Glenn Davis, the founder of the once-popular online destination Cool Site of the Day, used to be so addicted to the Web that he called it his "recreational drug."

He started Cool Site in 1994, after experiencing the thrill of discovering an especially interesting Web site and telling his friends what he had found. Within a year, more than 20,000 people a day were visiting the site, and Mr Davis became a Web celebrity, giving interviews to online magazines and refusing gifts from Webmasters who were desperately seeking his recommendation of their sites.

Today, Mr Davis has not only kicked his Web habit but also completely given up the medium. The Cool Site of the Day still exists, but it is no longer run by Mr Davis, who has also lost his enthusiasm. "We lost our sense of wonder," he said. "The Web is old hat." Just 11 years after it was born and about six years after it became popular, the Web has lost its luster.

What attracted many people to the Web in the mid-1990's were the bizarre and idiosyncratic sites that began as private obsessions and swiftly grew into popular attractions. The Web was like a chest of toys and each day brought a new treasure.

Web sites also face stiff competition from other online services. Music programs like Morpheus, a Napster alternative, allow people to download files using a piece of online software. Instant messaging has grown exponentially and many users say they would rather chat with their friends than spend time surfing the Web.

About half of Internet users in 2000 said the Internet helped "a lot" in enabling them to learn new things. A year later, when the same group was polled, only 33 percent made that claim.

For the first time, the number of expiring domain names outnumbers those being registered or renewed, according to SnapNames, an industry research company in Portland, Ore. Separate research shows that of the sites that are still operating, a large number have been taken over by pornography.

How did the Web arrive at this juncture ? Some people say that the rush to make money, in which profits mattered more than passion, was a significant driver. The Web's commercialism also dismays many surfers.

Others say they are less interested to hunt for innovative sites because many of them require plug-ins of updates that need downloading.

Adapted from The Economist,July 10 2003

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