Silicon Snake Oil
|LC Class||QA76.9.C66 S88 1995|
|Preceded by||The Cuckoo's Egg|
|Followed by||High-Tech Heretic|
Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway is a 1995 book written by Clifford Stoll where he discusses his ambivalence regarding the future of how the internet will be used and sets the tone in the preface by apologizing "to those who expect a consistent position from me. I'm still rearranging my mental furniture." He is writing the book at a time where he feels the promise of the internet is being over-hyped so the following lines define his audience and theme: "For I'm mainly speaking to people who feel mystically lured to the Internet: lotus-eaters, beware. Life in the real world is far more interesting, far more important, far richer, than anything you'll ever find on a computer screen."
In Silicon Snake Oil and an accompanying article, The Internet? Bah!, in Newsweek Stoll called the prospect of e-commerce "baloney," and raised questions about the influence of the Internet on future society and whether it would be beneficial. Along the way, he made various predictions, e.g. about e-commerce (calling it nonviable due to a lack of personal contact and secure online funds transfers), the future of printed news publications ("no online database will replace your daily newspaper") and the cost of digitizing books would be too expensive since only 200 books had been digitized at the time. When the article resurfaced on BoingBoing in 2010, Stoll left a self-deprecating comment: "Of my many mistakes, flubs, and howlers, few have been as public as my 1995 howler....Now, whenever I think I know what's happening, I temper my thoughts: Might be wrong, Cliff..." 
Although the internet took a different path than predicted in Silicon Snake Oil, it does provide a good description of surfing the World Wide Web when Mosaic (web browser) was the only web browser, Gopher (protocol) was used to find documents and the Bulletin board system required users to call another computer's modem.
- Silicon Snake Oil page 3
- Silicon Snake Oil page 13
- Clifford Stoll: The Internet? Bah! Newsweek, February 27, 1995
- Silicon Snake Oil page 175
- Curmudgeonly essay on "Why the Internet Will Fail" from 1995 BoingBoing, February 26, 2010