Stories by Sean M. Dugan

Zimmermann's PGP Keeps Data Safe

Not many technologists receive e-mail from their users saying the only thing standing between them and an oppressive government is your technology, but that's exactly the kind of e-mail Phil Zimmermann evokes, thanks to his creation Pretty Good Privacy (PGP). Released in 1991, PGP has been used the world over to encrypt data and keep it safe in places such as Kosovo, Sarajevo, Croatia, and Guatemala. But, Zimmermann is quick to point out, although using PGP to keep the secret police at bay is vitally important, the security provided by PGP is also vital to the life of any enterprise.

Welcome to the Revolution of Napster and DeCSS

Exactly how many lives does Napster Inc. have? The "Napster phenomenon" has graduated from a digital culture story to headline news. Napster avoided its date with the hangman in July by getting the "5-minutes-to-midnight-call from the governor" in the form of an appellate court stay on the injunction that would have effectively shut down the company. The appellate court will soon review the matter and Napster is pleading for its corporate life, while the Recording Industry Association of America Inc. (RIAA) is explaining why Napster must be stopped.

Net Prophet: An Open Letter to a 'King'

Like most people, I've been delightfully appalled by your books -- thanks for the sleepless nights! So imagine my excitement with your forays into Internet entrepreneurship. It's like having the Rolling Stones drop by the office (only with less booze and sex).

Net Prophet: In Search of Relevance

Here it is, the year 2000, and I'm still waiting for the Information Age. "Information" to me implies knowledge and even wisdom. But here I sit, awash in spam, annoying paper clip assistants, and impossibly arcane Web sites. We're all swimming in a sea of data, searching for relevant information. It's no real surprise, then, that we're also entering the Renaissance of the Search Engine.

Net Prophet: Peer-to-Peer Networking

Wait long enough and everything comes back into fashion. With the return of bell-bottoms and platform shoes, are we really surprised to see peer-to-peer networking making a comeback? Peer-to-peer technology isn't new, but how it's applied is. Peer-to-peer is poised to shake up everything from search engines to free speech.

Net Prophet

The elegant simplicity of the hyperlink is genius. But the humble hyperlink is under assault and taking more flak than a philandering chief executive officer.

Net Prophet: Ding-Dong, Dot-Coms Are Dead

What do James Dean, Janis Joplin, Marilyn Monroe, Kurt Cobain, and all have in common? They all died far too young -- all except for Group Ltd., that is. Boo couldn't die fast enough, if you ask me.

Net Prophet

Business-to-business hype hit a decibel level high enough to inflict an earbleed on a 16-year-old Limp Bizkit fan. Then, the bad old stock market threw some cold water on the party. B-to-b poster children, such as Ariba Inc. and Commerce One Inc., are down from their Mount Olympus heights to mere mortal levels. Now, make no mistake: B-to-b potential is huge. B-to-b in general, and digital exchanges specifically, will create a business revolution. It will just be tricky to overcome the obstacles to digital exchange success.

Net Prophet: From Love Bug to Patents

I get asked a lot, "Is it hard to come up with topics to write about every week?" The toughest thing about covering Internet commerce isn't coming up with ideas (plenty of things are always happening in the I-commerce space). The tough part is deciding which ideas to write about (I only get so much space). In a perfect world, I'd write five columns a week, but despite what my boss might hope, I do actually need to sleep once in a while.

Net Prophet

What's the old joke about the two guys facing down a hungry lion? One asks the other, "Can you outrun a lion?" The other replies, "I only have to outrun you."

Net Prophet

Digital exchanges are all about liquidity. With some goods it's tough to connect supply with demand. Whatever roadblocks exist between someone's supply and another's demand go to the heart of the digital exchange. Exchanges create efficient mechanisms for buyers to discover suppliers. The greater the efficiencies, the more liquid or dynamic goods become. This in turn means dynamic pricing, given the vagaries of demand at any given moment.

Net Prophet: Napster's Message

The noise over MP3s and Napster Inc. just got cranked up a notch louder. High-profile bands such as Metallica are filing suit against Napster, alleging racketeering and piracy. Rapper Dr. Dre is threatening to sue and the attorney for Metallica is hinting that more artists are waiting in the wings.

Net Prophet

Over the last few weeks, the Invisible Hand gave the Bull market quite a black eye. The market, especially the tech-heavy Nasdaq, has been wildly seesawing, with a 25 percent plummet in the Nasdaq in a single week. Although this sends shivers down the spine of the tech industry, the Nasdaq is apparently made of rubber; it hit the floor and bounced.

Net Prophet

If college movies have taught me anything, it's that drunken frat boys who run amok must eventually answer to the dean. The tech-industry animal house has been put on notice -- the dean is here and it's time to shape up. Microsoft Corp. may or may not be passe in the Internet age, but you can bet that the emerging movement of business-to-business digital exchanges will eventually have to face government scrutiny.

Net Prophet: What It All Means

If you have to cram yourself into a tiny prop plane for a business trip to a technology conference, there are a lot worse places to go than Palm Springs, California. In March, with temperatures around 90 degrees, I attended the Open Systems Advisor's Crossroads conference, touted as "the intersection of business and technology." It's an oasis in the desert for IT executives to uncover new products and technologies and to meet with their peers (playing golf in a California paradise is just a bonus).