Well firstly, the Internet is something that has introduced a whole lot of new terms into our vocabulary, such as e-mail, e-commerce, tech-wreck, and e-tail. And there has been an influx of time-saving and irritating abbreviations like IT (Information Technology), B2B (business-to-business), B2C (Business-to-consumer), 24 x 265 (twenty-four hours a day, year-round service), clicks n bricks (a traditional retail outlet coupled with an online presence) and FAQs (frequently asked questions). Interestingly, the abbreviation www takes longer to say than "World Wide Web".
In simple terms, the Internet is just a whole bunch of computers that can connect to a whole bunch of other computers via a network. It's no more than a sophisticated network of phone lines where words and images are sent down the line instead of a voice.
Some people haven't embraced the Internet simply because they don't like or are scared of computers. Advances in technology have made them more user-friendly and they will become even more so when Internet and television merge, but for now, if you are technically challenged (like me), remember that to get a cold beer you don't need to know how the fridge works.
Hype and reality
Thankfully, a lot of hype about how wonderful and empowering the Internet is has died down and most online businesses that have survived are now taking a more realistic and sensible approach, treating e-commerce as a 'business' and not a way to get rich overnight.
The boom we saw in IT shares in early 2000 was driven by hype, fear and greed with very little "dot-commonsense". For a while it seemed as though the financial world had been taken over by young, high-flying executives on outrageous salaries who had more interest in alfresco lunches and fast cars that hard work.
The Internet hype was kicked along by the print media. In order to get Internet-related companies to spend money on advertising they had to surround the ads with articles worth reading, so a lot more coverage was given to e-commerce and start-up companies that they actually deserved.
For the latter half of 2000, we saw anti-hype and negativity that was almost as damaging for online ventures as the earlier hype and stupidity. The reality is, 2001 will see a few more dot com companies run out of cash, others grow organically and survive and others flounder and be picked up for a fraction of their value by big companies with deep pockets. With strict regulations now in place, listed companies have to disclose their financial position, so investors are far less likely to be swayed by any "smoke and mirrors".