Welcome to section e and the fourth edition of the MT/Bain e25. As the first anniversary of the e25 apporoaches, we're conscious that the months since its launch have been hectic for e-commerce. Introducing the first e25 - a line-up that featured the ill-fated boo.com at number nine - we wrote: 'As the century winds up, Britain is in the early stages of a Klondike-style gold-rush into the cyberspace wilderness'. The whole atmosphere has changed markedly since then. Now that we're into a new millennium, a heady and wide-eyed immaturity has been replaced by something more down-to-earth. A lot of folk are wandering frantically around in the wilderness, still unsure where the gold is hidden and fast running out of supplies to keep them alive.
The press and City backlash started in the early spring. The lastminute flotation was denounced by some as a confidence trick. As a profession, dot.comming seems to have got itself such a dodgy, snake-oil salesman reputation that the CEO of Orchestream remarked on the day it made its June stock market debut: 'We are absolutely not a dot.com. We are a software company.' Twelve months ago nobody wanted to be a boring software company.
So, the first chapter has drawn to a close and we are all - not least boo's investors - a little wiser and more focused on old-economy concerns like the bottom line. In the coming year, section e will continue to sort the wheat from the chaff for all those inside and outside the www business. But amid this 'adjustment' and new Darwinian realism, let us not forget what an extraordinary piece of technology the internet really is. Stop for a second to recall what life was like without the surfing double-click. The web still changes everything.