“We’ve all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually produce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.”
- Robert Wilensky (attributed).
It’s difficult to say precisely which was the most fatuous dotcom era business debacle. The turn of the millennium was a target-rich environment. The short-lived Webvan (online grocery) was pretty notorious, so it’s interesting to see some Goldman alumni attempting once again to push water back uphill with Ocado. Pets.com (online petfood delivery) was also pretty facile, and it had a talking sock puppet mascot to boot. Boo.com (online fashion) showed that Americans did not have a monopoly on torching easily raised venture capital. The era also gave rise to a particularly radical business model: lose money on every sale, but make up for it in volume. So the inexplicable popularity of LinkedIn’s recent IPO will prompt uncomfortable (or simply hysterical) memories on the part of those of us who lived through dotcom insanity the first time around. As far as this writer can tell, as a (free) user of the site, given the extent of unsolicited linking requests from complete strangers that it generates, the sole purpose of LinkedIn is to act as a rather grubby white-collar introduction service. Perhaps somebody, somewhere has gained commercial benefit from this lonely nerd referral tool, but one somehow doubts it.
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