By Leigh Howe

Around 1996, we all watched as Internet companies and “dot-coms” began to shake things up.  Amazon changed the game of selling books and music, while Expedia and a few others took out the travel agents.  Online players were basically selling commodities–items that the customer has to touch, see, and experience. 

Then came 2000 and the bottom dropped out.  Many of the dot-com companies went belly up. Everyone stopped talking about the disruptive power of ebusiness and simply went about business. The surviving companies got their houses in order (with nearly 60% of the remaining public Internet companies showing a profit, according to Business Week). Meanwhile, the technologies that allow business transactions to happen on the Internet became more stable, more usable and more affordable. Broadband access is now widely available. People also got more comfortable with doing business on the web and have begun to expect a web presence from every entity.  Today, we wonder about the legitimacy and longevity of a company if they are NOT on the web.

Now, ebusiness and the Internet are back in the spotlight and there is a buzz about several industries currently being revolutionized.  However, this time around the players are more sophisticated and are selling more complex items.  Now the focus is on cutting long supply chains (i.e., cutting out the middleman), changing the selling/buying process, or packaging a bundle of products and services for the customer.

The industries that are changing their business models via the web include jewelry, bill payment, telecom, hotels, real estate, and software.  You can tour a house or property virtually.  You can name your price on a hotel room.  Here at Whittaker Associates, we are currently looking into using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol – a technology for transmitting ordinary telephone calls over the Internet). And I can testify to the ease and convenience of online bill payment.  Think about these six industries and how the business process is different today than it was only a year or two ago.  How are they impacting your life?  How are they impacting your community?

So what does all this mean?  The Internet will continue to have sweeping impacts on certain industries and on the economy as a whole.  The resurgence of ebusiness will drive another round of productivity gains as more industries are transformed.  So hold on to your seats: it could be a wild ride!