Caught In The Internet's Next Wave

Hang ten with Francis as he surfs to the Bottom Line

Francis Vale

Allow me, please, to list the manifold joys of the Internet: grammatically tortured Usenet missives; painfully slow downloading of audio and video clips; hackers who wantonly 'experiment' with your systems; cyber-thieves who steal your personal correspondence, corporate data, and credit card numbers; viruses that trash your systems; flame mail; lost hours trying to find useful information; the invasion of computer privacy with on-line software registration systems scanning your files; Spamming; down servers; and more, so much more. And you're telling me this sado-masochistic experience is the wave of the future? Excuse me, may I get off now? Perhaps these egregious acts are merely the excesses of adolescence.

The 'net started off as a kind of basement night club, filled with wizards, scientists, and more than a few thieves; an on-line Oliver Twist, if you will. Fagin would have loved it. And into the arms of these digital denizens rushed headlong the polyester crowd, their eager hands stuffed with plastic cash, their suits overflowing with great new ideas for commerce. Our new Artful Dodgers must have thought they had died and gone to cyberheaven!

The 'net is still a mostly home grown, free wheeling place. Many otherwise right-thinking folks somehow believe this unwieldy structure can be transformed into a gleaming high rise office complex. They fail to see that the Internet is the map, not the territory. And now the new nets are coming: Multicast Backbone (Mbone), a network optimized for multimedia's data carrying burdens, the Giganet test bed, the NII, ATM nets, and so on.

When these new nets are fully deployed, AT&T, the regional Bell companies, CBS, Fox, Paramount, and others like them will undergo a severe profitability crisis. For many of these lumbering organizations, this critical event will register on the same Richter killing scale as the big dino-busting comet of yore. The contrail of this rapidly descending object can already be seen high in the sky. Today, for example, you can buy a $49 program from VocalTec that gives you real time, long distance, international phone conversations over the Internet.

This user scrumptious product is but a bad foretaste for the long distance carriers, once these fast new nets become secure and reliable (sure). If you can place unlimited long distance calls over the net, without paying more than a flat access fee of about $30 a month, why should you give AT&T thousands of dollars? The reason for the Internet's success is that it gives instant, unlimited, and global connectivity at a low, fixed fee price. Any proposed network business model that deviates from that proven formula will lose. This means a whole new way must be figured out for making money off the net, and its coming value added services.

Once that novel recipe is cooked up by Adam Smith, sell AT&T short, ASAP. This financial chaos will quickly extend into other industries. Desktop publishing was one of the first big personal computing waves. But desktop 'Netcasting' with full motion multimedia is the next tsunami. CBS/NBC/ABC/Fox-Murdoch -- even TCI-Malone, had better keep their wary eyes heavenward. Because once desktop Netcasters get access to the new digital TV satellite high speed download systems (like Hughes' DSS DirecTV receiver which, in mid-1996, will plug straight into your PC), then look out below!

The fallout from this huge economic falling body is going to cover the entire computer planet. Software is already living at ground zero. And PC makers are well down the road to mass extinction. When these worlds collide, running for cover under an on-line business model is not going to offer much shelter. Jurassic Park showed what happened when already extinct animals try to enter the modern age. In short, the new Road From Here will soon be bringing financial catastrophe to a monopoly near you.

Meanwhile, pardon me while I go out for a large bottle of Internet Maalox..

The Bottom Line

Home Users: The Internet is something that happens to you, like getting the flu. But still, it sounds cool when you complain about those slow modems at chi-chi cocktail parties.

Business Users: The day you put all your business on the Internet and the Web, trusting in the fact that everything is supposedly secure, is the day your entire twenty-first century business is totally trashed by a Twinkied-out teenager sitting at home with an antique 2400 BAUD modem.

Power Users: Quick! Find a hack! Your boss plans to put in software that threatens to cut short your seven hours a day cruising the 'net . (The 8th hour is for lunch -- Hey, you have to eat sometime!)

-- January, 1996

Copyright 1996, Francis Vale, All Rights Reserved

21st, The VXM Network,