Jonathan Horak

TLC 321

April 05, 2002


Internet Development : Question and Answer


1. What were the hopes or overarching goals of the people who set up -- both for their own company/product and for the Internet communication medium as a whole?


     Many goals were envisioned accomplishable by the creators of Tom Herman and Kaleil Tuzman, co-founders of the startup, imagined a site that would "facilitate interactions between local government and their constituents" (Tuzman, The true goal of the company was to tap into a sector of online commerce which up to then had been untapped: using the power of the web to cut through the red tape of government bureaucracy.  A "vertical market" worth countless billions in municipal fees. had the idea that it should be possible for everyone to pay parking tickets online or even "apply for a fishing license at 3 AM in the morning" (opening montage, The site would process parking tickets, city taxes and various other forms by utilizing a strong computer infrastructure and connections with local governments nationwide.

     As for their goals for the Internet communication medium, they relied on the basic premises of the web. The Internet was touted as the future of technology. And in many ways the ideas that Tom and Kaleil had were very progressive (much like many other startups of their time). They intended to follow the new business model of e-commerce established by the dot-com boom to create a service accessible to all. This is one of the true foundations of the Internet communication medium; all who wish to have a voice or online business -- in's case -- if they have the means can do so.



2. Were any of's goals shared by those who pioneered the telegraph system? Did people try to make money off of it in the same way? Who did they hope the system would affect

for the better?


     The goals of and those who pioneered the telegraph system widely differed. was intended initially as a profitable business with a guaranteed source of revenue. In the end, it was expected to turn a constant profit. Whereas the telegraph system was created with much loftier goals in mind. Such as the idea that the telegraph system was "expected [by its pioneers] to result in world peace" (page 83, The Victorian Internet).

     The companies that expanded the service of the telegraph did intend to make a profit, however. And there are many similarities of how money was made by both telegraph companies and For both, payment would be made in exchange for a service. Albeit never collected a single payment for its processing services, it would have made a certain amount of money for every transaction that would have occurred. And telegraph companies made a set amount of every telegram transaction. The similarities don't stop there though. Telegraph companies provided the links to route a telegraph to the location it needed to go for a fee. would have used its collaboration with government systems as a link from the customer directly to the government for a set cost.

     The founders of the telegraph intended for their invention to unite all countries of the globe in unity. As the telegraph "network connected more and more countries, the peaceful sentiments that had been expressed on the completion of the Atlantic cable were extended to embrace the whole of humanity" (page 103, The Victorian Internet). Although the network did create a global village of sorts, it is arguable how successful it was in furthering world peace. on the other hand created a service that would make life a little easier on citizens by cutting red tape. It is unfair to say that both Tom and Kaleil were in the business solely for the money. The two had to have seen a service that wasn't being provided which could be offered in order to create the idea behind the company.



3. What role did personality and social relationships between people have in the success and failure of (think not just of the people inside the company, but also consider outside investors, potential board members, and even visiting rivals)? Do you think these relationships would've doomed the company no matter how useful, user friendly or profitable the technology actually was?


     One of the most important relationships is that of Tom and Kaleil. The two started the company as close friends. But their friendship was tested heavily as the pressure of business was laid upon their shoulders. It is very difficult throughout the movie for the two to divide a line between friendship and business. Kaleil is the official CEO of the company, while Tom believes for all intents and purposes he is a co-CEO. What is shown in a few scenes throughout is that Tom is only a figurehead. Management was hired by that basically replaced his position as head of technology. In one scene a worker practically walks out on Tom, an evident sign of disrespect. Interactions such as these show some of the flaws in the overall structure of, especially with communication between all levels of employees.

     On the day before the site goes live, we see Kaleil confront the leader of Sapient (a startup consultancy firm). Although had paid Sapient $8.5 million to help restructure and develop its site, Kaleil had to talk the leader into some last minute re-tooling. After the conversation we see that the firm had poorly altered the code underlying the site. Take for example a search that Kaleil made for "speeding fine" which returned a person living in Texas named "Mr. Speedy." Had's communication with Sapient been better up to that point, the company may have fared better with site development.

     When confronting the board Kaleil and Tom repeatedly failed to reveal internal problems with the company. Kaleil felt problems could be solved in such a way that they would never need to be brought to the board. Had problems been reported, the board might have stepped in to do what it would have taken to correct them. If board chairs would've known that was a flailing company, the company's interaction with Sapient may have been improved, for example. With so many areas of poor communication it is easy to argue that their ideas (which were both useful and profitable) would not have been enough to save the doomed company.



4. Now that you have read Standage's history of the Victorian Internet, imagine yourself working for What could you have told them about the past and the comparative history of the telegraph that might have changed their business and staved off bankruptcy? could have been told many things about the comparative history of the telegraph to have helped the company. When Cooke and Morse had finally constructed working telegraphs it was only natural for them to assume that "the world would fall at their feet." felt that its impact upon citizens of local governments nationwide would be significant early on also. If, for the inventors of the telegraph, building a prototype "proved to be the easy part." And "convincing people of [the prototype's] significance was far more of a challenge" (page 40, The Victorian Internet) it is hard to imagine how a company with no prototype at all could be successful. Such is the problem with dot-coms and venture capital. Sometimes companies with hardly any true proven substance were invested heavily in.

     Another fatal problem of was that they felt just their idea was enough to put them on the "cusp of history" (page 213, The Victorian Internet). As we find out in The Victorian Internet, the telegraph was a very successful venture on both the inventors' and companys' parts. But it did end up being the victim of its own success. It survived for quite a while, but did not remain on the forefront of technology. had a great idea, but whether the timing was right may have played the biggest factor in their demise. They truly felt they were on the verge of something big. But was the online market ready for an online liaison between citizens and government. The telegraph was a huge advancement. It made the entire world smaller and connected people who had never been connected before.