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'90s Dot-Coms — Where Are They Now? 206

Posted by kdawson
from the madness-remembered dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Industry Standard has put together a list of 10 dot-com stars from the Internet bubble of the late 1990s, and tracked down what happened to the services and their founders. A lot of the services are still around, albeit under new ownership, including eToys, Garden.com, and DrKoop.com. Others have been completely reinvented — Boo.com, an online clothing retailer that burned through $125 million in funding in the late 1990s, is now an online travel community. Of the founders, many were able to cash out early and/or achieve later online success. Excite's Joe Kraus and Graham Spencer later started JotSpot, which was bought by Google, and Kraus now directs work on Google's OpenSocial initiative. Others did not fare as well, such as two of the co-founders of Garden.com, who declined to cash out at the height of the bubble, and are currently 'between business ventures.' The insiders' post-mortems of the failed dot-coms are interesting — several suggest the concepts were good but too early for their time, while others identify specific factors that led to the failures — ranging from a lack of advertising to 'intense' greed."
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'90s Dot-Coms — Where Are They Now?

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  • by PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:03AM (#23599851) Journal

    ' The insiders' post-mortems of the failed dot-coms are interesting â" several suggest the concepts were good but too early for their time, while others identify specific factors that led to the failures â" ranging from a lack of advertising to 'intense' greed."
    ... lack of advertising and intense greed are generally two reasons ANY business fails. It isn't specific to the dot com bust; if they didn't have a good business idea, or they were too greedy or they didn't advertise ANY business, it would fail.
    • by kueball (248452) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:07AM (#23599935)
      But a lot of advertising and greed are crucial to continuing business in America. Look no further than AT&T, Verizon, etc.

      • by geekoid (135745)
        Nice broad statement, care to cite an actual example?

        You don't need to be greedy to continue to do business and make money.

        In fact, greedy companies don't last long because they are self destructive.
        • That's a nice way to think and I wish it were true for more than a select few. http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/080530/us_telecom_association_lobbying.html?.v=1 [yahoo.com] Spending $1.5 million on lobbying, in 3 months. Greed in action.

          Let's put it another way, have your rates for your wireless phone gone down? Is there more competition in wireless or less in the last 10 years? Telco greed in action.

          Unless you are still living in your parents basement, or get your pay check supplemented by the Bank of Mom and Dad, your ide
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Knara (9377)

            You seem to think that "making as much money as possible for your shareholders" is destructive greed. It is not.

            Let's put it another way, have your rates for your wireless phone gone down? Is there more competition in wireless or less in the last 10 years? Telco greed in action.

            If my cost to provide a service goes down, yet the market still bears the original price, why exactly would I lower what I charge for it? If anything, this is a problem with competition in the industry (or inflation), not "greed" on the part of the company.

            Likewise, spending money on lobbying isn't greedy. It may be dubiously ethical, but spending money in order to get legislation passed th

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by mpapet (761907)
              If my cost to provide a service goes down, yet the market still bears the original price
              Which it won't. Ever.

              get legislation passed that is favorable to your corporation
              And the legislation would be unfavorable to whom exactly? Fairies? Ignore for a moment the competitors that the telcos harm by burdening their competitors with legislated costs/litigation/etc. Consumers are still *directly* harmed. Consumers pay higher prices and get less utility because there is less competition!

              If that's okay with you, t
          • In the US, with Verizon, I get three times as many minutes now for the same rate I paid five or six years ago. So, my rates have gone down. I could lower the actual monthly bill by downgrading my plan, but I choose to make the same payment and use more minutes.

            So your point is? Phone service should be free as in beer?
            • I get three times as many minutes now for the same rate I paid five or six years ago.

              Ohhh you've got me there! Oh wait, you don't.

              A market that displays -some- competition would have resulted in far cheaper wireless service to date.

              If you took the time to examine the issue, you might find, in real dollars, your wireless bill has not fallen at the rate of most competitive markets. Groceries come to mind.

              It's not your fault you don't objectively examine your costs. It's also probably the case you are relat
          • Well, I have unlimited data and more minutes than I'd ever use in a month. The texts are limited, but I can send emails to other people and they get them as texts. I pay less now than I did for my bag phone back in the day.

            I'd say, yes. I am paying less and the competition has been responsible for that.
            • by mpapet (761907)
              I notice you casually forget the second half of the question. There's far less competition in wireless now than in the past. That is an incontrovertible fact.

              That you are satisfied enough with your wireless service has affected your perception of value. If you could examine the issue more objectively, you would find the cost of wireless in real dollars hasn't fallen very far. Certainly less than commodities in competitive markets over the same time period.
      • by somersault (912633) on Friday May 30, 2008 @01:02PM (#23601629) Homepage Journal
        Lack of advertising. Intense Greed. Two separate things. Lots of advertising plus greed can work, but the greed will also push more savvy customers away. Thankfully for busineses, a lot of customers aren't very savvy.
      • by tknd (979052)

        I wouldn't say "a lot of advertising" is necessary. Measurable and realistic marketing budgets are what is crucial to any business, new or old. You can market all you want but if it doesn't achieve the desired effect (bring in conversions or customers to generate revenue) then you're burning money with your marketing campaign. If you don't market at all, people may never know you exist. The trick is to figure out how to measure the degree of success your marketing campaign has. And I'll give you a hint that

    • by Moraelin (679338) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:39AM (#23600405) Journal
      You don't seem to understand. "Lack of advertising" in the context of dot-coms doesn't mean "we dot-coms should have advertised" but rather "damn, we thought people would pay millions to advertise on our site, and the bastards didn't." It's a different end of that shafting.

      To recap, the dot-com bubble was started by greed over advertising money.

      In the stone age of the Internet, sites had one ad banner on the front page. That was it. Not animated, not pop-up, no pop-under, and certainly not wall to wall. It also usually had something to do with the site's topic, e.g., a site about games, would likely had a banner to some games shop or publisher. It was easy to target those by hand since, well, you only had one and it stayed with you a long time.

      And people actually tended to look at it, and occasionally even click on it. I mean, why not. We hadn't been flooded with ads yet and desensitized to the point where they're mentally filtered out.

      And the ad rates were calculated for _that_ situation. A page view for your ad in those conditions was considered worth a lot. More importantly, the ratio between total ads shown and advertising budgets allowed quite a nice price per view. The pie was divided into a smaller number of slices, so to speak.

      Unfortunately, that also gave some people the idea that, basically, they could make a site with 10 banners per page, and rake in tens to thousands of dollars (at those rates) per month for just being there. Heck, that there's even room for growth there. If you want twice as much money, just double the number of banners, and there you go, the ad provider surely will keep paying the same rate for them.

      Whole sites were _designed_ to be little more than wall to wall ads, with a tiny frame in the middle for the actual content. Heck, I worked for one.

      Others had no qualms to just lie to ad provider. (At first most sites hosted the banner themselves, so the ad provider had to just trust them that they actually had a trillion pages served last month.) Others used scripts to refresh the page in a loop, and/or to simulate a click on the ad if they were paid more for a click. Others urged their users to do that for them. Etc.

      Basically a whole "industry" and a lot of financial analysts, built a model and started a bubble, based on little more than defrauding the ad providers. And on the bet that the ad providers were drooling retards, and wouldn't recalculate the rates. Most weren't even too secretive about their plans to abuse the system, and built whole projections for the next 20 years based on the underlying assumption that the rates would indeed stay the same, and the rest of the economy wouldn't react when that scam bleeds it dry.

      Unfortunately, while the ad providers did react somewhat slower than expected (and it helped further "confirm" the belief that, yep, they're helpless and waiting to be fleeced), react they did. Among other things, because the actual companies advertising their products had a finite marketing budget. You couldn't tell them to pony up 100 times more money than last year, just because the number of ad banners on the web rose 100 times. Most didn't even have that kind of money.

      And what happened was, well, basic economics. If there's the same X million dollars on the "demand" side for ad space, but the "supply" side has grown 100 times, then the price per banner dropped 100 times too. In fact, what happened eventually went even further than that, like often is the case in an overproduction situation. The old style plain banner views didn't just become 100 or 1000 times cheaper, they became outright worthless. The ad providers started wanting to buy better stuff instead, like better ads, or clicks instead of views, or unique users.

      And that's when the dotcom's dreams of an endless stream of billions in advertising money, started going downhill. Almost none of them got as much advertising as they had built their business plan on.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by hackstraw (262471)
        Others used scripts to refresh the page in a loop, and/or to simulate a click on the ad if they were paid more for a click. Others urged their users to do that for them.

        I make $5,000/month sitting at home clicking on banner ads.

        Don't you?

        Best job I've ever had since I was paid to watch TV.

    • by penguin_dance (536599) on Friday May 30, 2008 @03:05PM (#23602947)
      The problem was the investors were also greedy and yet didn't take the time to understand what they were investing in.

      The companies thought they immune to the rules regular business had to follow. It all became a grand pyramid scheme: You set up on a shoe string, get people to advertise so you don't have to charge visitors and (add some pixie dust) = Profit!

      Like them or hate them, Amazon did things right. I remember reading news where all the numbers wonks were shaking their head over Amazon's meager profits. Oh, they were making money all right, but they were smart enough to sink it back into their business. And, sure enough, five years later (the average time any other business takes to show a profit) they started making money hand over fist and haven't stopped.

      The computer chain, Egghead, did something even more radical. They closed all their brick and stick stores down and went to a strictly on-line presence, New Egg. It ended up being a good risk, CompUSA and others had come along and Egghead's retail prices were too high to the superstores. Online, they didn't have to maintain the physical presence and they were able to reach a lot more customers with lower prices. Like Amazon, they also kept shipping costs down. Now it's CompUSA that is floundering and closing their stores.

      Both of these companies have succeeded because they 1) Had something that appealed to broad number of people; 2) Were able to offer products at a discount--in some cases where there had been little or no discount; 3) Kept shipping costs to a minimum--why the catalog companies haven't been smart enough to follow suite, I don't know--they're going to go the way of the dodo bird; and most importantly 4) Have really good customer service. A person doesn't have the comfort of just walking in the door with a return or a complaint. There's a certain amount of trust you've got to have that you're not going to get shafted by whomever you buy something from on-line. And reports of bad service sprout like weeds.

      • Newegg and Egghead.com are NOT related.
        • by Jherek Carnelian (831679) on Friday May 30, 2008 @04:36PM (#23604171)

          Newegg and Egghead.com are NOT related.
          Second that.

          Newegg.com was founded in 2001, originally as a subsidiary of ABS Computer Technologies, Inc., a computer systems integrator that has operated from Whittier, California since 1991. Newegg was conceptualized when ABS executives recognized an increasing need to service the "do it yourself" customer. ABS was turning down numerous requests for upgrade components to their existing ABS PCs as an alternative to purchasing a new PC[citation needed]. Key players in Newegg's design and execution were CEO and Founder Fred Chang, and VCOB (Vice Chairman of the Board) Ken Lam. In time, ABS Computers became a subsidiary of Newegg.
          --Wackypedia [wikipedia.org]

          Egghead Software was founded in 1984 as a computer software retail company. It grew into a chain with over 200 stores in the United States, and a few in Canada, primarily located in shopping malls. Faced with declining revenues, in 1998, the company shifted its focus to online business, closing its retail locations and selling entirely through its egghead.com website. Egghead.com was purchased by OnSale.com in 1999 and assumed the name Egghead.com.

          Egghead was hurt by a December of 2000 revelation that hackers had accessed its systems and potentially compromised customer credit card data. The company filed for bankruptcy in August of 2001. After a deal to sell the company to Fry's Electronics for $10 million fell through, its assets were acquired by Amazon.com for $6.1 million.

          --Wiki-Wiki for the Quickie [wikipedia.org]
  • Stamps.com (Score:5, Funny)

    by fataugie (89032) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:06AM (#23599911) Homepage
    There are still ads for Stamps.com.

    Of all the Dot Bombs that I would have thought would go tits up, this was one.....guess I was wrong.

    Now if only I can get LNUX back to $100 a share, I have a chance to get my IRA back into the black.
    • Re:Stamps.com (Score:5, Insightful)

      by indytx (825419) on Friday May 30, 2008 @01:06PM (#23601677)
      There are still ads for Stamps.com. Of all the Dot Bombs that I would have thought would go tits up, this was one.....guess I was wrong.

      Stamps.com actually makes a pretty good product for small businesses. I own my own business and use it, as do many similar businesses. It's not a website but is actually a product that you install on your computer. Simply put, it allows you to print postage from your PC onto envelopes, labels or "net stamps," and it integrates into your word processing software. It's easier to use than electronic postage scales and you don't have to buy individual stamps which are fine if you only have standard sized letters, but a pain in the rear if you send anything which weighs more. With regular stamps, a business needs many different values of stamps which are just lying around.

      The fact that Stamps.com is still around is testament to one central truth: good, well implemented ideas escaped the dot com bubble. Junk didn't.

  • Oh, the ironing. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JonTurner (178845) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:09AM (#23599977) Journal
    Ironic, isn't it, that the people who "declined to cash out"(read: take investors money and run) are unemployed, while many of those who pocketed the money are employed elsewhere? I would prefer it the other way around.

    In case it's not been said before, thank you for having honor and respecting your investors.
    • by thermian (1267986) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:15AM (#23600075)
      That's the simple reality of the dot com boom bust experience.

      Those who saw what was coming and ran with the cash did well, and in so doing demonstrated that they had a superior grasp of the nature of the dot com boom/bust event.

      The IT industry has been seriously cut throat from the start, only those prepared to bend rules and be occasionally brutal to the competition or their investors have emerged as winners.

      Someones bound to bring up googles famous 'do no evil' statement. I ask you though, would that ever have been said if the person who wrote it on the whiteboard wasn't aware that either evil had been done, or was likely to happen?

      Personally I can't believe that google got to where it is by being all sweetness and light.
      • Personally I can't believe that google got to where it is by being all sweetness and light.

        Why not? Good search, unobtrusive and relevant advertising... my dad told me about them around 96 or 97 before they even had ads (I think) and I've used them ever since then. They have a great company ethos about them and don't seem to have 'sold out' exactly (maybe in some political situations) even though they still make lots by advertising. If they wanted to do evil then they could do a whole lot, but so far they still seem to be doing quite well? When they start not caring about their users will be whe

    • by abolitiontheory (1138999) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:23AM (#23600179)

      Ironic, isn't it, that the people who "declined to cash out"(read: take investors money and run) are unemployed, while many of those who pocketed the money are employed elsewhere? I would prefer it the other way around.
      When you played Super Mario or Donkey Kong, what happened when you stayed on one of those hovering, crumbling log platforms too long? You had to start the level over. Life is sometimes about hopping from one platform to the next, before the first one drops out from under you, and people get rewarded for that.

      Instead of seeing it as cashing out, maybe see it like a surfer who knows when the wave is going to break. You get back to shore and people say, "nice ride. here's a better board, go out there and do it again, and this time we'll take pictures!"

      Captain going down with his ship is romantic, but maybe not the most practical.

      And if I fit any more metaphors into this post I'm going to shoot myself.

      • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:57AM (#23600633) Homepage
        Those crumbling platforms? They're made of people.
        • by geekoid (135745)
          You have some sort of point your trying to communicate?
          You aren't under the illusion that if they didn't leave the company's would have survived, do you?

          Here's the deal, you have all your money wrapped up in stocks/options. You see the bubble burst coming do you:
          A) Sell and get out with some money before the company implodes.
          B) Make no money and stick around while the company implodes.
        • by Knara (9377)

          I hate to be the one to be blunt, but "so what?"

          Corporations have a responsibility (a real, legal responsibility) to their shareholders to make money, and as a result the rank-and-file is often a casualty. Blame the business paradigms that are currently in place.

          The people who start those companies and run them benefit from their entrepreneurial actions and responsibilities. Not everyone can be an entrepreneur, unfortunately, and so some people benefit disproportionately.

          Besides, the rank-and-file are,

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DDX_2002 (592881)
      At some point, leaving a company isn't a choice, it's an IQ test. As a board member of a new company, would you rather hire the guy who knew enough about his own business to quit at the right time and made millions or the guy that failed to see the signs of impending doom and rode his stock all the way to $0.01 a share?
      • by tbannist (230135) on Friday May 30, 2008 @12:58PM (#23601555)
        Simple answer: Neither.
      • You seem to imply that there is no middle ground. Either the nerds go out & buy Ferraris the week before it all comes crashing down, or they stay on well after it's clear the business model is a failure and bleed the financials dry. Quick death vs. slow bleed. IMO, both of these situations constitutes theft and are immoral.

        The third option ("responsible entrepreneur"):
        Dotcomm-er sees that the business isn't going to pan out and fulfills his duty to the investors by informing them of that fact ASAP, thus
    • How is it at all ironic that the people who demonstrated good business sense are now doing well in businesses elsewhere, while the people who held on to an obviously-crumbling dream and refused to accept reality are not? I'm quite an idealist, but sometimes you just have to know when to pack it in and try something else.
    • by vought (160908)

      Ironic, isn't it, that the people who "declined to cash out"(read: take investors money and run) are unemployed
      Yeah, I think I saw a guy living in a webvan down by the river!
  • Fundamental flaw (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dj245 (732906) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:12AM (#23600025) Homepage
    I think the fundamental flaw in most of these is that the cash flow was completely disproportionate to the amount the company is valued at (stock price). This is not a trend that is going away either. Is facebook really worth billions of dollars? Really? Suppose someone buys it for a couple billion. Is it possible to recoup that investment without driving all the users away? I would argue no.

    I pick on facebook, but there are plenty of other examples to be found.
    • by Robert1 (513674) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:26AM (#23600219) Homepage
      Is facebook worth billions? Well you have to think it isn't about yearly profit, but about potential future profit. I know that facebook isn't making billions per year but enough investors feel that it has the future earnings potential so that its value IS in the billions, even if its not being realized in the present.

      But since no one can see into the future its impossible to tell if the company is over or undervalued right now. Personally, I think facebook is monstrously overvalued and whatever earnings potential investors see is due to a lack of understanding of social networks or the frugality of users. They perceive it as some penultimate repository of personal information that can somehow be funneled into directed-marketing, the 21st century advertising buzz-concept that will revolutionize how all companies do business. Of course they fail to understand that kinds of people on facebook are the same sorts of people that have grown numb to almost all advertising, watch shows online, buy commercial-less dvds etc. A friend recently showed me a rather ridiculous advertisement that was directed at him because of some esoteric and fake interest he had listed on the site. The ad was ridiculous, but more telling was that I was actually surprised there were ads, I'd never noticed them before since I just completely tuned them out.
      • I started using facebook this year, and even with ad-block installed, there have been one or two ads right in the center of list of your friends' updates on my facebook home page..
      • Oh, I don't know. Maybe they're betting that at some point it will stop being cool for everyone to be able to see just about everything about you.

        I think that point is typically when you get into a pretty competitive field.

        Then the business model of "We can remove all photos of you for 50$, or delete your whole profile for a mere 100$. Can you really put a price on what those embarrassing wall posts could do to your career advancement?"

        The only real hope I see is that people lighten up and go "Yea, so what?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:29AM (#23600269)
      It's not always about revenue - sometimes companies are bought to stifle competition from entering new areas.

      Did Microsoft ever recoup their investment in Internet Explorer?
    • by MBGMorden (803437) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:37AM (#23600379)
      Looking back too, I wonder how so many of those companies just flat out WASTED sooo much VC cash so fast.

      You'll look at some who were really nothing more than a website that did some neat trick. It'll mentioned that they blew through $50 to $70 million in VC in a couple years.

      What they hell were they doing with all that!?!? Any business that was thinking of being thrifty at all (which in general: successful businesses will save money where they can) could have stretched that MUCH, MUCH farther.
      • Re:Fundamental flaw (Score:5, Informative)

        by mapsjanhere (1130359) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:48AM (#23600513)
        A lot them did not waste the VC cash - they got to IPO's, and the VCs were rewarded handsomely for their investments.
        If you had put down $20M for 50% of a company that bubbled up to $1B, you made quite a cut as a VC company.
        • by MBGMorden (803437)
          You're kinda latching onto words differently than I meant though. I'm not referring to the fate or happiness of the VC's who actually gave them the money. I'm just talking about the funding that these companies blew through, regardless of where it came from. Doesn't matter if the guy that gave you the $70 million got rich from selling the stock. I'm saying that if you ate through that $70 million in 2 years and then went bankrupt, you wasted it.
          • How much money did the Googles, Amazons, CNNs (aka the bubble survivors) blow through before they became profitable? Wasting means to me they spent money with no chance of success, and at least half of the examples the article gives were converted into successful businesses later.
            A lot of these are typical stories for either underfunded (even if they blew through $100 Million, it just wasn't enough to survive a downturn) or simple "ahead of their time" ideas.
          • by Knara (9377)

            Most startup companies are never profitable and fail. The only difference between the mom&pop and the silicon valley startup is how much they burn through. Both fail to make a profit in the first few years, and those that do are RARE exceptions. It's often said that you should expect to not make any profit in a new business for 3-5 years and plan your corporate finances accordingly.

      • Re:Fundamental flaw (Score:4, Interesting)

        by doomicon (5310) on Friday May 30, 2008 @03:58PM (#23603665) Homepage Journal
        I worked for a few dotbombs in the 90's in New York City. I know from personal experience, the companies blew thru the money because one of two reasons..

        1. They were under pressure from the investors to spend it. Investors wanted us to go public ASAP and cash out. They wanted us to spend whatever it took to get from point A to point IPO. And that is where the long hours and stress comes in. As we all know, money doesn't translate to faster. So Cxx's are pressuring you to:

        a. Hurry the "f**k" up!
        b. Spend, Spend, Spend, whatever it takes.. I don't care buy more servers.. etc.

        2. They were absolutely inexperienced and living in fantasy land! They would mistake $120 mil in VC as "We MADE IT!", and spent the money like they were already a long established successful company. Two monitors for everyone, plush chairs, pool tables, free meals everyday, lavish company parties for IT. (hehe that was fun why it lasted).

        just mah $0.02 .. yea, I'm old school!
    • by eepok (545733) on Friday May 30, 2008 @12:00PM (#23600685) Homepage
      '80s - Savings and Loan, Junk Bonds
      '90s - Dot Coms
      '00s - Housing/Mortgages/More Junk Bonds

      The same "entrepreneurs" get away with it every time. The late adopters get there bit, but aren't smart enough to get out.

      And then John Q. Public is told (after all the initial investors are ready to entrap them all) that such investments are "sure-fire" and the value will "only go up".

      It's not even a question of "How do were prevent this from happening again?" but "What will the next 'big thing' be?"
      • by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Friday May 30, 2008 @12:34PM (#23601179)

        You forgot one:

        '20s - Radio

        The 1920s stock market bubble had a number of features in common with the 1990s bubble. There was a trendy new technology, lots of VC folks desperate to throw money at any company that had anything even remotely to do with it, and lots of people lost their shirts when the bubble burst.

        ...laura

    • You just touched on a topic of valuation, that is how valuable a company or business is. From your argument you're falling into the "book value" kind of valuation or something similar. But if everything was so easily valued just from something like P/E then why would people buy stock in companies with high P/Es like Google and Apple? Based on their P/Es, these investors won't be getting their return until 40 years out.

      There is a lot more to valuation than cash flow, profit, revenue, and stock price. In f

  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:15AM (#23600067) Homepage
    Ahhh the bubble. I'm quite nostalgic about it now.

    What I don't miss about the bubble is TV programs documenting some teenage CEO playing at running a business with apparent massive backing from stupid investors. Hey this kid is "worth millions"! (failed six months later of course).

    That an generic domain names. I still don't know who is typing those in.
    • I think they're mostly holding federal jobs now. ~
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by elrous0 (869638) *
      Obviously you don't read Business Week [businessweek.com].
    • by Knara (9377)

      I miss the bubble mostly because it was one of the few times that computer folks got any real sort of respect in the corporate world.

      That, and tech seemed more interesting and exciting back then, because it seemed like new, wacky things were coming out on a regular basis. "New" things these days seem to be much more evolutionary than revolutionary.

  • by Siener (139990) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:24AM (#23600189) Homepage
    They missed the most influential and groundbreaking site of the whole dot-com era: Zombocom! [zombo.com]
  • by PinkyDead (862370) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:26AM (#23600217) Journal
    When I look at the list of dot coms there, I'm struck by the 'normality' of the offerings: pets, holidays, clothing etc.

    These are all things that are sensible things to sell on the Internet - and if you compare them to some of the (relatively) completely off the wall offerings that we use on an everyday basis, they don't seem all that odd (or novel).

    Maybe "too early for their time" is true, but too early in the sense that at that time the Internet had just emerged from a very geek world and everyone was just settling into the concept of using it for something else.

    Books and second-hand crap (and of course porn) weren't really a problem for people. Maybe a dog was.
    • by telbij (465356)

      Maybe "too early for their time" is true, but too early in the sense that at that time the Internet had just emerged from a very geek world and everyone was just settling into the concept of using it for something else.

      Or too early in the sense that the technology wasn't quite there yet. Boo.com for instance was too buggy. So not only did you have to spend 10 times as much on development, you may end up with something brittle or that required too much bandwidth/cpu. Things don't have to go very wrong bef

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "These are all things that are sensible things to sell on the Internet"

      Pets?!? Would you buy an animal without meeting it in person first? What's postage on a dog? Pet supplies? What's postage on a 20 lb. bag of dog food? And how do you mail a fish tank? or the fish?!

      Clothing? Where's the fitting room?

      Holidays? Good luck getting it shipped before the holiday is over. Did anyone order their Christmas lights online this year?

      These are specific offerings where brick and mortar stores actually out perform the I
  • How appropriate.

  • by inviolet (797804) <slashdot@ideasmatt e r .org> on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:28AM (#23600259) Journal

    Remember VIOS? It was a first stab at being the metaverse inspired by 'Snowcrash'. It had billboards, property ownership (with auctions and prime locations), chat, the usual easy-to-implement stuff. Unfortunately it lacked the hard-to-implement stuff like avatars, voice chat, facial expressions, i.e. the things that online social communities actually want most.

    I remember I visited its 'downtown' ("port zero" in Snowcrash terms) area. It was a clot of billboards for what were at the time the first net-aware businesses. There were lots of avatarless users roaming around but no social interaction. I considered buying a lot, speculately, and I'm glad I didn't. VIOS vanished without a trace shortly afterward.

    Now that I think about it, the whole thing may have been a scam... but they must've put some serious effort into their rich client, because at the time it had a VR MMPOG interface of notable quality.

    • by boris111 (837756)
      A modern version of that would be great. You could shop around stores and try on clothes with your avatar. Customers could measure areas on their body so they could input it into the Avatar to provide an accurate body type for trying on clothes. The avatar part would be easy; the real challenge would be providing up to date 3D inventory. Maybe some specialty stores with high prices and limited inventory could be the trail blazers.
    • by Knara (9377)

      How is this any different than Second Life?

      Hell, the Metaverse even had penis avatars making it arguably MORE like Second Life.

  • lack of product? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bsDaemon (87307) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:40AM (#23600419)
    Even watching it go on live while I was in high school, it always struck me that a company that didn't actually sell anything was pretty much doomed to failure.

    Slopping some "information" up on a web page, hoping that enough people will "recognize" your "brand" and choose /you/ as their source for whatever stupid crap they were talking about, and then trying to sell ads to other companies...

    who made out well from the .com boom? sun, cisco and whoever makes those aeron chairs -- 'cause they were actually selling stuff. ratemypetrock.com or whatever sort of ideas that people had failed because they were stupid.

    then again, I'm sure if I could have justified sporks as an "e-commerce solution," I could have been a billion heir for 15 minutes, too.
    • by owlnation (858981)

      it always struck me that a company that didn't actually sell anything was pretty much doomed to failure.

      In some ways that's true, but in others there's no logic at all. Why did Excite fail when Yahoo lasted until 2008 (though it's admittedly unlikely that Yahoo will go on past 2008... it's the long, seemingly Bataan march, to well-deserved dot.com failure).

      eBay is another. There's really no substance to that firm and yet it survives today -- although rightly in not good shape.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TeamSPAM (166583)

      Herman Miller made the Aeron Chairs. I'm sitting in one right now at a company that occupies the space of a .com that closed up.

      I'm an ex Infonautics employee. They had people that went all over. Some went to cdnow.com. I knew the guys that started half.com (which was later bought by eBay). I was part of the spinoff bigchalk.com that took Infonautic's education division, and was merged with ProQuest's K-12 group. We blew throw 50+ million in VC and didn't have much to show for it. Three years after the b

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:48AM (#23600521) Homepage

    Back in 2000-2001, our Downside site [downside.com] ran an automatic predictor for dot-com failure. [downside.com] It was amazingly simple and painfully accurate. The system read through SEC filings, extracted the numbers for cash on hand and rate of losses, and projected when the cash would run out. We called that the "death date". That was a good predictor of when the company would go bust. This is a surprisingly good predictor for companies financed via an IPO. You can only IPO once (yes, secondary offerings are possible, but not when you're failing), so there's a finite amount of cash, and when it's gone, so is the company.

    For Deathwatch purposes, "dead" was defined as "investors lost essentially all (90% or worse) of their investment". Some of the companies, like Dr. Koop, hung on for years, but their investors did not. (This, by the way, is a common phenomenon to venture capitalists. Many failing companies hang on as overfinanced small companies, downsized until they are able to make just enough money to cover current operating costs but not to recover their startup costs. VC's call these "zombies".) By our standards, essentially all the companies on the Industry Standard list died.

  • In the 2000s version of the 1990s "Website Under Construction", the site once proudly "Offering bad news about dot.com companies and betting on the demise of companies":

    FuckedCompany.com [fuckedcompany.com]Fuckedcompany is... temporarily fucked


    As so many learned (or at least heard) in the Dotcom Bubble, "there's nothing so permanent as a temporary solution".
  • We are still here! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by brianlmoon (322719) on Friday May 30, 2008 @11:56AM (#23600617) Homepage
    dealnews.com (originally just deal-mac.com) is still alive and kicking. We are still doing what we did in 1997. We still have the same owners. (I was employee #3, the owners were #1 and #2). We did not burn through crap loads of other people's money. We did not hire a huge rock band for our company parties. We did not do any of those things that the failures (and sure, some of the success) did. Good business decisions for the win.
  • by Ohio Calvinist (895750) on Friday May 30, 2008 @12:00PM (#23600675)
    One major problem the early .com's faced was that it was hard to undercut the local brick and mortar store with the additional cost of shipping on top of it. It didn't matter if you could sell dog food $5/bag cheaper if it cost $20 to ship it and waiting 3-5 working days to actually get it wasn't either convienient or cost-effective. Between that and the fact that the consumer buying habits didn't change quickly enough (as you had lots of people without the internet, or those like my dad who are terrified to use their credit card online); They weren't doing enough sales (in volume) to fully utilize their capital investments (warehouse, infrastructure) or lower their shipping costs.

    I still think to this day (having developed sites for companies and their affiliate agents) is that insurance is bar-none, the perfect B2C product for the internet, because essentially, you're using a similar program your agent is to get a quote and the insurance company only has to send a single post-letter (or in a lot of cases now, generate a PDF) to send your insurance card, policy number and policy documents. They avoid the high cost of warehousing and shipping which has allowed them to be incredibly profitable (and even reduce their brick and mortar presence in a lot of cases) simply by making a public version of the software they already have (with some features removed).

    In any case, it is significantly easier to sell a good (such as insurance or a digital file) or service that doesn't involve a physical product if you're the one shouldering the responsibility of getting it to the customer's doorstep (unless you've got a great way of passing the cost on and still remain competitive or all your competitors have the same situation like a furniture store.)
  • by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Friday May 30, 2008 @12:01PM (#23600703) Homepage
    An oldie, but a goodie: 100 dumbest dotcom moments [jobfairy.com].

    My favourite:

    35. Santa Monica-based incubator eCompanies pays $7.5 million for the domain name Business.com in November 1999; explaining the purchase, eCompanies co-founder Sky Dayton tells Internet World, "It is going to be the bargain of the century. It is going to look like we bought the island of Manhattan for $7.5 million and some beads."
  • by FranTaylor (164577) on Friday May 30, 2008 @12:05PM (#23600775)
    There's a used office furniture store in Manchester, NH, filled with the office furniture from failed .coms. Of course, all the employees of the store have Herman Miller Aeron chairs. If you like leather and mahogany office furniture, this is the place to go!
  • Seasonticket.com (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Akuinnen (174212)
    Seasonticket.com was the dot com I worked with. Lots of money for an idea that wasn't going to fly at a time when broadband wasn't common. Management had some issues too. Firing your IT director and replacing him with a guy who guts the staff to give his buddies jobs probably isn't the best idea.
  • ... that the guys from the crashed dot-coms were Stealing underpants [wikipedia.org]
  • That's the more interesting question to me, a lot of these web2.0 companies have strong links to dotcom era organizations. Sure there were the opportunists who learned basic html and worked in the tech business for a few years before heading elsewhere, but there are plenty of coders and business people who are more closely bound to tech. e.g. I know that many of the engineers from napster were all laid off on the same day and subsequently found themselves working together at companies like snocap, finetune
    • I'm of the firm conviction that the number of employees at dotcoms who actually were smart computer folks was very small.

      There's no small number of people who learned a little bit of HTML and not much else in the dot-com era, who were laid off once the bubble burst and were unable and/or unwilling to expand their skill set and remain in the industry.

      Ask any competent techie who was working during the dot-com bubble, and they'll tell you that the number of people who had no business being in tech (and, mak

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Friday May 30, 2008 @12:18PM (#23600937)
    Even back in the 90's I was going these are not High-Tech companies. They are just freaking Mailorder companies. That they had for hundreds of years. Except for Mailing or Telphoneing and seeing the description your order you did it via the web. But all in all it was just an other mail order company. The problem was people though it was some new way of doing things. It really wasn't Using the web is just an improvement of the Mail Order system.
  • Webvan - "Drove off a cliff."
    @Home - "Dug itself a nice hole with overloaded circuits and awful service."
    The Webbies - "Fizzled after 3 years of glitz."
    WorldCom - "Gross mismanagement and too much of the bubbly taken in by the accountants." They left behind a butt-load of dark fiber, most of which still is.
    EToys - "Stock did a yo-yo from $80 on its IPO on October 1999, then was delisted at $1 Feb 2001 when they folded."
    Enron - "Need I say more?"

    As Warren Buffet said back in '01 "I Told You So".
  • by peter303 (12292) on Friday May 30, 2008 @12:22PM (#23601007)
    Thats pretty much standard for conventional underwriting. That all went out the door in the dot.com era. Valuations switched to revenue streams, which meant much less. Google waited until it had profits.
    • by Knara (9377)

      Nitpicky, but:

      Not all investment strategies involve valuations. Technical Analysis, for example, doesn't really care what the "valuation" (which is subjective, of course) of an equity is. TA cares what other people think about the stock, and attempts to predict and profit from (what are believed to be by the adherents to TA) behavior patterns that happen with regularity.

  • Amazon and Yahoo to name a couple.
  • No kidding (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bombula (670389) on Friday May 30, 2008 @12:44PM (#23601345)
    suggest the concepts were good but too early for their time

    No kidding. Some friends and I tried to start a digital music distribution .com in 1995 - this was years before Napster and mp3.com, a decade or more before iTunes et al. We had an end-to-end system sorted out - one-click download and burn to CD (this was way before portable .mp3 players), $1 songs, etc, etc. It was just WAY too early. None of us ever imagined the RIAA would have its head so obscenely far up its ass. Thankfully, we didn't burn through millions of other people's venture dollars - though the stories of meetings with those idiots are quite funny.

  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Friday May 30, 2008 @12:47PM (#23601403)
    Back in the dot-com days, I remember that USA Today picked one company more or less at random to profile for 1 year. I do not remember the name of this company and when you read further, you'll understand why. Basically some MBA guy from Harvard (I think) got some crazy idea that re-designing a PC (Windows based) desktop to look like planets was just something that everybody had to have. He hired one of his fellow graduates to work with him on it and they got office space in San Francisco. They had few employees and those that they had got paid very little. Basically the idea was that you had different planets on your desktop to refer to different things and you could assign people and such to different planets. Like maybe you put an icon for your dad on Mars for example. They somehow got in touch with Patrick Stewart (Capt. Picard of Star Trek fame) and gave him some stock options to agree to be their company spokesperson and to be the voice on their automated phone system.

    Needless to say, they had a hard time getting more money after the first initial "You're a dot-com? Let me throw money at you because you must be on to something great!" enthusiasm wore off. The idea was just stupid and I couldn't believe that 2 MBA graduates (non-techies you might note) honestly though that there was a need for such a thing. Eventually they went belly up. There was no big buyout before the bubble burst, they just failed.
    • by ex-geek (847495)
      Remember Eazel? The company Andy Hertzfeld started in 1999 to bring Linux to the desktop. They burned through millions and only produced a friggin bloated and buggy file manager.

      This also reminds me of Lokigames.
      • by Ilgaz (86384) *
        I met with many serious/pro developers and when you speak about Linux to them, Eazel is always mentioned as a legend. As I use Mac, they are all Mac developers too, you know their attitude against Linux and UI.

        If we trust to Wikipedia:
        "Eazel's main achievement was the new Nautilus file manager for the GNOME desktop environment.[3] Its business plan involved monetizing online services to be offered through Nautilus such as storage, but it failed to do so before venture capital ran out."

        Another 56K modem fail
  • Remember how Etoys.com legally bullied the long-standing artist group, etoy, over name similarity?

    I do. Good riddance to them and their ilk.

    http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=99/12/01/2156208&mode=thread [slashdot.org]
  • Dot-Com fun (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheSync (5291) * on Friday May 30, 2008 @01:09PM (#23601721) Journal
    I ran The Sync.com [archive.org], an Internet video company that among other things helped to launch and hosted the Slashdot "Geeks in Space" [wikipedia.org] audio webcasts. We had some angel money from folks involved in early ISPs (who did make lots of money). We started getting serious ad revenue from banner ad sites in 1998, but by the end of 1999 the banner market collapsed. In 2000, we were in talks for a few months to be purchased by a company in San Francisco. Tens of thousands of dollars of lawyer time into the contract process, they pulled out, we went under, and shortly afterwards they went under as well.

    Towards the end of 2000, I ended up working at SkyCache/Cidera [archive.org] a satellite provider of USENET feeds and streaming media distribution. Unfortunately, after raising $75 million, they also had challenges [archive.org], two layoffs with 50% staff cuts each time (one was originally scheduled for Sept. 11, 2001, but had to be postponed), and eventually went under [isp-planet.com].

    So I left the Internet, and made the transition to broadcast television engineering (where it is all going IP anyway)...

  • Anyone remember this? And the spiel she had about how huge her company would be? I believe an IPO was mentioned.

    Ah the days of reading F*ckedCompany religiously.
  • by Anrego (830717) *
    .. this was a really dull article. It sounded interesting... but I literally had to try very hard to get through it.

    I think it's because it's basically the same story over and over again, with the names and numbers changed. That, and the basic premise, "where are they now", is pretty boring.

    I`ll save you all the trouble:

    The started well, got a metric ass-tonne of venture capital, failed because they tried to grow way too fast, and now the CEOs are now doing quite well for themselves as consultants at compan
  • Chris Schefler [savagestupidity.com] and Thomas Leavitt [thomasleavitt.org] founded Webcom [webcom.com], possibly the first and for a time one of the biggest web hosting services.

    At first their office and server were together in a windowless closet in downtown Santa Cruz, California, just on the other side of the wall (and a short ethernet run) from Scruz.Net, the first commercial ISP in Santa Cruz.

    They later expanded to about twenty-five employees and a nice office. I worked there for a time as a web programmer.

    Chris and Thomas sold out to Verio. Chris' take was six million dollars. Thomas invested his share in two new dot-coms that failed, so that he wound up looking for sysadmin jobs [thomasleavitt.org] again.

    Chris did what most would say was the smart thing and retired. I didn't see him for a long time, until I came across him riding a mountain bike when I was hiking in the woods at UC Santa Cruz. I envied him for his apparently happy life.

    One day, Chris was turned away from a psychiatric hospital because he was considered not sick enough to hospitalize. This is actually a very common problem - mental health is a popular victim of budget cuts, so there are never enough beds for all the potential patients.

    The next day he blew his brains out.

    It is thought that he was an undiagnosed manic-depressive.

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