(1) What were the beginnings of the Internet?
(2) So what really is the 'explosion' of the internet?
(3) What is the world-wide user base for the internet?
(4) Can the development of the internet still be a very US-centric phenomena?
(5) How is the internet changing business and commerce?
(6) How can advertising and commerce be instrumental in benefitting internet users?
(7) What role have internet service providers played in the Internet's development?
(8)Why is universal and affordable access to the Internet important?

What were the beginnings of the Internet?

The very first model of the internet was built by the government's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), by the name of ARPANET. It was a project with the vision of primarily military application, and that was to have an alternate method of communication across the United States in the event of a catastrophe, arguably a nuclear one.
   In order to use the best minds for this networking experiment ARPA decided to tie together a number of universities that it was funding. The one million dollar contract was awarded to a small consulting comapny called BBN (Bolt beranek and Newman) in 1969.
   By 1971, ARPANET had spread to 15 sites. However, all were either universities or some sort of government agencies. Therefore, the beginnings of the internet were quite elitist being primarily for academics and official use.
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So what really is the 'explosion' of the internet?

The 'explosion' or exponential nature of the Internet's growth took root in the early nineties when Internet technology moved from unfriendly and specialized email interfaces to the exciting cyberspace of the web.
   The Internet user base increased from a negligible handful in 1991 to six million people in 1995 and to its present day figure of 45 million in the United States alone. Research conducted by Nua, one of Europe's leading online consultancies and developers, estimates that there are a total of 100.5 million Internet users across the globe today. This number is expected to hit 200 million by the year 2000, while the number of online documents is expected to increase from 100 million to 800 million in the same time frame.
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What is the world-wide user base for the internet?

Just over a year ago, of the 13 million servers that were connected to the Internet, 99% were distributed across North America, Western Europe and Asia, primarily Japan. According to an International Telecommunication Union figure, the other 1% was distributed amongst the other 4 billion people that make up the rest of the world.
   These figures point to the fact that the privilege of access to the Internet is not a global phenomenon but more a function of the economic and technological advancement of the select few who have a role in bringing about Internet technology in the first place. US tax payers have subsidized the development of the Internet indirectly and they are the ones who are enjoying the comfort of extensive Internet networking in their public, private and educational institutions.
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Can the development of the internet still be a very US-centric phenomena?

It is important to notice that despite the fact that South Asian and South East Asian countries do not make a major part of the Internet, many Internet related products are actually produced in quite a few of these countries. Many software companies in the United States have satellite operations in these countries where cutting edge software innovation is underway at greatly reduced costs primarily because of the significantly lower costs of hiring programmers there. India is one such example where many software giants like Microsoft and Oracle are conducting business at a large scale.
   Despite the fact that India is earning a handsome amount in foreign exchange because of this process of software outsourcing from the US to software concerns in India, the major winners are the American companies who in turn provide better Internet facilities with newer versions of Internet related software to users in the United States.
   Another dimension that comes to light in this regard is the fact that software engineers from all across the globe head to the Silicon Valley and to use their programming skills and become part of developing bleeding edge computer related technology. In a scenario where the Internet is deriving support from varied sources from all over the world and serving only a select few, the issue that arises is whether or not steps be taken to change the present situation.
   In the case that change is considered desirable, it would have to be determined how feasible such an undertaking would be since many people in developing and most in under-developed countries cannot afford a computer let alone subscribe to an Internet service provider.
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How is the internet changing business and commerce?

The Internet has become a hot spot in the world of marketing because of its rapidly expanding consumer base. Corporate leaders have been concentrating on using this new medium for the purpose of marketing because of the 'huge potential of customers and consumers' that is characteristic of this "beast" . It is for this reason that businesses are scrambling to get on the web and trying to attract the attention of a vast clientele that holds great marketing prospects.
   However, corporate circles are also finding it difficult to strategize for this business opportunity because the volatile nature of the Internet makes it very unpredictable and hence very difficult to keep up with: 'In order to successfully cultivate online market share, companies are compelled to design marketing strategies specifically for the information highway.' This confusion regarding the prospects that the Internet holds for the future is reflected in the discrepancy in statistics about the Internet's future as quoted by various research groups. For example figures for the revenue generated by Net transactions by the year 2000 vary from $1 billion to $5 trillion. A recent report released from the White House estinmates net-commerce at $300 billion by the year 2002.
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How can advertising and commerce be instrumental in benefitting internet users?

Positive marketing trends on the Internet help bring about an environment in cyberspace where Internet services supported by advertisements are offered for free to Internet users.
   A successful case in hand is Juno , the email service which provides free email accounts to anyone who wishes to have one. Juno uses its consumer base to attract money from advertisers who are interested in advertising to Juno's subscribers. Hence an example of the way marketing through advertisement on the Internet leads to equality in Internet access.
   This trend is one which brings us closer to the concept of the Internet as an information medium which is available to everyone as a source of learning and exposure. This access extends to all Internet users across the globe rather than just those in the United States since 'communication costs on the Internet are independent of distance (and which) suggests that, in the long run, global opportunities will be more important than domestic opportunities.' A positive trend is reflected in the increasing amounts that advertisers have been spending in the recent years. This amount jumped from $43 million in 1995 to $343 by 1996, increasing at a rate of $22 million a quarter.
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What role have internet service providers played in the Internet's development?

Internet service providers (ISPs) are the ones who allowed the general public to get involved in the world wide web. They provide a very cost effective service that has stimulated the growth of the Internet by allowing common citizens access to the Internet. The significance of the Internet service providers cannot be overlooked because it is only after their involvement and that of the general public, that very large organizations or companies started putting their resources to establish themselves in the Internet.
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Why is universal and affordable access to the Internet important?

As a new telecommunications service, the Internet offers various services which will grow to be as integral to society and business as the telephone, fax machine, television, and radio are today.
   The speed, convenience, and powerful reach of e-mail make it an invaluable means of communicating. And as more and more people use e-mail regularly, e-mail becomes a more of a necessity than a novelty. Furthermore, the vast information resources available on the World Wide Web make it an effective research and learning tool. And so, as we are quickly transforming into a digital culture, anyone without knowledge of how to use the resources of the Internet is doomed to fall behind.
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MARCH 16, 1998