Celebrating the first strike

This week, the news media is celebrating the 10 year anniversary of Netscape’s IPO on August 9, 1995. Their stock offering is widely credited for starting the internet boom, bubble and eventual meltdown. In the words of the Mercury News, the IPO “lit a fire under Silicon Valley, setting off a mad dash for riches matched only by the California Gold Rush”.

And like it was after the Gold Rush, the landscape is now littered with the remains of failed ventures, and the environment has been permanently altered – perhaps poisoned – by those efforts. Still, it was an exciting time, and some good did come of it. And for a while, Silicon Valley was at the center of it all, and was the envy of the world. No wonder the pundits all recall the anniversary wistfully, like that last perfect summer of their youth.

Scam Town

The AP just ran a story about Festac Town, a district of Lagos, Nigeria that excels in internet scam artists. These are the fellows who toil away, day and night, sending you those now legendary ‘419’ emails. You know, the email that claims to be from a corrupt government official, who needs your help to transfer millions in ill begotten funds out of the country? And he just needs your bank account number and a small payment to get things started.

This type of fraud, which hasn’t changed much since its origins as typed letters, is apparently quite labor intensive. The lads spend their time in internet cafes in Lagos, dilligently sending individual emails from free email accounts. But it’s all worthwhile to catch that one greedy fish that snaps at the worm.

One of the more successful scammers boasts about his lifestyle just as if he was on late-night TV in the States: “Now I have three cars, I have two houses and I’m not looking for a job anymore.”