The Internet in 1996

By Dale Glaser

Almost a year ago now, I wrote a series of articles for the Eagle on the Internet and the World Wide Web. The WWW, a graphical colorful hypertexted environment, was just catching on because of a new free program called Netscape. Using Netscape, the Internet is not difficult to understand or to navigate. You jump around the world and information simply by clicking on text and graphics on the screen.

My comments were an understatement. Over the last year the WWW and Netscape have exploded in popularity, and caused a geometric increase in the number of people using the Internet. Also, Netscape triggered a bull stock market lead by technology stocks that yielded up to 50% returns in 1995. Everybody wanted into the Internet business!

At the same time, we saw one of the biggest media hype campaigns in history. Every magazine seemed to have an article about the "Information Superhighway."

Something for Business

Businesses got directly involved in the Internet in 1995. A business wasn't "in" if it didn't have a web page. While having an Internet web site is not a big money-maker for businesses yet—until financial transaction security issues are solved—a business web page can provide quick customer support, as well as instant promotion and updating of products information.

Something for Everyman

For the average person, the WWW became the great equalizer. The programming language called HTML with which you create WWW pages is relatively easy to learn and allows anyone to create their own "home page" on the net just like a big corporation. This started a new form of creative epression for "the rest of us." For example, a small business can now advertise and set up a mail order business with no mailing costs, and instant product information dispersal all over the world.

The Internet is unique in opening up a means of free expression for almost anybody. One of my own interests is the networking of grass-roots activist groups, who can now share knowledge and skills with others around the country or the world with the click of a mouse. You no longer have to depend on "the media" for your information.

What's next on the Internet?

What we've seen so far is nothing to what is coming in the near future. Here's a taste...

Web pages up till now have been basically static pages that you simply viewed with a web browser. Yes, the web allows you to interact by clicking text and graphics and jump somewhere else in the world, but you still only view what someone has previously stored on a computer.

Not any more. A new web programming language called Java, which integrates with the WWW, is about to radically change the Internet. Little programs called Java applets can be quickly sent with a document and will allow for open-ended capabilities. Coming soon will be animation, interactive 3-D environments, and real-time updating of text and numbers on the screen, for example, stock market quotes.

Also, database information is being connected to the Internet, so you will be able to request specific kinds and arrangements of information unique to your needs.

In the farther future is the probability of good quality real-time videoconferencing and audio broadcasts, distance learning, and long distance telephone calls via the Internet. And who knows what else!

The down sides of the Internet future (depending on your point of view, of course) are the implementation of "nanobucks," the ability to charge a few cents for a transaction, for example, the viewing of a document. We will see more advertising, as well as fees for accessing some kinds of information.

And then there are the issues of censorship and freedom of speech and expression on the Internet. We live in interesting times.

Copyright Mendocino College Eagle 1995 Permission granted to use articles if source is cited

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Last Update: 3/23/96