As I write, Ebay’s share price is within a few cents of $100, (&£61) a three-year high that values the company at more than $30bn (&£18.25bn) and on a scary multiple of earnings. Bellwethers Amazon and Yahoo are also back in bubble territory. So, are investors losing their marbles again or is their renewed burst of enthusiasm for the internet simply reflecting reality?
As ever with the stock market, we’ll only know with hindsight. What can be said, however, is that this air of optimism seems to be slowly but surely creeping back into what has been the most deflated of bubbles.
Online advertising is evolving rapidly, with moving images – or dynamic HTML, as the techies call it – making major inroads. According to Doubleclick, this kind of rich media now accounts for 28 per cent of all online advertising. And it seems to be working, with some highly eye-catching, fast-loading creative executions bridging the great divide between TV-land and the Net. Pay-per-click and search-engine optimisation are continuing their seemingly inexorable rise, with countless testimonials to their economy, efficiency and effectiveness.
Then there’s Apple and its new, online music buying service. Unfortunately, it will be limited to Mac-heads for the next few months, and for the moment to US-based Mac-heads. But they seem to be flocking to the “99 cents per download” site, happy to swap their free file-swapping software for the clear conscience and clearer digital recordings available from Apple’s iTunes.
On a personal level, I have glimpsed the end of the hi-fi – that seemingly indispensable piece of furniture that came to dominate living rooms from the Eighties. Mine is now subservient to the computer, which has become my main music repository. The minimalist dreams of digitisation are beginning to turn into reality.
I’ve also experienced another symbolic milestone: I recently received a small mountain of vouchers from the Financial Times offering big reductions off the price of a paper that had once been my bible. I still remember the occasional night-time foray in search of tomorrow’s FT, and with it the promise of exclusive information.
But how times have changed. The vouchers lie almost completely unused on my kitchen table – the FT is still a decent read but its monopoly of information has vanished. Everything I need from it can be found for free online.
Oh, and how could I forget the most important sign of Internet resurgence? This month I received my first piece of foreign language spam – I just need to work out if it’s in Chinese or Japanese.