Why the Web Won’t Work: A Look Back

20 Feb

While browsing Digg, I came across this fascinating article by Clifford Stoll, published in Newsweek in 1995, about why the Web is simply all hype. While I highly recommend reading the entire (very short) article, here are some key quotes that made me chuckle. It’s amazing what has changed in 15 years. Stoll’s problems with the Internet all underscore how the development of broadband has fundamentally changed how we use the Web. With the technology available back then, no wonder Stoll was frustrated. Too bad he was short-sited — not to mention completely wrong — about the possibilities of online technologies and communities.

  • “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.”
  • “How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on disc. At best, it’s an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can’t tote that laptop to the beach.”
  • “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.”
  • “What’s missing from this electronic wonderland? Human contact.”

3 Responses to “Why the Web Won’t Work: A Look Back”

  1. Andy February 21, 2010 at 9:16 pm #

    Great find! Very funny article – it almost seems like a parody.

    Despite everything that has happened to improve the internet, this Stoll character does hit upon some problems that remain an issue even today. For instance, the lack of human contact is still a complicated issue.

    I also like his point about too many voices: “Every voice is heard. The cacophany more closely resembles citizens band radio, complete with handles, harrasment, and anonymous threats. When most everyone shouts, few listen.”

    I think this is still a problem online – but I guess the lesson here is that we will figure out a solution sometime down the road.

  2. Lisa Jacobs February 24, 2010 at 10:57 pm #

    Love the quote, “…and you can’t tote that laptop to the beach.” How large were laptops in 1995?!

    I totally agree with Andy…the human contact thing is an issue, but all this digital interconnectivity maybe will make us better communicators in real life. Maybe?

  3. Christopher February 26, 2010 at 11:09 pm #

    Oh boy. Where is HE now?
    Great post.

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