Last year was dramatically different than 2000 in many internet-related ways - the sinking in that the big bubble had burst will do that to you.
But will we see much difference this year?
I am not referring particularly to the economic side of the past year or so. We all have hopes for an upturn soon. Or to the aftermath of the events of September 11 - it still hurts too much to think about that.
What I am referring to is the irrational exuberance over dumb ideas - of a technical and business variety. Far too much money was given to companies whose business plans consisted solely of getting additional rounds of funding and far too much attention was given to technologies for which there was no demonstrable need.
A pile of companies ran out of runway before getting airborne because they planned on additional runway magically appearing in front of them or because they figured that just because they could do some marvy thing that someone would want to spend money on it.
While there are still companies seeing the end of the runway looming, many that have gotten this far may actually get to the point of real revenue (remember that concept?). Maybe not enough revenue, but revenue nonetheless.
So a few quick predictions. (Why should you believe my predictions? No particular reason, but I have to be at least as accurate as the pros - who seem to use a constraint-based random number generator, the only constraint being that year "n+1" is bigger than year "n." I admit they have an unblemished record in their field.)
Here we go:
-- Fewer companies will get funded than should.
-- Fewer companies will die than should (venture capitalists will spend too much trying to keep some dumb ideas going).
-- IP telephony will start to be seen as real, in the enterprise, in spite of the Bell-heads that say it does not work.
-- There will not be a govnet. (Some things - such as this idea for a private intranet for the US government - are too dumb even for the government.)
-- Fear of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act will make internet security worse.
-- Hackers will figure out how to crack some new FBI wiretapping system.
-- Tech stocks will be only slightly irrationally priced.
-- There will be more preowned BMWs on the market.
-- Maybe a few people in authority will start to understand that real internet security is needed even if it makes government intrusion harder.
-- Original thinking will continue to be rare - trying to reproduce old technology using new parts (such as recycling telephone features) will continue to be too common.
Disclaimer: Historically, not everyone has been happy with the original thinking that comes out of Harvard, but if there is any in this column it is mine alone.
Bradner is a consultant with Harvard University's University Information Systems. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.