Vague, But Exciting...

The Story of the World Wide Web

By Jay Hoffmann


On March 20, 2000 Barron’s featured its now infamous cover story: Burning Up. The cover of the magazine featured an illustration of large sacks engulfed in flames, the words Burning Fast seared across the top in big, bold, orange type.

Inside the magazine, Jack Willoughby penned a scathing takedown of the dot-com Internet companies which had come to dominate the stock exchange. Wiloughby predicted an end to the rapid rise of these companies, a fall brought on by an industry wide end of the runaway. Most companies, he discovered, had a burn rate that was unsustainable. They were, as the article summed up, all burning up. “When will the Internet Bubble burst?,” Willoughby asked followed by his own answer, “for scores of ‘net upstarts, that unpleasant popping sound is likely to be heard before the end of this year”

Some called Willoughby’s prediction overblown. For all the questions about sustainability, the information age was only just beginning. There was more than enough to go around. In fact, days before the article was published, the NASDAQ had reached its highest point to date.

Willoughby was right though. That peak in the NASDAQ would be the highest it would reach for fifteen years after. Within weeks, the NASDAQ would begin its decline. By April, it would drop 25 percent in a single week. Over the next few years, 80 percent of the total value of the NASDAQ would be wiped out.

As the dust settled on the dot-com crash a year later, The Silicon Alley Reporter—run by Jason Calacanis—ran a cover story of its own. It was far less subtle. On the cover of the magazine there was a full page photo spread of the Hidenburg in flames, crashing down to Earth. It was as good a signal as any that the dot-com boom was over.

Just several years earlier, things had looked much different.

The Rise of Amazon

Amazon started with books for a reason. Books are a predictable size and shape, making them relatively easy to ship. There are millions of books, a near infinite variety across every possible interest. The publishing industry has historically lacked the teeth and litigious verve of, say, the music industry. And because of its long legacy, book distribution is fairly centralized. Besides, people love books. When Jeff Bezos was looking for something to sell on his online store, books were the obvious choice.

Every decision Bezos made about was as calculated and deliberate as this first one. He has proved a number of times that when he bets on the future, he stacks the odds in his favor.

He bought a house with a garage so he could say that Amazon started in one. He chose “” as a name not because of any connection to its eponymous geographical landmark, but because most website directories listed sites in alphabetical order, and was sure to be close to the top. Even Amazon’s location, Seattle, was the result of several important calculations, as writer Jeff Cassidy describes. “Bezos chose Seattle… for several reasons. He had friends there. It had a large community of computer scientists. It was a state that didn’t have a sales tax. And it was close to Rosenburg, Oregon, where the country’s biggest book distributor, Ingram Book Group, had a major distribution center.”

These choices were instrumental in the success of Amazon. And with each decision he made, Bezos shaped the early evolution of what would soon be known as e-commerce.

A year before Amazon launched, Bezos was working at a hedge fund in New York. His background was in computer science, but his chosen career path was, at the time, in the world of market finance. In his research for his firm, he came across the web for the first time in 1994. “The wake up call was finding this startling statistic that web usage in the spring of 1994 was growing at 2,300% a year,” Bezos would later recall in an interview, “things just don’t grow that way. It’s highly unusual.”

After consulting with his wife at the time, MacKenzie Scott , Bezos decided to move across the country, to Seattle, and start an Internet company together. By 1995, he had recruited a few engineers—including Shel Kaphan, who would develop the first version of the platform—and launched his online bookseller. sold its first book in April of 1995.

The early days were rocky. On the surface, Kaphan and his team had developed a website with many of the hallmarks of modern e-commerce—an early version of a shopping cart, a rudimentary order form. But behind the curtain, Amazon employees managed everything by hand. Each time an order was placed, someone at Amazon picked up a phone and called in the order to one of several major book distributors, had it shipped to their offices, then packaged and shipped it themselves to customers. It was sleight of hand, a simulacrum of what the experience could someday be.

The web, however, offered a unique advantage. The web exists in digital space; it is no greater technological challenge to list hundreds of titles than it is to list millions. “… adopted the Web’s infinite shelf space as a competitive weapon,“ one writer explains. Amazon could place orders as they happened, shipping out books on demand even with a site that boasted thousands of selections. It turned into a game of sorts on the early web as visitors to the site tried to order the most obscure book they could think of. It was easy to evangelize, and quickly spread among web users.

But Bezos understood that the commercial potential of the web went well beyond selling the written word. In his first interview back in 1997, he positioned attention, not books, as Amazon’s primary export.

Attention is the scarce commodity of the late 20th century. One of the ways you can do that [capture attention] is to do something really innovative that actually has real value for the customer, that’s a hard thing to do, but if you do do that, newspapers will write about what you’re doing, customers will tell other customers… and that can really drive and accelerate businesses.

The obscure books on Amazon that people loved to hunt down—and that the tech press would mention over and over as something novel and exciting—weren’t there for the fractional sales they produced. They were there as a demonstration of the power of digitally distributed commerce.

It was in an attempt to capture attention that led to Amazon’s greatest innovations. Most famously, Amazon patented the 1-click buy button which reduced the friction of an e-commerce purchase down to an in-the-moment decision. As Amazon’s catalog began to sprawl beyond books, rather than extend an analogy from brick and mortar stores, they poured investment into recommendation engines for discovery. The goal, after all, was stickiness. In its first few years, many web surfers gave Amazon a lot of their attention, following one recommendation after another.

Amazon held its IPO on May 15th, 1997. Despite being only two years old, its valuation was $300 million as investors of Wall Street rushed to be a part of the runaway success. But Bezos wasn’t interested in short-term gains. Prior to its IPO, Amazon reported in its filing to the SEC that it expected “substantial operating losses for the foreseeable future.”

This was by design, a financial tactic to cash in on its inflated valuation to cover every possible inch of the market. In a letter to shareholders following the IPO, Bezos explained that Amazon’s earliest competitors would attempt to capture smaller bands of the market, but Bezos saw this as a waste of time. “A fundamental measure of our success will be the shareholder value we create over the long term. This value will be a direct result of our ability to extend and solidify our current market leadership position.”

Amazon created a model for the trend of commercialization on the web in the mid to late 90’s. Amazon’s recommendation engine would spur other e-commerce startups to go to wild lengths to capture and hold attention.

One site,, would even spend tens of thousands of dollars attempting to create a digital assistant that could interact with visitors in real time only to fail in letting perfect become the enemy of what was already good enough.

Other companies would attempt the same financial maneuvering, running tight margins and shedding profit in attempt to dominate the marketplace. The hallmarks of dot-com e-commerce—rapid expansion, market disruption, centering tech over retail, artificial intelligence driven recommendations, a focus on stratospheric, “hockey stick” growth—they were all an attempt to chase Amazon. But none would ever quite be able to catch up. That didn’t stop them from trying though.

From the Valley to the Alley

The Flatiron building is one of the most instantly recognizable buildings in New York City. Built at the beginning of the 20th century, its unique triangular design sets it apart from other high-rises and skyscrapers. Its architecture is a blend of pragmatic design and deliberate distinctiveness. Throughout the years, the Flatiron building has stood as the site of many social and artistic scenes in New York City.

For a brief time, it was the spiritual center of New York’s web-driven tech scene. If you stood in the shadow of the Flatiron building at any point between 1998 and 2002 and looked straight up, you’d see a large and garish billboard one block up that read “DoubleClick Welcomes You to Silicon Alley.”

DoubleClick's ad could be seen near the Flatiron building.

Silicon Alley had the familiar markings of the commercialization boom of its west coast counterparts, but its proximity to Wall Street and the media industry gave it a different contour and shape. Most Silicon Alley companies were either content-driven editorial websites or webzines—FEED,, Nerve, gURL, Psuedo—or digital agencies thriving in the information age—Razorfish,, Organic Online. “The closest thing Silicon Alley has to an indigenous population, the Early True Believer,” one reporter noted at the time, “aren’t exactly businesspeople or programming geeks – they’re brainy math-and-music types with impressive liberal-arts educations, mostly upper-crust backgrounds, and birthdays in or around 1966.”

Some members of the scene had started out as college roommates, a close-knit circle of friends of friends of friends that powered a wave of new sites on the web. They were bound together by their wild ambition and belief in the promise of the web. “I think this definitely is not a fad, what’s occurring right now,” Razorfish co-founder Jeff Dachis remarked at the time. The web wasn’t simply a new digital space. “This is absolutely real; this is a revolution; we’re packing rifles; and this is going to be something that’s going to change the course of the way the world is functioning.”

The founders of DoubleClick, though an integral part of the Alley, cut against the mold. The company was created by Kevin O’Connor and Dwight Merriman, who had already spent the previous decade in the microcomputing business. That made them a bit older and more experienced than the average Silicon Alley upstart founder plucked straight from graduating college. Their business model—acting as the middleman for ads between publishers and advertisers—was also a bit more straightforward and pragmatic than the usual dot-com. But DoubleClick did more than almost any other New York based dot-com to change the face of commercialization on the web.

It all started with cookies, which Merriman had been experimenting since they were first added to Netscape. Cookies store small bits of data in a package that can be stored and then retrieved across pages, even when the browser reloads. For shopping carts and personalized experiences necessary on the web, they gave developers a chance to keep track of a user’s order or preferences from anywhere on their site. However, for security reasons, cookies are scoped to a single domain. One website can’t access the cookies of another.

Working out of a basement after-hours at their day job at a Cincinnati based microcomputing firm, Merriman and O’Conner discovered that it was possible to keep cookies stored on a common external domain and then follow its trail of data from one site to the next. By shifting the source of the cookies to a single domain under their control, in this case the DoubleClick servers, data between sites could be aggregated and distributed, as long as each site agreed to install a snippet of code that gave DoubleClick partial access to their data. Merriman used this workaround to create a network of ads that could added, and then tracked, across websites, providing greater leverage and value to the ad buyer and far more probing insight to the ad seller.

By the time they reached New York—and brought on former media executive Kevin Ryan as their CFO—that technology was able to operate all on its own. Companies could buy and sell ads through online auctions conducted by the platform which served them across sites in real time, often without the publishers of the ads even fully understanding what might appear on their sites.

DoubleClick gave Silicon Alley, and the network of startups across the country and world, a suddenly relevant business model. The experiments of early content sites like Hotwired and Word selling individual packages of ads to established partners could only go so far. DoubleClick scaffolded up an advertising command center, where ads could be bought and sold programmatically and at a massive scale. Before long if you stopped a dot-com founder on the street and asked them their business model, they’d reply, simply, “advertising.”

It also spawned an open secret common in all Internet companies, but especially true in New York. Companies were flush with cash from wave after wave of seed investment. So naturally, they had plenty of money to buy ads, usually in other Internet companies. Startups bought ads and published them on the sites of other startups. Doing so infalted everyon’es value.

Most startups used advertising to pass money around between startups rather than out into the larger world. Doing so inflated everyone’s value. As one former member of the scene put it, “every company that was built in Silicon Alley depends on some other company that was built in Silicon Alley.”

Underneath it all was DoubleClick’s technology. “KO [Kevin O’Connor] would get up in these meetings and he was so aggressive,” a former VP of DoubleClick would later recall, “He said, ‘We are the company that is changing advertising and media. We won’t stop until we have world domination.‘ It wasn’t a job, it was a cult – a feel-good cult.”

A feel good cult is an apt summary of the spirit of DoubleClick, and of Silicon Alley, and of many of the dot-coms of the late 90’s. They were for true believers. Skeptics need not apply.

Startup Fame

In 2001, Jehane Noujaim and Chris Hegedus premiered their documentary at Sundance Film Festival. The documentary chronicled the rise and subsequent fall of the little known startup, At the time of the film’s premiere, two thousand miles away in New York, financial traders scrambled to adjust to a stock market in free fall. Across millions of homes around the globe, people saw their savings dwindle to nothing. As the credits rolled at Sundance, there could be almost no better capturing of the moment. The documentary collected hundreds of hours of footage and candid interviews with govWorks founders and their families, employees, and investors as they rode a wave of euphoria to the very top of the dot-com era.

The film opens with Kaleil Tuzman standing outside the Goldman Sachs building in New York City, having just quit his job there. Bright-eyed and excited, he packs his car and heads out west to “start an Internet company” with his high school friend and IT specialist Tom Herman. Tuzman and Herman have a simple plan and grand ambitions—to make government forms and payments, a tedious and in-person process, something entirely digital and easy.

In 1983, Charles P. Alexander penned an article for Time magazine called “The New Economy,” describing a transition in economic growth from industry to technology. In the ’90’s, that theory picked up steam and the emergence of the Internet and the web only strengthened its belief. The thesis of the New Economy was grounded in the idea that with new technology comes significant productivity gains, and that the economy would surge as a result. As economist Mariana Mazzucato describes it, “somehow economies because of the great productivity enhancement that the IT revolution brought about that we could somehow even avoid the business cycle. No more busts. Just booms.”

By the late 1990’s, the principals of the New Economy had become unquestionable canon. Nearly overnight, a booming industry of dot-coms swept through Wall Street founded on the premise that the goods and services of everyday life could be digitized and re-commodified online. They were emboldened by a Federal Reserve led by Alan Greenspan, who preferred an approach of letting the market self-correct (sometimes called the “Greenspan put”). Most of the new dot-coms modeled themselves after Amazon, at least superficially, and operated at a loss while bringing on new investment and scaling up in an attempt to overtake a single market.

Tuzman and Herman had started a company with all the hallmarks of the New Economy dot-com. Shortly after he arrived in Silicon Valley to start his company, shows footage of Tuzman in a hotel room with Herman and one of their investors. “I decided to do what I always do with big decisions and sit and meditate,” says Tuzman at one point, stone-faced and contemplative, “and I decided that we are…”

Kaleil Tuzman and Tom Herman, the stars and co-founders at the center of pictured giving a speech at one of their startup parties.

The dot-com in the name was actually pretty important. As it turns out, adding .com to the end of your company’s name was a sure way to bring on new investment and a much higher valuation than in any other industry. In her book Bull: A History of the Boom and Bust, reporter Maggie Maher put it simply. “The interaction between an incredible outpouring of financial innovation and a once-in-a-couple-of-generations technological revolution created a dangerous situation.” This was an environment with eager founders and even more eager investors.

Investors were all too happy to snatch up dot-coms and quickly turn them around to go public with an IPO, which gives them a near-instant windfall. In traditional industries, it might take decades before a company was ready to go public. But after Netscape it proved they could have one of the biggest IPO’s in history in less than a year, that window continued to close. Michael Barach, former CEO of, remembers getting phone calls to go public before he had even fully moved into the office. He remembers thinking, “You’re sitting there with your box going,” he recalls “should I buy furniture, or should I talk to an investment banker and go public?”

So of course needed the .com in their name. Otherwise, wouldn’t be an internet company. And they wouldn’t be entitled to any of its cash. As the film moves on from the startup’s humble beginnings, it follows Tuzman as he drives from one venture capital firm to the next. Most days, he’s spending more time in the offices of investors than in his own office building.

Sometimes, he would get lucky, and a round of investment would come in, or an investor would agree to look over a term sheet.

Most of the time, however, he was shown the door, told that his idea was being replicated elsewhere. That was already months behind. But he, and Herman, were young, and ambitious. And they weren’t ready to give up. At one point, Tuzman’s girlfriend (and later in the film, ex-girlfriend) remarks sarcastically, “You see a whole bunch of guys acting very grown up… they’re such grown-up gentlemen. But you know what, they’re not!”

If you were to look around at the founders and executives of the late’90’s Internet startups, the first thing you might notice was how young everyone was. The information age, after all, was mastered by a new generation of college graduates who felt they were a part of a revolution. The finance flooding in needed young people who both understood a still very-new technology and were willing to stake their futures on it. And young people hunting for a revolution needed the finance.

The media hyped the revolution as well. Formerly dry business network channels like CNBC became daily viewing. Every day, there’d be hours of television tracking individual companies and stocks, urging viewers to buy or to sell. And even without that, there was a newspaper article about some company striking it rich. At one point, ABC anchor Betsy Stark claimed “some say the Internet is so revolutionary that the usual roles for valuing a stock, such as revenues and earnings, no longer apply.” It was hard not to buy into the hype.

Even everyday people got swept up in the fervor. The early 90’s also brought new, digital options for day trading, and gave many people greater control over their 401ks. Someone might hear about a co-worker or neighbor who struck it big on some dot-com IPO. It was easy to succumb to the bandwagon effect and hop on two, unloading personal savings and retirement accounts into the rapid gains of internet companies.

govWorks was no different. Its founders were pushed into the spotlight and given a lot of power very quickly. They were all true believers of the revolution. Tuzman even graced the cover of a magazine, billed as the “leader of the revolution.” He hosted a panel next to Bill Clinton.

The greatest tragedy of, however, was how late to they were to start. By 1999, the bubble was already inflating. Their company ballooned but was never able to see much revenue. First one co-founder was pushed out. Then another. And soon Tuzman was left alone as the company fell apart before they could reach the almighty IPO.

A Day in the Life

Every morning at 8:30AM, a full hour before the market opened on the New York Stock Exchange, The Squawk Box on CNBC aired. The Squawk Box was the centerpiece of CNBC’s lineup, a channel which had only been around a few years. It’s daily pre-market coverage tried to make stocks exciting, to blend entertainment and business news. More often than not, the program actually succeed.

Mark Haines anchored the show. He was a twenty year veteran of local news in Philadelphia (and, according to one report, Cary Grant’s favorite reporter). He brought a more direct and grizzled presence to the program. He was flanked to his left and to his right by Joe Kernen and David Faber. They each played the other’s foil, bantering back and forth, almost always heatedly disagreeing about market wins and losses. The trio would frequently bring on guests to contrast with the news. On a lucky day, they’d be able to spotlight an IPO.

Credit: CNBC

Just before 9:30, when the markets officially opened, they’d throw it over in studio to Maria Bartiromo on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to report live as the opening bells rang. Bartiromo began her career at CNN, covering the bull market of the 1980’s and early 1990’s. In 1993, she was the first news anchor to report live from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, where she’d check in every day on The Squawk Box. “It was very exciting—a new, instantaneous way of reporting market news,” she would later recall, “we immediately had a big following.”

It was all somewhat of a spectacle. And for the average person, it was hard not to get swept up in the hype.

The Crash

When the pieces began to fall in the early months of 2000, it happened quick. “It was the weak constitution of all those ‘iffy’ dot-coms that had hit the market toward the tail end of 1999 that tipped the scales,” Brian McCullough notes in his comprehensive account of the web’s commercial history, How The Internet Happened, companies he says, “without a realistic chance to make money over the long term.” As investors continued to flood the market with weaker and weaker websites, a slow trickle gave way to a waterfall in a matter of months.

In the second half of 2000, the stock market was in free-fall. One company after another folded. “It’s not a correction, it’s a crash,” declared one investment banker in the fall of 2000.

The Federal Reserve, an institution which had tried for years to encourage rapid growth through low interest rates, began to reverse course to stop the bleeding. Interest rates were raised several times in 2000 in an attempt to discourage investment growth, to the highest level they had been in a decade, well before the bull market began. But they couldn’t.

“The tech-heavy Nasdaq peaked on March 10, 2000,” one article about the crash notes, “From that March 2000 peak, all the way down to the trough it reached on October 9, 2002… the Nasdaq would lose nearly 80 percent of its value.” The stock market had become something like a game. And most of the players were going to walk away the losers.

Some dot-com sites took the spotlight more than others. Maybe the most notable was, famously backed by Amazon, , with a sock puppet spokeperson in serious legal trouble. Though was not much different than the overstuffed startups of the late ’90’s—Webvan, Kozmo, eToys, Value America—its collapse in November of 2000 was featured all over the media as a sign of dot-com exuberance and a precursor to the end.

The sock puppet in one of its infamous commercials from the dot-com era
If there’s one image that represents the dot-com crash, it is probably the sock puppet. co-founder Julie Wainright would later comment on the way everyone seemed obsessed with her company, especially in during the crash. What’s clear is that everyone was looking for who was to blame. And there was no shortage of answers, least of all of from the founders and employees of the dot-com sites themselves.

In the wake of the dot-com crash, in tell-all magazine articles and soul-search memoirs, many of those involved in the largest web companies began to tell their stories. There are dozens of books and hundreds of interviews and articles from the early 2000’s filed with confessions and half-truths from the era. Buried within them were the good intentions of founders who witnessed and were apart of the massive collapse. They had built websites they believed could change the world. Ultimately, they did, just not in the way they thought.

Beyond those motivations, was the role of the World Wide Web, which had been cast as both savior and curse. David Kuo, a PR executive who worked at the online retailer Value America summed up the dichotomy well in his own memoir. “We discovered that the prevailing wisdom was flawed. The Internet is a tremendous force for change, but the industry chews up more folks than it blesses.”

Kevin Kelly was Wired’s editor throughout the dot-com era, wrote the literal book on the paradigm shift of the New Economy and infamously predicted a decade-long, unbroken boom only months before the stock market began to crash. Just a few months after that prediction, Kelly pulled a 180 and de-emphasized the role of Internet commercialization as a mere side effect. “As the Internet continues to expand in volume and diversity, only a relatively small percent of its total mass will be money-making”, he explained in a startling reversal, “the rest will be created and maintained out of passion, enthusiasm, a sense of civic obligation, or simply on the faith that it may later provide some economic use.”

Many founders confessed to feelings of immense remorse for their role in the crash., which one Internet reporter at the time said “everyone cites as a train wreck,” was setup by Kajsa Leander and Ernst Malmsten in London in early 1999. It’s stated objective was to transform the online shopping experience into something personalized and tailored to users. It’s flagship feature was a virtual personal shopper, an illustration of a woman that followed you around the site and helped you make decisions about what to purchase.

Leander and Malmsten quickly set about raising hundreds of millions of dollars and bringing on hundreds of employees within a few months. They shipped feature after feature. They flew in a celebrity hair dresser to make sure their virtual avatar had hair that was just right. And over time, the site became saddled with overspending and underdelivering. was a site that tried to do much, and never quite succeeded

In a personal and conflicted memoir, Malmsten reflects on the day his company was forced to shut down. “They believed in boo’s future, they spent months of their lives working long days and nights, but now, because of my failure, they will get nothing in return… I think of all the money boo has burned through,” he wrote before, in a moment of clarity, grasping the actual point, “Not my money, I remind myself with a wave of guilt and shame.”

For Clay Shirky, the web’s transition to dot-com was inevitable, and disastrous. In Digital Hustlers, a collection of interviews with members of Silicon Alley, he comments on the loss of the web’s avant-garde corner as a wave of website startups transformed it into something something decidedly more commercial. “But [the web] was a weird place. It was our version of [Warhol’s] Factory. And when it closed, and when Word closed, and a lot of these places closed that had been stringing along—’Well, it’s the Internet, so it’s got to be profitable some day’—that to me was the end of an era.”

Stephan Paternot, co-founder of theGlobe, put it in a different way when it was his turn to publish a mea culpa. “I think the Internet’s own euphoria and hype became its own worst enemy. Our own spark became, in a sense, our own worst enemy. I think now everyone’s paying the consequence in the Internet space for what happens when too much floods in too fast.”

There is no shortage of stories about people’s adventures in the dot-com era. But they all lead to one thing: the end.

In 1999—the year before the crash—there were 380 companies that went public. In 2001, there were 80. Investors began to close their doors, and individual investors watched as their 401ks and portfolios got wiped away. The web, meanwhile, went back underground and widespread commercialization consolidated in the companies that were able to survive the crash—Amazon, eBay, and others.

“The reality was, for the first time ever, the stock market had become a giant game,” Paternot recalls in another section of his memoirs “Like some very serious, very compelling PlayStation game with these huge, real-world stakes.” During the rise of the dot-com companies, people had played the game, trying to get in and make money. But as things began to tumble, they began to play a new game. Try and guess which company would topple next.

To that end,, a site created by Philip Kaplan. Kaplan had bought into the dot-com dream. In the mid-90’s he worked for former MTV vee-jay Adam Curry (who had already made an early mark on the web) at his failed advertising venture, THINK. Venting his frustration of losing all of his promised fortune in the form of devalued stock options, Kaplan set up—”a dot-com deadpool”—for himself and a few friends.

Each month, five companies were picked for the deadpool. Points were awarded for things that tip the scale towards teh companie ultimate collapse, from “general bad news to minor layoffs to all-out corporate slayings.” Players took a ghoulish glee in trying to predict which comany would come next, as one by one started to collapse. was always filled with Schadenfreude-laden reprises

“We all look at these sites and wonder, ‘Well, how do they make money?’ And that’s the point — they don’t,” Kaplan would later say of his motivation. Indeed it felt as if one by one, more and more companies were being taken off the board.

The site offered something else as well. In the wake of the dot-com crash in 2000 and 2001, people lost their jobs, they lost their fortunes, and they lost their sense of direction. became an outlet for frustration and lost dreams. “Employees of troubled Internet companies used the site to vent their anger at their bosses (and their stock losses), whilke Kaplan, using the handle ‘Pud,’ kept up a sarcastic running commentary,” wrote John Cassidy in his recap of the dot-com era.

Even as the web collapsed, people turned to the web to lament and find support. The Internet was originally built to withstand a nuclear apocalypse. Surely it could outlast an economic downturn as well. The web would continue. But the dot-com era was over.