Now, normally, I don't go to many industry events - there can be a little bit too much mutual backslapping for me to be comfortable with. But, the other week, my wife Julie and I were invited to an event celebrating the '100 most influential people in the internet in the last 10 years'. Apart from the fact that we had to share a badge - we may be a husband and wife team, but that was a little absurd - and a couple of technical hitches, the event was really worthwhile. There was an interesting mix of people, who I don't normally meet, such as digital entrepreneurs, industry figures and representatives of the major brands, such as Tesco.com and lastminute.com.
But what was really exciting was the chance to look back over the last 10 years of the internet and wonder what the major turning points really were.
Lastminute.com's Brent Hoberman gave a fascinating speech on the highlights of that time, but it occurred to me that while a lot of people in the room were caught up with VC funding, First Tuesday events and the fate of Boo.com, my landmarks were much more personal.
In 1997 and '98, when I had a Compuserve account, my online experience was pretty mundane; it was about showing my friends and family what the internet was and trying to explain its relevance to them. I spent most of my time on sites about sport, information and news. Though, of course, I found Amazon pretty quickly. And I was one of the first to start trading shares online; something that cost me a little bit of money when internet shares started to hit the headlines.
From 1999-2001 was strange. All my mates seemed to have a dotcom idea, but all of them seemed a little too fanciful. My favourite was to build a niche information database that was available online - we worked out that it would take us 355 years to build, so I politely declined to get involved. In some ways, the rest is history. Consumers have managed to catch up with some of the better ideas (like shopping and meeting up with people) and we've proved business can work on the net.
The key thing I've learned is that online businesses have to keep it simple. If consumers are important to you, you simply cannot afford to confuse them.