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Time and Time Zones - Internet Time

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With the advent of the Internet and e-commerce came the concept of Internet Time, which generally referred to the breakneck speed at which things happened on the Internet, including success, failure, new product development, funding from venture capitalists, initial public offerings (IPOs), and the desire to get rich quick. It refers to the frantic rush many dot.com companies felt, especially during the late 1990s. InformationWeek writer Chris Murphy dubbed Internet Time as "a volatile mix of extraordinary opportunity, irrational exuberance, and blind panic," and explained that Internet Time transformed business into a sporting event where the goal was to finish first before time ran off the clock. Seeming to confirm Einstein's claim that time frames are not absolute, some compared Internet time to dog years, claiming that things like product development cycles unfolded faster on the Internet than in the "real" world. This was attributed to a variety of different factors, including the speed of data transmission and computer processors.

The concept that being the first company to introduce a product or service to the marketplace would guarantee success, even if the introduction were premature due to poor development, was associated with Internet Time. Although some e-companies, including Amazon.com and Yahoo, achieved success by being first, such an action was not a guarantee for success. In the early 2000s, many dot.com companies failed and saw their stock values plummet. Successful executives recognized that a sound business model and flexible, scalable technology also were critical components for staying in business, not just being the first-to-market.

In Technology Review, Andrew Odlyzko, head of mathematics and cryptography research at AT&T Labs in Florham Park, N.J., argued that Internet Time was a myth, and that the Internet's impact on the world, while important, happened according to the same time frames as other inventions and developments throughout history. Odlyzko explained that predictions about how the Internet would quickly revolutionize different aspects of the world and render things like phone companies and classified ads obsolete had yet to occur by the early 2000s. "As a general historical rule, it takes about a decade for even the most compelling new product or service to be widely accepted," he said. "That's still true. Even such attractive technologies as music CDs and cell phones, which many of us now regard as indispensable, took more than 10 years to move from commercial introduction to widespread use. Today we are seeing similar rates of adoption for DVDs, as well as digital cable TV, personal digital assistants and other emerging technologies."

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