imminent demise of the internet predicted
July 19, 2004 2:01 PM   Subscribe

Predicting the Internet's catastrophic collapse: "...CD-ROMs through Federal Express will emerge as the information superhighway. Instead of an Internet brimming with Web pages under construction, too few of us will haunt ghost pages."
posted by reklaw (17 comments total)
That made me smile, thanks. "I hope I'm not being to negative." I miss 1995.
posted by Grod at 2:05 PM on July 19, 2004

A year later Metcalf ate his words, literally. Put the magazine article in a blender with some water, mixed it up and ate it with a spoon. But hey, big daddy gave us Ethernet so give him some props.
posted by m@ at 2:07 PM on July 19, 2004

Metcalfe, eating his words. Still, a nice link... and amusing to think people are still saying a lot of the same things, 8-9 years later.
posted by louie at 2:25 PM on July 19, 2004

Let's not forget Bob's 1999 article stating that the next big thing (is) not in personal computing but in post-PC-plus personal transportation (remarking on the technology that was to become the Segway).
posted by F Mackenzie at 2:29 PM on July 19, 2004

CD-ROMs through Federal Express will emerge as the information superhighway.

He was right about that, at least. NetFlix ships terabytes a day. Granted, its stop-gap until full-motion HD streaming is feasible, but who could have seen "disks through the mail as home entertainment killer app" coming? Remember when the owner of Blockbuster sold it in 1996 because streaming on-demand video was going to kill his business? Blockbuster has never been more successful. The point is at a time when many were selling the hype he wasn't buying, and he gets props from me for that.
posted by ChasFile at 2:29 PM on July 19, 2004

It's instructive to run through and re-examine his argument.

The "money motel" argument ("cash goes in, but it don't come out") and the problem of the proliferating middle-men: He failed to understand that these would constitute reasons for the system to continue, not fail. See, he was expecing people to behave rationally, the silly man...

I don't think he understood how little home-broadband would matter, even though everybody and their dog ignored the need to design for dialup. People just surfed from work. But that's forgiveable; who would have thought that employers would equip everyone's desktop with access to the greatest time-wasting tool since Windows Solitaire?

It's good to have Bob M circa '96 to remind us that the "Standards Battles Will Destroy Civilization As We Know It" meme didn't originate with Dave Winer. My personal feeling, as an apostate web-coder, is that most people grossly underestimate the capability of folks to just get things done in any old way they can -- ergo, standards will be worked-around where they are not helpful, and that's damn near a law of nature.

And his lack of faith in pr0nographers was just astounding. Surely he must have known that they would rise to whatever challenge was presented to them? <deadpan />

Finally, I think we owe him at least the credit of admitting that there have been many times since 1995 when the Net did stagger under the weight of its traffic. Whether it recovered as a triumph of design, or whether the high-load driven failures were a self-limiting phenomenon, I don't know, but again, at the day's end, when it still worked, Metcalf wasn't entirely wrong. He was just a bit too pessimistic. And there's nothing wrong with that if it gets people to listen and plan a little.

Now, all that having been said: Yeh, what the heck is up with him, lately, anyway? He was always good for a provocative (if obscure) statement. Has he "retired" or something? Is he happy up there on the farm?
posted by lodurr at 2:31 PM on July 19, 2004

Doesn't it seem that about once every 6 months or so, that there is an article about projects that handle massive quantities of data using a RAID array and a station wagon?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:34 PM on July 19, 2004

tanenbaum said it, a long, long time ago:

never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of 9-track tapes hurtling down the highway at 60mph

/mmmm, 9-track tapes
posted by dorian at 2:51 PM on July 19, 2004

"Pornography. The Internet traffic carrying arguments about pornography on the Internet will during 1996 swamp the actual pornography, so even the most sophisticated Web search engines will too often fail to find any. What quicker road to collapse?"

Oh, if only!
posted by metaxa at 2:55 PM on July 19, 2004

Oh, far from dead, it will just keep expanding until Skynet and the machines take over. I predict judgement day arrives July 19, 2005. I hope I am not being too negative.
posted by caddis at 2:55 PM on July 19, 2004

When you hear an old guard predicting doom it's a good sign he is predicting his own demise.

At one time LAN networking was king. Novell was everything. The Internet and WANs were interesting but youthful and not significant. Metcalf was the holy Pope his ethernet was at the core of everything important. By 1995 it was becoming clear his role would no longer be the Pope but a Bishop just one part of many. Staring into the abyss he predicted the Internet would fail in one last desperate grasp at immortality.
posted by stbalbach at 3:09 PM on July 19, 2004

The latency of the station wagon is a bitch though...
posted by jeblis at 3:10 PM on July 19, 2004

Oh, far from dead, it will just keep expanding until Skynet and the machines take over. I predict judgement day arrives July 19, 2005.

Or sooner.
posted by homunculus at 3:30 PM on July 19, 2004

NetFlix moves 5,000,000 gigs a day -- that's 5 Peta.

posted by effugas at 3:36 PM on July 19, 2004

Oh man. Bob Metcalf had something posted on slashdot the other day, and I was looking everywhere for this article :P
posted by delmoi at 3:49 PM on July 19, 2004

"He receives E-mail at via the Internet."

People were awfully quaint back then.
posted by MrBadExample at 8:22 PM on July 19, 2004

Am I the only one still getting email through FidoNet?
posted by mmcg at 12:38 AM on July 20, 2004

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