New York and San Francisco are finally settling down. As dot.coms continue their lay-offs, and margin calls yank high flyers back to reality, people being priced out of their own neighborhoods can breathe a sigh of relief.

7 Good investments. There may never have been a better time for educated investors to get into the technology stock market. Panic selling has robbed many fine companies of their proper valuations, and kept many new ventures from finding the capital they deserve. It is once again a buyer’s market.

8 Techno-fetishism is declining. It has been replaced by a genuine drive towards face-to-face encounters. Not carrying a Palm device or cell phone has become a status symbol, as people strive to demonstrate their freedom from digital slavery. As a result, social interactions will be interrupted less, and everyone will experience better digestion and romance.

9 Technology is cheaper. In their effort to reach new markets of home users, box-makers and service providers alike are developing even less expensive alternatives to the Wintel machines of the 90s.

10 A cleaner birdcage. You do not have to read the business section of the newspaper anymore.