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Web zillionaires: Want a new friend?

Everybody _ by which I mean "not you" _ is getting rich off the Internet. We are constantly seeing stories in the media about young Internet entrepreneurs who look like they should be mowing lawns for spending money, except that they have the same net worth as Portugal.

Six months ago, they were college students, sitting around their dorms, trying to figure out which body part to pierce next; now they're the CEOs of Something-Dot-Com, and they're buying mansions, jets, camels, etc.

When we read about these spectacularly successful young people who, through their boldness and vision, have realized the American Dream, and in so doing have created the greatest economic boom the world has ever seen, thereby benefiting all of us, we cannot help but express our gratitude as follows: "I hope they get leprosy."

No! We must not be petty and jealous just because these people are young and rich. Instead we must philosophically ask ourselves: "Are these young zillionaires truly happy? Does all that money really give them any more pleasure than I can get from simply watching a sunrise or chatting with an old friend?"

You cretin: Of course it does. These people are so rich that they can install giant hydraulic hoists under the entire horizon, so they can raise it up and watch the same sunrise twice. And they can buy all the old friends they want. They can buy your old friends. When you ask your old friends to come over and chat, they'll say, "Sorry! I've been invited to a 22-year old zillionaire's house to watch him raise the horizon!"

So the bottom line is, if you want to be happy in today's economy, you need to be rich, too. This means that you have to become involved with the Internet, which has brought about the most revolutionary change in business communications since 1876, when Alexander Graham Bell first figured out how to make callers on hold listen to Barry Manilow.

What, exactly, is the Internet? Basically it is a global network exchanging digitized data in such a way that any computer, anywhere, that is equipped with a device called a "modem," can make a noise like a duck choking on a kazoo. This is called "logging on," and once you are "logged on," you can move the "pointer" of your "mouse" to a "hyperlink," and simply by "clicking" on it, change your "pointer" to an "hourglass." Then you can go to "lunch," and when you come back, there, on your computer screen, as if by magic, will be at least 14 advertisements related to Beanie Babies (which are the foundation of the entire world economy).

The business community is insanely excited about the Internet. Internet companies are springing up like mushrooms, inspired by such amazing success stories as, which started doing business just a few years ago and is already losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year. A lot of Internet companies are losing money like crazy, yet their stock prices are soaring; in fact, the more an Internet company loses, the more desirable it becomes to investors.

This seems like a paradox, but there's a very logical economic explanation: Internet investors have the brains of grapefruit. If you started a company called Set Fire to Piles of, they'd be beating down your door.

Here in the newspaper business, we have definitely caught Internet Fever. In the old days, we used to _ Get this! _ actually charge money for our newspapers. Ha ha! What an old-fashioned, low-tech, non-digital concept! Nowadays all of the hip modern newspapers spend millions of dollars operating Web sites where we give away the entire newspaper for free. Sometimes we run advertisements in the regular newspaper urging our remaining paying customers to go to our Web sites instead. "Stop giving us money!" is the shrewd marketing thrust of these ads. Why do we do this? Because all the other newspapers are doing it! If all the other newspapers stuck pencils up their noses, we'd do that, too! This is called "market penetration."

My point is that if the newspaper industry _ which still has not figured out, despite centuries of operation, where your driveway is _ can get into the Internet, then you can, too. Simply follow the clear, detailed instructions set forth in this column, and you're on your way! I sincerely hope you get very, very rich. Because then I can be your friend.

Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald.