The 1993 release of Mosaic and subsequent web browsers during the following years gave computer users access to the World Wide Web, popularizing use of the Internet. Internet use increased as a result of the reduction of the "digital divide" and advances in connectivity, uses of the Internet, and computer education. Between 1990 and 1997, the percentage of households in the United States owning computers increased from 15% to 35% as computer ownership progressed from a luxury to a necessity. This marked the shift to the Information Age, an economy based on information technology, and many new companies were founded.
As a result of these factors, many investors were eager to invest, at any valuation, in any dot-com company, especially if it had one of the Internet-related prefixes or a ".com" suffix in its name. Venture capital was easy to raise. Investment banks, which profited significantly from initial public offerings (IPO), fueled speculation and encouraged investment in technology. A combination of rapidly increasing stock prices in the quaternary sector of the economy and confidence that the companies would turn future profits created an environment in which many investors were willing to overlook traditional metrics, such as the price–earnings ratio, and base confidence on technological advancements, leading to a stock market bubble. Between 1995 and 2000, the Nasdaq Composite stock market index rose 400%. It reached a price–earnings ratio of 200, dwarfing the peak price–earnings ratio of 80 for the Japanese Nikkei 225 during the Japanese asset price bubble of 1991. In 1999, shares of Qualcomm rose in value by 2,619%, 12 other large-cap stocks each rose over 1,000% in value, and seven additional large-cap stocks each rose over 900% in value. Even though the Nasdaq Composite rose 85.6% and the S&P 500 rose 19.5% in 1999, more stocks fell in value than rose in value as investors sold stocks in slower growing companies to invest in Internet stocks.
An unprecedented amount of personal investing occurred during the boom and stories of people quitting their jobs to trade on the financial market were common. The news media took advantage of the public's desire to invest in the stock market; an article in The Wall Street Journal suggested that investors "re-think" the "quaint idea" of profits, and CNBC reported on the stock market with the same level of suspense as many networks provided to the broadcasting of sports events.
At the height of the boom, it was possible for a promising dot-com company to become a public company via an IPO and raise a substantial amount of money even if it had never made a profit—or, in some cases, realized any material revenue. People who received employee stock options became instant paper millionaires when their companies executed IPOs; however, most employees were barred from selling shares immediately due to lock-up periods.[pageneeded] The most successful entrepreneurs, such as Mark Cuban, sold their shares or entered into hedges to protect their gains. Sir John Templeton successfully shorted stocks at the peak of the bubble during what he called "temporary insanity" and a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity", shorting stocks just before the expiration of lockup periods ending 6 months after initial public offerings.
Spending tendencies of dot-com companies
Most dot-com companies incurred net operating losses as they spent heavily on advertising and promotions to harness network effects to build market share or mind share as fast as possible, using the mottos "get big fast" and "get large or get lost". These companies offered their services or products for free or at a discount with the expectation that they could build enough brand awareness to charge profitable rates for their services in the future.
The "growth over profits" mentality and the aura of "new economy" invincibility led some companies to engage in lavish spending on elaborate business facilities and luxury vacations for employees. Upon the launch of a new product or website, a company would organize an expensive event called a dot com party.
Bubble in telecom
The bubble in telecom was called "the biggest and fastest rise and fall in business history".
Partially a result of greed and excessive optimism, especially about the growth of data traffic fueled by the rise of the Internet, in the five years after the American Telecommunications Act of 1996 went into effect, telecommunications equipment companies invested more than $500 billion, mostly financed with debt, into laying fiber optic cable, adding new switches, and building wireless networks. In many areas, such as the Dulles Technology Corridor in Virginia, governments funded technology infrastructure and created favorable business and tax law to encourage companies to expand. The growth in capacity vastly outstripped the growth in demand.Spectrum auctions for 3G in the United Kingdom in April 2000, led by Chancellor of the ExchequerGordon Brown, raised £22.5 billion. In Germany, in August 2000, the auctions raised £30 billion. A 3Gspectrum auction in the United States in 1999 had to be re-run when the winners defaulted on their bids of $4 billion. The re-auction netted 10% of the original sales prices. When financing became hard to find as the bubble burst, the high debt ratios of these companies led to bankruptcy. Bond investors recovered just over 20% of their investments. However, several telecom executives sold stock before the crash including Philip Anschutz, who reaped $1.9 billion, Joseph Nacchio, who reaped $248 million, and Gary Winnick, who sold $748 million worth of shares.
Around the turn of the millennium, spending on technology was volatile as companies prepared for the Year 2000 problem. There were concerns that computer systems would have trouble changing their clock and calendar systems from 1999 to 2000 which might trigger wider social or economic problems, but there was virtually no impact or disruption due to adequate preparation.
On January 30, 2000, 12 ads of the 61 ads for Super Bowl XXXIV were purchased by dot-coms (sources state ranges from 12 up to 19 companies depending on the definition of dot-com company). At that time, the cost for a 30-second commercial cost between $1.9 million and $2.2 million.
In 2000, Alan Greenspan, then Chair of the Federal Reserve, raised interest rates several times; these actions were believed by many to have caused the bursting of the dot-com bubble. According to Nobel laureatePaul Krugman, however, "he didn't raise interest rates to curb the market's enthusiasm; he didn't even seek to impose margin requirements on stock market investors. Instead, he waited until the bubble burst, as it did in 2000, then tried to clean up the mess afterward". E. Ray Canterbery agrees with Krugman's criticism.
On Friday March 10, 2000, the NASDAQ Composite stock market index peaked at 5,048.62.
On March 13, 2000, news that Japan had once again entered a recession triggered a global sell off that disproportionately affected technology stocks.
On March 15, 2000, Yahoo! and eBay ended merger talks and the Nasdaq fell 2.6%, but the S&P 500 rose 2.4% as investors shifted from strong performing technology stocks to poor performing established stocks.
On March 20, 2000, Barron's featured a cover article titled "Burning Up; Warning: Internet companies are running out of cash—fast", which predicted the imminent bankruptcy of many Internet companies. This led many people to rethink their investments. That same day, MicroStrategy announced a revenue restatement due to aggressive accounting practices. Its stock price, which had risen from $7 per share to as high as $333 per share in a year, fell $140 per share, or 62%, in a day. The next day, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates, leading to an inverted yield curve, although stocks rallied temporarily.
On Friday, April 14, 2000, the Nasdaq Composite index fell 9%, ending a week in which it fell 25%. Investors were forced to sell stocks ahead of Tax Day, the due date to pay taxes on gains realized in the previous year.
By June 2000, dot-com companies were forced to re-evaluate their spending on advertising campaigns.
On November 9, 2000, Pets.com, a much-hyped company that had backing from Amazon.com, went out of business only nine months after completing its IPO. By that time, most Internet stocks had declined in value by 75% from their highs, wiping out $1.755 trillion in value.
After venture capital was no longer available, the operational mentality of executives and investors completely changed. A dot-com company's lifespan was measured by its burn rate, the rate at which it spent its existing capital. Many dot-com companies ran out of capital and went through liquidation. Supporting industries, such as advertising and shipping, scaled back their operations as demand for services fell. However, many companies were able to endure the crash; 48% of dot-com companies survived through 2004, albeit at lower valuations.
Aeron chairs, which retailed for $1,100 each and were the symbol of the opulent office furniture of dot-com companies, were liquidated en masse.
As growth in the technology sector stabilized, companies consolidated; some, such as Amazon.com, eBay, and Google gained market share and came to dominate their respective fields. The most valuable public companies are now generally in the technology sector.
In a 2015 book, venture capitalist Fred Wilson, who funded many dot-com companies and lost 90% of his net worth when the bubble burst, said about the dot-com bubble:
A friend of mine has a great line. He says "Nothing important has ever been built without irrational exuberance." Meaning that you need some of this mania to cause investors to open up their pocketbooks and finance the building of the railroads or the automobile or aerospace industry or whatever. And in this case, much of the capital invested was lost, but also much of it was invested in a very high throughput backbone for the Internet, and lots of software that works, and databases and server structure. All that stuff has allowed what we have today, which has changed all our lives... that's what all this speculative mania built.
Blucora (then InfoSpace): Founded by Naveen Jain, at its peak its market cap was $31 billion and was the largest Internet business in the American Northwest. In March 2000, its stock reached a price $1,305 per share, but by 2002 the price had declined to $2 a share.
Blue Coat Systems (formerly CacheFlow): Its stock price rose over 400% on its first day of trading in November 1999.
Boo.com: An online clothing retailer, it spent $188 million in just six months. It filed for bankruptcy in May 2000.
Books-A-Million: A book retailer whose stock price soared from around $3 per share on November 25, 1998, to $38.94 on November 27, 1998, and an intra-day high of $47.00 on November 30, 1998 after it announced an updated website. Two weeks later, the share price was back down to $10. By 2000, the share price had returned to $3.
Broadband Sports: A network of sports-content websites that raised over $60 million before going bust in February 2001.
CDNow: Founded by Jason Olim and his brother, it was an online retailer of compact discs and music-related products that reached a valuation of over $1 billion in April 1998. In 2000, it was acquired by Bertelsmann Music Group for $117 million and was later shut down.
Chemdex.com: A company founded by David Perry that operated an online marketplace for businesses, it reached a market capitalization of over $7 billion despite minimal revenues.
Covad: Shares rose fivefold within months of its IPO.
Cyberian Outpost: One of the first successful online shopping websites, it reached a peak market capitalization of $1 billion. It used controversial marketing campaigns including a Super Bowl ad in which fake gerbils were shot out of a cannon. It was acquired by Fry's Electronics in 2001 for $21 million, including the assumption of $13 million in debt.
CyberRebate: Promised customers a 100% rebate after purchasing products priced at as much as 10 times the retail cost. It went bankrupt in 2001 and stopped paying rebates.
Divine: Founded by Andrew Filipowski, it was modeled after CMGI. It went public as the bubble burst and filed for bankruptcy after executives were accused of looting a subsidiary.
DoubleClick: An online advertising company that soared after its IPO, it was acquired by Google in 2007.
eGain: Its stock price doubled shortly after its 1999 IPO.
Egghead Software: An online software retailer, its shares surged in 1998 as investors bought up shares of Internet companies; by 2001, the company was bankrupt.
eToys.com: An online toy retailer whose stock price hit a high of $84.35 per share in October 1999. In February 2001, it filed for bankruptcy with $247 million in debt. It was acquired by KB Toys, which later also filed for bankruptcy.
Forcepoint (formerly Websense): It held an IPO at the peak of the bubble.
Freei: Filed for bankruptcy in October 2000, soon after canceling its IPO. At the time, it was the 5th largest Internet service provider in the United States, with 3.2 million users. Famous for its mascot, Baby Bob, the company lost $19 million in 1999 on revenues of less than $1 million.
Gadzoox: A storage area network company, its shares tripled on its first day of trading giving it a market capitalization of $1.97 billion; the company was sold 4 years later for $5.3 million.
Geeknet (formerly VA Linux): A provider of built-to-order Intelpersonal computer systems based on Linux and other open source projects, it set the record for largest first-day price gain upon its IPO on December 9, 1999; after the stock priced at $30/share, it ended the first day of trading at $239.25/share, a 698% gain, making founder Larry Augustin a billionaire on paper.
Global Crossing: A telecommunications company founded in 1997; it reached a market capitalization of $47 billion in February 2000 before filing bankruptcy in January 2002.
theGlobe.com: A social networking service that launched in April 1995 and made headlines when its November 1998 IPO resulted in the largest first day gain of any IPO to date. CEO Stephan Paternot became a visible symbol of the excesses of dot-com millionaires and is famous for saying "Got the girl. Got the money. Now I'm ready to live a disgusting, frivolous life".
Internet America: Its stock price doubled in a day in December 1999 despite no specific news about the company.
iVillage: On its first day of trading in March 1999, its stock rose 255% to $84 per share. It was acquired by NBC for $8.50 per share in 2006 and shut down.
iWon: Backed by CBS, it gave away $1 million to a lucky contestant each month and $10 million in April 2000 on a half-hour special program that was broadcast on CBS.
Kozmo.com: Founded by Joseph Park, it offered one-hour local delivery of several items with no delivery fees from March 1998 until it went bust in April 2001.
Lastminute.com: Founded by Martha Lane Fox and Brent Hoberman, its IPO in the United Kingdom on March 14, 2000, coincided with the bursting of the bubble. Shares placed initially at 380p sharply rose to 511p, but had collapsed to below 190p by the first week of April 2000.
MicroStrategy: After rising from $7 to as high as $333 in a year, its shares lost $140, or 62%, on March 20, 2000, following the announcement of a financial restatement for the previous two years by founder Michael J. Saylor.
NorthPoint Communications: Agreed to a significant investment by Verizon and a merger of DSL businesses in September 2000; however, Verizon backed out 2 months later after NorthPoint was forced to restate its financial statements, including a 20% reduction in revenue, after its customers failed to pay as the bubble burst. NorthPoint then filed for bankruptcy. After lawsuits from both parties, Verizon and NorthPoint settled out of court.
Palm, Inc.: Spun off from 3Com at the peak of the bubble, its shares plunged as the bubble burst.
Razorfish: An Internet advertising consultancy, its stock doubled on its first day of trading in April 1999.
Redback Networks: A telecommunications equipment company, its stock soared 266% in its first day of trading, giving it a market capitalization of $1.77 billion.
Register.com: A domain name registrar, its stock soared after its IPO in March 2000, at the peak of the bubble.
Ritmoteca.com: One of the first online music stores selling music on a pay-per-download basis and an early predecessor to the iTunes business model. It pioneered digital distribution deals as one of the first companies to sign agreements with major music publishers.
Steel Connect (formerly CMGI Inc.): a company that invested in many Internet startups; between 1995 and 1999, its stock appreciated 4,921%, but declined 99% when the bubble burst.
Terra Networks: A web portal and Internet access provider in the US, Spain and Ibero-America. After its November 1999 IPO, its shares skyrocketed from an initial price of €11 to €158 in just three months. The price then sunk under €3 in a matter of weeks. In February 2005, the company was acquired by Telefónica.
Think Tools: One of the most extreme symptoms of the bubble in Europe, this company reached a market valuation of CHF2.5 billion in March 2000 despite no prospects of having a product.
TIBCO Software: Its stock price rose tenfold shortly after its 1999 IPO.
Transmeta: A semiconductor designer that attempted to challenge Intel, its IPO in November 2000 was the last successful technology IPO until the IPO of Google in 2004. The company shut down in 2009 after failing to execute.
uBid: An online auction site founded in 1997 as a subsidiary of PCM, Inc. that went public in December 1998 at $15 per share before its stock price soared to $186 per share, a market value of $1.5 billion.
WebChat Broadcasting System: the largest and most popular online chat, interactive and event network with around 3 million registered users, it was purchased by Infoseek in April 1998 for approximately $6.7 million; Go.com acquired Infoseek later in 1998, and closed WebChat in September 1999.
Webvan: An online grocer that promised delivery within 30 minutes; it went bankrupt in 2001 after $396 million of venture capital funding and an IPO that raised $375 million and was folded into Amazon.com.
Inktomi Corporation was a company that provided software for Internet service providers (ISPs). It was incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in Foster City, California, United States. Customers included Microsoft, HotBot, Amazon.com, eBay, and Walmart.
Webvan was a dot-com company and grocery business that filed for bankruptcy in 2001 after 3 years of operation. It was headquartered in Foster City, California, United States. It delivered products to customers' homes within a 30-minute window of their choosing. At its peak, it offered service in ten US markets: the San Francisco Bay Area; Dallas; Sacramento; San Diego; Los Angeles; Orange County, California; Chicago; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; and Atlanta, Georgia. The company had hoped to expand to 26 cities by 2001.
Chemdex.com, later known as Ventro Corporation and then NexPrise, Inc., was a B2B e-commerce company that first operated an online marketplace for products related to the life sciences industry such as laboratory chemicals, enzymes, and equipment, but later expanded into a few other industries. It was notable for its $7 billion market capitalization during the dot-com bubble despite minimal revenues.
Cumulus Media, Inc. is an American broadcasting company and is the third largest owner and operator of AM and FM radio stations in the United States behind Audacy and iHeartMedia. As of June 2019, Cumulus lists ownership of 428 stations in 87 media markets. It also owns and operates Westwood One. Its headquarters are located in Atlanta, Georgia. Its subsidiaries include Cumulus Broadcasting LLC, Cumulus Licensing LLC and Broadcast Software International Inc.
Commerce One, Inc. was a B2B e-commerce company that used online auctions to connect business to their suppliers. At the peak of the dot-com bubble, the company had a market capitalization of $21.5 billion.
The Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE) is a stock exchange based in the city of Shanghai, China. It is one of the two stock exchanges operating independently in mainland China, the other being the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. The Shanghai Stock Exchange is the world's 3rd largest stock market by market capitalization at US$7.62 trillion as of July 2021. It is also Asia's biggest stock exchange. Unlike the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the Shanghai Stock Exchange is still not entirely open to foreign investors and often affected by the decisions of the central government, due to capital account controls exercised by the Chinese mainland authorities.
Cobalt Networks was a maker of low-cost Linux-based servers and server appliances. The company had 1,900 end user customers in more than 70 countries.
StarMedia is a leading Latin Internet brand, co-founded in August 1996 by Fernando Espuelas and Jack Chen as the first pan-regional Internet portal for Spanish and Portuguese speaking audiences. During the dot.com boom of the 1990s, StarMedia raised the first dollar of venture capital for a Latin Internet company, and then did the first IPO in the sector, while becoming one of the top 10 biggest sites on the Internet, measured by audience, and the only one not in English.
Divine, originally Divine Interventures was a company that invested in internet companies during the dot-com bubble. The company was originally modeled after CMGI but changed its business plan after the bubble burst.
World Online (WOL) was a European Internet Service Provider (ISP) which came to prominence in the late 1990s dotcom boom.
AboveNet was a provider of high bandwidth telecommunication circuits primarily for large corporate enterprises and communications carriers in 17 markets in the United States and 4 markets in Europe. Its private optical network delivered key network and IP services and was used in financial and legal services, media, health care, retail, and government.
Steel Connect, Inc. is a company that provides supply chain management services to software companies. During the dot-com bubble, the company, which was then known as CMGI, had a market capitalization of $41 billion and owned the naming rights to the new home stadium of the New England Patriots. Between 1995 and 1999, its stock was the best performing stock in the United States, returning 4,921%. After the crash of the bubble, the stock price fell 99%.
uBid.com is an online auction style and fixed-price shopping website that offers both goods sold directly by the company and items sold by pre-approved third party uBid-certified merchants. The site specializes in excess new, refurbished and overstock consumer electronics such as computers, electronics, home goods, jewelry, watches and cellular phones.
Vignette Corporation was a company that offered a suite of content management, web portal, collaboration, document management, and records management software. Targeted at the enterprise market, Vignette offered products under the name StoryServer that allowed non-technical users to create, edit and track content through workflows and publish it on the web. It provided integration for enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and legacy systems, supporting Java EE and Microsoft.NET. Vignette's integrated development environment and application programming interface offered an alternative to conventional Common Gateway Interface/vi/Perl web development. StoryServer was used on many large websites including those of CNET, UnitedHealth Group, The Walt Disney Company, Wachovia, Martha Stewart, Fox News, National Geographic Channel, Pharmacia & Upjohn, MetLife, BSkyB, the 2004 Summer Olympics, and NASA.
The Nasdaq Composite is a stock market index that includes almost all stocks listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange. Along with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500, it is one of the three most-followed stock market indices in the United States. The composition of the NASDAQ Composite is heavily weighted towards companies in the information technology sector. The Nasdaq-100, which includes 100 of the largest non-financial companies in the Nasdaq Composite, accounts for over 90% of the movement of the Nasdaq Composite.
Think Tools AG was a Swiss IT company that rose and fell with the dot com bubble in Europe. The company was founded by the philosopher Albrecht von Müller as a consultancy company in 1993.
Actua Corporation was a venture capital firm. During the dot com bubble, the company had a market capitalization of over $50 billion. The company was originally known as Internet Capital Group, Inc. and changed its name to Actua Corporation in September 2014. In 2018, the company underwent liquidation.
The technology company Facebook, Inc. held its initial public offering (IPO) on Friday, May 18, 2012. The IPO was the biggest in technology and one of the biggest in Internet history, with a peak market capitalization of over $104 billion.
ChiNext is a NASDAQ-style subsidiary of the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. The first batch of firms started trading on ChiNext on October 30, 2009. As of June 2015, there were 464 firms listed on ChiNext.
USinternetworking, Inc. (USi) was an application service provider. It offered outsourced business applications delivered over the Internet or a private network connection for an installation charge and a flat monthly fee. In October 2006, it was acquired by AT&T.
Aharon, David Y.; Gavious, Ilanit; Yosef, Rami (2010). "Stock market bubble effects on mergers and acquisitions". The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance. 50 (4): 456–70. doi:10.1016/j.qref.2010.05.002.