Every single person working in the media today who experienced the dot-com bubble in 1999 to 2000 believes that we are going through the exact same process and can expect the exact same results — a bust.
It's déjà vu all over again. And since this moment in time is only the beginning of the cycle, the best nuttiness has yet to emerge.
Nevertheless, this is not to say that a lot of nuttiness hasn't already happened.
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If we look closely, the 1999 dot-com bubble was nothing new. We saw all sorts of bubbles before the dot-com one.
For instance, there was the CD-ROM bubble. Remember all the CD-ROM companies? Bill Gates's "Information at Your Fingertips" was the watchword. Microsoft itself started a unique division called Microsoft Home. The whole scene collapsed almost overnight.
Each succeeding bubble has been worse than its predecessor. Thus nobody is actually able to spot the cycle, since it just looks like a continuum.
I can assure you that after this next collapse, nobody will think of the dot-com bubble as anything other than a prelude.
Before the CD-ROM bubble, pad-based computing was all the rage. Every company and a lot of start-ups were going to make this kind of computer. It was a total bust.
Before that we had the software wars, when you could choose from dozens and dozens of word processors and spreadsheets. And don't forget the IBM PC clone wars in there somewhere. These all resulted in one sort of collapse or another.
I think you get the idea.
Each of these bubbles had a distinctive theme. For the dot-com bubble, it was e-commerce — it really should have been called the e-commerce bubble.
Everything was focused on how the Internet was going to destroy all existing brick-and-mortar operations. We were told that you'd be buying sandwiches over the Internet and having them delivered the next day by FedEx.
Everything was about "eyeballs" and finding ways to attract customers, whether they bought anything or not.
Every article in every newspaper in the country parroted the litany as to how you'd be out of business in a year or two if you were not present on the Web in a big way.
Of course, this was all crap.
The current bubble, already called Bubble 2.0 to mock the Web 2.0 moniker, is harder to pin down insofar as a primary destructive theme is concerned.
A number of unique initiatives, however, are in play here. Let's look at a few of the top ideas floating the new bubble.
Neo-social networking. Today everything from YouTube to the local church has a social-networking angle. And this doesn't even consider the actual social-networking sites, from MySpace to LinkedIn to Facebook to even "Second Life." This scene is totally out of control and will contribute to the collapse for sure.
Video mania. With dozens and dozens of YouTube clones cropping up to get on the "throw money away" bandwagon, you must sense that the eventual shakeout in this space will have a negative impact.
User-generated content. This idea has been around since Usenet and just keeps improving. It will make no contribution to the overall collapse, except for users reporting the collapse.
Mobile everything. Here is another concept that has been in play since the mid-1990s. It cannot trigger a collapse since it will never fully get off the ground, although the iPhone mania may be a bad sign of something.
Ad-leveraged search. Most search engines will fail as a matter of course. This segment of the industry is mundane. It would be affected by a crash, but not trigger one.
Widgets and toolbars. I cannot see the widget scene going crazy, and the jury is still out on toolbars. But there is the potential for nuttiness, I think. The problem here is that these things tend to be dependent on the stability of operating systems and browsers. One bad operating-system patch and suddenly nothing works.
You can come up with your own theories about the next collapse. Your guess as to the cause will be as good as mine. All I can tell you is that it's a sure thing.
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