"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 6 August 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Faster, Pussycat! Click! Click!



The web's open-admission policy

would seem to exclude only

Grouchovian snobs who wouldn't

belong to any club that would

have them as a member. Yet

exclusivity of a subtler sort

has marked the medium from Day

One - namely, that you have to

have a computer. Subtler still

is the open secret that a mere

phone-line modem is just too

narrow a tube to browse through.

Only a much faster, much

costlier connection will let you

see what's really happening.

Elitist? You betcha.



If you're reading this you

probably like it that way. That

you're online and most other

people aren't gives you a little

ego charge - you've accomplished

something, you're early into the

club, you know the deal on this

most novel of cultural toys.

Admit it, hipster: you've got a

vested interest in this medium's

inaccessibility to the masses.



Enjoy it while you can. The

velvet rope of bandwidth is

coming down soon, courtesy of a

communications network near you.

Cable modem trials are really

happening, with real people in

painfully real places like

Elmira, NY; the Newsweeks of the

world have been throat-ramming

the Internet message over the

past two years, and so the

trials are meeting with

unexpectedly enthusiastic

demand. Meanwhile, ADSL, a

late-1980s technology for

shooting megabits-per-second

down regular, already-installed

phone lines is being revisited

by many a telco as a cheap and

possibly very quick way to serve

a hi-bandwidth diet to the



[Cable MODEMS]

See, crappy content isn't what's

prevented the web from catching

on more widely (Lord knows it

hasn't stopped TV). Nor is

simple technophobia to blame.

Joe 386-pack merely expects

infotainment products to work

easily and efficiently. He'll

get caught in the web just as

soon as he no longer has to wait

a commercial-break length of

time for every damn download.


Yes, this is all still a fat-pipe

dream. But the market is simply

too big for something not to

happen. Let's talk $20-40/month

for unlimited high-speed net

(rates that some of the major

telecable guys are kicking

around) and a 5% consumer take

rate in the first year. That's 5

million homes, $1.2 to $2.4

billion a year. In the first

year. That "b" sound sure pricks

up net.mogul ears.


What's news here besides the

swaggery stock-analyst chitchat

is that the very character of

the web, its self-image, is at

stake. Apart from the content

that fills its files lurks an

idea, user-fantasized and

media-propagated, of what the

web represents: smart,

self-consciously hip, young,

rich, edgy, rebellious,

libertarian people. People not

unlike, give or take a couple of

those adjectives, you and me.

Only thus could an


pop-cult-obsessed, esoteric

squib like Suck earn its

relatively high hit counts. But

the teensy graphics and HTML

text? So 28.8.


[Teen sex]

Get ready, instead, for a new,

wholesome, All-American

iconography to hit the web:

bicycles, wagons, flags,

baseball bats, traffic signs,

farm animals. They'll come in

sensible colors, easy-to-read

fonts, and standard spellings.

Think hometown newspapers.

Better still, think America's

Hometown Newspaper.


[USA Today]

USA Today's an undeniable hit in print;

big, bland, uncomplicated, and

dumb, it gives the people what

they want. This success may be

the best evidence that its

website portends the electronic

future. USAT will serve us the

vanilla we (OK, maybe not you,

hipster) crave in whatever

medium we choose. Thus is USAT

Online everything the web

supposedly isn't: No envelope

edges are pushed, no reporting

made way new, no paradigm

redefined. The mediocrity is the




Whither web elitism? Same place

elitism always ends up - behind

closed doors. No reason some

webpresario won't be able to con

a few thousand kids out of $10

monthly memberships to his

floating-URL invite-only party

site, what with its fresh music

mix (via cable modem, remember),

celeb "appearances," and

meth-dealer SkyPage numbers

indexed by zip code. Or look for

eugenic dating services sites to

which non-college grads need not



Further prediction: Five minutes.

That's how long it will take

Case & Co. to co-opt this

grassroots snobbery into a cash

cow: AOL Gold. Imagine

privileged "seating" at the

Robert Fulghum Kindergarten

Forum, where Robert'll answer

your question about how to tell

right from wrong. Picture Motley

Fool Max (tm), with a net-worth

minimum set de facto by the

steep price of admission - who

wouldn't trust these stock-tip

bulletin boards just a bit more,

knowing they came from a better

class of surfer?



But by then you'll be gone. You

and the rest of the

computer-terminally hip will be

looking for greener, less-grazed

pastures, muttering that old

clubland refrain: "The web's so

crowded, no one goes there


courtesy of Johnny Cache