The Wall Street Journal Online has been celebrating its tenth birthday with some retrospectives and future gazing. A couple of the articles caught my eye.The Best of the Worst by Kathryn Meyer (May 3, 2006) celebrates the suckiest ideas of the first dot com boom. CyberRebate did what it said on the tin; they charged you an outrageous price for an item and then promised you a rebate, they hoped to make money on the redemption drop-out – they were overwhelmed and drowned in a sea of debt.
Digital currency ideas (Beenz and Flooz) withered on the vine as they weren’t as universal as Mastercard or cash. PayPal survived because it kicked Western Union’s ass and we could all be credit-card merchants.
iSmell was a device designed to release smells appropriate to the pages you surf (don’t even think about it, get your mind out of the gutter this instant) like some kind of b-movie experience enhancement craze of the 1950s.
CueCat plugged into your PC (Windows only if you please) and allowed you to scan bar codes of magazines into your computer to get further information or content. This idea seems to have caught on in Japan with mobile phones and specialised software, so maybe they were too visionary?
The 3Com Audrey internet appliance was a great well engineered device killed by the ever decreasing price of PCs. I still rate its QNX-based OS and I like the product design on it.
PointCast the push technology service that was a richer more engaging experience than RSS is today, but then I was sat at the end of a fat pipe whereas most users were on dial-up. Also marketers knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing used the service to carpet-bomb users with unwanted ads.
Tim Hanrahan’s piece on Tech’s 10-year Creep (May 8, 2006) brings out some interesting trends that have occurred. I have paraphrased and commented on his trends below
Anytime, Anywhere: Push email and wireless internet access mean that getting online whilst traveling or wire-free on your couch or at Starbucks — is possible for $60 a month or so. However it eats into the work life balance.
Think Better! Google basically.
Putting Yourself Out There: Originally people liked their privacy, caller ID on phones was pushing the envelope in terms of social disclosure. Over the past five years people have gotten used to sharing personal information online. Chat rooms, forums, online dating followed by social-networking sites; to blogs and MySpace came to dominate. Easy-to-use tools, cheap to free storage and online social interaction brought out the pioneer spirit ‘Go web young man‘.
The Post-Stuff World: Music downloads, ebooks, ripped movies. (But if its that post-stuff why is Amazon so successful selling books, everyone’s iPod is full of music ripped from CDs and people love their laptops, mobile phones, PDAs, crackberries, Nintendo and Sony handhelds). This techno-minimalism bollox didn’t wash with me.
Free Information, Free People: People are exercising their free speech and there is a maelstrom of content out there that Technorati struggles to handle. The social web has replaced the techno web – (though when Soledad O’Brien hosted a show on MSNBC that featured a young Max Headroom-type avatar sidekick named Dev ten years ago (good gosh, was it that long ago?) was it precient of Second Life?) CNN now covers blog content as if it was matter-of-fact, though blogs often don’t have the same rigorous process behind them as well-written journalism.
Picture of Soledad O’Brien courtesy of CNN.com