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November 1, 1999 -- Newsletter #52
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GOODIES TO GO! (tm)
November 1, 1999 -- Newsletter #52
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Greetings, Weekend Silicon Warriors,
Remember the newsletter about Wendy's suing over the use of their name in domains? I wrote that sooner or later someone would inadvertently create a name that infringes. Well, it's happened... maybe.
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter is suing a 17-year-old kid who owns msdwonline.com, claiming the name infringes on their title. The young man created the domain to represent Mud Sweat's Downhill World Online for a mountain bike shop.
Did you hear...
>The U.S. Marines were not ready for this kind of attack. The Marine's Pentagon computers were hit this past Thursday by what is called a "worm virus." The virus affected only Microsoft systems and did no damage to "unclassified information." The virus basically blanked pages that were once full of text.
>IntelliEye is coming out. This is the new Microsoft "mouse" that works by tracking movement by taking 1500 "pictures" a second. It's a lot like the flat touch pads some laptops carry, but apparently much harder to accidentally click. Sorry lefties, only the right-handed version is available at this time. It's believed that gamers will be first to jump all over the new hardware as it allows for much more distinct movement than a traditional track-ball mouse.
>Microsoft lobbyists are out in full force attempting to sway the U.S. Congress to lower the amount of funding for the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust division. They're looking for a cut of around $9 million. Anyone else think this is funny?
>Anyone out there from Chicago? Did you go to "Be sure it's legal day?" If not, it was held last Tuesday. Microsoft had people there to inspect your software. If any of it was counterfeit, they replaced it for free. Not a bad deal. You can expect to see more of this around the country. It's part of Microsoft's effort to stop counterfeits of their software.
Now, onto today's topic...
Man, the Web is huge! I once heard a report that it was doubling itself every 45 days. Then I heard it was once every 42 days, then 41. People are flocking to the Web for commerce, relationships, sports, broadcasts, and general thirst for knowledge. This thing is growing so big, so fast. It's never going to stop growingor will it?
A Web-head friend of mine sent me a piece of e-mail about a monthly survey done by Media Metrix Inc. (MM). In the survey, covering American users, the company keeps track of current and new users to the Web including tracking certain Web site traffic. Each time they've done the survey the numbers just keep going up and up and up. Well, this time they went up, but not they should have.
According to MM, there are now 63.4 million Web users growing at a rate of around 750,000 per month. However, September didn't quite reach its expected potential growing only 2% rather than the almost guaranteed 4%.
So what? Well, September is usually big month for the Internet. School is back in session, baseball is coming into playoffs, American football is getting underway. Certain sites should see great growth as well as across the Internet board. They did, but not as much as expected.
Major domains like Yahoo!, Microsoft, AOL, Lycos, and sites that are part of the Go Network flat-lined. They showed no increase.
On the other hand, September was a huge month for sites that deal with weather. Hurricane Floyd tore up the Eastern American shore and people flocked to weather.com giving the site an overall 20% increase in visitors. I would also think that this had something to do with people not getting on the Web. If your house if flooded, you don't much care about logging on. ABCNews.com and USAToday.com were also winners thanks to news and weather stories.
In addition, September had a major American holiday and several Jewish holidays that could have contributed to lesser Web use. Plus, September is only 30 days long.
Doug McFarland, VP of MM, said that he didn't make too much of this. He suggested the sample may have been too small and is thus not giving a true reading. However, others are proclaiming the stats to be correct. Henry Blodgett or Merrill Lynch claimed the latest numbers are indicative of an overall flattening of Web growth.
So, what do you think? Is the Web coming to critical mass? Can it come to that? Are we reaching the point where everyone who wants to be on the Web is on the Web? Obviously, we're not quite there yet, but can we see it from here?
I guess there has to come a time when everyone who can pay for a connection has already done it and the number of Web users flattens out or even, *gasp*, declines.
Now we get to delve into one of those "What happens if?" discussions professors love so much. I say that because the time will come when Web use will stop growing at an alarming rate or may stop growing altogether. If you believe that the number above indicates that its already happening then so much better for the discussion.
As Linda Richman says: I shall give you yet another topic. The Internet has stopped growing. It is a good thing or a bad thing? Discuss.
Bad thing: Lack of growth will mean less diversity of ideas. For the Web to continue to better itself and its content, new people must come into the fold.
Good thing: Once the Web-use audience stops growing, it will settle itself into a group of people than can be generally described in demographics and psychographics and services can be created for them. The playing field won't change so often. Those on the Web will be better served.
Bad Thing: Smaller sites that cater to a small slice of the user pie will have a hard time growing as they will now need to take audience from other sites rather than procure new users from those coming into the fold.
Good thing: Internet hardware might be able to be formatted knowing the Web's top end so that all those that want to be attached can be attached. Usage levels of many sites would top off so that the hardware would know what it was up against and could be configured for it. The blast of users that shut down a system might never happen again.
Bad thing: With no new people coming to the Web to start their own business, the monoliths that are already on the Web will often go unchallenged. Users won't have a choice in many services. With no new growth, once the little guy is put out of business, no one is coming from behind to take up the torch. Legal monopolies will start to pop up all over the Web.
Good thing: Since the audience can now be described in terms of somewhat stable demographics and psychographics, maybe new software can be tailored to meet demands more successfully.
Bad thing: ISPs would see their own business flatten out.
Good thing: Internet services would become more geared to the user because those providing the service knows that they must hold onto those who they already have visiting rather than knowing there's always someone else coming.
Good thing: Advertising rates and costs could become more standardized.
Bad thing: Advertising rates and costs could become more standardized.
I guess the answer of whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on your take on the Web itself. If you see it as a place for commerce, it would seem like a good thing (at first). If you see the Web as a place for free expression and a free exchange of ideas, then maybe you see it as a bad thing. No new people means no new ideas.
If you post pages to the Web, you might see it as a bad thing. If you simply use the Web to gather information, you might see it as a good thing.
I guess it all depends on your take on the Web and what it's really here to do. As far as I am concerned, I only see one absolute in this argument. Web use will flatten out. It simply cannot grow forever. Hopefully, we're not seeing the beginning of it right now, but it will happen.
It'll be interesting to see how both business and individual users deal with it.
And that's that. Thanks for reading.
Joe Burns, Ph.D.
And Remember: If you had money to burn, you could try buying the most expensive thing in the world, californium-252. It's an element the Atomic Energy Commission has sold for $1000 per microgram or around $350 billion per pound.