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'90s Dot-Coms — Where Are They Now?

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the madness-remembered dept.

Businesses 206

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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Business didn't work because... (4, Insightful)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 6 years ago | (#23599851)

' 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.

Re:Business didn't work because... (4, Insightful)

kueball (248452) | more than 6 years ago | (#23599935)

But a lot of advertising and greed are crucial to continuing business in America. Look no further than AT&T, Verizon, etc.

Re:Business didn't work because... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601053)

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.

Re:Ughhh (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601571)

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 ideals fail spectacularly when applied to the real world.

Re:Business didn't work because... (3, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601629)

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.

Re:Business didn't work because... (1)

superslacker87 (998043) | more than 6 years ago | (#23602113)

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.
Which is of course why Microsoft is still in business today.

Re:Business didn't work because... (1)

tknd (979052) | more than 6 years ago | (#23602501)

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 a famous company that starts with a G and is known for their search engine has already solved a good portion of that problem.

For anyone that wants to start a new web based company: marketing is your friend. Take a class or something and get the fundamentals or outsource your marketing needs to another company.

You don't understand (5, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600405)

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.

Stamps.com (4, Funny)

fataugie (89032) | more than 6 years ago | (#23599911)

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 (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23601185)

I worked for a tech support outsourcer on a Stamps.com contract back around 98 or so. I thought it was a pretty dumb idea myself at first, but I actually ended up signing up for the service and using it for 5 years or so after I left the company. Nowadays I maybe send one or two pieces of snail-mail per year, but obviously someone is still buying it.

Re:Stamps.com (5, Insightful)

indytx (825419) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Stamps.com (1)

MagdJTK (1275470) | more than 6 years ago | (#23602659)

If you're financing the IRA, I wouldn't shout about it!

Oh, the ironing. (5, Insightful)

JonTurner (178845) | more than 6 years ago | (#23599977)

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.

Re:Oh, the ironing. (5, Insightful)

thermian (1267986) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Oh, the ironing. (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601745)

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 when they have turned evil - it will also be when they start losing a lot of money.. MS are hopefully learning this with Vista :P

Re:Oh, the ironing. (1)

MagdJTK (1275470) | more than 6 years ago | (#23602707)

... and don't seem to have 'sold out' exactly (maybe in some political situations)...
Are you kidding me? They censor information so that totalitarian regimes can stop their citizens seeing the atrocities they've commited. I can't think of a more clear-cut case of "selling out".

Re:Oh, the ironing. (5, Funny)

abolitiontheory (1138999) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Oh, the ironing. (5, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600633)

Those crumbling platforms? They're made of people.

Re:Oh, the ironing. (0, Offtopic)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600751)

Those crumbling platforms? They're made of people.


Only the Soylent Green ones.

Re:Oh, the ironing. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601117)

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.

Re:Oh, the ironing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23601559)

Those crumbling platforms? They're made of people.

Yeah, so what? I was in a dot-bomb, and I tell you, there were a LOT of these "people" you speak of that were in it for the cash, and had absolutely no skills (IT/managerial/sales/whatever) that they should have had for the position. They were raking in good money, and delivering nothing in return. Luckily, a lot of those that actually had a grasp with reality realized early on that they were in a sinking ship, and jumped to sturdy land before the bubble burst. While some assholes also did this, there were quite a few of the idiots left over that were crying and moaning when the ship finally did sink. I have no sympathy for them, they were part of the problem, even if they weren't executives.

Being employed is a privilege, not a right. If you have a problem with that, you have the freedom to go start your own company, and learn the hard way that running a company isn't the easiest thing in the world to do. Fact: Life isn't fair, you need to be smart enough to realize when the tides are changing, and you need to be prepared to make arrangements when they do. I find it utterly silly that many single people with no family to support that were raking in around US$120,000 a year had no savings, and were burning through their salary just like the company was burning through venture capital. Dumb.

Re:Oh, the ironing. (0, Troll)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601787)

I tell you, there were a LOT of these "people" you speak of that were in it for the cash, and had absolutely no skills
Kinda like those people who didn't know how to close their HTML tas properly, eh? ;)

Re:Oh, the ironing. (1)

theJavaMan (539177) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601779)

They're made of soylent green??

Re:Oh, the ironing. (1)

street struttin' (1249972) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600839)

So... to put this into a car metaphor, it's kind of like hitch-hiking?

Re:Oh, the ironing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23601191)

So... to put this into a car metaphor, it's kind of like hitch-hiking?
That was a simile.

Re:Oh, the ironing. (0, Offtopic)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 6 years ago | (#23602377)

similes are like metaphors.

Re:Oh, the ironing. (2, Insightful)

DDX_2002 (592881) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601231)

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?

Re:Oh, the ironing. (3, Insightful)

tbannist (230135) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601555)

Simple answer: Neither.

Re:Oh, the ironing. (1)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601729)

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.

They went to Africa (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23599981)

They went to Africa so they can be with all the knee grows.

Fundamental flaw (4, Insightful)

dj245 (732906) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600025)

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.

Re:Fundamental flaw (4, Insightful)

Robert1 (513674) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600219)

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.

risky bet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23601401)

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.

Investors also need to think about risk, and the risk that the Facebook platform will be replaced by something technologically better and more open is a near certainty, and it's very like that Facebook, as the established player, is going to miss the boat.

Re:Fundamental flaw (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601847)

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..

Re:Fundamental flaw (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23601979)

Common mistake: "penultimate" does not mean "the most super awesome ultimate". It means next-to-last.

Re:Fundamental flaw (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#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?

Re:Fundamental flaw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23600695)

Oh, abso-bloody-lutely. They pretty much eliminated the threat Java posed to the Windows platform, well spent money IMHO.

I feel sorry for the poor folks at Spyglass though, boy did they get screwed over.. well, you lie down with wolves, you wake up with fleas.

Re:Fundamental flaw (4, Insightful)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 6 years ago | (#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 (4, Informative)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Fundamental flaw (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600865)

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.

Re:Fundamental flaw (1)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601077)

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.

Re:Fundamental flaw (5, Insightful)

eepok (545733) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600685)

'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?"

Re:Fundamental flaw (0, Flamebait)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601151)

OMG, you could have NOT been more succinct in telling us how you don't understand any of those thing, or their cause.

Re:Fundamental flaw (1)

eepok (545733) | more than 6 years ago | (#23602357)

Further explanation, but just nearly as succinct:

'80s - Savings and Loans - Brokered Deposits, Linked Financing -- Please See "Michael Milkin"
'90s - Dot Com Bubble - Artificial inflation of stock price/company value. Pump and dump.
'00s - Housing/Mortgage/Junk Bonds - Buy up homes, hold them, sell them higher. Turn over, turn over, turn over. Create artificial "need", supply mortgages backed by investment bonds instead of hard money, etc. Sell those bonds based on high-risk loans as "smart investments".

It's one scam after another.

Re:Fundamental flaw (5, Insightful)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | more than 6 years ago | (#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

Re:Fundamental flaw (1)

Elky Elk (1179921) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601195)

I don't even mind it that much, its a bit like a voluntary tax on stupidity. It becomes a major problem when it starts affecting things people really need like housing and food and fuel...etc or when it sucks in so much money that it fucks the productive economy..

Re:Fundamental flaw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23601591)

it's happening now in commodity market, especially oil. While as a finite resource, oil is bound to be used up sooner or later, but the price hike over the last several years were simply beyond ridiculous. The same scam that created the dot com, the housing bubble are building up oil to be the next "never fall". Basically, ever since Reagan year, we have too much money, so we created bubbles again and again so we could "invest"....

Business valuation (1)

tknd (979052) | more than 6 years ago | (#23602733)

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 fact, stock price is already a form a valuation on its own (market value). And unfortunately there is no proven way to determine the value of a company. Everyone has their methods and arguments but there is no equation you can write into excel that will tell you how valuable your company is compared to what everyone else thinks.

The reason why people are valuing facebook at such a high price is not because of current revenue but because of current market share. Facebook currently has the highest market share compared to all other social networks today and it is still growing. So despite all the news about Zuckerberg and his success (or lack of), what investors and other companies see in facebook is a web based company that has millions of hits everyday. Everyone is banking on the idea that if there was some sort of way to turn those hits into profit, then the company would take off. Zuckerberg doesn't even have to maintain a huge profit, just enough to cover and maintain market share growth and he could probably still keep the company valued at such a high price on market share alone.

You may not agree with that train of thought, but apparently there are many others who disagree with you and are willing to throw huge amounts of money at facebook just to get a piece of the equity. It works the same with other elements of business like patents and people (who's behind you). If you've got Warren Buffett on your board, people will automatically value you higher. If you have a patent that can lock out your competitors and the legal means to make it happen, people will value you higher. All of these different factors play in the valuation of a company.

Where are the stupid investors now? (4, Insightful)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600067)

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.

Re:Where are the stupid investors now? (1)

FurtiveGlancer (1274746) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600505)

I think they're mostly holding federal jobs now. ~

Re:Where are the stupid investors now? (1)

krzy123 (1201507) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600661)

I think they went into real-estate.

Re:Where are the stupid investors now? (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601015)

No, they're speculating in Oil. Real Estate is so yesterday.

the best has yet to come (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23600145)

many of us who wisely avoided the felonious stock markup FraUD scamsters are doing quite nicely now, thank you.

They missed one... (5, Funny)

Siener (139990) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600189)

They missed the most influential and groundbreaking site of the whole dot-com era: Zombocom! [zombo.com]

"Too early for their time..." (4, Interesting)

PinkyDead (862370) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600217)

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.

Re:"Too early for their time..." (1)

telbij (465356) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600425)

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 before customers get fed up and you lose 80% of your customer base overnight.

Re:"Too early for their time..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23600597)

There is another way of thinking about it...

If you want something generic, a store like Wal-Mart will probably have it.

If you want something less generic (like a good programming book), you may need to go to a specialty store to get it.

If you want something bat-shit crazy that only a few people per thousand might want, then a local store probably couldn't get enough traffic to justify wasting the shelf space... But an online store (in the absence of any real-world competition) can concentrate that clientele into a sustainable market.

Re:"Too early for their time..." (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601967)

If you want something bat-shit crazy that only a few people per thousand might want
I dunno, Microsoft seemed to do okay even without the internet..

Re:"Too early for their time..." (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23602067)

"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 Internet.

The Industry Standard? (1)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600241)

How appropriate.

Whatever happened to VIOS? (2, Insightful)

inviolet (797804) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600259)

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.

Re:Whatever happened to VIOS? (1)

boris111 (837756) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600669)

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.

Re:Whatever happened to VIOS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23601627)

People will spend hours at that sight looking for the right clothing and trying stuff on, then go to the next site over and buy it because it is cheaper due to not having to deal with the avatar mess....

What happened to /.? The greatest dot-bomb of all? (1)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600279)

Last I heard Rob Malda lost millions in at-risk capital investment and took his own life.

*drinks one for the fallen*

==Smidge==

lack of product? (3, Interesting)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:lack of product? (1)

Icculus (33027) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600793)

"Billion heir"? Someone in your family was very busy

Re:lack of product? (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601255)

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:lack of product? (2, Informative)

TeamSPAM (166583) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601333)

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 bubble burst, we still had a nice reserve in the bank and were at the break even point. In the end, ProQuest bought out all the private shareholders and move everything to Ann Arbor, MI.

Re:lack of product? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23601681)

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...

Welcome to broadcast TV.

you FAIl 1t (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23600431)

it will be 4mong arrogan3e was

Jobs with growth postentual (-1, Offtopic)

infonography (566403) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600499)

Many Doc-com people as doing one of these things.

Comment on Slashdot

Wash Dishes

????

Profit.

Downside's Deathwatch, a decade later (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600521)

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.

FuckedCompany.com Now Fucked (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600551)

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! (4, Interesting)

brianlmoon (322719) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600617)

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.

Cost of Physical Goods (4, Interesting)

Ohio Calvinist (895750) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.)

100 dumbest dotcom moments (4, Interesting)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600703)

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."

Re:100 dumbest dotcom moments (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23601577)

It sold for $345 million [paidcontent.org] last year, so sounds like a smart investment.

Damn it! they suck quite giving them attention (4, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#23602181)

"93. Y2K hysteria."

hysteria? Hysteria? no, there was a real issue, and it was fixed throughout the industry with a lot of hard work and money.
AS someone who watched banking systems completly collapse in spectacular ways in testing environments during rollover simulations, I would not call it hysteria. Yes, some people went overboard but as a whole it certianly wasn't a blunder, it was an amazing success.

Most of the things they talk about made perfect sense at the time, or were great ideas but the people in charge of the money didn't know what they were doing. And some were just plain dumb.

The whole list is a failed attempt to try and make people thing they are smart.

Same place where IT jobs are in general (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23600755)

In other words, reaching extinction. The death of the dot-coms was merely foreshadowing the collapse of IT in general overall, which explains the lack of tech companies around here.

Luxury office furniture (4, Informative)

FranTaylor (164577) | more than 6 years ago | (#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 (2, Insightful)

Akuinnen (174212) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600855)

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.

I always figured ... (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600919)

... that the guys from the crashed dot-coms were Stealing underpants [wikipedia.org]

Where Did the Employees Go? (1)

illectro (697914) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600929)

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, imeem, iTunes and others - staying in the music business (I don't think any actually went from Napster 1.0 to Napster 2.0)

MAIL ORDER COMPANIES! (4, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Other Dot-Bombs (1)

TheHawke (237817) | more than 6 years ago | (#23600961)

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".

Re:Other Dot-Bombs (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601513)

The guy [theparentcompany.com] who ran eToys went on to one of those hazy umbrella companies, The Parent Company [theparentcompany.com] . Judging from its stock performance [theparentcompany.com] it is headed the same way eToys did. Though looking at this brand they run [poshtots.com] (hawking $47,000 [poshtots.com] playsets for toddlers and their more-money-than-brains parents) I say crash and burn.

no IPO until two years of profits (5, Informative)

peter303 (12292) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

dont forget the success too (1, Insightful)

peter303 (12292) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601045)

Amazon and Yahoo to name a couple.

Dell vs Eee PC or the HP 2133? (-1, Offtopic)

CFrankBernard (605994) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601057)

It looks closer to the HP's Compaq 2133. They improved the mouse button layout but the Shift keys are horribly placed; I'd be hitting the up arrow/cursor instead of left Shift. They need to be arranged more like Thinkpad keyboards.

Re:Dell vs Eee PC or the HP 2133? (-1, Offtopic)

CFrankBernard (605994) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601091)

Make that /right/ Shift; damn lexdysia.

No kidding (2, Interesting)

Bombula (670389) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

justballs.com (1)

Champ (91601) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601355)

For some reason I'm afraid to visit "justballs.com" to see if they're still selling . . . um . . . balls. To play with. You know, I feel like I'm just digging deeper here.

Anyway, if not, I can only speculate as to who might have been interested in that domain.

Sometimes dot-coms were just bad ideas with money (2, Interesting)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Dot-Com fun (2, Interesting)

TheSync (5291) | more than 6 years ago | (#23601721)

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)...

Flooz.com?? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23602001)

Whatever happened to flooz.com? That was my favorite...buy fake online currency with really money which later becomes worthless because no online shopping site accept flooz dollars.

What about melaniegriffith.com? (1)

shotgunefx (239460) | more than 6 years ago | (#23602485)

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.

Who cares! The best one is still here! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23602545)

well (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23602705)

.. 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 companies you have never even heard of and probably don`t care about.
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