Some people still can't tell the difference between running a business on the Internet, and being in the Internet business.

One example comes from a story last week at, entitled "Technology Stocks Soared in 2009":

Meanwhile, some Internet companies offered the companies they serve ways to save money, Jacob says., for instance, sells companies access to Internet-based business systems that are, in many cases, less costly than packaged business software, Jacob says.

But all's not coming up roses in Internet Land. Both and fell in 2009, a big disappointment for investors who chose the right theme but the wrong stocks.

No, I'm sorry, having ".com" at the end of the company name does not make for a "theme." This idea is just silly. is selling lower capital cost, faster deployment, superior scalability (up or down) of capacity, and improved competitive focus of IT teams to people who are running a business that can benefit from those things. is selling flowers. In a down economy, people need business process improvement a whole lot more than they need a bouquet—although some businesses might be in need of funeral wreaths.

It's really inexcusable, nearly a decade into the 21st century, to be confusing the use of the Internet as a business platform, on the one hand, with the business of making the Internet itself into a platform for doing business better. I remember Bill Gates being quoted, once, as saying "adding 'on the Internet' to a dumb idea doesn't turn it into a better idea." I'm unable to track down that quote, and would welcome an authoritative attribution—but regardless of the source, the point is worth making.

In exactly the same way, adding "on the Internet" doesn't turn awkward, complex, overly costly application development into something intrinsically better. Doing IT the way you've always done it, but on systems at the other end of an Internet wire (and perhaps on systems that only pretend to be there), is still doing development in a way that costs too much and takes too long to deliver a poor approximation to what the user really wanted.

Incremental evolution is over-rated. Every generation, as Thomas Jefferson said, needs a new revolution. Years that begin in zero are arbitrary milestones to declare a generational divide—but I'll use any excuse I can find to argue that the time for a revolution in development is right…now.

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