A Reminder Of Why We Shouldn't Write Off New Business Models Too Early

from the a-look-back dept

Every so often someone pulls out Cliff Stoll's infamous Newsweek piece from 1995, in which he trashes the internet and mocks the claims people make about it -- nearly all of which came true:
How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on disc. At best, it's an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can't tote that laptop to the beach. Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we'll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.
I'm reminded of this thanks to Shocklee posting a link to it -- even though I've seen it many, many times before. The last time this article got passed around, it finally resulted in Stoll issuing a mea culpa of sorts, admitting he got it wrong. Newsweek, itself, has also sorta kinda published an apology/non-apology for the piece as well. I do wonder if the likes of Jaron Lanier and other internet pessimists will end up being forced to do the same in another fifteen years as well.

But the point of this post isn't to mock Stoll's bad predictions, but to note that this kind of thinking was hardly unique to Stoll at the time. It was, in fact, quite common -- and still is in some circles. But in rereading Stoll's article, I'm reminded of the naysayers we see around here pretty regularly, complaining about how these new business models we talk about can never work, or that they only work for the few "exceptions" at the margin.

They point out that "only" 30,000 music acts are making a living and snicker, as if that's proof that new models don't work. And, yet, in 1995, folks like Stoll could snicker at the idea of books being sold online. Later he mocks the idea that anyone would get involved in politics online, or buy an airline ticket online. That was only fifteen years ago. The internet enables amazing things, and it does so much faster than people believe, but it doesn't happen instantly. But ignoring basic trend lines and recognizing how technology progresses is only going to serve to make people look foolish down the road.

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  1. identicon
    out_of_the_blue, 12 Nov 2010 @ 4:46am

    SOON? "we'll soon buy ... newspapers straight over the Intenet"

    When will this occur, when you harp on your notion that Murdoch's attempt to get people to *BUY* is DOOMED to fail?

    As for books, no, a few weenies buy the toy readers (and pay high prices for data bits that they'll never own), but even that's nothing to do with the internet as such: it's the HARDWARE that's now available. It's possible to walk into a store to get a wired connection for the data, anyway.

    And again with this context-less number! -- "30,000 music acts are making a living" -- How many existed before, and how does "teh internets" directly enable them now?

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