Web can generate
business for companies that understand its limitations
by Alan Zisman (c) 1995 First published
in Business in
Vancouver , Issue #289 May 9, 1995 High Tech
at an amazingly feverish pitch. In one recent Saturday edition of
Vancouver's daily of record, I counted five mentions of the Internet,
including two in the business section. And getting business onto the
Internet-- and the World Wide Web in particular --is a growth industry
activity was pretty much banned from the Net, which obtained its base
funding from the U.S. government's National Science Foundation (NSF)
as a way to connect university researchers. In recent years, however,
NSF funding has been cut, and the Net has opened up to business.
with the scientists
and computer types, more and more businesses are finding their way
onto the Internet. But in many cases, this means unreal expectations
about what role they can expect the Net to play for their businesses.
count on the Net to directly generate sales.
trying to use the Internet as a low-cost equivalent of the Home
Network. This may eventually pay off, but we're not there yet. While
there are claims of up to 30 million Internet users, that figure
large numbers with only a token Internet interest. And the demographics
are unusual-- 90 per cent of Internet users are male, for example.
there are some
real benefits. Electronic mail is a real plus. The explosion of
mail permits its use between offices, for employees on the road, and
for customers seeking technical support or product information. Every
business should have an Internet mail address, and it should be listed
on everyone's business card.
these are the mundane uses of the Net. When people talk about the
Internet today, they're usually referring to the World Wide Web, which
offers fancy text, graphics, sound and video.
Only a few
the Web is experiencing explosive growth. The number of 'home pages'
posted on the Web is doubling every five months.
Records has an international reputation, supporting artists such
as Sarah McLachlan and Ginger.
.wimsey.com/nettwerk/) is listed on its new CD covers. Internet users
can access it from anywhere without incurring big phone charges. On
it, they get a post-modern graphical interface that is in keeping
with the company's product line. They can download pictures of their
favourite artists and snippets of music or video. They can still order
Law Society's home page
is much more pedestrian-looking, mostly text and a logo.
has used computer networking to distribute environmental legal
throughout B.C., and to network with organizations sharing its
around the world.
have become commonplace, and can be used on PCs, Macs, Unix machines,
even Amigas. Anyone with an Internet account can access the society's
postings of significant legal decisions and regulations.
Nettwerk's site is
arty, and the law society's is plain and simple, the NorthWest
Homes OnLine (NWHO) pages show how a business can use Web pages
in a straightforward way.
provides advertising space on the Web for real estate agents and
properties for sale or rent. Rates start at $15 a month for a property,
or $59 per year for an agent. Ads for properties include MLS data,
along with a scanned colour photo.
service comes across
as no more than a higher-resolution version of the Real Estate
Weekly-- but it covers a wider area, and has the potential to
reach a more general audience. Click on a map of the Lower Mainland
to jump to the list for that area.
reports about 700
enquiries per day, with up to one-third coming from outside North
as easy and inexpensive for a customer in Japan, Germany, or Argentina
to access your Vancouver Web listing as it is for one in Burnaby.
of local organizations that have found a way to use the Web
But not everyone is so lucky.
The Web is
with poorly designed pages. Sometimes the Web can seem like a
'90s version of vanity publishing; sometimes it looks more like a
slide show of someone's trip to the Grand Canyon.
And even the
most clearly focused page is only useful if it gets seen. Stanford
University's Yahoo (http://akebono.stanford.edu/yahoo/) is a Web search
site available for user reference.