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All information current as of 06:23:59 Pacific Time, Thursday, 17 March 2005.

Dot.Con: How America Lost Its Mind and Money in the Internet Era

   by John Cassidy

    13 May, 2003


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Editorial description(s):
John Cassidy';s Dot.con is the most sweeping and definitive assessment published thus far of the stock market mania that swept this country in the late 1990s. Cassidy, who covers economics and finance for The New Yorker, finds many seeds for the boom: Vannevar Bush';s "memex" machine, the "intellectual forerunner of the World Wide Web"; increasing popularity of 401(k)s and IRAs, which introduced millions of Americans to the equity markets, giving rise to a "stock market culture"; and the attention and hype in the late '80s and early '90s surrounding the "information superhighway" promoted by the likes of Al Gore, Newt Gingrich, and Nicholas Negroponte. When Netscape went public in 1995, the Internet mania began a five-year run that was fueled in part by the media, the policies promoted by Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve, the rise of day trading, and the deluge of IPOs brought to market by firms such as Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch and their analyst cheerleaders Mary Meeker and Henry Blodget. For anyone who got caught up in the mania and foundered in its eventual crash, Dot.con is a bittersweet trip down memory lane that Cassidy captures just perfectly. Highly recommended. --Harry C. Edwards --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly
This book's epigraph, "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" (by Johnny Rotten), perfectly sets the tone for what follows. Cassidy certainly knows he was cheated by the collapse of Internet stocks, and here he sets out to discover who's to blame. His search includes a history of the stock market (starting in ancient Rome) and finds that most buying manias and speculative bubbles were encouraged by unscrupulous financial professionals. He traces the Internet to Vannevar Bush's work during World War II. Its developers "tended to be young men with long greasy hair, thick glasses, and an obsessive interest in science fiction," who were held in contempt by the rest of the world. But Cassidy, an economics writer at the New Yorker, goes beyond these usual suspects of stock brokers and computer geeks. He devotes two chapters to criticizing Alan Greenspan for making "frequent references to the benefits of new technology," among other things. The author indicts many additional public figures, journalists, analysts, authors and businesspeople by name and finds them guilty. Despite the sensational charges, there is little new here. It's hard to believe that anyone will be shocked to learn that most Internet companies and day traders lost money or that venture capitalists, investment bankers and stock analysts made large fees promoting stocks without subjecting the companies in question to critical scrutiny. Cassidy does not even deliver an entertaining rant. Most of the pages are uninspired chronicles of well-known events. Agents, Andrew Wylie and Jeffrey Posternak. (Feb.)Forecast: The large number of people who lost money in Internet stocks will be predisposed to accept this book's premise. The fair-minded ones will want a better analysis; the angry ones will want more dirt or passion.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal
The New Yorker's economics reporter on the bang that went bust.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

The Internet stock bubble wasn't just about goggle-eyed day traderstrying to get rich on the Nasdaq and goateed twenty-five-year-oldsplaying wannabe Bill Gates. It was also about an America that believed it had discovered the secret of eternal prosperity: it said something about all of us, and what we thought about ourselves, as the twenty-first century dawned. John Cassidy's Dot.con brings this tumultuous episode to life. Moving from the Cold War Pentagon to Silicon Valley to Wall Street and into the homes of millions of Americans, Cassidy tells the story of the great boom and bust in an authoritative and entertaining narrative. Featuring all the iconic figures of the Internet era -- Marc Andreessen, Jeff Bezos, Steve Case, Alan Greenspan, and many others -- and with a new Afterword on the aftermath of the bust, Dot.con is a panoramic and stirring account of human greed and gullibility.

Reader review(s):

An Instant Classic, February 6, 2002
New Yorker financial writer, John Cassidy, says it all in this brilliantly rendered, highly entertaining account of the biggest economic scandal of the last twenty-five years--Enron who?--the crash and burn of the relentlessly hyped sector. One part historic overview, two parts searing indictman of the financial-technological-media nexus, Dot.Con--as the Wall Street Journal said last week--will be read by generations of Wharton and Harvard B school grads still unborn. Not since John Kenneth Galbraith have we had a popular economist with this kind of reach--or depth. Bravo.

Good book, but many details have already been told, May 23, 2002
Dot.con: The Greatest Story Ever Sold lacks the same level of insight and originality. For most readers who stay abreast of current events in technology and the Internet, there is not a lot of new information in the book. The Internet bubble crashed some years ago, so a book on the subject can't be expected to be too original.

The book details the anecdotes of such Internet personality as Jeff Bezos, Mary Meeker, James Cramer, Jeff Walker, and Henry Blodgett. Nonetheless, such stories have been detailed in numerous places numerous times.

Cassidy does provide some rather good insights of the personality and mindset of Alan Greenspan, and he does a great job of showing an economic overview of the atmosphere that helped create the Internet bubble and how it led to its ultimate demise. If anything, Cassidy's brief biography of Greenspan is a well-written defense of the Fed Chairman.

But for anyone who reads Forbes, Wired, or the New York Times on a regular basis, much of the details of Dot.con have already been told. This is proven in the book's bibliography, which references such periodicals numerous times.

Embarrassing errors, spelling mistakes and confused facts, September 26, 2002
This should be a book of fiction. I don't know if I can count all the obvious factual errors. Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, has his name wrong. He claims the Altair computer was named after a character in Star Wars. If the Altair computer was invented in 1975, and Star Wars came out in 1977, how was that possible? Duh... The book states: "In 1978, two Chicago students, Randy Seuss and Ward Christensen, invented the modem...."
No they didn't! In 1977, Christensen wrote Xmodem, the first computer program used to transfer files between computers equipped with modems; a year later, he teamed with Seuss to create the first "bulletin board system" software.
Again, Duh....
The CON here is obviously the publisher, Hyberbole, who got conned by a financial writer who apparantly had a bunch of news snippets he gathered to form a book. There is NO STORY here. Just pieces of information pasted together to form a book. The sad part is, much of the information is mis-spelled, misunderstood by the author, grammictally incorrect or just plain false.
To think people are reading this and thinking they are "Learning" something about the internet craze would be like reading a science fiction novel and think you are learning about NASA.

Hindsight rehash, February 27, 2002
This book is a hindsight rehash of dotcom events that will already be very familiar to anyone who has picked up the business section of a newspaper or any business magazine in the last couple of years. Meanwhile, as other reviewers have noted, the book is rife with errors. The author also fails to give proper credit to the bestselling book that exposed the dotcon while it was happening, "The Internet Bubble", released in the fall of 1999.

Barely history but a story dying to be told., February 2, 2002
Intrigued immediately by the title, I was able to pick up an early copy of DOT.CON, a new offering by New Yorker staff writer John Cassidy. Even before donning the covers of this book, the title brought back memories, good and not-so-good, recounting the most turbulent and interesting perior in stock market history since the '29 Crash.

While the mania surrounding the internet has not waned, the investment in "Dot.Com's" certainly has. The internet is here to stay however, we now know that the vast array of companies attempting to capitalize on the Net's popularity won't be as fortunate. Conversely, reliving the days of pugnacious entrepreneurs who were nothing more than keyboard simpletons, neophyte investors puffing their way through cocktail parties touting their latest security conquests and mindless, self-appointed gurus pontificating their seemingly clairvoyant ability to call the market (Miss Cleo makes these claims doesn't she?) was not necessarily something I considered worth remembering at present. However, I mustered all my courage and pushed on past the first page. I'm glad I did as Cassidy does a masterful job of highlighting the follies and tragedies of this short-lived era.

Cassidy draws many historical comparisons into his support for the development of the Net "Bubble" and offers fresh insight into some of the orchestrated(?) events occurring behind the scenes as many first-time investors waited for the next merger announcement (do you still watch CNBC with your morning coffee?). His historical elocution takes the reader to the manias of the past supporting his hypothesization that the Net debacle was waiting in the wings for the unsuspecting investing public. He takes us back to the first mechanical computer in 1931 and works his way forward offering layman explanations for many Net buzzwords, definitions as solid as any Internet Dictionary. Similarly, Cassidy is very thorough in his review of the background of many of the early and prime Net players including, in many cases, information on their childhood, eduction, early careers (although many here were in their early careers when the Bubble burst), and what brought them to the forefront of this incredible story.

Cassidy focuses much of his energy, research and rhetoric on the happenings behind the scenes. He spoke to me when he began enumerating the obscure ways in which the Fed, Wall Street, VCs and promoters continued to stoke the Net fire even while it was primed to implode. He hits the nail on the head when he writes that VCs {and others} were using companies to create stocks instead of the fundamental methodology of using the stock market to raise capital to build companies. This point, among others, is critically poignant.

Much to my appreciation, Cassidy extolls mightily the role played by Alan Greenspan in this comedy. Many believe Greenspan to be the culprit who burst the Bubble with his monotonous albeit eviscerating interest rate hikes and comments like "irrational exuberance." Cassidy leans in this direction yet I believe his position to be a personal conviction rather than a technical indictment. (In my opinion, Cassidy relates this information in relatively non-biased terms.) Self-dealing and greed were the culprits here not one individual.

Overall, an enjoyable read although, as I mentioned earlier, the wounds are still a bit fresh to be rubbing salt in them (thus...4 stars). This will be a wonderful history book in 20 years or should I say, self-help book...."How Not to Invest Your Money." Pick it up; its worth the read.

Good if dry coverage of bust, June 12, 2002
There have been a lot of books about the crash of the high tech market. This is one of the best. The coverage is thorough if at times tedious. Cassidy makes an excellent case that the lack of a business model and the prevalent "greater fool" theory led to the demise of the Internet bubble. Too many pitched the idea that if their site captured just one percent of a [Hundred] billion-dollar market, than the firm would be a success. Only even one percent was a pipe dream, and perhaps a dozen firms had the same idea. And the "greater fool" theory suggests that even if the originators are wrong, somebody else will be foolish enough to buy them out.

Cassidy concludes his good work with a lengthy table of failures, a sobering story in itself. Perhaps it is so sobering that the life and exhuberance of the subject drained away. I found the last third of the book to be more of a continuous litany of mistakes and I lost much of my interest.

Dot.con is the worst book I've ever read, March 2, 2002
This book is so full of bad information it just blows me away. What is presented as fact in the book is simply not true. I don't know where the author came up with the information he did. It is pure vapor.

This book was not just poorly written but it is full of gramatical and spelling errors. Hello spell check!

A waste of money.

?Dot Caveat?, May 21, 2002
"Dot Caveat" or. Caveat, as is the only alliterative verbal "bomb" that has not been dropped on the Internet and computing since the inevitable "Dot Bomb" failures among the most significant forces ever to hit any economy have the latest wag, as Wall Street `nay-sayer' John Cassidy, and the Internet `bear' to end all bears on the market has now written the alliterative "masterpiece" of Luddism expounding on the years 1995-2000. Cassidy has called his new book: "Dot Con-The Greatest Story Ever Sold." Since most all our Silicon Valley folks are atheists, who think religion is the greatest story ever sold, the title has its hilarity and nuances to bear as we cross it.

The greatest thing that has happened to computing and the Internet are the elegant and ugly failures that mark it's first days like Pierce Arrow and Edsel automobiles or the "Spruce Goose" and "Flying Wing" were to aircraft were to those industries and social changes that came with them. Failure is what makes us and our society grow stronger unless you are European, and anti-business, or as much anti-progressive as John Cassidy writing his new book, "Dot Con." Cassidy is selling an Internet and computing story with no comparisons to anything but his ego and bearishness. I do not like books like this.

Just forget "caveat emptor" as you read "Dot Con" as it is an interesting and flawed book. When we want a study in gullibility of readership deliberately put forth in authorship by failing to draw analogies to either the automotive or aircraft industry with computing and the Internet, just runoff and buy a copy of Cassidy's new book or search the dumpsters where it really belongs save for the good histories of the era applied to Cassidy's conclusions. Indeed Europeans managing Internet and Computing growth would have been disastrous as they do not allow those who fail back into business again. Cassidy still does not like the Internet from his horse-drawn buggy seat. He also made so many mistakes and typos that the book is a hilarious joke that includes not even getting the names of the founders of Microsoft correct, and many a fact gone agley.

The Latin "caveat emptor" principle of "let the buyer beware principle applied in early common law that the buyer of defective goods could not hold the seller legally responsible. The theory of the early common law was based on the assumption that the buyer was able to examine the goods for any obvious defects, and that if the goods had latent defects of which the seller was unaware the buyer should bear the loss.

"I told you so" Cassidy lampoons the Internet mania began a five-year run that was fueled in part by the media, the policies promoted by Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve, the rise of day trading, and the deluge of IPOs brought to market by firms such as Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch and their analyst cheerleaders Mary Meeker and Henry Blodget. 1995 is when Netscape went public, and since then the ing�nue has had many opportunities to succeed and fail. The wise insider has had more opportunities to profit, too. Cassidy did not buy enough Microsoft stock.

This is the nature of business, and life outside of utopian Europe and the socialism left sprawling and yawing in a gap of non-involvement typical of the "leisure" society there. The best is yet to come from the Internet, computing, and the IT revolution. The most vital force in society is the IT revolution., and it may yet force change in the "ding-dong" socialism of The European Union and it's Babel-like society where they have spent over ten years and still cannot decide what language to use for patents, as the rest of the world turns, unwise investors fail, and all of us look at the Internet, computing, and IT with far more respect than issuing from Cassidy in "Dot Con," which is a better name for his book than the history of the Internet and Computing. That "Dot Con-The Greatest Story Ever Sold," sells at all shows that Luddism is still alive and sporting websites. It made me so cross to read it that I even reviewed it. The EU ought to extend Cassidy honorary citizenship and a bureaucratic title and office for publishing it. He ought to be sent to Switzerland where there are no birds. They need him and his book to clean windscreens there. Other than humor I see no other use for it, since there are not enough birds there to foul the glass, or not enough failures to make IT any different than any other technological change in time....

This book is spot on in recounting the madness, February 21, 2002
As a money manager who "didn't get it" in 1999 and was ridiculed by those who did, "Dot.con" is a chilling autopsy of the madness of the inflation and bursting of the internet/tech bubble. Cassidy does a fantastic job weaving the story out of the interests and perspectives of all of the players. In hindsight, it seems so unlikely that so many "smart" people would have taken part and/or been duped by this madness. As we all know, all but a select few drank the "New Economy" kool-aid. The book also highlights the conflicted nature of brokerage firms and industry analysts. I hope all of the people who got burned by the events of 1996-2000 have learned their lesson. Unfortunately, I fear that no lesson has been learned.

a tale of our times for all times, February 26, 2002
John Cassidy writes a masterful chronicle of the years. It is rare to get the definitive history of an era so quickly after it has passed, but Cassidy's short and readable book does just that. For the lay reader with no background in economics or computer science, he explains just how financial bubbles evolve and what the forces were that led to absurd overvaluation of internet companies. He also weaves in profiles of the major personalities of the era as well as historical comparissions with earlier speculative bubbles. All the while Cassidy manages to be highly engaging and keep the reader hooked to the story. I have already recommend the book to all my friends and I hope you will enjoy it too.

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