Let the real internet age begin

The internet has not been capturing much of public attention since the bursting of the internet bubble in 2000/2001. Yet, even without the hype and the infatuation with internet stocks, the internet and the web has been growing in size an importance.

What is happening now is that the mainstream is catching up with internet technology. Part of why the first internet revolution, ended in stock market crash, was that ordinary people simply did not adopt internet tools and technologies as fast as the net prophets predicted.

But 2004 promises to be a landmark internet year. Some people are even expecting a 2nd wave of the internet investment craze (except this time it will not be that crazy).

In the US, but also elsewhere the internet is really affecting mainstream culture. Take the Howard Dean campaign to win the Democratic Party’s nomination for the 2004 presidential elections. A decentralized internet-based network of volunteers and activists has emerged carrying Dean from obscurity to political prominence. The phenomena started on a meeting-arrangement site called meetup.com, where Dean supporters where finding each other and arranging hundreds of local meetings in his support. A huge network of web logs (blogs) carry the message of Dean’s supporters and feed into his main site. Email campaigns are used to motivate people to volunteer for the campaign.

The bottom line: The net has arrived in a big way on the mainstream political scene.

Even in our part of the world the internet is taking hold. I recently came across a Saudi discussion forum site that covers social, political, religious and technological issues. The site (www.eqla3.com ) has over 45,000 registered members and carries hundreds of thousands of posts. When I visited this morning, nearly 400 people where logged on. These are impressive numbers for an Arab site.

If you follow stock markets, then you should expect a big story this year. Google is going public in a few months. There were rumors that Microsoft offered to buy the company for US$ 10 Billion, but that Google refused to sell. It remains to be seen if the Google IPO would unleash a second wave of internet investments, but no one doubts that the offering will be huge.

And if you think Google is cool because it lets you search billions of internet pages, just have a look at what Amazon is doing with books. When you enter a search query into Amazon, not only titles and author names will be searched, but also, for a growing number of titles, the actual content of books! Soon enough, Amazon will allow you to search within the contents 1 million books. Other companies and organization are also making the knowledge in older books available online. All of this takes the internet closer to the ideal of a universal library.

Lastly, 2004 will see the launch of more web-based digital music stores. Dell, Sony and other have seen the success of Apple’s iTunes success and are keen to jump on the bandwagon.

The internet is no longer the domain of a few computer geeks and “early adopters”. The mainstream is catching up. The second age of the net is only beginning.

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