Mark Stahlman Gets Real
Wednesday, December 7, 1994 by Dave Winer.
Mark Stahlman of New Media Associates, firstname.lastname@example.org, is an inspirational person!
I love chatting with Mark on the phone and at industry conferences. He's always up for a prank (Mark and I stole the stage from Stewart at the closing dinner at Agenda 95), and is a genuinely funny, opinionated and smart guy, and as you can see in the following piece Mark is very quotable.
Here's the *real* Mark Stahlman!
Let's have some fun!
As the guy who may have started the "Internet's not all it's cracked up to be" press with my quote in the New York Times about how the Internet "is the latest fad", let me try to spin this thread a little more (said the spider to the...).
As has been pointed out, X.25 was an unqualified commercial success, even though many folks, such as AT&T, could never figure out how to build a profitable VAN.
And, so far, the Internet is an unqualified commercial flop (despite some newly wealthy ISPs). Furthermore, since no one has yet figured out how to commercialize activities like *com-priv* (which remain the heart of the Internet as a culture), the future of commercialization of the net itself doesn't look great. And, why should it?
We, netizens, have been duped. Who says the Internet has to succeed commercially? Just because Al Gore (remember him?) says we need an NII and alot of folks felt good about being on a big-deal bandwagon doesn't make any of the hoopla right (i.e. correct or righteous). In fact, judging from whence these ideas have come, current notions of a "successful" Internet should be severely distrusted.
The shift from "subsidized" to "commercial" operation of the Internet's plumbing has been going on for a long time and will simply take its course. Expecting internetworking bandwidth to become so expensive that it will kill all this idle chatter (oops, culture) is paranoid and unrealistic. Expecting it to become a hugely profitable business also flies in the face of the increasingly commodity character of leased lines and packet engines.
But trying to accommodate mass-market videophones with TCP/IP is just silly. Circuit switched ISDN based vidphones (i.e. non-Internet) will become very widespread long before ATM becomes a widely deployed network reality. The *Internet* cannot and should not be expected to do everything (or even most things).
Except, of course, save the planet. Come on friends! The Internet is a research network. It's design is best suited for the purpose it's designers intended. Research. We are all participating in the experiment of inventing Cyberspace. There's a plausible arguement to be made that after 3000 years of death and destruction, Realspace problems can only be "solved" from the perspective of Cyberspace. Get with the program. Do some research.
Invent some new media. Read McLuhan about "broadcasting consciousness." Do some "future sociology." Figure out what Toffler meant by the "psycho-sphere." Start a conspiracy. Join DigitaLiberty. Get Real. Get Webbed (said the spider to the...).
PS: ISP stands for Internet Service Provider. Mark is right, some ISPs are getting rich. But there are still big opportunities in this area. VCs: contact me for details (I don't want to start this business, but I need a good one here in the valley, and would be happy to pay for the service). I think there's a Compaq-style opportunity here.
PPS: VC stands for Venture Capitalist, a professional money raiser and manager who invests in highly speculative businesses in the hope of reaping huge profits.
PPPS: NII stands for National Information Infrastructure.
PPPPS: I think that there's a big opportunity for a killer app in the Internet space, and the kind of relationship that Lotus had with Compaq in the early days of the PC boom (see the first PS). Remember how 1-2-3 could display a graph on a Compaq and not on an IBM PC? Very clever!