|author||Philip J. Kaplan|
|publisher||Simon & Schuster|
|summary||Spectacular dot-com flameouts|
Everyone who's visited the author's Web site at least once has probably noticed Kaplan's style of writing -- raunchy humor abundantly supplemented with free use of four-letter words, which is then mingled with frequent references to the author's male organ and Internet pr0n industry. Not that the book loses its charm because of it -- F'd Companies would probably make a poor choice for a kid's present, but after getting used to Kaplan's style of writing the obscenities and euphemisms add hilarity to otherwise dry management text. Here's Kaplan's contemplation on the value of domain name Wapit.com (now defunct):
The company had a cool name though. I love to wapit in the morning when I first wake up with my stiffy, wapit in the stall of the men's bathroom at lunchtime, and wapit before I go to sleep.
The book is full of references to defunct companies, and reader can easily skip the chapters if some companies sound more interesting than others. The chapter names are well-chosen and represent the author's style well. "$100 SHOPPING SPREE IF YOU READ THIS CHAPTER" talks about the numerous get-paid-for-browsing-the-Internet companies, the industry that was pioneered by AllAdvantage.com and supported later by numerous copycats. "Portals to nowhere" talks about such huge money-burners as Go.com and QuePasa.com. The chapter for 'miscellaneous' companies that did not fit any other chapter is titled "I've no fucking clue."
If you look for objective analysis, or used to work for some of the companies mentioned in the book, do not buy it if you consider yourself a sensitive person. Kaplan disparaging remarks are what makes this book a worthy read. Here are some of the selected quotes regarding bankrupt dot-coms.
IHarvest.com: "I don't think I've ever seen a more useless company than iHarvest.com. Actually, I am sure of it. Such a waste."
CalendarCentral.com: "Why would an application service provider like CalendarCentral.com, a site that provides shared, online calendars for group scheduling, go out of business? Microsoft Outlook/Exchange you say? [description of business model that never worked follows] Another one assimilated by the Borg... and Microsoft probably didn't even notice."
OnlineChoice.com: "And this one cost investors around $20 million and employed seventy people. Seventy people. This business, this WEBSITE, could have been run by a SCRIPT. Zero employees. Okay, MAYBE a couple of people to broker deals with suppliers."
SwapIt.com: "So let me get this straight: 1) I send them a CD. 2) They give me useless "SwapIt Bucks." 3) They go out of business. 4) I get nothing. Great, sign me up! [...] I believe this is the only dotcom that actually had people SENDING them product and they STILL couldn't stay in business."
Being a Web developer, Kaplan just goes into fits when talking about the high-cost Web site development. He admits that some sites might be more demanding than others, but any 6- or 7- digit number and above, in his opinion, is just plain ridiculous. Talking about Rx.com, Kaplan is blunt: "This company had $350 million to build a fucking website and market it a little. I mean, if they spent $1 million a year, they could have been around for hundred of years without a single sale." In a two-page rant about high-cost developer MarchFirst.com, Kaplan admits: "Anyway, building websites is relatively easy. That's not to say that everyone can do it, nor that anyone would be interested in learning how. [...] Generally, it's not brain surgery (which I'm assuming is kinda tricky). [...] I'm an idiot and even I was able to build a successful small business building websites. Thing is, we didn't charge millions to build a five-minute CGI email form. That's why we're still around." (Kaplan's agency is PK Interactive.)
By now you should get a feel of the book. It's easy to read, and is sometimes just hilarious, as Philip Kaplan has good-quality sarcasm almost in every sentence. The book would be of interest to tech types, especially those who had been involved in dot-com craze. For serious business types it provides valuable lessons on how not to run a new business. Kaplan's book is a valuable addition to the history of the Internet economy.
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