As the new Bush administration eases into power in our nations capital, Interactive Week conducted an unscientific survey of Internet and information technology professionals to assess Bill Clintons Internet legacy.
The more than 75 participants we surveyed gave the Clinton administration an average grade of A, with grades ranging from A+ to B+. However, they gave widely disparate reasons for the high marks. Most praised Clintons hands-off policy, which let the Net evolve on its own. But they differed on the causes and effects of the lack of direction and control. Others justified their high marks by noting a series of successful Clinton-led Internet initiatives.
Steve Sylwester, CEO of Internet referral service zREP, feels Clinton administration officials intentionally left the Internet alone because they couldnt get their hands around it.
"I think they recognized that the Internet was so explosive a force, growing in so many different directions, that they had better, as a matter of policy, not try to define it for the purposes of policy," he says. "Its to their credit that they didnt. It really would have been an act of hubris — like implying you invented the Internet — to say that you know the Internet in its entirety and that you know how to regulate it."
Meanwhile, others cited the administrations proactive Internet policies for their high ratings.
A tax-free Internet was a major contribution of the previous administration, says Jeff Fenley, president of financial applications service provider Goinvest.com.
Roberto Medrano, general manager of the Internet Security Solutions Division at Hewlett-Packard, commends a series of security initiatives the Clinton White House launched over the past two years. Medrano cites the February 1999 meeting at which influential technology industry leaders and senior Clinton administration and cabinet officials were first brought together. The dialogue begun then continues to examine how the federal government and private industry can work together to enhance the Internets security and reliability, he says.
"How the Internet evolves from here is determined by how secure it is and how confident people feel using it," Medrano says.
Similarly, Doug Chapin, CEO of e-business software vendor GlobalSight, credits the Clinton administration with establishing the fertile landscape on which Internet and high-tech innovations blossomed. Chapin points to a plethora of pro-Internet initiatives, including tax credits for high-tech R&D, and reduced restrictions on overseas computer sales.
Perhaps these varied results represent what historians may come to recognize as Clintons true legacy: Apparently, he is a man with an uncanny ability to satisfy almost everybody, almost all the time — whether or not he acted on an issue.