by Dana Blankenhorn
Volume IV, No. I
For the Week of January 3, 2000

This Week's Clue: Flight to the Future

This Week's Clue: Flight to the Future

Shameless Promotion

SSP (Shameless Self-Promotion)

The Internet Election

Clued-in, Clueless

Hello, we're glad you made it. Welcome to the Future!

So, what will the year 2000 actually be like, now that we're in it?

Simply put, this will be the year for building broadband. By cable, by phone, and by wireless, there's a gold rush out there to deliver or "provision" Internet access that makes modems obsolete. The 20th century's "Internet Speed Limit" of 40 Kbps is going the way of the 8086 chip.

That's important because all of today's most popular sites, like Yahoo, are designed with this speed limit in mind. The question is what will users want when they can get anything (including video) now? 

We saw a few years ago how publishers were completely wrong about the Net, and most are being steadily replaced. (The newspapers are last to go because local markets are hardly worth bothering with.) Broadcasters show more confidence. Most of the most popular Web sites are just adjuncts to cable networks. Broadcasters have used their reach to buy into big deals (Marketwatch, Sportsline, WebMD) without cash. Broadcasters note that many "Monday Night Football" viewers watch even more closely when they add interactive elements under the name "Enhanced TV." They feel confident they can turn couch potatoes into mouse potatoes, and keep them under their spell.

But can be? Will Internet users abandon text when video becomes widely available? If they do, high barriers to entry will have been created that will keep most of us from participating in the Internet economy. If they don't, lots of experts will be surprised. 

Personally I think we're in for a surprise. Video requires big audiences to succeed, while text can live with small audiences, and the Internet is all about the creation of small audiences. I got my own lesson on this a few weeks ago, when my son was featured in a CNN piece. (He's fine - he just has ADHD like his dad.) A crew of three, with a truck and a mini-studio, spent 6 hours with my son, and a second crew did the same with another family. Then there was the crew that interviewed the "experts," hours in an editing bay distilling this into one two-minute report, and a few minutes for the "reporter" to read it. No, the footage that wasn't used wasn't worth anything (except as home movies) because it lacked context. 

Now, what can a single Web editor do on ADHD, and how fast can he do it? Well, here's an overview of the problem , here is what the government is up to , and here's how you can diagnose it in your own household . Here's how you can deal with it, here's a support group  and here's the leading organization working on the problem . With my trusty DSL modem, that took one man less about five minutes. 

There are powerful economic forces at work here. Sure, many people like having things spoon-fed for them, and TV is a great medium for that (cable and satellite are great delivery mechanisms). But the economics of Internet use make every channel a click away, and as people use the Net this is how they use it. It's not TV, it's not print, it's the Internet. Broadcasters haven't yet gotten that Clue and, like publishers, they'll pay for it. 

The point is that no one will "dominate" the Web - not publishers, not broadcasters, not even me. The Internet provides a means through which anyone can access the knowledge of the whole world on any subject, quickly and easily (if not always reliably). Dealing with that data and turning it into knowledge is the challenge, not building audiences. 

Shameless Promotion

In just two weeks, I'll be one of 12 leading Internet commerce experts participating in the "Billion Dollar Internet Strategy Setting Summit and Custom Marketing Makeover Process" near the LA Airport.

If that name sounds like a mouthful I'll admit you might choke on the price tag ($5,000). But you'll walk out of this conference thoroughly "clued-in" and ready to not just write and fund that business plan, but to succeed as well. . I hope to see you there.

SSP (Shameless Self-Promotion)

I have begun my adventure at Voxcap.Com, discussing how next year's elections might impact the future of the Internet. I had two features in a recent special section of the Chicago Tribune  as well.

I write daily for ClickZ, and appear on TechEdge Radio. I write monthly columns for  NetMarketing, Boardwatch, and  Intellectual Capital. Once every other month I'm in CLEC Magazine. The lead item here is also the Monday e-commerce column of Andover.News. You can still buy my book . Subscription instructions are at the bottom of each issue.

Remember that it's still journalism that keeps the Clues coming. Give me a call at 404-373-7634. (Yes, I do some commercial writing.) Now back to the show...

The Internet Election

What will be the role of the Internet in the 2000 elections? Sorry to say, it will exist mainly for demagoguery.

Get ready to be a whipping boy. The fact is most Americans want content regulation of the Internet , on the Australian model . Some time before he falls out of the running Gary Bauer may figure that out. If he does it will just be the first salvo. That will likely be the price of Donna Rice Hughes' support, and unlike her former lover, Gary Hart, she's a player this year.

The Millenium's first failed liberal cause may be the cable TV industry's attempt to create a "walled garden" of free Internet access, paid for by sites giving tribute to cable companies. (Jupiter Communications estimates this will be $10 billion market in 4 years and suggests participants spend $4 on marketing for every $1 they spend on content.) Attempts to stop this power play will fail because the "walled" access will be free, and won't add additional advertising (as current free services do.) The fight will be made for the same reason the earlier "open access" battle was joined - to keep the Web from being treated as an adjunct to cable, with cable operators as gatekeepers.

Copyright disputes will grow, and linking will become a political controversy. As the cost of producing Internet content grows, content owners will simply go to greater lengths to both protect it and to profit from it .

The topic of Internet "have nots" will be joined, not just by the free "walled garden" cable access question, but by the requirement that all access in schools, libraries and other public places be filtered. As "subsidized" and "filtered" become synonyms, someone is bound to notice the thought control being exercised by the Internet savvy over the Internet poor.

What will be the most important political issue involving the Internet? Well, it's one no one will notice. It's IP Version 6, a new version of the basic Internet Protocol. Ipv6 will give us the extra addresses the network needs to grow, but at a price. This is like a Constitutional Convention, with members of the Internet Engineering Task Force wearing the wigs. Well, police are demanding an end to Internet anonymity in Ipv6, and since we're talking about police worldwide here, the bleatings of some American civil libertarians are just unlikely to be heard

Clued-in, Clueless

Clued-in is Limestone College of Spartanburg, South Carolina, which graduated its first all-Internet class last week . More Clued-in will be the first major institution which puts its name on such a sheepskin.

Clueless is the effort by the University of California to ban the distribution of notes on the Internet . The move is aimed at outfits like Study24-7.com which make a market in the notes. I've got an idea - let's appoint a Limestone graduate to the UC Regents.

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