Metcalfe's Column: Gullible Balkans abandon growing Internet bubble

Here are some Memorial Day tidbits: A correction on gullibility. How to make a hip online donation to the Balkans. Another big reason for electronic-commerce abandonment. Why Internet growth may not be slowing after all. An update on when the Net stock bubble will burst. And a new genre of atom jokes.

Gullible is actually a word

Many readers responded to my March 29 column ( and pointed out that, contrary to my opening, gullible is actually a word.

Some sent tirades on the low quality of Internet vs printed information, after believing what I said about gullible not being in Merriam-Webster's online dictionary or in Microsoft's spelling checker.

These alert readers did not fail my little gullibility test but an inadvertent attention-span test.

For those who are both gullible and lacking the attention span to finish my column, I admitted at the end that gullible is actually a word. And as anyone who checked would have found, and Microsoft know gullible.

Qpass and the Balkans

In my Pay-As-We-Go Internet column series, I extolled the virtues of Qpass (

Now, here's another reason to try Qpass: You can make online donations to UNICEF's relief efforts in the Balkans.

Go to, click on UNICEF, register if you have not, donate, and then see the charge on your Qpass account statement.

E-commerce abandonment

I recently reported that two out of three people abandon their online shopping carts ( This is because people often want to talk with a salesperson before buying.

Many readers responded that they abandon online shopping carts for a different reason. They fill the carts and approach checkout just to see taxes and shipping charges. Merchants, my readers think this is poor online-shopping design.

Slowing Internet growth

Nobody got excited when I reported that there are early signs of an Internet growth slowdown ( The number of hosts reachable through DNS is apparently not that important.

Experts say host counts are increasingly wrong as more are coming onto the Internet behind firewalls and with dynamic addresses unknown to DNS. Counting users and traffic is important, and both continue to more than double annually. Of course, experts tend to be enthusiasts, so let's get a little proof.

Internet stock countdown

Last month, I let slip the exact day on which the Internet stock bubble will burst ( Again, that day will be Monday, November 8, 1999.

Having told this to many people, including well-connected members of the National Venture Capital Association, and having reminded everyone that I know nothing about stocks, I offer more advice: It would be good to sell highly appreciated Internet stocks on Friday, November 5 -- to avoid the Monday rush.

And just between us, since half a million InfoWorld readers know about Friday now, I suggest you sell on Thursday, November 4 -- to avoid the Friday rush.

Bits vs atoms joke genre

To cheer you up after that, here's the first in a new genre of atom jokes.

MIT Professor Nicholas Negroponte has made famous his dichotomy between atoms and bits. Most of you and I are bits people, of course, and watching, you know the trick is to coordinate your atoms and bits. But what you didn't know until now is that bits people are starting to tell, yes, atom jokes.

Like the one about the atom who walks into a bar and asks if anyone has seen his electron. The bartender says no, and asks the atom if he's sure his electron is missing. Yes, says the atom, I'm positive.

Internet pundit Bob Metcalfe invented Ethernet in 1973 and founded 3Com in 1979. Send e-mail to or visit

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