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November 1994

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The Interface Race

by Glen Emerson Morris
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One of the requirements of a computer network that connects everyone in the world together, is that it has to be easy enough for anyone in the world to use. The current difficulty in using the Internet limits its users to the computer literate, and those businesses that can afford to hire them. However, this is condition is likely to change drastically in the next six months for several reasons.

In the Internet's first couple of decades the interface issue was a familiar technological Catch 22; there weren't enough users to pay for an easier interface, and there never would be enough users until the interface was made easier.

These days, with high estimates ranging at thirty million, the Internet finally has the user base to attract real development capital, and it is doing so on a scale few would have predicted only a year ago.

Just six months after the announcement of CommerceNet, one of the first Internet based business to business communications networks, businesses nationwide are scrambling to go on-line. Software companies are pouring millions of dollars into developing easier to use network communication software, and as the easier to use software becomes available, even more firms are encouraged to go on-line.

This development is not limited just to business to business communications. By the end of November, all of the major on-line services in the US, Compuserve, Prodigy, GEnie, America Online, and Delphi, will offer some degree of Internet connectivity, and they are racing to provide full Internet service as fast as they can.

When it became apparent that ease of use was directly correlated to marketshare, on-line services started plowing back profits into developing easier to use systems until something like an arms race began, only this one is self-funding, and everyone involved seems to be winning.

Marketing and advertising departments stand to be among the biggest winners in the "interface race". They will acquire a new way to reach consumers, and for consumers to reach them, at marginal risk and expense. All they have to do to profit from this new technology is to integrate it into the way they do business. But it must be done soon.

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of lead time, and events are somewhat misleading. Developments in the business to business side of Internet communication are getting a lot of press now, but in the long term these are far less significant than current developments in the consumer to business side.

The goal of the consumer to business Internet markets is to make the Internet as easy to use as a TV or microwave. This is essential for making the Internet a mass communications media, and it's only months away.

By the end of the decade a business not networked to other businesses--and customers--will be the equivalent of a business without a phone in the sixties, or a fax in the eighties.

Copyright 1994 - 2010 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved

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