The Price of Getting Rich Off the Internet

When the war between Israel and Lebanon broke out last week in a big way, the Drudgereport web site registered 14 million hits in a single day. Fourteen million. That means even if a miniscule percentage of those hitters clicked onto ads posted to the site, Matt Drudge would register quite a cash inflow.

And keep in mind that the Drudgereport will charge many times more per click than an average blogger or web site owner.

But please note: How much of a server capacity do you need to absorb 14 million hits in a single day? Rest assured you will have already had to invest in a huge number of Dell blade servers

, for example, or hire out to IBM to gain enough bandwidth to get those 14 million hits.

Yes, companies like Google and Yahoo grew from an initial web site, small in scale, but as the millions, billions and trillions of hits started to beseige those sites, those companies had to grow physically, and fast – people, buildings, offices, equipment, roomfuls of servers that had to be updated almost weekly. Google had to have its servers tailor-made because nobody was making them with the amount of memory needed to accommodate the growth of the company.

And for every Google and Yahoo out there, you have thousands of wannabes who have started a web site that gains popularity and hits, and those hits grow geometrically. They have to scramble for cash to expand, without gaining even a fraction of it back just yet, and they buy a ton of servers and equipment, increase their phone and data-bandwidth capacity, grow and grow and grow, and then . . . the bottom drops out. A competing site starts to erode the site’s popularity, and it spirals down, and the webmaster is stuck with a huge investment of equipment, people and infrastructure that overnight becomes a liability. He has to sell out a pennies on the dollar and go to the nearest casino, hoping to win it all back ina game of Texas Hold ‘Em.

Even those who stick with it, like Matt Drudge, inherit a heavy load of responsibility that goes along with the fame and riches. Sometimes this gets interrupted when you get sued, and the big webmasters get sued all the time for a variety of interesting and often mysterious reasons. So you need a good attorney to stave off these suits.

Next, viral attacks. Don’t think that an entrepreneurial blogger won’t get hit with a virus that could well be targeted right at his or her personally. That’s how good hackers are. And if you get big, big, really big, these attacks get crazy. Google deals with several hundred new viral attacks on its network every day. You have to hire the best antiviral programmers to counteract this attack.

Here comes the government. Yes, most cash transactions on the Internet involve no direct taxation, but the really big blogger will have to contend with business licenses, operating permits, building permits, tricky lease agreements, every manner of swindler, millions of worthless e-mail solicitations, you name it.

Even a person with an MBA will find it hard to successfully navigate the hostile waters of online commerce and come out of it in one piece. Just be careful, and trust no one.

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