Clifford Stoll's curmudgeonly 'Why the Internet Will Fail' essay, 1995

Clifford Stoll.


Clifford Stoll.

In 1995, astronomer, amateur hacker tracker and Klein-bottle maker Clifford Stoll wrote an essay (and a book, too, but I haven't read that) explaining why this Internet thing will never work. His main argument seems to be, "Hardware and software will all top out in the mid-90s and, thus, the Internet will never ever get any more user friendly or portable. Also, it is different and scary." Hilarity ensues.

The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works ...

What the Internet hucksters won't tell you is that the Internet is one big ocean of unedited data, without any pretense of completeness. Lacking editors, reviewers or critics, the Internet has become a wasteland of unfiltered data. You don't know what to ignore and what's worth reading. Logged onto the World Wide Web, I hunt for the date of the Battle of Trafalgar. Hundreds of files show up, and it takes 15 minutes to unravel them—one's a biography written by an eighth grader, the second is a computer game that doesn't work and the third is an image of a London monument. None answers my question, and my search is periodically interrupted by messages like, "Too many connections, try again later." ....

Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet-which there isn't-the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.

Why the Internet Will Fail, essay reprinted from Newsweek

Via Unlikely Words