--Alan Zisman

Top 10 things people do on the World Wide Web
include searching, shopping and smacking Dave

What do you do on the Internet? Business in Vancouver interviews a reader each week on this page, listing, among other things, her or his favourite Web sites.

Internet guru Jesse Berst publishes AnchorDesk (, an online newsletter that appears three times a week. For the past few months, it has been teasing readers with the Top 10 things people do on the Web, based on research by CyberAtlas, eStats, Internet Trak and others.

Let's see how your Web time compares.

10. Online shopping. While widely touted as the next big thing, shopping just makes the bottom of the list, with $4.8 billion in sales in 1997. Predictions are for this figure to take off, however, zooming to $109 billion in '98 and a breathtaking $1.75 trillion within four years. We'll see. Shoppers tend to find stores using search engines, rather than clicking on banner ads, with most shoppers visiting several sites before parting with any cash.

9. Play games. Interactive online games are taking off. Not surprisingly, a third of 18 to 24 year olds go online to play games, but so do 13 per cent of Net users between 54 and 65. Games played range from Celebrity Slugfest ( where you can take a punch at stars ranging from David Letterman to Barney, to the online You Don't Know Jack trivia game show at

8. Investing. Making money seems to be more popular than spending it, at least on the Net. An estimated three million Americans play the stock markets over the Web, with suggestions that the figure will grow by 500 per cent over the next four years. For investors willing to do their own research and manage their own portfolios, the Internet makes stock trading fast, easy and cheap. But what does it tell you, if a well-known site for information on investment is called "Motley Fool" (

7. Socializing. Chat sounds so patronizing. But interacting with other people in real-time over the Net is big -- and growing. Chat need not be purely social. Sites such as CNN include news-oriented discussion forums, while TalkCity's Business Center ( focuses on business and finance. Check at for lists of currently hot chat sites (and other lists of what's hot on the Net).

6. Booking travel. The bad news for travel agents is the number of people booking flights and making hotel reservations over the Net. That's good news, however, for small tourism operators, who can let a worldwide audience know about their offerings. Microsoft has moved in on this market, with Expedia (www.
), while search engine Excite's ( is also hot. Name your price and Priceline ( will try to find you a plane ticket.

5. Downloading software. Not surprisingly, people with computers use the Net to get stuff for their computers. That stuff can include bug-fixes and drivers to make their existing software work better, or any of thousands of easily downloadable shareware and freeware. (Check for both Mac and PC shareware or for games.) Commercial companies are making betas and demonstration copies of their new releases freely available and, in many cases, offering users the ability to buy the software over the Net. Not surprisingly, this has affected software retailers such as Egghead, who have shut down their stores in favour of a virtual presence.

4. Online learning. This can range from for-credit university courses to corporate-based training for employees. More than 800 North American post-secondary institutions are offering courses over the Net. At Alberta's Athabaska University, one-third of the MBA students are finishing their degrees over the Internet. As with other Net-based activities, online learning operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (It's never summer break on the Net.) But forward-looking institutions, including B.C.'s Open Learning Agency (www.
), have tried to integrate student/teacher discussion groups into online courses, to give online education some of the interactivity of its classroom counterpart. In addition to formal courses, the Internet is brimming with educational sites, ranging from online encyclopedias ( to Simon Fraser University's Ask a Scientist (

3. Career management. Once you've taken those courses, it's time to look for a new job. Internet job listings grew by 100 per cent last year. University of B.C. students dropping in to the career guidance centre can get help using the Net for their search. Or they can try posting a r?sum? for free at Headhunter (

2. Reading news and sports. We've seen how print producers such as The Wall Street Journal, Vancouver's Buy & Sell Press and Business in Vancouver have found ways to produce online editions without cannibalizing their print readership. Want sports? Try ESPN (www.espn.
). More straight-ahead (U.S.-based) news can be found at
CNN ( or the Microsoft-NBC coalition, MSNBC
( Local Vancouver weather is online at www.

1. Searching the Net. Given the chaotic state of the Internet, it's probably no surprise that most often people search the Net for what they really want to find. (The most-searched-for thing
is sex.) The No. 1 search site is Yahoo, with its Canadian-affiliate ( available for Canadian-focused information. Personally, I tend to use Hot Bot (, both because it's fast and detailed, and its default settings are more intelligent that the competition's: type in

Search WWW Search

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan