E Heroes Get Their 15 Minutes

If there's any one thing that holds true for the e-biz world at this moment, it is that dot.com heroes come and go--and fast. The zigzag of Net business is dizzying. The openness of the Web, the low cost of entry, and the continuously changing commercial landscape make for a rapid-fire change of business plans. Look at the many iterations of Yahoo's and Amazon's business models. And don't forget how many hot e-biz companies have been gobbled up and lost their independent identities in the past 12 months alone. No wonder the cast of e-biz pacesetters is constantly changing.

So, quick--before the list morphs before your very eyes, take a look at BUSINESS WEEK's new e.biz 25 (page EB24). It's full of surprises, from the high-tech plumbers who provide the pipe for the Net, such as Cisco Systems' John Chambers, to reborn marketers, such as IBM's Lou Gerstner, who gave a new identity--and source of profits--to a lagging computer giant via electronic commerce. Priceline.com's Jay Walker made the list, as did America Online's Stephen Case and Amazon's Jeffrey Bezos. Bankrollers John Doerr from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Masayoshi Son from Softbank are there, plus eBay's Margaret Whitman.

But who will be back next year? Microsoft Corp.'s Expedia is giving Priceline its first taste of serious competition (maybe this will get Bill Gates on next year's e.biz 25 list). Amazon.com Inc. is piling into eBay's auction business. Day traders appear to be flagging, challenging E*Trade Group's Christos Cotsakos to remain successful. And so it goes. Unlike the computer industry, there is no center of gravity as yet on the Net. Leadership is widespread and ever-changing. Is this a fun era to be an entrepreneur, or what?

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.