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Wow And Woe:Readers Pick Top Web Events Of 1998

1998 is the year Internet stocks became household names, investor's gleams and shortseller's nightmares. The year began with a whisper for Web stocks on Wall Street. ISDEX stood at 100. The basket of 50 of the most-representative stocks in the new information age were largely ignored by investors, save for strong interest in some of the search engines.

Through December 28 ISDEX had soared as high as 318.90.

Speculation ran rampant. Any firm, gravity bound or not, with a Web site and a press release announcing plans to sell via the Internet suddenly became the tout of the day on CNBC, the 'Entertainment Tonight' of financial journalism. Herds of day traders stampeded to the online brokers to buy, sell and trade stocks they've never even heard of, could barely spell the company name on, in a frenzy to get in and get out before the trapeze act stopped moving.

But that's only 1% of the story. The other 99% has to do with how the Internet continues to change everything your grandfather thought was business. These are the thoughts and events that etched their way into the Web and gray matter everywhere: How in six months an unknown message board about trading stuff as simple as Beanie Babies became the instant billion-dollar baby on Wall Street--eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY).

Or Web-based stock brokers led by Schwab, Ameritrade (NASDAQ:AMTD), E*TRADE (NASDAQ:EGRP) and Datek put the power to trade firmly in the hands of Main Street, fueled by the sort of analysis we and others have been doing for years now directly on the Web itself everyday.

The tale of Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) writing new plot twists in its quest for e-tail monarchy. AOL reining in Netscape for $4.2 billion. Disney plopping down $430 million for 43% of Infoseek (NASDAQ:SEEK).

We could have done a walk through of some of the analysis we did, the play-by-play and futurethink, but there's not a single day in 1998 you can look at in the entire Archives of Internet Stock Report and not be surprised at something new in this ever-evolving industry and the saga playing out daily on Wall Street.

That saga includes the readers and colleagues who have shared with us and we now share with you also. For the one thing that separates the Internet from stock fads, biotech bubbles, and observations from the uninitiated who try and fit the Internet into a box will find in these anecdotes just how diverse and pliant the Internet is as it reshapes entire industries end to end. Read on with these reader picks for top Internet events of 1998:

"For me, the defining moment for the industry was the addition of AOL to the S&P 500. Yes the stock prices are nuts, but that's if you haven't bought them. From a trader's point of view, thanks for my new BOXSTER. I only made one payment. If the addition of AOL isn't enough to convince you of the legitimacy of the E-commerce explosion, stay home for the rest of your life. You are already dead. NEXT!"

"Christmas Shopping - The day after Thanksgiving my husband and I went shopping while at home eating leftover turkey. We made our FIRST Internet purchase on www.Bige.com and the music channel (crosswalk). My husband actually enjoyed shopping with me for the FIRST TIME EVER. He wants to put our Furbies on E-Bay for auction. We are not! My nephews and nieces are going to be so excited to get these. We just bought a computer and we thought it would be hard but not only was it easy but great fun. So fun he has threatened to lock up our computer because he thinks I could get addicted to Cyber-Shopping."

A fan known as Robert The Bruce shared the risk side as the biggest moment...

"BETTER KNOW WHAT YER DOING WHEN YOU FOOL AROUND WITH INTERNET STOCKS. I LOSE BIGGGG TIME! ON BLACK MONDAY NOV 30. DON'T PLAY IF YOU CAN'T PAY"

"The single biggest Internet-related event in 1998 (a trend rather): Skyrocketing valuations of 'Net companies, and the influx of new money into the sector. Definitely, expect major shakeups on a corporate level next year (mergers, takeovers, etc.).

"Saved by Yahoo, when our first grandson was christened, his mother(my daughter) had forgotten a poem she had agreed to read in the church. I found it (in Swedish) on the Web through Yahoo. Stopped the crying and saved the day! That on a personal note. Industrywise: AOL purchase of Netscape. Microsoft off the hook!

"Imagining an Internet stock with a price over $150.00 per share is no revelation. But how about one with Internet revenue equal to AOL, Netscape, Sun and Microsoft combined. That turns out to be IBM, whose e-business revenue is $27 billion. That is 1/3 of Big Blue's Total revenue of $78.5 billion. Now that gave me more than a "moment" to reflect on my Internet investment strategy."

"E-commerce technology, Microsoft's new VB6+SQL7+Active X trashes both Java and Citrix environments for transaction based e-commerce. No more waiting for Java classes to initialize before you can do anything followed by lousy performance. It trashes Citrix too - no nasty print configuration issues to worry about and no more waiting around for screen re-transmission. VB gives you the kind of system interaction you always wanted with no local system re-configuration issues -because it all works inside a browser - MS of course."

"The phenomenal rise of E Bay! With the way E Bay Stock performed as a newcomer to the arena, I think it shows us as well as the "Big Boys" on Wall St. that the Internet is here to stay and opportunities abound.

"Release of Clinton's testimony and its distribution via the Internet. THAT was a big Internet moment in terms of public use of the i-net."

"Retail Breakout, the most influential event(Or Biggest Moments) of the Internet for 1998 is the breakout of online purchasing. This will have greater impact, in all arenas, than any other event. The biggest challenge is now for retailers in Malls etc to bridge the market to facilitate Online/Instore commerce and maintain profit margins."

"Starr Report, on September 11, 1998 a milestone along the timeline of Internet expansion occurred. Access to information is a form of freedom and power. With the release of the Starr Report, the world was given free access to a powerful piece of information at the same moment as world leaders, U.S. President Bill Clinton and Congress. There was no delay, trickle down or censoring involved. The material was merely uploaded and immediately available to the entire world. People were afforded the opportunity to form their own opinions directly rather than be misled by hearsay. Now that's democracy and freedom. Hence, the release of the Starr Report on the Internet was a defining moment in history."

"A Tie! AOL Merging with Netscape & Yahoo being Yahoo! These two events have done more for Microsoft's defense than all the evidence their lawyers have produced. Is there any truth to the rumor that Bill Gates plans to give 95% of his money to charity? Keep up the good work, Steve, you & Mary Meeker, of Morgan Stanley are my faves in this dizzying, Internet explosion, a once in a lifetime type phenomenon. Bravo!"

  • To see the complete list of 1998's biggest moments click here.


    Through December 21, Steve Harmon's top 10 Internet stocks to watch in 1998 were up 350%...for 1999 Steve Harmon's Hot Stock Watch will be available as a monthly e-newsletter. It will feature analysis on the Hot Stocks, with a heads up about new movers who could do some shaking on Wall Street -- interested? put "HotWatch" in subject header and email us now --yes, tell me more about Steve Harmon's HotWatch '99




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