gold in that
thar 'Net--and it's not exactly in the places where you might have
by Alan Zisman (c) 1995 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #302 August 8, 1995 High Tech Office column
a gold rush, a few prospectors--usually the ones who got there
made a bundle. Hearing about it, hordes descended upon the goldfields,
only to find all the best territory already staked out. They rarely
made much money.
gold rush, there
was always another group, which never struck it rich as dramatically
as the initial prospectors, but generally did just fine, thank you.
These were the people who, rather than going prospecting themselves,
sold supplies to the prospectors.
Internet mania of
the past year or two has much in common with any of the classic gold
rushes. Companies are being urged to drop everything and head for
the 'Net, for fear that their competitors will strike it rich and
that they'll be left behind. But no one's striking it rich selling on
the 'Net--companies offering products for sale report lots of window
shoppers, but not many actual sales. Still, several categories of
businesses are doing just fine as a result of all this hype. One class
of small business that's seeing a dramatic growth is the Internet
recently as two years
ago, getting onto the Internet was pretty much limited to university
students hooked into the campus computer, and people with connections
to a few large businesses with networks that were on-line. Now the
bulk of the action comes from smaller, local service providers: a
Unix computer, a bunch of rented phone lines, a high-speed hookup
to the Internet, and you too can go into business.
business is expected
to double over the next year or so, although I wouldn't be surprised
to see a shakeup of the industry fairly soon, with a few medium-sized
local companies surviving.
need specialized hardware and software, and the companies that can
provide these are also doing fine. Where not too long ago, there was
a real sense that the high-end PowerMacs and Pentiums were going to
push the Unix boxes right off the market, Unix has been revitalized
as a platform for Internet providers. Network hardware providers,
high-speed modem manufacturers--all are getting a boost from the 'Net
Internet has had
a long tradition of free software. Mosaic, the program that
the current mania, was developed at the University of Illinois'
Center for SuperComputing Applications, and given away free. The
favourite Web browser, Netscape, is still given away free by the
company of the same name.
order to use
its best features, such as the security vital for future commercial
transactions, users need to log on to a Web page running on a Netscape
server, and that software costs $5,000. And when you get onto that
Web site, you may find that the free content comes to you complete
with advertising. Check out Wired magazine's HotWired
site (http://www.wired.com/): ads run along the headers and footers
of the Web pages. The advertisers are getting a piece of the peculiar
demographics of people cruising the 'Net--male, well-educated,
affluent--and those Web sites with the foresight to sell ads are
digital phone links,
which carry a lot more data a lot more quickly than ordinary phone
lines, have for years been a solution in search of a
superior, but without a crying need to answer. Now the Internet is
creating a demand for ISDN links. Is there an investment opportunity
in order to
get your company onto the 'Net, you'll probably end up making use
of the new industry of Web consultants. For a fee, they'll help you
design your Web pages and handle the dirty work of translating your
documents into the Web's HTML language.
Most of the
from 'Net mania are small, providing their various services on what
is often a local level. Then again, Levi Strauss started out
selling canvas tents to California's prospectors.