"Surprisingly good" is the verdict on my late 1997
prognostication of what 1998 would bring to Internet commerce. Quite a few
predictions were right, a handful dead wrong, and for the rest, the year's
still young enough to recover.
But let's first talk about several trends we missed: "Portal" became the detestable
buzzword of choice. Yahoo's purchase of ViaWeb to host Web
storefronts will have a major impact, as could GeoCities' effort to let merchants set up storefronts in its virtual
neighborhoods. Online auctions are taking hold not just among consumers,
but businesses too, though business
auctions are less visible because they're on extranets.
Now let's go to the predictions, scored overall as 17 right, 7 wrong, and 12
Microsoft: Still "addicted to hardball tactics," Microsoft did anger
the federal judiciary but is faring better in court than anticipated.
Windows 98 was not delayed (wrong prediction) and Internet Explorer
continues to eat away Netscape's browser market share (right). The jury
remains out on Microsoft's efforts to torpedo Java. Also unclear: Will
bankers' complaints scuttle MSFDC, the venture to let consumers view,
then pay bills online? Score: 2 right,
1 wrong, 3 undecided.
ISP/telco: As predicted, AT&T got into the acquisition business with
its pending bid for cable giant
TCI, and Sprint bought 30
percent of ISP EarthLink Network Sprint, linking their Net
operations. Two former Baby Bells are merging, SBC and Ameritech. But ISP
Verio opted for an IPO rather than selling to a telco.
Score: 3 right, 1 wrong.
Security: Yes, merger mania is the main game in network security, and
firewall firms were popular purchases. Trusted Information Systems sold to Network Associates, which also added Secure Networks to its
security stable. Though virtual private networks (VPNs) are topical, they
have produced no acquisitions. As network and security management converge,
Cisco continued its security play in buying intrusion detection firm WheelGroup, while security firm Check Point bought IP networker MetaInfo. So
far, 3Com is still sitting out the security dance. Score: 3 right, 3 wrong.
Intrusion detection: As predicted, this is where the action is in Internet security.
Internet Security Systems went public, WheelGroup sold to Cisco, Security
Dynamics acquired Intrusion
Network Associates bought Haystack Lab's technology. Network Associates
just sued ISS over patents, so this market is now mainstream. Score: 1 right.
Online billing: Indeed, the buzz over bill presentment (posting bills on
Web sites) grew louder, but it's still among inside players, not bill
payers. Score: 1 right.
Subscriptions: Few publishers are charging for content, though many
would like to. Microsoft's Slate e-zine
finally did the subscription
thing, but Cowles New Media's Media Daily news service tried, then backed off. Score: 1 right.