The following text is copyright 2002 by Network World, permission is hearby given for reproduction, as long as attribution is given and this notice is included.


How new a year will it be?


By Scott Bradner


I'm writing this in mid-December due to the network World end of year scheduling so a lot could have happened before this column makes it to print.  The year 2001 was dramatically different than the year 2000 in many Internet-related ways -- the sinking in of the reality of the bursting of a big bubble will do that to you.  But will we see much difference in 2002?


I am not referring particularly to the economic side of the last year or so.  We all have hopes for an upturn soonish.  Or to the aftermath of the events of September 11th -- it still hurts too much to think about that.


What I am referring to is the irrational exuberance over dumb ideas -- both technical and business.  Far too much money was given to companies whose business plans consisted solely of getting additional rounds of funding and far too much attention was given to technologies for which there was no demonstrable need.  A whole pile of companies have run out of runway before getting airborne because they were planning on additional runway magically appearing in front of them or because they figured that just because they could do some marvy thing that someone would want to spend money on it.


While there are still some companies seeing the end of the runway looming many of the ones that have gotten this far may actually get to the point of real revenue. (Remember that concept?)  Maybe not enough revenue, but revenue none the less.


So a few quick predictions.  (Why should you believe my predictions? No particular reason, but I have to be at least as accurate as the pros - who seem to use a constrain-based random number generator, the only constraint being that year n+1 is bigger than year n.  I will admit that they have an unblemished record in their field.)


Here we go: Fewer companies will get funded than should.  Fewer companies will die than should. (VCs will spend too much trying to keep some dumb ideas going.) IP telephony will start to be seen as real, in the enterprise, in spite of the bell-heads that say it does not work. There will not be a govnet. (Some things are too dumb even for the government.) The fear of the DMCA will make Internet security worse. Hackers will figure out how to crack some new FBI wiretapping system. Tech stocks will be only slightly irrationally priced. There will be more pre-owned BMWs on the market. Maybe a few people in authority will start to understand that real Internet security is needed even if it makes government intrusion harder.  Original thinking will continue to be rare -- trying to reproduce old technology using new parts (like recycling telephone features) will continue to be too common.


disclaimer: Historically, not everyone has been happy with the original thinking that comes out of Harvard but if there is any in this article it is mine alone.