Broadband tipped to relight dot-com dreams

Will the full potential of electronic commerce and e-services be realised once most people have upgraded to a high-speed connection?

Many of the failed dot-com ideas could soon get another chance, thanks to broadband.

That's the view of Ian Pearson, futurologist and a director of BT Exact. In a new report on the impact and potential of broadband, Pearson argues that the dot-com boom failed partly because few people had a rapid and reliable way of accessing information via the Internet.

"The dot-com collapses taught us, among other things, that networks are not yet ready for such companies to thrive," said Pearson, in Always on, Changing Britain, published this week by the European Media Forum.

"Many dot-com ideas will rise again and flourish once most people have fast access," Pearson predicted.

In 2000, when the dot-com industry hit trouble, almost all home Internet users -- and many small businesses -- only had a narrowband connection. Four years later, broadband take-up is very buoyant in most countries, but many of the e-commerce companies that sprung up in the 90s have collapsed.

Pearson's argument is illustrated by the example of While corporate hubris played a part in the downfall of the clothing e-retailer, so did technical hurdles. allowed customers to zoom in on different parts of a product and dress mannequins in different outfits, but this technology required a high-speed connection that few of its target customers possessed at home.

While the always-on, high-speed connectivity of broadband should encourage surfers to do much more online, Pearson says that other changes are also needed before Web users will be able to enjoy lightning fast access to data and services across the world. Ideally customers should be able to reach any content within two seconds, Pearson said.

"Improving the performance of net switches, using storage to spread and reduce traffic, and improving server performance will all work together to achieve the 'two second' goal. Only then will we discover if there really is a viable dot-com market," Pearson said.