Friday, November 12, 1999
11/12/99 10:26:07 AM
Grey hairs atop dot-coms.
The Financial Times is running a
that ought to prove reassuring to thousands of middle-aged folks
in traditional industries who wake up each day kicking themselves
for missing out on the Internet frenzy. In the super-market of
business-to-business marketplaces -- connecting buyers and
suppliers in particular vertical industries -- $100 billion
turnovers represent the low-hanging fruit. A company that succeeds
in moving procurement in such an industry to the Net stands to
reap a revenue stream north of $1 billion.
The FT's hook for this story is the need for deeply experienced
industry veterans to sell Net procurement into niche industries.
It focuses on Kelly Blanton, the 62-year-old head of Net startup
Epylon, which wants to move $859 billion of government procurement
to its Net marketplace. Blanton left behind a safe civil service
position to run Epylon. FT also touches on startups aiming at the
fruit-and-vegetable trade, farm supplies, print procurement, and
technical supplies for the life sciences. All but the latter
(Chemdex is the company profiled) have brought on veterans with
decades of experience in their target industries. (I met the
Chemdex founders earlier this year, and they're not out of their
like they've added much grey to the executive ranks since then.)
The tricky part of moving such traditional marketplaces to the
Net is finessing the inevitable job loss in the ranks of middlemen
until such time as the Web-based interloper gains critical mass.
As one VC puts it,
Whatever you do, you must not get out of the Trojan horse until
you are inside the walls.
Thursday, November 11, 1999
11/11/99 2:02:12 PM
New trend: fleeing the dot-com.
Today's Wall Street Journal has an insightful
on wired companies doing their darndest to look like
bricks-and-mortar. (Read it here at MSNBC if you don't subscribe to the WSJ.) The
driving force behind the waning attractiveness of the dot-com
moniker is the absolute blizzard of dot-com advertising on
radio and TV. The ads are, often as not, directed more at Wall
Street than at home consumers. Focus groups are beginning to show
that average folks don't remember the companies, don't like the
ads, and resent the everpresent image of the greedy
The WSJ profiles Lucy.com, which sells women's exercise clothing
online, spending its ad budget on catalogs delivered by snail
mail. BigStar entertainment, an online DVD seller, is going even
farther in its quest for faux bricks. BigStar paid a New York
company to plaster its trucks with BigStar signs; the other
company's drivers were trained to answer questions about BigStar
and to hand out coupons. They may actually be delivering pizzas
or office supplies; in fact BigStar does its own deliveries via
UPS. The ploy has proven so successful that BigStar is expanding
its faux fleet to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Dallas.
11/11/99 12:52:34 PM
IETF says "hell no" to wiretapping.
The Internet Engineering Task Force yesterday
whether or not to specify wiretappability in future network protocols.
The vote against doing so was overwhelming but not unanimous. The widely
held view that allowing for taps in the architecture reduces overall security
was perhaps best illustrated by networking security expert Phill Hallam-Baker,
It would be like having the Christian Coalition debating a
protocol for third-trimester abortions.
Wednesday, November 10, 1999
11/10/99 10:43:12 AM
The government's role in intrusion detection.
Tuesday evening I attended a forum
at Stanford sponsored by the Law Department and the ACM:
The government's role in computer surveillance and the
Federal Intrusion Detection Network, FIDNet.
Panelists were Whit Diffie (Sum Microsystems, co-inventor
of public-key crypto), Marc Rotenberg (director of the Electronic
Privacy Information Center),
and Scott Charney (until recently chief prosecutor in the DoJ
computer crimes unit). Moderating was John Markoff, the
NY Times's man in Silicon Valley. The tone was consistently
polite and cordial; no one engaged in games of bait-the-Fed
Diffie engaged the audience with humor. When asked a question
about the liklihood of UKUSA member states swapping Echelon data
to evade domestic proscriptions on eavesdropping on their
own citizens, Diffie became George Smiley from Le Carre's
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He
folded his hands over his belly, leaned back, and roundly
Well that's the thing about secrets, Roddy. You don't know.
Markoff took questions in writing from the audience. I watched him
open mine and smile slightly. He asked the panelists on my behalf:
Do citizens have the right to communicate privately?
- or -
Does the government have the right to know the content of any communication?
Each panelist, please craft a reply of 50 words or fewer.
Each panelist ignored the bit about the 50 words. Here is the essence of their answers.
- Scott Charney: yes, and yes.
- Whit Diffie: citizens have the right to make any effort they wish to keep their conversations private.
- Marc Rotenberg: answered from the Libertarian camp, where he "visits
but doesn't live." Doesn't think governments have rights. The government
has authority to conduct a search, but doesn't have the right to get what they seek. We recognize the government's interests, but the rights go to the people.
11/10/99 10:00:46 AM
Bubbleboy virus breaks a new move.
On Monday someone mailed a
to Network Associates. Its creator
is apparently a heavy-duty Seinfeld fan, because the mostly harmless virus
renames the registered owner of infected computers as
makes other references from this Seinfeld episode. In the usual
post-Melissa way the virus mails itself to your entire Microsoft Outlook
What's new is that you don't have to open an atachment to become infected.
You don't even have to read the message. Simply highlighting its title
in Outlook will infect your machine if you are using its Preview Pane
feature. Bubbleboy uses VBScript in an HTML page; in one variant of the
virus the code is encrypted.
You'll know you've become part of the virus's vector when you see
a black screen with the words The Bubbleboy incident, pictures
and sounds in white letters. Bubbleboy infects computers with Win98, Win2000, and some versions of Win95 that also use Internet Explorer 5.0 and Outlook Express. Win NT is apparently immune.
Enabling Microsoft's highest-security e-mail filter will keep the virus at
bay. A Microsoft spokesman said that anyone who has downloaded the August upgrade to IE 5 already is protected from Bubbleboy.
Here's a soundbyte from a Network Associates spokesman.
This could be the catalyst. While the Melissa virus was hell coming to
dinner, we have reassessed that and know that something bigger, meaner,
and nastier is on its way.
Monday, November 08, 1999
11/8/99 8:40:51 PM
Been to the well.
I'm in the Bay Area on business and spent part of today with the folks at
Pyra. They make
Blogger, the software
behind this Web log. Watch for big things from this little startup.
Also visited Ecast and got
the skinny on their MP3-based, Net-enabled jukeboxes from
Rebecca Eisenberg, the company's new-products marketing skink. At
the moment they're making Siren jukeboxes for placement in bars and
restaurants, but the platform will clearly support interactive games,
movies, etc. Ever wanted to goose a jukebox with your credit card or
beam change to it with your Palm? Soon you'll be able to. And in true
capitalist fashion the Siren system will let you bid large amounts of
money to jump your selection to the front of the queue. Hey, won't
you play another "Somebody done somebody wrong" song -- right now.