I Predict the Internet Will Soon Go Spectacularly Supernova and in 1996 Catastrophically Collapse

Robert Metcalfe? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: I recently read a collection of quotations highlighting wildly inaccurate technology predictions. One faulty forecast was made by Bob Metcalfe, co-inventor of Ethernet. He contended that the internet was going to collapse in the 1990s. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: On December 4, 1995 Robert Metcalfe published a column in “InfoWorld” magazine titled “Predicting the Internet’s catastrophic collapse and ghost sites galore”. The column began with the following words. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Almost all of the many predictions now being made about 1996 hinge on the Internet’s continuing exponential growth. But I predict the Internet, which only just recently got this section here in InfoWorld, will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.

Metcalfe offered several reasons for the collapse. For example, he believed that the internet’s crucial data links would be overloaded, and the “naïve flat-rate business model is incapable of financing the new capacity it would need to serve continued growth”. He contended that investor’s would be unwilling to “absorb projected continuing losses”. He thought that “another series of major security breaches will drive the rest of the productive Internet to safety and out of reach.” Yet, he was incorrect, and internet continued to grow exponentially in 1996.

Below are additional details and selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Predict the Internet Will Soon Go Spectacularly Supernova and in 1996 Catastrophically Collapse

Notes:

  1. 1995 December 4, InfoWorld, From the Ether: Predicting the Internet’s catastrophic collapse and ghost sites galore in 1996 by Bob Metcalfe, Quote Page 61, InfoWorld Publishing Group: IDG International Data Group, San Mateo, California. (Google Books Full View)