In Praise of the Internet

Here's a piece of gallows humor for you (albeit true): My accountant was over today to finish up my 2000 taxes (as usual, I take every extension possible) and he handed me an "Important Notice" from the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. Due to the terrorist attacks on Sept 11th, the New York State is providing some additional tax extensions for companies affected by the tragedy. But in bold type it also states: "Furthermore, the perpetrators of the attacks and anyone aiding in the attacks will not qualify for the relief provided by the extended deadlines."

In other words, no tax extensions for terrorists.

Personally, I think that if you are convicted of the terrorist attacks on the 9/11, the last thing you need to worry about is a tax penalty for filing late.

One thing that we forget in all our talk about the Internet's burst bubble is the reason it was created in the first place: for situations exactly like what we are going through. The Internet was developed by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), an organization controlled by the Defense Department. The Internet was invented to allow us to communicate with each other even if major communication hubs are knocked out of commission. Of course, it was only supposed to be linking up major Universities and the government. No one imagined we would also be receiving our mail, shopping, listening to the radio, watching TV, or just plain chatting, all from the comfort and safety of our homes.



The terrorist attack knocked out reception of my favorite radio station from my car, but not from my computer. I couldn't phone anyone for days, but I could email them. TV stations went down but the FeedRoom stayed up. Markets were closed, but CBSMarketwatch still reported the news. A major communication hub was knocked out of commission, but the Internet worked exactly like it was supposed to do: the first real world test of its stated goal and core functionality. Because of the overheated energy of the last few years, we can now carry on, even in an emergency. Maybe those billions and trillions in lost wealth were not lost in vain after all. We may find the indispensability of the Web soon becomes something more than a marketing pitch.

My email may contain viruses but not anthrax. I can window shop in my 3D shopping Mall without the fear of bomb scares. For all the Internet's hype both coming up and going down, this fact remains: in a few short years we have all built something that makes life possible. The infrastructure for an entire economy is now in place, online. And as the days go forward, and people start spending more and more time at home, we might find ourselves thanking whatever god or luck we believe in for making us all temporarily insane enough to have built this thing in the first place and in so short a time. Even WebVan is starting to look like a good idea again. In fact, every hair-brained scheme of the Internet is starting to sound better and better to me. suddenly sounds like a brilliant idea.

In fact, we may soon all find great comfort in a when home and family are the new hot in-spots. Remember that guy who lived in his apartment all year only buying stuff on the Internet? It is no longer inconceivable that we could all be living that particular fantasy before long.

I find great solace in the knowledge that the world is attached to my keyboard. If my phone, TV, mail, and radio go away tomorrow, I could survive. Because this is the very stuff that the Internet was designed to do: to keep on going when the rest of the world has gone crazy. To provide normalcy when normal is hard to remember.

So here's to the Internet and every man jack of us who helped make it the wonderful, dysfunctional, living organism it is. Oh, what the heck. I think I'm going out and kiss a router tonight.

-- Bill McCloskey is Founder and CEO of Emerging Interest, an organization dedicated to educating the Internet advertising and marketing industry about rich media and other emerging technologies.

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