F'd Companies: Spectacular Dot-com Flameouts Hardcover – April 2, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
- ASIN : 0743228626
- Publisher : Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (April 2, 2002)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 208 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780743228626
- ISBN-13 : 978-0743228626
- Item Weight : 10.5 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.3 x 0.8 x 7.52 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,364,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The book is of some historical interest because it looks at failure, which is something that isn’t often looked at. There are dozens of books about Apple, Google, Microsoft, Ebay, Amazon and co but few books look at the many, many failures that looked almost as likely at one point. The book is also funny, at least for a while, but the sort of thing that makes a funny blog post (which this book actually predates really – blogs took off after) isn’t what makes a funny book. It gets a bit tiring. But there are still some laughs. For anyone who was around at the time it will bring back some memories.
But reading the book in 2016 makes you realise that a number of the ideas were just before their time. On demand internet video, now known as Youtube, is there. Also a company called ‘myspace’ in their first incarnation as an online storage site. There are also other online storage sites like Dropbox that went insolvent. Hosting companies are also numerous. Also mocked is six-degrees, which was about the first social networking site, long before Facebook. Also mocked are various sites for making internet sites mobile friendly, admittedly over WAP which never took off. Still, an idea before it’s time that doesn’t make any money is a bad idea. It’s also worth noting how many failed companies Amazon was involved in.
If you’d been really smart and looked at the book in 2002 and thought about how increasing broadband and internet adoption was coming and what would work once there was three or four times as many people on the internet as there was in 2000 you could also have founded Youtube or Facebook. Who knows, perhaps some of these companies were founded by people who’d read the book and thought about what would work in the future. This is overly simplistic, there is a lot of skill in making things like that scale but it does show that ideas that do eventually work have often failed before.
There’s something in this book for people who remember the first dot-com boom and people who listen to ‘The Internet History Podcast’ but want to remember some of the many companies who didn’t make it. They style is pretty terrible but the content is there. It’s also worth noting that Pud went on to found some successful companies, so the book isn’t about total disillusionment with the internet, it just shows that there money was too easy to come by and ideas that were half baked got funded like never before and never since.
A few excerpts:
On Digiscents, which spend $20M on a device to plug into your computer to produce "smells" relevant to the content viewed:
"Besides, potential customers weren't too keen on having a bunch of nasty-smelling chemicals pumped up their noses."
Or "Flooz", the infamous Internet "alternate currency", which flushed over $50M in a couple of years, but also attracted thieves in Russia and the Philippines who used stolen credit cards to rack up over $300K in Flooz dollars.
And eHobbies, the failed online Hobby Shop, which claimed bird-watching a $34B industry - four-times larger than movie-going. When these figures were challenged in a story by The Wall Street Journal, a spokesperson explained the figures included things like "binoculars, hats, sunglasses, cameras, and bird-houses, and expenses incurred on bird watching trips, such as gas, hotels, the cost of renting a tent ... sales of log cabins, boats and trunks."
I would have liked to have seen a bit more of the tales told by employees of the "F'd Companies", which make up such an important part of the website. And after a while, Pud's rants and profanity become tiresome - better taken in smaller, daily website-sized bites than in an entire book. Yet I still found the book amusing and addictive, and Kaplan's self-modesty a refreshing contrast to the arrogant and elitist attitudes of the executives and investors of whom he writes. Above all else, Kaplan captures the silliness and self-importance of the dot.com hype in a style that is unique to the Internet counter-culture. While certainly not a literary triumph, "F'd Companies" is an important reflection on this bizarre period of US business, and as such will outlast most of the dot.coms that were founded during these years.
Top reviews from other countries
It was a bit like snacking on junk food all day, by the evening you have a desire for a decent meal or in the case of this book an overwhelming urge for more information.
Nonetheless an amusing read.
Anyone hoping for some actual history of these companies, or of the investor madness that spawned them, is better off looking elsewhere.