The economic worldview is one in which all human interactions can be described in terms of economicsin the supply-and-demand terms of commerce. It was inevitable that the electronic subculture of the Internet would become the base of a dynamic
economy, in which legitimate business is carried out every day. Not unexpectedly, such transactions have, in some circles, become as pedestrian as buying a pretzel from a street vendor. Like all markets, though, the Internet has a unique character that
must be understood to be exploited.
Electronic markets are similar to all other markets in one key respectthe winners understand their audience. Doing business on the Internet requires an understanding of who is "out there" and what they need. In the parlance of the
marketer, what are the demographics? Of course, with a population as large as the Internet, there is no single answer to this question. (The broadest community today is 25 to 50 year old males with technical degrees, although this is becoming less true
each day.) Getting the raw information yourself can be cost-prohibitive. Fortunately, several universities and businesses are asking the right questions and may be able to help you better understand usage characteristics as they affect you.
Leading the list of Internet usage information is the Results from the First World Wide Web User Survey, prepared by the Graphics, Visualization, & Usability Center of the College of Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology. In
January, 1994, James Pitkow and Mimi Recker received results from over 4,000 Internet users. Their questions included primary computer platform, hours spent in front of a computer, age, gender (94.9 percent male) and occupation. This study is a good first
step toward improving knowledge of who is on the Internet. They plan to run this form of study twice each year. Future studies will include several valuable additions: 1) adaptive questions so that, as the user answers a questions, follow-up questions are
selected that relate specifically to the user's environment; and 2) a results database, so custom queries may be produced from study data. You can view the results of the first study in HTML via: http://www.gatech.edu/pitkow/survey/survey-1-1994/ survey-paper.html.
Figure 20.1 shows the percentage of Internet users by age group.
Figure 20.1. Internet users by age group. From Results from the First World Wide Web User Survey.
Another interesting source of Internet usage information is available from Internet Info. They continuously look at who is on the Internet from a commercial standpoint. In addition to doing custom reports, Internet Info also provides free lists of
companies registered on the Internet segmented by industry type and geography. Their free New to the Net service provides a monthly listing of some of the more interesting new commercial domains and their business owners. The report also tracks the monthly
growth rate of commercial domains. You can reach Internet Info at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can view their free service information in HTML via http://tig.com/IBC/. The following is a sample report from Internet Info.
Cities with the Highest Concentration of InterNet Connected Companies April 1994 Connected Internet Population Companies Connected in per City / State Companies 1,000's 1,000 1 Princeton NJ 39 12 3.25 2 Palo Alto CA 155 55 2.82 3 Menlo Park CA 77 28 2.75 4 Falls Church VA 23 9 2.56 5 Scotts Valley CA 20 8 2.50 6 Vienna VA 33 14 2.36 7 Boulder CO 194 83 2.34 8 Herndon VA 34 16 2.13 9 Mountain View CA 143 67 2.13 10 Golden CO 25 13 1.92 11 Santa Clara CA 175 93 1.88 12 Los Altos CA 47 26 1.81 13 Burlington MA 39 23 1.70 14 Los Gatos CA 45 27 1.67 15 Cambridge MA 159 95 1.67 16 Cupertino CA 66 40 1.65 17 Fairfax VA 29 19 1.53 18 Englewood CO 40 29 1.38 19 Sunnyvale CA 157 117 1.34 20 McLean VA 28 24 1.17 21 Los Altos Hills CA 28 26 1.08 22 Littleton CO 34 33 1.03 23 Sterling VA 19 20 0.95 24 Beaverton OR 50 53 0.94 25 Reston VA 44 48 0.92 This analysis is based on the 14,276 companies registered with Internet as of April 1994. Source: Internet Info, Falls Church, VA For more information send email to email@example.com
The Internet Business Center (IBC) provides information sources that help people conduct business on the Internet. IBC's home page is a good starting point to find commerce activity as well as other sources of marketing information concerning the
Internet. The Internet Business Center is sponsored as a marketing service by The Internet Group, an Internet consulting firm. You can view the Internet Business Center in HTML via: http://tig.com/. Figure 20.2 shows the IBC
Figure 20.2. The IBC home page.
As Internet commerce activity increases, more and more information will become available to help you increase your business. A recent publication, The Internet Business Advantage, is a monthly newsletter devoted exclusively to helping businesses
increase their success on the Internet. In addition to covering new Internet commerce related activity, the Internet Business Advantage runs special features providing insights and tips to help businesses use the Internet. In a recent feature covering
advertising over the Internet, the Internet Business Advantage provided tips and techniques to help businesses improve their exposure. You can reach the Internet Business Advantage at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the most popular misconceptions about putting a business on the Internet is that as soon as you do so, computer and communications phreaks around the world will immediately try and bring down your network and, by extension, your business.
Although like most myths, this is far from accurate, it indicates an important truth: One (if not the primary) concern for the Internet business person must be security.
What does that mean? Does security on the Internet mean physical security of the host and communications hardware? Does it mean being able to track all attempts, unsuccessful and successful, to use resources on your business LAN or WAN? Does it mean a
constant cycle of education for you as well as your peers, subordinates and superiors about how to "keep their end up" in the security obligations of your company? Yesall that and more.
Question: How do you make my business network impenetrably secure?
Answer: You can't.
Short of powering down all your computers, sealing them all in a block of lead and shooting them into the sun, there's nothing you can do to make your network impervious to attack by someone really intent on doing so and well-enough armed to pull it
off. Even if you're not on the Internet, many conditionsthe radio-frequency interference from your displays; traffic broadcast on your network through unsecure spaces; old backups, floppies, tapes, and printouts in the dumpster; undercompensated but
highly privileged userscan all be easily used to get sensitive information about you and your customers almost as easily as if you'd published it in the classifieds.
Does this mean you should hop in your car, drive to work, turn everything off, and start using index cards, green paper ledgers and Big Chief tablets? Not at all. Host- and network-based information can be the least secure information you have, but it
can also be the most securecertainly more secure that something sitting in a physical filing cabinet or on a standalone workstation. The difference is in where you place your installation on the continuum between a completely open and public system,
and one in which no onenot even legitimate userscan get at sensitive information.
Very few, if any, users will find either pole of that spectrum acceptable. Persons who would try unauthorized penetrations of your security will find it rewarding only up to a certain point. The art of security risk management is in locating the point
on the spectrum that is appropriate for you, your customers, and your company.
There are too many approaches to site security to summarize them here, but a few would make an interesting starting point on your journey toward a "secure-enough-for-now" site.
Much like the firewall in your car, site firewalls exist to partition you from the chaos outside. In your car, the firewall is just thata wall to separate the passenger compartment from the engine compartment in the event of a fire. A
site-security firewall exists to partition the relatively unsecure territory outside from the (hopefully) relatively secure territory within your site. It's useful to know about three major types of site firewalls: router-based, host-based,
and application-based firewalls. Nowadays, hosts can be found performing router-type firewalling and so on, so these should be considered broad categories.
Router-based firewalls take advantage of the fact that all data communications coming to and from your site goes through a few routers. It makes sense, therefore, to take advantage of this fact to filter the traffic going into and out of your site, and
instruct the router to prohibit traffic from certain networks or to certain types of applications. The advantage of this approach is that it frequently doesn't require any additional purchasesjust the additional manpower and administrative commitment
necessary to decide what kinds of filters should be in place, and how to implement them. Not all routers are able to do such filtering, though, and a prohibitively large investment in routers incompatible with this approach might be a good reason for going
with another approach. Other reasons for not using router-based firewalls include the increased expertise required to maintain security, as well as usability when using a dynamic set of filters in your router configurations. For a network of any
substantial size, the processing and memory load represented by doing such work on your main routers may also be prohibitively large. Certainly, a measure of quantitative testing is called for when deciding if router-based firewalls are appropriate for
Another, often simpler, approach is a host-based firewall. This approach is popular with many companies because it involves directly connecting only one host to the Internet, loading it up with additional security safeguards, and requiring all internal
and external users to log in to the firewall host before gaining access to the other side. The benefits of this include the fact that it's as close to a no-brainer as security ever gets, as well as the fact that it greatly reduces the number of points of
possible entry to your system, permitting you to spend more resources on securing other access points such as dialups, interorganizational WAN links, and remote LANs. The impact of the downside falls mainly on your corporate culture. Making the Internet
difficult or even inconvenient to use will discourage a large percentage of your organization from making it part of their daily routine. If you're intent on making the Internet part of your corporate culture, this discouragement may translate into a
larger and less effective training budget to compensate for the learning that would take place in everyday Net-surfing.
The third type of firewall, application-specific firewalls generally "live" on each individual host they protect, directing their influence toward a specific set of problems associated with individual applications. The advantage of an
application-specific firewall is that it affords single hosts much more security than exists in the surrounding LAN. It also permits over-extended support organizations to bring up security in an incremental fashion, starting with the most critical hosts,
and working their way down a chain of relative importance. A disadvantage of application-specific firewalls is that although they might require a small-to-moderate amount of effort to install on any given host, that effort and resources can easily become
quite large when multiplied by every host in the organization. Many sites prefer to use application-specific firewalls as a secondary measure to shore up the influence of sitewide firewalls that add protection to the entire site.
Numerous applications in common use have their own individual security concerns. The UNIX "r" utilitiesrlogin, rsh and rcp, for instancecan represent a wholesale security compromise if an innocent user happens to put the wrong
information in a .rhosts file in their home directory. HTTPD, or a World Wide Web server, can permit users to publish form- or script-based services on the WWW without realizing how they can be exploited by remote users to gain varying levels of access to
your systems. SMTP-based mail systems, perhaps the most common Internet application, can be misconfigured and subsequently misused as well to diminish your efforts to secure your business network.
It's easy, after learning such things, to conclude that security concerns make the Internet much more trouble that it's worth. With a little forethought and an ongoing commitment, though, you should be able to find a happy medium with regard to
With a well-maintained site security system, using network resources outside your corporate network should be no more difficult that using resources within it. Legitimate outside users shouldn't have to jump through hoops to get out what they need. You
should be able to provide your customers with piece of mind that confidential information about them has not been compromised. The only way to do this is to monitor all your networks and host systems with constant vigilance, and have trustworthy tools and
personnel keeping records about all entrances into your hosts and networks, and from where the entrances originate; have a common understanding in your organization that security is everyone's job; and finally, think through every likely and many
unlikely security contingencies that you could be faced with at the most inconvenient times, and prepare for them so that your response and that of your organization will be second-nature.
In short, the security of the Internet and Internet-attached systems is a constant arms race between legitimate users or providers, and persons who (just as often well-intentioned as not) see it as their sacred duty to expose all security weaknesses on
the Net in an endless game of oneupmanship between themselves and the rest of the world. As the business community begins to offer more mission-critical services over the Net, such comparatively innocuous irritants may be replaced by the more serious
threat of industrial espionage and trade warfare.
The good news is that unless you do something terribly naive, like making public claims that your network is bulletproof or challenging computer or communications phreaks to break into your network (although comparable challenges made to your own
employees are often an excellent way to test your security), each successive measure of security you place on your network puts you that much further away from disaster.
Although it may sound Machiavellian, the fact that there are always businesses on the Net who aren't responsible about their own security will always work in your favor if you, by contrast, expend the effort to make security a central component of your
service mission. If a car thief, after all, encounters two similar cars in a darkened, isolated parking lot, but only one is alarmed, guess which one won't be there in five minutes?
Probably the best way to see how your business may be able to use the Internet is to see how others are using it. Here are some examples.
"Welcome to the toy store of the global village. It used to be G.I. Joes. Train sets. Hot Wheels. Now you prefer to play with the hottest hardware and software around." With this introduction, the Internet Shopping Network's (ISN) brochure
pronounces that it is ready to do business. Founded in June, 1993, the Internet Shopping Network is an online microcomputer software and hardware superstore available 24 hours per day, seven days a week, to anyone with access to the Internet.
Clearly, ISN has "set its sites" on the gold-collar worker of todaythe Internet user. That is not such a bad idea. Think of the demographics that you already know about today's Internet users. Without knowing their ages, race, religion,
or where they live, you do know that they own and use computers. They at least have a modem or another, faster, way to connect to the Net. Many represent the elite of the computer industry. They drive the fastest computers, influence lots of other computer
decision makers and often design the next generation of products. ISN is targeting this group as the primary customers for its computer cyberstore.
The Internet Shopping Network is set up as a member-oriented organization; membership is free with an approved Visa or MasterCard. ISN offers more than 15,000 software and hardware products. In addition, the Internet Shopping Network has begun offering
access to the past twelve months of InfoWorld articles. Their rationale behind InfoWorld access is to enable shoppers to browse past issues to aid selection of the products most likely to fit their needs. If you want to buy a disk drive, for
example, you first go to Infoworld and get their reviews to find which products work the best and why. Then you browse Internet Shopping Network's catalog and make your purchase.
The "toy store of the global village" provides an interesting glimpse of electronic commerce over the Internet. The Internet Shopping Network can claim two distinct advantages for cyberstore retailing. First, it is possible to get lots of
"browsers" with an extremely low cost per browser. ISN doesn't have to worry about location, shoplifting, heating, or parking. From their Web server, they are able to support thousands of people from all over the world browsing through their
store each week. That is a retailer's dream. When it is time to order product, the customer selects the item and initiates the transaction. The cost per sale transaction is incredibly lowmuch lower than the $5 order cost often cited by 800
By using a membership orientation, the Internet Shopping Network avoids the security problem that comes when someone places their credit card number onto a public network. The card number never appears on the network. The one-time membership
registration is handled through their 800 number or via FAX. This way, the Internet Shopping Network is able to offer credit card security on par with other mail-order houses and telemarketing sales groups. Figures 20.3 and 20.4 show the ISN home page and
the ISN second page, respectively.
Figure 20.3. The ISN home page.
Figure 20.4. The ISN second page.
The Internet Shopping Network wants to become everyone's computer superstore. People in areas far from the nearest superstore are able to have the same broad product selection and low prices offered by superstores. Plus, the Internet Shopping Network
offers a home for hard-to-find items not normally available on the shelves of major retailers.
Billing itself as "the world's most accessible art gallery," Kaleidoscope Media displays works of aspiring artists to Internet users worldwide. Kaleidoscope's gallery, cleverly named Kaleidospace, is open 24 hours a day and is available
worldwide for browsing the latest works from member artists. Artists can display their works for $50 per month (plus sales commissions).
Kaleidospace is divided into ten rooms:
Figure 20.5 shows the Kaleidospace home page.
Figure 20.5. The Kaleidospace home page.
Kaleidospace supports artists in ways that traditional art galleries cannot. Since they are dealing in Cyberspace, promoting, screening, distribution and placement capability take on new meaning. For instance, when you go shopping for a new CD to add to
your collection, Kaleidospace lets you download a 30-second sample selection, browse through reviewers' comments, and look through the artists' online biographies. The service seems to be off to a good start. Within the first few weeks of its introduction,
Kaleidospace had over 40,000 log-ins from around the world.
Using the Internet to improve customer service seems to be the most widespread among computer companies. It is only natural that these organizations turn to the Internet since that is where their customers are. There already is a long list of
companies,their World Wide Web servers loaded with customer support information.
In April, 1994, Hewlett Packard went online with Access HP for the express purpose of delivering customer information using the Internet. Hewlett Packard's philosophy is to deliver information to customers where and how their customers want itat
the right time and at the right place. With so many of their customers already on the Internet, Access HP, is a natural extension of their service/support mechanism.
Hewlett Packard found the Internet very appealing. It has a low entry cost; HP already had access to the Internet, Mosaic is free to the users, and the technical community truly has an interest in doing this. So far, its early work has been rewarded
with customer enthusiasm.
Figure 20.6 shows the HP home page.
Figure 20.6. The HP home page.
Hewlett Packard has many lines of businesscomputers, peripherals, medical products, test and measurement equipmenteach with its own special needs. Access HP has been constructed so that each business division, as well as HP Corporate, can
identify and fill customer needs through the Internet. Whether it is business-to-business communication, support for product catalogs, locating training courses, updating customer software, or providing technical support, Access HP can be used. Hewlett
Packard is planning to make this service a mainstream part of their overall marketing, sales, and customer-support capability.
Need a dozen roses? Instead of looking in the phone book for a florist, Grant's Florist is available on the Net 24 hours per day to serve you. You can go over to their home page, view images of their arrangements, make your selection (they list their
arrangements by price categories) and place your order. Of course, your personal message is placed on the greeting card. All without having to leave the comfort of your desktop.
The feature I like best from Grant's Florist is their reminder service that comes through e-mail. Since I check e-mail every day, I expect this service will come in handy for those hard-to-remember occasions. This can lead to a whole host of
Internet-enhanced personal services. In addition to reminding you of birthdays and anniversaries, businesses can alert you that your car needs scheduled service, that it is time for your annual teeth cleaning, and so on. Perhaps we will be getting college
reunions set up through Internet mailassuming your Internet address does not change for fifty years!
Figure 20.7 shows the Grant's Florist home page.
Figure 20.7. The Grant's Florist home page.
CommerceNet's ambitious efforts take aim at creating the first large-scale market trial of electronic commerce on the Internet. CommerceNet is a nonprofit consortium of Northern California, technology-oriented companies whose goal is to create an
electronic marketplace where companies transact business spontaneously over the Internet. In April, 1994, CommerceNet launched its World Wide Web server to provide users access to electronic commerce-related information, applications and organizations. The
CommerceNet server hosts information in six primary categories: 1) information about the CommerceNet organization; 2) directories of participants, value-added third-party services, and Internet resources; 3) member registration and communications; and 4)
tutorials and examples.
CommerceNet's directors feel it will be successful when its member companies are more successful because they are on the Internet. For the present, CommerceNet is organizing member initiatives to look into expanding Internet functionality to simplify
commerce activity. They have chosen security, directories, catalogs, payment methods, and simplified access as chief among Internet electronic commerce concerns. CommerceNet has formed several committees of its company members to develop methods around
these topics: 1) Connectivity Working Group, 2) Network Services Working Group, 3) Payment Group, 4) Directory Group, 5) Electronic Catalog Group, 6) Internet EDI Group, and 7) Design and Manufacturing Integration.
CommerceNet was created and is operated by a consortium of major Silicon Valley users, providers, and developers. It seeks to revolutionize the Valley's core electronics, software, and information service industries by making interactions between
customers, suppliers, and development partners as efficient as interactions among internal departments. CommerceNet will ultimately help to revolutionize the way most Bay Area companies transact business, regardless of their size of business focus.
Membership in CommerceNet is open to all businesses. Its original participant list reads like a who's who in Silicon Valley: Amdahl Corporation, Anthem Electronics, Inc., Apple Computer, Inc., AVEX Electronics Inc., Bank of America, Citibank N.A.,
Dataquest, Digital Equipment Corporation, Dun & Bradstreet Corporation, Electronic Marketplace Systems, Inc. (An International Data Group Company), Hewlett-Packard, Integrated Systems Solutions Corporation (a subsidiary of IBM), Intel Corporation,
Internet Shopping Network, InterNex Information Services, Inc., Lockheed Missiles and Space Company, Inc., Nanothinc, National Semiconductor, Network Computing Devices, Inc. (NCD), Pacific Bell, PartNet, Inc., RSA Data Security, Inc., Solectron
Corporation, Sun Microsystems, Inc., Synopsys Inc., Tandem Computers Incorporated, Trusted Information Systems, Inc., Wells Fargo & Co. and Xerox. This membership list is a cross between computer companies, software companies, communications companies,
semiconductor manufacturers and services organizations. CommerceNet also has government affiliations including regional, state and federal agencies. CommerceNet was awarded a $6 million matching grant over three years by the United States government's
Technology Reinvestment Project (TRP).
Figure 20.8 shows the CommerceNet home page.
Figure 20.8. The CommerceNet home page.
CommerceNet believes it can best benefit business by dramatically improving the productivity and competitiveness of its participants. Through an online global marketplace it can help its company members 1) shorten procurement cycles through online
catalogs, ordering, and payment, 2) cut costs through competitive bidding, and 3) shrink development cycles and accelerate time-to-market through collaborative engineering and product implementation. CommerceNet's directors feel it offers an opportunity to
build Northern California's information infrastructure, to influence the development of Internet technology and standards for electronic commerce, and to participate in joint marketing efforts.
The CommerceNet consortium wants to remove some of the barriers to electronic commerce over the Internet. They are already displaying a secure version of Mosaic, which uses public key cryptography for either securing information or digitally signing
documents. CommerceNet is talking about providing a starter package to simplify the process involved with creating a World Wide Web server for a business. Under the title of Electronic Industry Pilot, CommerceNet members involved with electronics
manufacturing are experimenting with creating an electronic web that will improve electronics manufacturing processes.
Figure 20.9. A typical setup for Meeting Place.
Virtual meetings enable people to interact in real-time, in ways that feel natural and are culturally conditioned; that create a useful and editable record of the meeting that can subsequently be used to track projects; that act as a base for memos and other business correspondence; that enable participants to present themselves in a professional manner, as well as edit themselves before speaking or acting. The real people can be in their offices, simultaneously using another window for another task, on the phone, talking to a real person; or on a modem from home or a hotel room eating breakfast; or anyplace that offers computer access potential.
People attend virtual meetings by logging on to their virtual self, inhabiting and bestowing their personality on a data structure that has agency in the virtual world and can move from room to room, look around, talk to and hear others, gesture, carry other objects (for example, an attaché or stack of papers to hand out) fully participating in the business at virtual hand. The rapid changes in business styles, needs, and personnel, coupled with the need to do business worldwide, increases the pressure on business to adapt new methods of working, communicating, and team-building. Tools and technologies that provide a clear, understandable, and often measurable improvement in the ease of doing business are the first to be tried.
World Benders, Meeting Space, and Instant Minutes are trademarks of World Benders, Inc.
Jon Callas is the Director of Technology for World Benders, and the principal architect of Meeting Space. He has been an Internet denizen since 1978 or 1979 (he can no longer remember which), and frequently acts as a native guide there.
Margaret Russell-Gonzalez designs human-computer interfaces and tests the usability of software for World Benders. She has been a professional writer for over 20 years and refuses to author anything. She considers the Internet a tool that darn well ought to be easy and meaningful to use.
For more information about Meeting Space, contact World Benders, Inc. by electronic mail at email@example.com, by telephone at (603) 881-5432, or by physical mail at
World Benders, Inc.
1 Chestnut Street, suite #333
Nashua, NH 03060, USA
Now that we have looked at how other businesses already use the Internet, it is up to you to decide to make the most of it for your business. The really good news is that you can put the Internet to work for you immediately. You do not have to wait.
Most companies use the Internet in either of two wayselectronic mail and the World Wide Web. Here is how you may want to do the same.
Electronic mail broadly appeals to businesses because it has become ubiquitousnearly everyone, everywhere seems to be using it. What is more, many e-mail users check their mail multiple times a dayit is the first thing they check in the
morning and the last thing before they leave. Today, most large companies have their internal e-mail systems connected to the Internet (or plan to do so within a few months). Just like with a telephone, internal and external "calls" arrive; in
the case of e-mail, new messages get deposited right at your clients' desktops.
Perhaps the largest benefit of electronic mail is that it's asynchronous. Using e-mail, you can talk to anyone else an the same e-mail-connected network, 24-hours a day. The fact that e-mail permits your recipient to process your communication at a time
of their choosing, not yours, means that you are more likely to get a well-considered reply than if you impose yourself and your particular issue on someone else with a phone call. Because of this dynamic, use of e-mail not only improves the time you spend
communicating with others, but it permits you to deal with more of your interpersonal communication at onceimproving, by extension, the quality of the time you spend focusing on projects other than your communication; you can queue up more of your
correspondence to deal with at one time.
To use e-mail, the first thing to do is to get yourself an electronic mailbox on one of many systems connected to the Internet's Simple Mail Transport Protocol-connected network. There are a lot of ways to go about doing this. You may decide to use an
online service provider like CompuServe or America Online because you already use their service. Instead, you may wish to use an Internet service provider. If your company has a lot of e-mail users, then you may decide to install an Internet gateway to
your existing mail system so that mail messages flow through the same internal network. If you are a small company, you may even decide to not have your own internal mail system and, instead, put everyone onto the Internet. Not only does this give you
Internet mail capability, it can eliminate the cost of having to run your own electronic mail server and the associated computer hardware.
One factor you may want to consider is the type of information you want to exchange (and with which users). For instance, you may already use a proprietary commercial e-mail system such as Microsoft Mail or cc:Mail, and want
to exchange binary-format documents with users on your local e-mail system but only plain text with outside users. In this case, you might want to consider attaching your existing system to the Internet through its proprietary SMTP gateway, many of which
will exchange only plain-text messages with the Internet. If you think you might want to distribute software, graphics, video, or audio information over electronic mail, then you might be better off building a new e-mail backbone in your company based on
one of the many free or cheap combinations of e-mail transport agents and MIME-compatible mail user agents. This would permit you to send a variety of information, using standardized encoding methods with disparate software on equally dissimilar platforms.
No matter how you decide to do it, once you get your Internet mail address you are ready to go. Naturally, you can start sending and receiving mail across the Internet. This can serve as a great way to correspond with your client base. You may also want
to join newsgroups and mailing lists with topics that relate to your business.
Even as just an electronic mail user, you can begin to use the Internet to stimulate interest in your company. With mail lists and newsgroups, you have the opportunity to post messages that can let people know what your business is and what areas of
interest you may have. As you have probably heard, it is considered imprudent to blatantly advertise across all lists. Depending on the group, however, informative messages may be useful and are generally considered acceptable. The best way to create
awareness for your company is to provide information that is useful to the group.
If you have a lot of clients already on the Internet, you may want to set up your own mail list, newsgroup, or bulletin board. This may be a terrific way for you to correspond with a lot of clients simultaneously. It may also be useful for letting your
customers communicate with one another to share ideas. Any company can set up its own list easily and quickly. Basically, all you would need to do is set up a mail address to serve as the subscribe/unsubscribe location and another that is the actual mail
list address. You may decide to have a moderator on the list to read each message, post the message to the list if it is appropriate, and perhaps even respond to the message. Or, you may decide that it is best not to have a moderator for the mail list and
post all messages sent in. It is as simple as that! Newsgroups and bulletin boards are also simple to initiate and manage, which is probably why there are thousands of them.
Whenever you send an informative message about your company, you may want to make it easy for people to request additional information by providing an information return address with your message. Your message might read, "We are ABC manufacturing;
for more information, reply to firstname.lastname@example.org." In the body of the message, you can tell interested users to include keywords like PRICELIST or DATASHEET so that they can specify what type of information they would like to get. This function, known as a
mailbot, is easy to set up so that the responses are automatically generated from your mail server (or your Internet server provider). A few widely-used server packages, most of which run on UNIX, can provide a cornucopia of features to mailbot
administrators, such as user-initiated subscriptions, file server and database functionality, archival storage of mailing list traffic, compression of traffic into infrequent digests, and so forth.
You can also get a surprising amount of functionality from your humble e-mailbox that extends far beyond sending and retrieving conventional electronic mail. Nearly every Internet-connected mailbox can use existing mailbot gateways to browse Gopherspace
(including Gopher indexes), Usenet news, Archie, anonymous FTP, Gopher, and the World Wide Web.
There is much more to getting onto the Internet than just being an e-mail participant. I think the most important thing you can do to improve your business is to put up a World Wide Web server. This is easy and inexpensive to do.
There are two primary directions in which you can go in order to put up your own World Wide Web server. You can "roll your own," or you can get a little help from the Internet community. To roll your own World Wide Web server, you will need to
know a few things you may not already know nowlike how to write documents in HTML (HyperText Markup Language, used in the WWW for conveying hypertext documents using plain text) and how to configure and manage the system you've chosen to run your
HyperText Transfer Protocol server. HTTP is the communications protocol usually used for conveying HTML documents and their attachments throughout the Internet.
Although most active HTTP servers are running on UNIX systems, HTTP servers are also available to run under VMS, Microsoft Windows, Macintosh System, VM, and Microsoft Windows NT. Although there may be validity to the conclusion that your HTTP server
should run under UNIX, existing resources or features of a given server might indicate that one of the other servers might be more appropriate, at least in the short term. It's important to note, though, that NCSA's UNIX-based server is becoming the
standard workhorse server of the WWW.
Chapter 10 has plenty of specific information to get you started as an HTML author and World Wide Web information provider. Neither of these tasks involves black magic or any particularly obscure skillsjust a fair knowledge of the system on which
you plan to run your server, and a clear idea of how you want to present your information. (If you are more inclined to "back-seat drive" your WWW server, you can get up and going with only moderate expense and the handful of steps in the next
Here are four simple steps involved with getting your business onto the World Wide Web:
Deciding what to put onto your World Wide Web server is up to you. I hope the previous examples provided some good ideas as to the level of opportunities that exist. Use your imagination. Keep in mind that, for many of your clients, your WWW pages will
define your business. Your Web server becomes the lens through which your business prospects view your company. As mentioned earlier, it is always a good idea to include information that may be useful to your clients and prospects. If you are trying to get
new prospects to visit your home page, you may find it especially important to provide useful reference material. For instance, a business involved with computer networking may decide that a glossary of technojargon is a useful service to include within
their World Wide Web pages. A law firm specializing in software licenses, on the other hand, may post some useful license agreement templates.
Once you have developed some ideas as to what you may put onto the Internet, the next step is to design and develop the actual HTML pages. There's a couple of options here: you can generate the HTML yourself, or you can get someone to "ghost
write" it for you. It's probable that generating HTML is a great deal easier than you suspect, especially if you use one of the freely available HTML editors on the Net (for example, BBEdit extensions for the Mac, the NeXTStep HTML Editor, Emacs HTML
mode, HTML Assistant for MS Windows, or The Hypercard Simple HTML Editor (SHE)). If dedicated HTML editors aren't your style, you can use your existing editor and run one of the available converters to do accomplish varying amounts of the work involved in
generating HTML from formats such as MS Word 6.0/Word 6.0 RTF, Word for Windows 2.0, Word Perfect 5.1 and 6.0 for DOS, FrameMaker, troff, LaTeX, BibTeX, DECWrite, Interleaf, QuarkXPress, Scribe, and PowerPoint. Many of these filters, converters, and
templates can be found at the following URL:
Information about the editors mentioned above can be found at the following URL:
If you find that your aren't inclined to generate your own HTML, it's probably time that you found yourself an Internet consultant to do this for you. You are in luckhundreds of them are available to do this for businesses of all sizes. (If you
are looking for the name of one, you can find listings of Internet consultants at MIT's commerce pageMIT http://tns-www.lcs.mit.edu/commerce.html and Galaxy http://galaxy.einet.net/galaxy.html.
When you are looking for a consultant to assist you, one basic decision you have to make is whether to use someone local (that can visit your business) or use someone in another city. You can do either. (I use Net+Effect, a local Internet consulting
company at email@example.com.) You may find that having a local consultant can help improve your understanding of how to use the Internet as a business tool. A local consultant, by being able to visit your business, may develop a better understanding of
how your business operates and be able to suggest ideas for using the Internet.
Checking the references of possible consultants should be easy enough. You will probably want to see pages the consultant has constructed for other companies. You may even want to call some of these other businesses and get their input. Since this is a
pretty important decision, you will want to try your best to make the right decision. The prices for these services typically run between $100 to $200 per "average" page. Advanced functionality (such as downloading sample software to prospects)
may take longer to implement and will cost more.
An Internet consultant can help you design your pages to best fit your needs. You will also be concerned with how these pages work over the medium. As with any other form of communication, the medium affects the message. When you are designing the
pages, you will want to put yourself in your clients' positions and think how they will go about dealing with your business through the Internet. Look for ways to get to the information they will want quickly. Also, if you are expecting a lot of visits
from people with low-speed Internet connections, you may want to hold back on the graphics. Many companies are giving browsers a choice at the home page of getting graphics-light or graphics-heavy pages, depending on their connection speeds.
Often, you will want your clients to contact you through your Web server. That brings up another set of choicesHow do you structure responses and inquiries? First of all, you can have people contact you via electronic mail. You can do this simply
by putting your e-mail address on your home page. Or, you may have a special response page added to assist with generating the appropriate electronic mail response. For another type of response, you may want to provide a form that people will print and FAX
back to you (in the case of credit card orders, this may make your customers feel better about security).
Electronic forms on the Web are becoming very popular for organizing responses across the Internet. Using a form, your Web browsers can fill in the appropriate blanks. Data are collected on your Web server. You can either access these data through a
database application on your server. You may prefer to have these data parsed and converted to an electronic mail message and automatically sent to your e-mail box (this can be done in the background, so your Web browsers do not deal with thisall
they do is fill out an electronic form).
At this point, you have decided what information to put onto your pages, and you have your strategy on how to get your pages built. Now, you must plan on where your Web server will be located. Again, you have some choices. You may want to use space on
another's server (for instance, your HTML consultant may also provide a place for clients' Web pages), you may want to use a service provider, or you may want to put up your own Web server. Let's look at these last two cases in a bit more detail.
Many companies offer Internet services for supporting your World Wide Web pages. Again, you will find these services inexpensive. You can find these listed at MIT's commerce server, Galaxy and Apollo (http://apollo.co.uk/). While the prices vary across different service providers, you can find entry-level prices that are in the $20-per-month range for Web services that use 10MB of disk space and unlimited transfer.
If you prefer doing this yourself (or, if you started off using a service provider but have grown to use a lot of memory and require lots of data transfer), you can buy your own UNIX server and put up the appropriate Internet software. A moderately
priced system will cost between $10,000 to $12,000, including the appropriate application software. When you do this, you will also need your own direct Internet connection. Again, this is not at all difficult to set up. If 56Kbps is sufficient, you will
be able to acquire this service for rates that are similar to the ones in Table 20.1.
Monthly Internet service provider fee
Monthly lease line fee (to telephone central office)
$100 plus mileage
In this example, the total cost for putting up your own Web server is $15,000 for equipment, software, and installation, and $350 per month for service.
When you have reached this point, you are almost ready to goyou have got your business up and running on the Internet. All that you have left to do is to let people know where they can reach you. Now it is time for some electric public relations.
Once again, your Internet consultant should come in handy here. You will want to find places to post notices that your business is ready to go. Ideally, you will want to have references to your home page included on other Web servers, so that people can
more easily learn about you and navigate over to your server. (As previously mentioned, putting up useful reference information is a terrific way to generate interest in your Web server.) There are general-purpose locations (like "What's new")
and business-specific locations such as industry reference lists. You may even want to put the word out on appropriate mail lists and bulletin boards, informing people that your server is up and ready for business. Plus, the ever-growing community of
magazines and publications about the Internet can serve as helpful PR.
The Internet is a powerful tool for doing business in the '90s. Almost any business can take advantage of it.
Imagine, for instance, an executive search firm. Like many businesses, this imaginary executive search firm has two principal constituenciesits clients, and the professionals that it targets for recruiting purposes. Because it is in the executive
search business, it does not have a lot of computer expertise beyond setting up personal computer systems and using basic applications. So, it decides to hire a local Internet consultant to form its Web pages, and it will use an Internet service provider
to put up its Web server.
On the client side, this business is always looking to attract new business opportunities. It will find that putting up its own Web server is a good way to improve exposure. Even if it picks up only one new client per year, this executive recruiter has
more than benefited from the costs involved in putting up a Web server. Because this is such a people-sensitive business, the executive recruiter may decide to have Web pages (complete with pictures) describing the principal partners within the business.
Posting success stories and references from satisfied clients may also be a good idea.
After the company has started a new search, it may use the Internet to pass along candidate descriptions to its clients. (In this case, it may first want to review this process with its client to make sure the client is satisfied that the
confidentiality of the Internet mail exchange is within corporate policy guidelines.) It may also want to use the Internet to exchange status reports with their clients (who may find this a very useful service, since the status reports will be delivered
right to their desktop computer and can be easily incorporated with other status information). This may also be more secure than doing status reports via fax machines, where it runs the risk of the report being seen by anyone near the fax drop basket!)
On the recruiting side of the business, the Internet is a wonderful resource. The mail lists and newsgroups offer opportunities to meet new contacts and even solicit potential hires. Electronic mail provides a good way to exchange information with
candidates, including resumés. On a broader level, a Web server may also have a category for posting job listings, thus enabling interested parties to browse.
As a service to potential recruits, this executive recruiting company may decide to put up its own mail lis,t where people can share ideas and war stories relating to seeking new jobs. The agency may hire a monitor to run this mail list and make
suggestions on how to improve job searching strategies. While this mail list may not directly relate to growing the immediate business opportunity, it can serve as an important goodwill toolespecially when you consider that people seeking jobs often
end up in important positions within new employers and may eventually become a client of the executive recruiter.
Marketing people use the expression "early adopters" for individuals and organizations who are the first to use new products and services. In just a short time, electronic commerce early adoption has gotten off to a great start. You might
never think that HP, Grant's Florist, and a new recording artist could have something in common, but they all are relying on the Internet to increase their business opportunities. Electronic commerce over the Internet is happening.
Home Page Location
Apple's World Wide Web server
Internet Shopping Network
Computer Retail Mall
Grant's Florist & Greenhouse
Your Network Florist
Bay Area Restaurant Guide
Financial Services on the Web
Commercial Services List
Commerce List Maintained By MIT