1995 Newsweek Article Completely Wrong on Its Predictions About the Internet

Clifford Stoll, author of “Silicon Snake Oil–Second Thoughts on the Information Highway” wrote an article published in Newsweek in which he makes a lot of predictions about the internet that are completely wrong.  It’s funny now to read about the things he said would never happen on the internet, but which have happened in a big way.  For example, he said few people would ever use the internet for shopping, telecommuting, multimedia classrooms, virtual communities,  interactive libraries,  Mr. Stoll said the visionaires incorrectly predicted that:

“Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. . . . Baloney.  Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? . . . . Try reading a book on disc. . . .  And you can’t tote that laptop to the beach.  Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet.  Uh, sure.”

To be fair, he was not alone in his predictions that the internet would never amount to much.  In the early 1990s I ran a four phone line bulletin board system (BBS) that was an early version of the internet, but limited by direct computer modem to computer modem phone line connections.  I remember going to a national convention of BBS sysops in the early 1990s where I attended a session at which a panel of speakers in the know told the audience not to waste time with the internet, but to keep investing in BBSs.  That session probably delayed my movement to the internet a few years.



  1. The Internet will never catch on, Newsweek circa 1995 | Automatic Self Funding Internet Business March 4, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    […] 1995 Newsweek Article Completely Wrong on Its Predictions About the Internet | KEYTLaw […]

  2. Mark Pack March 5, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Nice story about the BBS pundit. I can’t quite match that, though I do remember the earnest debates on whether Gopher was the future or not.

    One thing that surprised me about Clifford Stoll’s piece is the degree to which he said “the technology can’t do X, therefore X won’t happen”, rather than “the technology can’t do X, therefore the technology will change”. That’s a point I’ve expanded on over on my blog post on the topic.

  3. Mike September 8, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    What’s so inaccurate about this prediction? Even computer software, DVDs and the like are still mostly sold from old-fashioned shops. Telecommuting is strictly a way by which the work you used to do at the office can now be done by someone in India. And despite the ads about people carrying Kindles to the beach, who wants a book which may last a year or ten, but which surely will become unreadable sooner or later, and which you’re not allowed to hand off to anyone else, let alone a library?

    Clifford Stoll was pretty much on the money, because this isn’t about the technology, but about the epic failure of cultural taboos and customs to allow or adapt to it.

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