If you think that the Web drives you crazy, you have to talk with executives of companies that are caught right in the Web's cross hairs. The Web is roiling every single aspect of the world's economy, as one by one, it turns out that the Web does have impact, even when we thought it wouldn't.
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Do you think
is ready for the Web, a la the story in today's
Wall Street Journal
about pictures online? I doubt it. I know most retailers dissed the Web thinking that it wouldn't impact them. I recall an interview with the CEO of
, who told me the Web would never be that important because people wouldn't buy furniture online. I know wine merchants thought that they would be protected by state laws.
Now, venture capitalists are starting to back virtually any company that can produce a Web-based product. It doesn't matter how absurd. These venture capitalists folk would rather lose $10 million on some hare-brained Net idea than be revealed, later on, as the one who said no to an enterprise that later caught on. At this stage in their rich lives, they just don't want to be embarrassed by BigTrucks.com or some other idea that seems stupid but eventually pans out.
This change is causing tremendous angst among the old-line firms in every industry. Last week, while in the U.K., I talked with some executives of companies that are shaking about the Net. These same people blithely dismissed it a year ago when I talked with them.
Oddly, that doesn't mean good news necessarily for the Web sites themselves. The logical reaction of every exec I talked to was to hire a Web implementer (all of those clicks-and-mortar outfits that everybody loves so much now) to join the fray or at least block the next potential
Ultimately, such decisions are disastrous for the gross margins of just about everybody, except the companies that do Net infrastructure work. No wonder those remain the hottest stocks in this market.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund had no positions in any stocks mentioned. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at