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The Internet -- On-Ramp to the Information Superhighway
by Tom Vassos

People often wonder when the Information Superhighway will arrive and what it will look like. Well, its predecessor already exists. It's called the Internet. Although it's not quite an Information Superhighway, at least it's an "Information Pathway" -- with over 100,000 computer networks all connected together.

The Internet network is now used by 60 million people in over 170 countries, and 200,000 new users are joining the network every month. By the year 2000 there will likely be hundreds of millions of Internet users.

"INTERNETworking" will revolutionize our personal lives and the way we do business, much like the phone did in the 20th century, personal computers did in the 80s, and fax machines did in the 90s.




There are several reasons why you would want to become an Internet user.


    The first reason is simple - electronic mail or E-mail. By connecting to "the Net", you can send mail to anyone in the world at a fraction of the cost of more traditional forms of mail. For example, a letter from the U.S. to Canada would cost 50 cents, a fax would cost $2, but an E-mail message would only cost 10 cents or less. E-mail messages to distant countries could be 1/50th the cost of a fax.

    The New York Times recently reported that human rights dissidents are relying less on phones and faxes, and more on the Internet to express ideas that are free of government censorship.


    Conferences are discussions between several or even hundreds of people. There are thousands of different topics being discussed ranging from politics to Elvis. Academics swap research findings and businesses search out investment and licensing partners. AIDS and cancer sufferers provide mutual support for each other. Our Open Systems association runs its Board meetings electronically.

    An MIT student even posted some questions from his take-home exam and had some help from economists from around the world!


    Another advantage of connecting to the Internet is the incredible storehouse of information that you can access:

    • News from around the world
    • The complete works of Shakespeare
    • Government spending information
    • Research material on stocks
    • Product descriptions (you can even order products)
    • U.S. White House Press Releases
    • U.S. Supreme Court rulings
    • Encyclopedia Britannica
    • Geographic information such as the population of France
    • Hottest jazz clubs in New York
    • Recipes, poetry, and much more.

    Companies are learning that the Internet can be a powerful tool for leveraging one of their biggest corporate assets -- information. For example, Federal Express has opened up access to their detailed package shipment files. Internet users can type in their parcel way bill number to find out if their parcel has arrived or not, when it arrived, who signed for it, and a detailed report showing where it has been every step of the way. This may give Federal Express a strong competitive edge in the marketplace.

    Another good example is the trucking company JB Hunt. Not only do they allow you to query the status of your shipment, but they have installed a GPS (Global Positioning System) device inside the cab of every truck. This allows them to track the position of every truck every second via satellite. Now when you query the status of your shipment, they'll tell which corner the truck is on!




As we have discussed, there is a vast amount of information available on the Internet. The problem has been that it is very difficult to sift through all of the data to actually find what you're looking for.

To improve this situation there are now several products on the market called "search engines" and "filtering tools"(1) which are aimed at helping specific users find the information they are looking for. They can "filter" through mountains of information to retrieve specific data that the user has asked for.




The use of the Internet for commercial purposes is exploding.

Companies can streamline business communications with their suppliers, partners and customers.

Product descriptions can be made available and orders can be taken. Support can be provided and customer inquiries can be answered.

Pizza Hut has even announced "PizzaNet" -- order your pizza electronically via the Internet. (Now, if they could only figure out how to deliver the pizza back through the Internet!)




Another factor which will make the Internet even more popular is the marriage between Internet and fax technologies.

The Internet is capable of sending E-mail messages directly to a fax machine. Therefore companies can begin to make use of the Internet even before their customers or suppliers have begun to use the system.

This Internet to fax alternative can also be very cost effective. A company wanting to fax information from the the U.S. to France for example, could send the item via the Internet and eliminate the long distance charges.




The exploding use of the Internet and electronic communications could have enormous social and economic implications.

Mr. Andy Archambault from the U.S.A. found this out the hard way. He became the first person to be charged with "Stalking" by sending unwanted and repeated advances to a female via E-mail.

The Internet is a new mode of personal communications that could revolutionize our lives.

The Internet is a new way of doing business that could revolutionize global trade.

Now it's your turn to harness this amazing resource.

Brought to you by: World Wide Information Outlet - <>, your only source of FREEWare Content online.



Tom has been with IBM since 1979 in various marketing and management positions. He is currently the Internet Strategies Manager for IBM Canada.

Tom is the author of the book "Strategic Internet Marketing" which is also being translated into Japanese, Polish and Spanish (Estrategias de Mercadotecnia en Internet).

He has written articles about the Internet that have been distributed to over 55 countries. He has taught marketing and technology courses at the University of Toronto since 1983. He is currently teaching "Strategic Internet Marketing" in the MBA program and in the Strategic Leadership program.

Tom has spoken at Internet conferences and events in several countries and continents around the world, and is a business ambassador for the Ontario Government.

Visit his home page at

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