"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 27 March 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Rough Trade



Quick quiz — B2B is the

greatest thing since:

sliced bread


Wall Street's chattering class

has seized upon

business-to-business networks,

or B2B, as the new new thing,

the raison d'être of the

Internet, the hip way to get

things done today, the latest

means of making a quick buck

flipping stocks. Like the

proverbial undigested pound of

red meat, the B2B concept is now

so firmly lodged in the colon of

the financial markets that most

observers have grown tired of

the whole topic. TheStreet.com

is now solemnly warning its

subscribers not to "write off

B2B as a craze" — proving

once and for all that it is, in

fact, just a craze.


Nevertheless, B2C — the old

business-to-consumer stuff —

is officially played. It's

boring. It's over. It's done.

You want excitement? Get online

and buy some chemical reagents!


The problem with the B2B boom

— besides the fact that the

startups it spawned are losing

money just as fast as the B2C

startups that went before them

— is that it's really just

about letting big corporations

save a few pennies by buying and

selling goods online. So the

drones in the purchasing

department have gone dot-com:

When you consider all of the

Banana Republic turtlenecks and

Manolo shoes they're buying with

their newly hiked-up salaries,

it probably ends up being a




Which brings us to the

inevitable point: Is there

really any difference between

B2C and B2B? Who's a consumer

and who's a business, really?

Isn't this supposed to be the

age when each of us is in

business for him - or

herself? Haven't we all picked

up and emigrated to Free Agent



That may explain why Yahoo, AOL,

and eBay are all redefining

themselves as B2B plays, setting

up "trading exchanges" for the

masses — or at least the

masses of upgraded clerks who

will no longer fill out their

days typing up purchase orders.

Never mind that AOL promised

great things last year in the

B2B space when it bought

Netscape, claiming that it would

sell servers and software to

other companies that wanted to

reach online consumers.

(Uh, not.)


Now AOL has teamed up with

PurchasePro.com, one of the

earliest and most dubious

business-to-business network

builders. (Having built its

business entirely on the back of

former Las Vegas casino mogul

Steve Wynn, it unceremoniously

dumped him when the

bricks-and-mortar oldster became



Yahoo, for its part, signed up a

list of usual suspects to set up

its B2B marketplace; it's using

essentially the same front-end

interface as Yahoo Shopping.

After you pick up a few

chicken-truffle sausages at

Tavolo, why not dump 60 tons of

steel in your virtual shopping




And eBay's turn to B2B is

especially sad, suggesting that

the auction site's management

has so badly misappraised the

gem it has as to place it in an

altogether unfitting setting.

EBay is already a


marketplace, the great exchange

of America's second-hand dreams.

Buyer? Seller? You're already

registered. No, eBay's foray

into B2B seems more about making

a buck on the stock market: Is

it any surprise that eBay

partner TradeOut.com has filed

to go public under the ticker

symbol "TOUT"?


And for Free Agent Nation, it's

a small, small hop from Kinko's

to eBay. While eBay hasn't made

a big push toward auctioning off

professional services (despite

attempts by some sellers), we're

sure that it will blow the

upstarts out of the water once

it does.



The distinctions between

consumers and producers, between

freelancers and employees, are

fading. Everyone's a business

these days, and every

transaction can be redefined as

B2B. What's a salary, really,

except for an installment

purchase plan for labor with

some benefits thrown in? The

most important thing human

resources does for most wage

slaves is outsource tax filing.

And that CD you bought on

Amazon? Clearly a deductible

business expense. If it weren't,

why would your company employ

mail room workers to deliver it

to your door/desk?


So when you hear people talking

about B2B, how it's the next big

thing, remember that they're

really in business for

themselves. The Internet gold

rush has always been about

selling concepts and cashing



The real business network of the

future? B2B? B2C? Nah. It's

B2ME, baby.

courtesy of Jonathan Van Decimeter
picturesTerry Colon

Jonathan Van Decimeter