What dot-com disaster?

Pink-slip parties. Disappearing stock-option fortunes. Auctions of used office furniture and barely used servers. Tales of dot-com wreckage are rife in Silicon Valley and Alley. But does America feel the pain?

Apparently not. More than half of those questioned in a recent poll applaud the closure of Net companies as a good thing, saying that there are too many Web sites and that most of them are pretty lousy anyway. It's not just a case of people gloating about the humbling of twentysomething CEOs with vacation homes in Aspen: More than two-thirds of the respondents say they hadn't even bothered to closely follow the dot-com devastation, and one out of three say they don't know anything about the cratering of the Internet Economy.

So much for the idea that the public at large was captivated by the Web and all its possibilities.

The study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project serves up a heaping dose of reality for those who were wearing new-economy blinders. Its results are based on telephone surveys of 2,096 adults in February, 1,198 of whom have Internet access.

Pew estimates that only one in six Americans have been touched by the deflation of the dot-com bubble - either knowing someone who was laid off, missing a favorite site or losing money invested in the Net.

Just 7 percent of respondents say they've lost money on a dot-com-related investment, while only 8 percent were found to have lost one of their favorite sites because of the dot-com downturn.

And though the Standard's Layoff Tracker has tallied nearly 65,000 lost jobs among Internet-related businesses, merely 9 percent of those surveyed by Pew know someone let go from an Internet Economy position.

Even among the 67 percent who said they were at least a little familiar with the Net's financial troubles, most don't think the Internet shakeout is a big deal. Only one-fourth of survey respondents say they feel the Net economy downturn will have a major impact on the national economy.

Indeed, another survey, released last week by Gallup Poll, also indicates that Americans are less panicked about the markets than the headlines might suggest. About 57 percent of those questioned say the Dow's drop below 10000 was "no big deal." More than half say it won't affect their family's financial position at all. So as most new-economy employees whimper and worry about their future, the hardest fact to accept may be that most Americans just don't care.

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