Why the Internet Will Fail (from 1995)

Back in 1995, Clifford Stoll, PhD wrote an article for Newsweek about a emerging thing called the internet.  According to him, it was going to go nowhere.  It's almost humorous how wrong he was.

Then there’s cyberbusiness. We’re promised instant catalog shopping–just point and click for great deals. We’ll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obsolete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month? Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet–which there isn’t–the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.

http://www.newsweek.com/id/106554/page/1 - via allthingsmundane

From the Upcoming ueue, submitted by sish2000.

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@Natey, I see your point. You're right. I watched Stoll's TED lecture (recommended by Padraig above.) Stoll still objects to computers in classrooms, and his general tone is that something that replaces non-virtual, face-to-face interaction is bad (the "failure"). But I think you're right that in this article he does make descriptive predictions that were just wrong.
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We should email him about this. >:-)

and I HATE salespeople! They make me less likely to buy things.

I think 'smallerdemon' poster is right on the money with his/her comment:

"I remember reading this when it was released and it struck me that Stoll's sole interactions with other human beings must have only been with salespeople."
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Goodness, if someone were to read my last post, they might think I actually took this article seriously! I've been known to spend disgustingly large amounts of thought on the most trivial subjects. Huzzah!

Cheers all
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I think it's the height of irony that his book on this subject is available online.

@Ben Eshbach

If one's goal was to research the failings of commerce on the internet in 1995, I would agree with your first post. I believe the author made some valid points to that end. However, while additional meaning can be drawn from this article, I think interpreting it that way exclusively would undermine its original intent and message.

The author is clearly attempting to repudiate predictions about the future of the internet. He argues why the internet will fail as a tool for commerce, news, etc.

Unfortunately, he chose to operate under the assumption that technological solutions in these areas would not be forthcoming and that the internet would remain little more than a gigantic chat room.

Indeed, if his intention was to claim that the internet is (in 1995) a failure, he did little to define exactly what it's failing at. Similarly, if his intention was to describe "why the internet is a failure," he would have done better to contrast his main points against something other than visionaries' predictions of what might be. (Unless, of course, his intended message was that the internet is a failure at meeting its potential...but that's obviously not the case).
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