It's been an interesting four or five years. As we stepped out into the new decade (and century, and millennium), network marketing has planted its feet firmly out on the highway of free enterprise, standing still, head tall, eyes fixed unblinkingly ahead ...

Oh, shoot. I just realized what I am describing: a deer frozen in the headlights.
This issue's cover story could not be more appropriate to inaugurate a new publication for the industry. The coming boom. That's what's behind the headlights. The question is, are you ready?

A bit overdramatized? Perhaps; but that's been the feel of it--gazing, waiting, gazing.... Gazing at what? At that set of blinding headlights boring down on our business.

In a word, the Internet.

Look out, look out, it's coming right at us, burning up the fiber-optic pavement, accelerating from zero to 80 in less than a decade, the Internet, look out, the Internet, get off the road! Few would actually say it out loud, but many wondered: "Is this thing gonna kill us?"

Some said, yes... sort of. Network marketing, they said, removes the middleman, connecting consumer to manufacturer-- through the distributor. But the Net will do that now. (Distributors, who needs 'em.) The only way to survive: mutate. The "portfolio approach"--a concept as ideologically seductive as communism, and equally successful in real life--was suddenly resurrected. Hey, why work one old-fashioned company when with a great Internet-driven system, you could work a dozen affiliate programs!

(The affiliate program notion does provide fascinating perspective on one's view of this business: I suppose it depends on your metaphor. "Don't put all your eggs in one basket" is great advice if you're considering investments--not so great if you're considering marriage.)

Once our eyes adjusted to the glare, the truth stood in plainer view: technology can drive recruiting, but recruiting is like flirting--it goes only so far, and then you either get serious, or don't. Individual relationships are what drive this business (as many of our authors in this inaugural issue point out). Technology can support those relationships, but can neither create them nor render them obsolete.

Internet aside, a more interesting question intrigues me: If the Internet is the headlights, what's the car? After all, it's not headlights that strike and kill deer, it's the machine behind them. What has been rushing toward us on the high-way is the eight-cylinder, 300 horsepower engine of full-bore American commerce.

In a word (okay, two), "mainstream acceptance." Far from making us obsolete, the Internet is symptomatic of American business heading straight for us. You've heard the expression, "Be careful what you wish for." Well, here comes what we wished for.

This issue's cover story could not be more appropriate to inaugurate a new publication for the industry. The coming boom. That's what's behind the headlights. The question is, are you ready?

John David Mann is the Editor of Networking Times.