Dot.communism was the idea that it is possible, given the characteristics of the new economy
, to create a utopian worker's paradise within the context of venture capital
. Many entrepreneurs, investors, managers and workers believed that the new economy was weightless
, since the product was pure information, and the cost of transacting tended to zero as volume increased. Therefore, there would be no need to actually create products, and value could be created merely by aggregating information, or acting as an intermediary.
The characteristics of a dot.commune were the absence of job titles, no set working hours nor dress policy, an office environment filled with toys, the provision of free meals and generous perks. Often this would be coupled with low salaries, and plenty of stock options. The use of stock options represented the concept that the workers owned the means of production. This was framed as a mechanism to increase loyalty but also meant that the money saved could be spent on frivolous playthings such as nerf guns, foosball tables, inflatable furniture etc. It kept the employees highly dependant on the company, since perks the company provided could not be afforded on salary.
Dot.communes employed Generation X and twentysomethings, people who were either sick of mainstream corporate culture or had never experienced it. The former group were blinded by the casual work environment that didn't seem like work at all, and the latter simply continued their student lifestyle. This resulted in a workforce that sacrificed all their time towards the mission statement, working 15 hour days as a matter of course, for little remuneration. Dot.communists were more than just 9-5 employees, spending most of their waking hours (and many of their sleeping hours) at the commune, eating communal food, wearing clothing with their logos on, socialising only with other workers. Early factory workers in the USSR probably demonstrated as much enthusiasm for the Brave New World that they were creating, where everyone was equal and worked not for themselves but for the good of the collective. Activity for its own sake was considered more important than achieving a goal, and enjoyment more important than doing business.
The other group of employees were the greyhairs. These were either bitter, aging hippies who were refugees from ad agencies or ruthless management consultants determined to play sucker VCs for all they were worth. These were analogous to the members of the Party.
The high point of dot.communism was between 1998 and 2000. During this period, many investors were convinced that the new economy was here to stay, and that startup companies needed to chase first mover advantage in a land grab to build mind share and that inevitably, this would enhance shareholder value. The optimism of that time led to incredibly high cash burn as dot.communes spent their investor's money to support their social experiment in the guise of operating a business.
By mid 2001, the environment was radically different, and the harsh rules of capitalism reasserted themselves, leading to the decline and fall of dot.communism as an economic system. This is a typical failing of socialist and communist systems in general, that they spend capital rather than generating wealth, and collapse when it is exhausted.
Many former dotcommunists are now unemployed, finding that their once-hot skills such as HTML or ASP are now commonplace or atrophied, and that corporations in the real world expect set hours, conservative dress and hierarchical org charts. The smart ones saved their money and cashed in their stock before the crash, and are now traveling, catching up with friends or relaxing. Most are competing with slackers for jobs at Starbucks.