In the 1990s, commerce became e-commerce and the nation was gripped in dot-com fever. The nation's economy had started off the decade in a slump. By the mid-1990s, however, the energizing force of what became known as the dot-com revolution helped fuel the longest sustained period of economic growth in the nation's history. Dot-coms are companies that do business over the World Wide Web. The Web is a system that connects computers in a giant network and allows people to easily buy and sell goods and services electronically (thus the term e-commerce). They are named dot-coms because their World Wide Web addresses typically end with ".com."
All over the country—but especially in the Internet boom areas of Silicon Valley, California; Seattle, Washington; and New York City's Silicon Alley—small dot-com companies launched themselves. The small companies had ambitious plans to use the World Wide Web to do amazing things like sell books, pet supplies, and groceries. These dot-coms attracted vast amounts of investors' dollars and helped fuel a rapidly rising stock market that made many Americans a good sum of money. The World Wide Web also allowed for the emergence of "day traders," individuals who bought and sold stocks from the comfort of their computer terminals. Some day traders made millions; many others went bankrupt.
If one company benefited most from the growing popularity of computer-based businesses, it was the Redmond, Washington–based Microsoft. Microsoft sold the operating systems that helped run the vast majority of computers in the world. Its competitors said that it used its operating-system dominance to unfair advantage. The U.S. Justice Department won a ruling that broke the company apart (although that ruling was later overturned).
Outside the world of computers, Americans consumed as they had for decades: excessively. In 1992, America built a giant shrine to the joys of consumerism in Bloomington, Minnesota. The Mall of America, with 4.2 million square feet of floor space, became the largest shopping mall in the country.