The dotcom bubble started growing in the late ’90s, as access to the internet expanded and computing took on an increasingly important part in people’s daily lives. Online retailing was one of the biggest drivers of this growth, with sites like Pets.com — you know, the one with the cute sock-puppet mascot starring in the funny ads — getting big investors and gaining a place in American consumer culture.
With the investment and excitement, stock values grew. The value of the NASDAQ, home to many of the biggest tech stocks, grew from around 1,000 points in 1995 to more than 5,000 in 2000. Companies were going to market with IPOs and fetching huge prices, with stocks sometimes doubling on the first day. It was a seeming wonderland where anyone with an idea could start making money.
In March of 2000, everything started to change. The dotcom bubble, which had been building up for the better part of three years, slowly began to pop. Stocks sunk. Companies folded. Fortunes were lost, and the American economy started to slip down a slow mudslide that would end up in full-on recession.
On March 10, the combined values of stocks on the NASDAQ was at $6.71 trillion; the crash began March 11. By March 30, the NASDAQ was valued at $6.02 trillion. On April 6, 2000, it was $5.78 trillion. In less than a month, nearly a trillion dollars worth of stock value had completely evaporated. One JP Morgan analyst told TIME in April of 2000 that a lot of companies were losing between $10 and $30 million a quarter — a rate that is obviously unsustainable, and was going to end with a lot of dead sites and lost investments.
Companies started folding. (Pets.com was one.) Magazines, including TIME, started running stories advising investors on how to limit their exposure to the tech sector, sensing that people were going to start taking a beating if their portfolios were too tied to e-tailers and other companies that were dropping like flies.
During the 2000 Super Bowl, 17 dotcom companies had paid $44 million for ad spots, according to a Bloomberg article from the following year. At the 2001 Super Bowl, just one year after that bonanza, only three dotcom companies ran ads during the game.