Much has been written in recent months about the lessons to be learned from the precipitous decline in the fortunes of many dot-coms. A great portion of the debate has focused on whom to blame for the fallout inexperienced would- be billionaires who ran the companies, greedy venture capitalists out to make triple-digit returns in weeks or even Alan Greenspan and his management of the overall economy. Rather than focus on the negative, in this month's column, I am going to look at some of the positive effects resulting from the burst of technological exuberance that most commentators agree started with Netscape's IPO in August 1995. The next five years saw the NASDAQ climb from 1,000 to over 5,000 and then more than halve in value in less than twelve months. It has been an interesting ride; and while there has been no shortage of dumb but well- funded ideas, there have also been some significant learnings.
Computer technology has been a major part of commercial life for almost forty years. However, it is only with the emergence of the Internet as a viable (ubiquitous, cheap, fast) medium for communication, collaboration and commerce that the real mass-market potential is finally being realized. From e-mail to instant messaging to collaborative design and electronic marketplaces, it is clear that a new alternative to traditional face-to-face, paper and telephone communication methods now exists. One of the consequences of the emergence and growth of the Internet has been the increasing attention now paid to the human- machine interface or the overall user experience.
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