This delightful image from Paul J. Thompson on Flickr shows a bubble bursting in a mudpot at Yellowstone National Park. Here, gases flow up from the ground and percolate through the mud. Like many bubbles, they are intermittent, unpredictable, and quick to burst. The ones at Yellowstone are often caused by hydrogen sulfide; when the bubbles burst, they stink!
I have been to Yellowstone to see these stinking bubbles burst, and I was a part of another bubble burst that stank — the Great Internet Bubble Burst of 2000. My employer, once flush with venture capital, was forced to downsize and I was left without a gig. After that, things leveled out for teh Internets, and I found gainful employment once again.
Ever since folks have been chattering about Web 2.0, there have been murmurs of “here are the makings for yet another burst-bubble situation.” This sentiment has been echoed in a recent article from the NY Times. It explicitly calls out the signs of an impending burst — tons of venture capital, funny company names, and questionable or non-existent business plans. From the article:
“We are almost going back to year 2000 types of errors,” said Aaron Kessler, an Internet analyst at Piper Jaffray. Internet companies “are buying users instead of revenue and profitability,” he said.
Speculation is no new concept, and no one is asking it to cease. The thing that might set this apart from other business analysis situations is the concept of the ghost user. Best described as the registered yet non-participating member of a site/service/community, these users are often curious [as a result of reading an article in the NY Times or WSJ]. A username is selected, password entered, and ghost user is now officially considered another hash mark on the all-important tally of “total registered users.” Of the seven Second Life users I know, I am aware of at least six of them are ghost users, not including myself. I did configure that avatar, after all…