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Net Loss Good Buddy? 7 December 2000 Edition
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For several years now we've been told repeatedly that the number of Net users is growing at breakneck pace.

Just a few months ago the wires were abuzz with the news that there were over 200 million people who used the Net regularly -- but now it seems that the wheels might be falling off the Internet trolley.

Latest reports out of the USA indicate that the Net audience is beginning to shrink and that the amount of time people are spending on the Web is also falling.

Readers Say
(updated hourly)

Internet dropoff... - Andrew

Make that "Bill Of Jokes"... - Henk

Internet vs CB radio... - Paul

Have Your Say

Research firm Cyberdialogue claim that some 30 million people in the USA have stopped using the Internet, and the latest Nielsens/NetRatings report shows that "at work" Net users have reduced their browsing time by 20 percent with "at home" users spending 2.3 percent less time online.

So what's going on here? Why are people deserting the Net?

Could it be that the Internet is going to become the CB radio of the early 21st century?

Anyone who can remember the 1970's is surely aware that CB radio was one of the biggest crazes of that decade. Immortalised in movies like Smokey and the Bandit, the popularity of CB radio soared to massive levels -- driven by many of the same things which have made the Internet so popular today.

It was a low-cost form of communications that effectively thumbed its nose at the regulators and allowed people to interact remotely, almost without restriction. In fact, the similarity between Internet chat and CB radio is so strong that many of the former "good buddies" who spent their days chatting endlessly into a microphone are now hunched over keyboards doing the same thing via IRC.

Of course the CB radio craze died out almost as quickly as it had begun when users became disenchanted that the hype no longer matched the reality. They were also lured away by the ready availability of new alternatives such as cellphones, computers, and later on -- the Net itself.

Should we be worried that the Internet might be about to follow this same boom and bust cycle?

I'm not predicting the end of the Internet as such. No matter what happens, the Net will continue -- just as, even today, there are millions of CB radio enthusiasts who can be heard echoing across the ether.

One still can't help but wonder however, whether the arrival of interactive digital TV and other newer technologies might see a continued decline in the popularity of the Internet (and the WWW in particular) as a place to hang out.

Ten-four good buddy?

The AFR Go All Retentive
The Australian Financial Review is an excellent publication which provides some great content in its print edition and used to do the same online.

I say "used to" because they've just made the same mistake that many other online publishers have made before them -- they've decided to try and charge for some of their online content.

Wake up boys!

If Microsoft couldn't squeeze money out of the Net this way via its Slate site and our own AFR equivalent, the NBR, had to admit defeat, what makes you think you can do it?

As I've said many times before, to succeed on the Net you need to understand the three key elements: the medium, the culture and the technology. It seems as if the AFR has only got two out of three and doesn't have a clue about the culture of the Net which says "if I can't get it for free here then I'll just go somewhere else."

By the way -- did you realise that the NBR has quietly started slipping some of its content back online without making a big fuss about it? Maybe the dollars won't flow bit it appears that a penny or two has dropped.

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