Seeing the Net with Clearer Vision

After cockeyed optimism gave way to extreme pessimism, an understanding of how the Web will really work is finally emerging

When business historians look at the period from 1995 to 2000, they'll likely cite it as the most spectacular of booms and busts. Hundreds of billions in venture capital was invested and lost, most of it by people chasing the idea that the Internet could make business -- and life -- friction-free. As the dot-com bubble burst, a broad spectrum of technology industries that were supposed to benefit from the Internet's exponential growth turned moribund. Telecommunications, networking equipment, business software, e-commerce, and even PC makers have struggled with steep drop-offs in demand that caught them flat-footed.

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