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If it's Saturday, it must be October



Okay, so I'm blogging. Just like the rest of the internet. Always more than a few months behind the curve, it seems, even though I was online with AOL, usenet, and even doing the whole "chat" thing (irc) back in '94. But I was one of the brilliant people who never thought the World Wide Web (remember when people still called it that?) would catch on. It seemed like a handful of disjointed sites with questionable content and no coherent way of finding anything. Now of course, it's millions of disjointed sites with questionable content and no coherent way of finding anything. That's progress!


I didn't think there was any real way to make money off the internet. Even as internet startups were making millions, I just couldn't see a working business model in all of it. But just as I began thinking I had been completely wrong, the big dot-com crash happened, and I can't say it surprised me at all. There were too many ill-conceived businesses starting up, and people were throwing money at them for no good reason. The dot-com crash was, in my opinion, the fallout from a fad. Just like (wait for it...) video games. The video game crash of '83 was also a fallout from a fad.


Yep... video games were a fad. Allow me to explain...


In the 70's, video games were a novelty. Pong, a handful of other arcade games, and the various home systems that came out, were for the most part, a novelty. At least by my definition.


A novelty, I think, is something that catches on to some degree with the public. They're fascinated with it, may dabble with it briefly, then they move onto something else. Pet Rocks were a novelty. The Rubik's Cube was a novelty. 70's video games... a novelty.


Beginning with Space Invaders (at least in Japan) and then really hitting its stride with Pac-Man, video games became a fad. Again, by my definition (I suppose I should be looking these up...) a fad is a novelty that catches on in a big way with the public at large (especially people who would usually not be interested in the fad), crosses over into other areas, and has staying power. For awhile.


Star Wars (and I'm speaking strictly of the 1977 movie phenomenon - not the franchise as a whole) was a fad. Disco was a fad. Video games (and Pac-Man by itself) was a fad.


Video games were everywhere, being played by everyone. Shirts, TV shows, breakfast cereals, key rings, arcades popping up everywhere, home video games being sold at nearly every store (even 7-11 was selling Activision cartridges), and dozens of manufacturers jumping on the bandwagon were all effects of the fad.


The problem with fads is, they don't last. They can't last. They burn out. The level of momentum they attain is unsustainable. The reason is: people who normally would have nothing to do with the fad, simply lose interest. And they're the ones who take something from a mere novelty, and turn it into a fad. Their interest, and more importantly, their money, drive the fad. But their interest is transitory.


If a fad burns out fast enough, a few people make a lot of money in the short run, and that's that. But if a fad stays around a little too long, then too many people jump on board to cash-in on it, and when the fad collapses, so do all of those businesses that were started up to take advantage of it. They were built on the temporary whims of people caught up in the fad.


The video game industry of the early 80's was driven by the fad. Not by sound business decisions. Unfortunately, when the fad died out, it took everything else out with it. It wasn't just the cash-in businesses, but the well-established businesses that, normally, would have been just fine if the fad had never happened. The video game industry's upward momentum was completely canceled out by the downward spiral. In fact, the very industry itself was practically canceled out.


Now, it's not that there was no longer a market for video games. That never went away. The fad went away, and the industry went away, leaving those of us who had been playing video games all along with nowhere to go. Nintendo came along and absolutely proved there still was (and is) a very healthy market. But the collapse of an entire industry takes a while to get over, and businesses are extremely weary of entering into a market that has just imploded in on itself. So Nintendo had to prove that video games had life beyond the fad.


And the same thing is happening with the internet. At the beginning, I felt that it wouldn't make any sense to have a business on the World Wide Web, because you had no way for your customers to find it. There was no Yahoo or Google. You found websites by word-of-mouth, or pure chance.


So what are the most successful internet companies today? Search engines. eBay, Amazon, iTunes and other online stores, are basically product search engines. The internet has become successful because it has settled into a business model that works - finding stuff.


The fad part of it has passed, and the shakeout got rid of the elements that simply weren't well-thought-out enough to work.


Well, except this whole Blog fad.


Recommended Comments

I first saw a website in 1995. It was my college's website and it brought up a picture under the Mosiac browser... VERRRYYY slowly. I said "You know, this is cool and all but I don't think it will catch on" The person with me agreed.


Funny looking back on that moment. You know one thing that has not really caught on yet... HD Radio. I bought one about five years ago and I love it, but the radio stations have not really changed in that time, and the ads have been about the same. Amazing.


Blogs.. they are most of the time a great way to talk to yourself. :P

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