The Internet Is As Dead And Boring As You Want It To Be

I have friends who loved music in high school and college, would spend hours going through the bins at the record store, and would hang out all night playing music and talking about music. And some of these friends barely listen to music anymore. They think rock music is "dead and boring". They are right. To them it is.

But not to me. I read music blogs, hang out at the hypemachine and, write about new music, and go see live music as much as I can. Music is as interesting to me now as it ever has been, maybe more exciting now that is so ubiquitous.

That’s the first thing that came to mind when I read Mark Cuban’s assertion that the Internet Is Dead and Boring. It is to him. He doesn’t care about the Internet anymore. That’s fine. He’s moved on to other things that are alive and exciting to him like professional sports, HD video, etc.

The main thing I take objection to in his post is the use of second and third person. Take this paragraph:

Some of you may not want to admit it, but that’s exactly what the net
has become. A utility. It has stopped evolving. Your Internet
experience today is not much different than it was 5 years ago.

If it ended with "my Internet experience today is not much different than it was 5 years ago", I’d be nodding my head in agreement. Clearly Mark’s not using the Internet the way I am.

My delicious toolbar records my most visited web services. Typepad, Google Finance, Techmeme, Delicious, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter,, hypemachine, yottamusic. I did not use one of those services 5 years ago. Not one of them!

The other thing that I think Mark is wrong about is his focus on bandwidth as the essential element for innovation. He says:

The days of the Internet creating explosively exciting ideas are dead.
They are dead until bandwidth throughput to the home reaches far higher
numbers than the vast majority of broadband users get today.

I’ll be the first one to agree that here in the US we are way behind the rest of the world in broadband to the home and our telecom infrastructure policy would be laughable if it wasn’t so critical. But I don’t think innovation on the Internet is driven so much by bandwidth.

Moore’s law continues to work it’s magic and we can do more with less bandwidth than ever before. And software developers continue to build new technologies that deliver better experiences. Look at Adobe’s new "moviestar" version of Flash for an example of what can be done with today’s internet infrastructure.

But even more importantly, the web is primarily a communications platform, not a broadcasting or publishing platform, those are secondary uses. We don’t need vast amounts of bandwidth to communicate. We seem to be doing just fine with new communication services like voip, blogging, social networking, etc. The key to these innovations is not more bandwidth, its thinking about what the internet/web makes possible that is not possible in the offline world.

And the second wave of internet creativity, dubbed web 2.0, is doing just that. And it has made my experience vastly different than it was 5 years ago, 1 year ago, even 6 months ago. Hopefully if you read this blog, you get to share in all of these exciting new developments and aren’t bored either.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Vincent

    Thank you for writing this. Even though, through my own experiences, I’m also suffering from internet-fatigue and want to move on to more personable activities, I agree that there is still much innovation happening and I love this feeling of transparency, which by nature leads to excellence.That is one area, where I think the real world needs to improve. That I can go to places and instantly look up reviews and relevant info when needed, because that is not only good for consumers, it also helps producers as well. I hope they realise this and move out of the dark ages soon.

    1. fredwilson

      internet fatigue is a real issue. i face it all the time. keeping up with everything that is going on is exhausting.but i think internet fatigue is actually a symptom of the fact that the internet is not dead and boring.fred

      1. obscurelyfamous

        Exactly. I think the fact that everything is so overwhelming just points to how exciting things are right now. It’s a mistake to write things off as “same old, same old” because of crowded spaces. We’ve just started to branch into dozens of young markets so it’s the right stage for me-too copycats. Some of the coolest stuff start out as derivative subset features and then evolve.

      2. Tyler Willis

        “no one goes there anymore, it’s to crowded.”I think you’re exactly right Fred, keeping abreast of all the new developments and seeing what’s useful and what’s not is a huge factor in learning about what exactly this invention is (what’s it capable of, what happens if we push it to far, how much does it really affect us). We’ve still got many years until the internet is boring (and let’s face it, it will not be dead from a user standpoint in the near future).

  2. Mark Wallace

    > “the web is primarily a communications platform, not a broadcasting or publishing platform, those are secondary uses”I think you’re saying that the Web is primarily a *two-way* (or many-to-many) communications platform (since broadcasting and publishing are also modes of communication).This is true, but I think the bigger difference here is between synchronous and asychronous modes. The “conversation” that happens across the blogosphere and in comments threads like this one is more like _people publishing to each other_ than it is anything approaching real conversation. In that sense, yes, the Web is starting to get a little stale. Fortunately, as you point out above, there’s huge potential for innovation. There’s still room for Web 2.0 to grow, but the really innovative services over the next five years are going to be the ones that transform it into a live medium, rather than the collection of clever Post-It notes (like this comment) that it is today.

  3. howardlindzon

    substitute ‘Dallas mavericks’ for Internet.he is writing in code to try and motivate that gutless nowitzki

  4. Geoff

    Well said Fred – totally agree!

  5. Geoff

    Just noticed that disqus has improved the layout of the comment posting box. Much better and more intuitive.

  6. Matt Winn

    Fred:Mark’s seemingly frustrated with infrastructure development, and it’s a slog that companies like Teranetics are trying to address. Bears have been surrounding the telecom pen for some time, many with good reason (to the amusement of successful contrarians, of course). Here’s Mark’s notable disclaimer: “Just as a reminder to some, Myspace, Facebook, Youtube, etc are not ‘the Internet’. They are software applications that run on the Internet. Just like MicroSoft Excel is a software application that runs on MicroSoft and Apple operating systems.” I think you and Mark and barking up distinct trees – surely, he wouldn’t say his “application” experience isn’t different today. Broadly, I look at the Internet as digitized information services and there’s SO much room for adoption and innovation. Someday soon small businesses will adopt. Someday soon healthcare will adopt. Someday soon city government will adopt. And entrepreneurs will continuously innovate.I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if a touch of Gartner’s “Trough of Disillusionment” (just after the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” in the Hype Cycle) creeps into Internet discussion, likely surrounding public market exposure. Thankfully, private market investors will take the long view. There’s plenty of excitement ahead.Incidentally, I’m a long-time daily reader glad to finally add my voice in a post re-affirming the Internet’s dynamic status. And thanks, Fred, for lending your regular wisdom.Best,Matt

  7. Nick Mudge

    Well put.

  8. Peter Cranstone

    The other interesting fact is that you don’t pay a dime for anything that you’re currently using on your site. And that’s part of the problem, where’s the “sustainable” value? The only thing I pay for is my bandwidth connection. Everything else is free. Web 2.0 right now is 2 founders, no revenue model, but we’re planning on using advertising. The freemium model is not sustainable – you’ll be luck to convert 3% of the total user base and I would suspect it’s more like 1% (how many people pay for the upgraded version of flickr vs the free version? – I’d be surprised if it’s more than 3,000 people).I think Mark’s right… where’s the real innovation, the magic?

  9. Don Jones

    The web is boring to Mark because new stuff isn’t being spoon-fed to him, which is what his generation expects. The New Internet is more interactive – it requires more action on the part of users to receive the benefits. He wants to be passive, yet the advances are more along the lines of communication, as Fred says. Communication is not passive.

    1. rick gregory

      Ah the generational argument… those old folks just don’t GET it. First, that’s what youth always says and it’s as callow as ever. Age, though, is rarely the important factor people make it out to be – it’s more often stage of life and what’s important to you at the time. Twitter can be a giant waste of time or a valuable resource depending on who you are and how you interact with people. Second, I don’t think there’s that much of an age difference between Mark and Fred…The issue is that Mark is RIGHT for many people – the broad experience of getting news, doing banking, buying things etc isn’t much different that it was five years ago. Those things were fresh and new in 1997… by 2002-2003 they’d pretty much hit their stride and have changed much less since then than they did in the first 5 years of their existence. Also, these were the easy first generation apps – they mimic and extend things that are familiar and that a lot of people adopted easily because they had familiar referents in the physical world. These activities had a huge built-in audience because of that. Buying something from a web site was a natural leap for many people because it is merely an extension of the retail/catalog experience. Reading the paper on the screen isn’t THAT much different that having it hit the doorstep.Now, if you care about social bookmarking, keeping up to date on snippets broadcast by your friends etc. the ‘net is alive. But things like, twitter, etc are much less tied to anything that we’ve experienced before – they are more net native, growing out of the fact that we HAVE the net and that it enables new capabilities that were not possible before. But because these activities ARE new, they don’t have a swath of the population that can make an easy leap from a familiar activity to the new, net based activity. Twitter doesn’t map to anything that we had 10 years ago. Neither does really. This doesn’t mean they’re less (or more) worthwhile, but they ARE adopted more by people who live on the net than by people who use the net as an adjunct to their lives.

  10. Robert Seidman

    …but captivating headlines never, ever grow tiresome. If you read between the lines ( or even read the actual lines) Mark didn’t say that the applications themselves were dead and boring, just the network itself.I’ll note that the most heavily commented posts on AVC this week seemed to involve “blog comments”. ZZZzzzzzzz. I’ll just chalk that up to summer doldrums. : )I loved how I found out about Mark’s post. Not via e-mail, Twitter,or RSS reader. I was watching my favorite sports talk show time-shifted (ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption) and they opened with, “Mark Cuban says the Internet is dead and boring…”I hit pause on the DVR and went to read it.

    1. fredwilson

      what is boring about blog comments Robert? that’s like saying hanging out with your friends playing cards is boring.

  11. Rica

    “Moore’s law continues to work it’s magic..”Really? I bought the machine I am typing this on from Dell 2.5 years ago for $600. The EXACT same machine is $600 right now. Not a penny difference & no more power/ram/bells/whistles. Either I’m crazy or Moore’s Law is permanently stalled for the consumer. Anyone notice anything different?

  12. gzino

    The initial exponential part of the curve of growth/apps/usage may be over and things a bit flat right now (relatively speaking). But the curve will go exponential again – not the Internet itself – but what the Internet enables. What does the US look like when residential broadband goes from 50% to 75%; 50% get broadband on their mobile device (“phones” using today’s language although not likely tomorrow’s), 50% of consumer electronics are online, several states like Vermont become e-states with 100% coverage, and laggards like education, healthcare and government catch up?

  13. simon

    ahh thanks for the linkup on the plugin ..

  14. fewquid

    IMO, Cuban is just blog-baiting. You’d be a fool to assert that the internet is dead, and he doesn’t have a history of being that dumb. Communication is where it’s at. Internet fatigue is real, but it’s just a subset of the overall problem of data superabundance and the hyper-collaborative nature of what most of us do these days. Plenty more innovation to come…

  15. Carl Rahn Griffith

    each to his or her own, i guess, but the ever-changing (and ever-accelerating) face of the internet is fascinating.who’d have thought a few months ago that what was then perceived as a somewhat elite and insular/snobbish version(ish) of myspace (ie, facebook) would become an open-apps-like SOA pioneering-platform? it’s implications/example in a business context (potentially) are fascinating.similarly, and as being discussed here elsewhere this week, re: twitter – initially i thought it was an amusing but somewhat pointless little messaging service – then ‘i got it’ and have become somewhat addicated to it as a means of efficient and targeted communication in real-time – for fun and business alike. same goes for flickr.the internet has only just started, in my opinion – it’s far from dead – it’s only just been born …

  16. Joe Duck

    Thanks for adding to an excellent debate about where it’s all going. I think Marc’s pissed because he’s a high bandwidth guy and is correct to note that the internet remains a “crappy bandwidth” medium, still geared more to info driven people rather than entertainment driven people (the latter group is far, far larger). But you are *more right* to suggest that bandwidth is not the key thing – take MySpace’s popularity for example – and the important transition from early web to social web is moving right along.

  17. Carl Rahn Griffith

    reading the article once again – i realise (sorry) that the emphasis is on bandwidth issues and not the apps-layer inhibiting the internet and rendering it dead/boring.ok, fine – but, is bandwidth really the issue inhibiting (sic) the internet?surely it’s about quality, not volume?! i’d prefer a salient bit of brief info via a 9600bd dial up rather than masses of cr*p and verbage at in point, twitter – if i could primarily communicate with friends, family and colleagues through a future twitter version i’d be more than delighted. generally, i don’t want/need immense bandwidth – we are but mere humans after all – so, the internet should deliver stuff to our desktop or handheld device at the speed of light – so what? how do we assimilate it all?the new internet is all about filtering, quality – niches. correlation. not volume.’the long tail’ is a good place to start …

  18. compassioninpolitics

    I’m am going to take the position closer to Cuban. I think folks need to wake up to three basic factors. First, we need better community interaction. Less than 1% of Facebook communities are actually communities. And probably only 5-7% of readers leave comments. Is our notion of what a community is just returned to information transfer? When Meetup looks 10x better by comparison in terms of community, perhaps we should re-think how much community is actually going on via web 2.0. Collaboration with Campfire is very collaborate and community oriented, but is probably only representative of 5% or less of what web 2.0 looks like. In line with the launch of WordPress beta on monday….i think a great wordpress app for the basic setup (ie you don’t have to plug in html code) would be something that allowed the blogger to leave questions for readers and the readers to leave questions for the blogger) sure an open meme could do it. But abscent this, the blog is still very much directed by the blog owner–not the readers. Just the same way of the old media newspaper conglomerates.Second, we need better filters. Mahalo may be a step in the right direction (at least it seems better than Digg in some respects–or do we really love random that much)Third, I think lowering the bar for folks that aren’t computer savvy, such that the revolution is genuinely democratic. Less code and more options would be huge.Fourth, web video that could stream on machines that are 3 years old. It exists, I think that more could be done and I think that web designers and web masters could be more sensitive to the needs of 1/3 to 1/2 of users. This is a fundamental issue of web democracy and equality. Its also a question of capitalism–you kill your customer base by not being sensitive to their digital needs. Its like handing them a copy of your info for window media player and all they have is quicktime. It sucks in terms of web usability. I don’t care how slick your interface looks or what a great $5,000 video you have, if I can’t freaking stream it smoothly. Folks talk about eco-racism. Failure to deal with this issue of usability is similarly morally suspect, because it leaves those very communities behind from the digital information revolution.Thanks for reading. If you want to read more…you know what to do…

  19. Andrew

    The music analogy is very apt. Or perhaps it just worked for me, considering how much more music I’m able to listen to on the web.

  20. Dean Collins…Mark Cuban is wrong (….again)So I’ve been on holidays for a few days and was just catching up on my reading ( is my rss reader -works great)I came across a post on Mark Cuban’s blog from last week…Dude…what are you doing? Are you crazy we haven’t even scratched the surface of what a permanent omnipresent network can do for our lives.Yeh sure it’s easy to point to the web and say ‘whats new’ (and I totally agree about your comments on web 2.0 – it’s just a change of fonts and some java & ror programming tricks) but saying that this is it ‘as far as you personally can see’ is like saying once Rome settled on a standardised road format that all roads here and ever after will be more or less the same (and yes I think even the Italians will agree that some other countries evolved on the original concept and produced something even better).I know for a fact that once the internet evolves from a person to machine transaction platform to a machine to machine fabric we will be able to implement far more radical applications into our lives.It may not seem like a big difference but think of it like going from Atomic Fusion to Atomic Fission. Pretty much the same thing but with radically different outcomes and even bigger ramifications to the wider world (global warming, world peace, less reliance on middle east oil etc).We here at are working on some amazing web application concepts that hopefully will change your mind about what the internet ‘will finally evolve into’.Mark I know you have to make ‘wide sweeping statements’ to get peoples attention but you need to choose your targets more widely.Cheers,Dean

    1. MEEP

      “I know for a fact that once the internet evolves from a person to machine transaction platform to a machine to machine fabric we will be able to implement far more radical applications into our lives.”What does this actually mean? I’ve been hearing of talk of ‘computers talking to computers’ for 5 years now & no one seems to know what that means. What would 2 computers talk about? Or don’t computers already talk to computers to form a (get this) ‘network’.Every time I hear this I just don’t understand. Someone enlighten me as I seem to be a little confused.

  21. J

    Cuban’s assertion that the “internet is dead and boring” is just one more provocatively vacuous statement from Mr. Obnoxious. Doesn’t even deserve your thoughtful response.

  22. Lloyd Fassett

    I think Cuban is just full of vitriol. The net is just starting to change long established businesses, like Real Estate. The early stuff was just ‘pure internet’, like Yahoo and GeoCities. The long established businesses is where the real money is at.But, come to think of it, I still use Windows and Outlook like I did 5 years ago. What if Fred played Cuban’s role and was getting impatient wtih a portfolio company? Change comes in fits and starts. Cuban is selling the Internet on a down beat and putting money into overvalued sports franchises.