(Now) Hilarious Predictions about the Future of the Internet from Web 1.0

Jacob Harper  |

Though the internet is still in its relative childhood, we still have enough critical distance to appreciate that some of the predictions about its growth made during its infancy wer... misguided.  Tech predictions, as we've noted, are impossible to nail every time. But sometimes they're not just off. They're way off. Just nowhere near correct. envision a bizarro tech world that bears no resemblance to how things ended up actually being. And now that we've got some space, we can take a look at some of those proclamations and have a nice, hearty laugh.

We’re obviously still feeling our way around this internet contraption that connects billions of people, but we’ve begun to learn a few things about how it works, enough to know that some of the mainstream predictions made about the internet during its first boom were misguided, off, or just flat out incorrect.

Here are some of the more entertainingly bad predictions about the Web made prior to 2002:

1)    Websites, Especially Google, Need to Charge Viewers a Penny a View to Reach Their Potential

“How Penny Per Page Might Work” from Marhsall Brain, founder of HowStuffWorks.com, Nov 2001: 

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"Without a penny per page, Google (GOOG) will still improve, but at a dramatically slower pace. There needs to be money to support the development of new features, and right now the money is not there in any significant way. So it's a trade-off: "Free" is probably one of the most beloved words in the English language; but by not paying Google when we use it, we're effectively denying ourselves the increased benefits that our payments would bring about."

2)    The Internet Will Never Replace Books, Stores, Newspapers, or Maybe Anything at All

“The Internet? Bah!” by Clifford Stoval for Newsweek, 1995:

"Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic. Baloney..The truth in no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works."

3)    No One Will Be Able to Topple Internet Explorer

“Is There a Future For Netscape's Web Browser?” by Jimmy Guterman, Chicago Tribune, Oct 21, 1999

"But there's no indication that (Mozilla) will be done before the middle of next year (2000) and by then, with Internet Explorer even more popular and Netscape Navigator more forgotten, it may be too late."

4)    The Most Attractive Feature a Startup Can Have? A Completely Generic Domain Name

“What’s in a Name? $7.5 Million for the Right Address” by Andrew Pollack, New York Times, Dec. 1 1999

(On spending $7.5 million for the rights to the name business.com): "We actually think the name (business.com) means a lot," said (entrepreneur Jake) Winebaum. "It captures what I think we're building... I would rather have it like that than trying to spend a lot to figure out what the brand stands for."

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