html> The Future of Online and Print <center>THE FUTURE OF ONLINE AND PRINT

The Future of On-Line and Print

Bitniks Interview of Vince Giuliano7 October, 1996

Questions were put to Vince Giuliano in Spanish by the Editor of Bitniks Magazine, a publication in Spain similar in "look and feel" to Wired magazine in the United States. Vince responded in English. The interview results were also published in Spanish in Bitniks.

  1. In an increasingly digital world, printed publications are developing supporting online editions. Do you believe that both the printed and online editions will coexist in the future. Do you think the online editions will ultimately finish off the printed ones?
    • I think that for some time both will co-exist together, for each has its own strengths. What will happen and when it will happen depends on the type of publication. Printed consumer encyclopedias have already nearly been dealt a death blow by encyclopedias on CD-ROM. The reason is that CD-ROM encyclopedias not only offer multimedia, but are vastly easier and cheaper to produce and distribute. They offer the advantages over print of sound, animations, movies, enhanced searchability and less space consumption. Reproducing and distributing them costs practically nothing compared to the costs of printing, warehousing, and shipping a large pile of books. They can be updated every few months. Excellent CD-ROM encyclopedias can be purchased for around $50 while the corresponding consumer editions cost $500 or more. About the only thing that keeps a few printed encyclopedias half alive today is libraries where the traditional love of books keeps the libraries buying them.

      I am convinced that not too long from now -- in perhaps 7 to 15 years -- printed newspapers will go the same way. An online newspaper can do all kind of things that a printed newspaper can't do. But it is the economics that will make the difference. It takes tremendous capital investment and human labor to manufacture and distribute a newspaper. Production and distribution may represent 75 percent of the total cost and requires printing presses costing $50 million and up, enormous manufacturing and paper storage facilities, fleets of trucks and daily destruction of a small forest to produce a big-city paper. It is these costs that have been killing large daily papers in the US and most of Europe, not lack of a core of loyal readers. Readership and percentage of the total spent on advertising for newspapers has been going down in the US and almost all countries in Europe for many years now. Spain is an exception, at least so far.

      As advertising drains away from newspapers to the electronic medium -- 1 to 3 percent per year, but steadily -- it becomes simply too expensive to publish the printed paper. And the paper dies. That is what happened to New York Newsday last year, for example, which had hundreds of thousands of readers.

  2. Does it not seem to you a paradox that the ultimate man of the digital revolution, Nick Negroponte, a confessed dyslexic, has written a best seller like Being Digital which is a product of the Gutenberg Galaxy?

    • Not really a paradox. The same was true of Marshall McLuhan some 25 years ago. I was personally acquainted with him, and he was not a particularly impressive speaker. He wrote all kinds of books on the death of print and became famous through the print medium. He had no hint of what the interactive technology of Internet would be or could do, and now that technology is what is making his concept of a media-linked "global village" into reality. His message was of the future, and his medium was the book. He used the book to preach the end of print.

      I think it important to distinguish the book-as-content (a long essay, divided into chapters) from the codex form of the book (printed paper pages bound in a book). The book-as-content can be a compelling way to expose information, specifically on a complex topic, and the novel is also a wonderful means of entertainment. What is important about Being Digital is its content, not the fact that it is printed on paper. At some point the book-as-content will mainly be delivered in other media besides ink on paper. Of course, that is already happening online and on CD-ROM. Some forms of content that were traditionally published in print, like reference compilations and directories of all kind, have already mostly migrated to the electronic media.

  3. What kind of printed publications best lend themselves to publication on-line: newspapers, magazines, encyclopedias? Give reasons for your response.
    • All of these, but for different reasons. The advantages of newspapers being online include ability to have constant updating during the day, multi-media content, archive access, an interactive relationship with readers, an ability to carry much more content, dynamic advertising and selling linkages and dynamic linking of today's story to the archive and to other publications. Online magazines like Time and Money in the United States can be updated daily or hourly, besides enjoying the previous advantages. Online encyclopedias can offer more content in more appealing ways. And all enjoy a tremendous cost advantage when it comes to production and distribution.

      Looking a little deeper, we find that online newspapers, magazines, and encyclopedias are becoming more like each other in some ways as they move to take advantage of the online medium. Advanced online newspapers cover stories in depth and provide references to past events and basic information like biographies. Thus they are beginning to provide the reference background that previously was only covered by encyclopedias. Online magazines start to update their editions daily and provide daily news, and thus become more like online newspapers. Regardless of whether an online service starts out with roots as being the counterpart of a newspaper, magazine, TV station or encyclopedia, succeeding in the market will require them to take advantage of the online medium rather than staying as an "online newspaper" or "online magazine." That will make them more alike in some ways and will lead them to differentiate in new ways, ways that have nothing to do with the traditional media.

      Finally, on the Web we find tens of thousands of new publishers that do not have their roots in the traditional printed media: Intel, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, C/Net, Miller Brewing, Levi-Strauss, IBM -- the list could fill the rest of this article. What about,, which contains "a daily column featuring Resnick's well known advice on cyberlove and relationships, weekly polls and quizzes, site reviews, chat rooms, message boards, shopping, and what promises to be the largest personals database on the Web." There could be no print counterpart.

  4. What is your impression of the development of on-line publications in Spain? Have you any concrete experience here in Spain?

    • On the whole, the movement to online publishing is proceeding very rapidly, following the models in the United States. We have been recently consulting with two Spanish publishers: a medium-sized daily newspaper desiring to go online and one of the largest publishers of professional books, and this is is keeping us in touch with the developing online marketplace. We are also closely associated with New Media Publishing in Pamplona and with Innovacion Periodistica, organizations that are very active in that market. Publishers are somewhat confused about what to do, partially because of the emergence of Infovia as an alternative or supplement to Internet. The situation is complex, confused and moving forward very rapidly -- just as it has been for years in the U.S. This is a problem only to those that want to look at it as a problem. We are optimistic that Spain will be a full player in electronic publishing.

  5. Do you believe there will someday be an electronic book with tactile and smell sensations? Do you know of any concrete activities in this direction?

    • Yes, electronic products appealing to all our sensations will arrive eventually. But they will not be "books"; they will be more like interactive soap operas. First will come more and more convincing versions of games allowing three-dimensional action, like DOOM II and QUAKE, played with ever-higher image quality on larger and larger screens. The "people" in these games will appear ever-more realistic. Many of these will have started out as digitized images of real actors. Some of these digital people will be controlled by other live players and others by the computer itself. These digital people will look directly at you and talk to you, calling you by your name. They will respond to what you say and do. Next will come stereoscopic three-dimensional versions of the same games. Computer screens with the capability of generating the illusion of depth are already on the market. Tactile illusions and smells will come later, but I am convinced that they will come too. Things being as they are, recorded sex and telesex will probably be among the first tactile applications.

      Who is working on these simulated reality applications? The whole computer-game-making community.

  6. You have identified a sequence of stages relating to the evolution of an online version of a printed newspaper, from "shovelware" on forward. The ultimate of these stages, which you call "cybermedia" defines a complete electronic edition. What are the graphic and textual characteristics of such an ultimate form of electronic publication? Are not visual simplicity and obviousness contrary to profundity of analysis?

    • Cybermedia, the ultimate stage of electronic online presentation, is a state of constant change, not something that has fixed form. A couple of months ago, it meant that your web site used "frames" and tables and plenty of fixed graphics. Today it means using all kinds of little Java applications that provide animation, one of the many Web audio standards like Real Audio, extensions like Shock Wave and chat rooms where players are represented by animated icons. In a year, there will probably be much more use of early forms of social virtual reality where you will be represented by an "avatar", that is, an animated cartoon representation you use to meet with avatars of other people online. As bandwidth increases, the richness of the scenery will increase, and video will become more and more prevalent. Your avatars will look and move more realistically, chat at conference tables, play games with other people's avatars, visit exotic cyber-places with them, shop in simulated stores and even do simulated fighting. A year later, it will be even more realistic, and there will be newer things. Rapid innovation in online communications is likely to continue for at least another 15 years.

      There is no real conflict between visual simplicity and obviousness on the one hand, and profundity of analysis on the other. The challenge of design of online interfaces is to provide a simple and appealing interface that facilitates research, retrieval and profound analysis. As time goes on, we are learning more and more how to do this effectively.

      The graphic and communications capabilities will provide ever-more sophisticated tools for rapid analysis and understanding of situations. A user will be able to "walk around" a scene of an explosion or earthquake and see it from multiple viewpoints. Someone interested in a country's economy will be able to call up all kinds of graphical representations of data.

  7. What are the characteristics of on-line advertising. Is it viable? In what cases?

    • A terrible lot can be said about this topic. First of all, yes. Internet advertising works, makes money for many online Web services and is becoming more and more popular. A few additional high points are:

      1. Advertising divides into two parts: the "grabber" image designed to attract the user's attention and the advertiser's web that the grabber leads to.
      2. Advertising grabbers for mass-use products will gravitate to the most heavily used websites, regardless of whether those websites are operated by newspaper companies or others.
      3. Advertiser websites will increasingly provide information, entertainment and user value, above and beyond simply promoting products. Online users will want objective information about what is sold.
      4. Online advertising will be linked more and more closely with the selling process.
      5. More and more items will be directly sold online, and online advertisements will link prospective buyers directly with sellers.
      6. Effectiveness of advertising will be more and more closely monitored by computers. For example, more and more advertisers now want to pay for the number of times a user "clicks through" from an advertising grabber to the advertiser's web.
      7. Similarly, there will be more and more effort to gather data on users and their wants and needs, and to target advertising.

  8. Can you offer a profile of the journalist of the future? The editor of the future? Will people remain involved in the publishing process as publishers become re-engineered? Can small publishing companies compete with large ones when it comes to publishing?

    • The first is a difficult and almost unanswerable question. This is because "journalist" is a concept that made sense in the context of the mass-media communications systems and technologies of print, radio and, to some extent, TV. Before these media existed, there were no journalists, and as the new online media emerges, the role of a journalist is likely to evolve considerably or be replaced by other roles.

      To see what I mean, imagine that this interview was held in the year 1590, when printing presses were beginning to be used, and the question put to me was, "What will be the role of the scribe (the monks who copy manuscripts in monasteries) in the future?" I would have to answer, "There will be other roles, like writers and copy editors, but "scribes" as we know them will have little importance." There were scribes for perhaps 1200 years and journalists for a few hundred. Now there will be new roles which are not named yet.

      Journalism used to be something practiced by the media -- in organizations like newspapers and TV networks. Today, the media includes every organization which has a web with news on it. All kinds of commercial businesses, universities, government agencies and other institutions have or are starting websites that offer news -- in some cases, a lot of news. So, who are journalists now? Lawyers, stockbrokers or engineers who update a Web page? Only people who are official graduates of journalism schools? Do General Motors, Intel, Sony, beer companies and dog food companies have journalists? Are journalists those people who still work for the traditional media like newspapers? What about high school kids who decide to start their own online magazines? The fact is, the line between journalists and people who write for the media simply does not exist anymore. Cyberspace has wiped the line away.

      Even more change is in store for the editor. The editor in a newspaper was traditionally a part of an assembly line process of publishing. Reporters wrote stories, an editor would edit or rewrite it, the feature or section editors would edit or rewrite it again, chief editors would review it and possibly change it again and typographers would finally cut the story down to make it fit on available space on a newspaper page. That has all been changing with desktop publishing and is changing even more online where the journalist and the editor are often the same person. Information technology is making the traditional assembly line obsolete, whether it is in an automobile factory or in a publication's newsroom.

      My good friends in journalism schools are likely to respond, "Journalists are people who digest, analyze and edit news and then publish it in concise and useful form. Online services need them just as much as newspapers do." Taking this narrower definition, I see these changes coming:

      1. The traditional assembly line of the newspaper is replaced with a single writer/editor doing everything: gathering new information, researching a subject, writing an article, selecting photographs, formatting it for online (with the aid of powerful software) and debating with users who argue with him by electronic mail.
      2. The writer/editor is familiar with a whole range of new computer tools and techniques: how to research a subject on the Internet, how to find and edit photographs, how to make web pages, how to use new web approaches and software.
      3. The new writer/editor is also a discussion moderator, willing to engage in online give and take with others who have something to say about the subject.

      As to the survivability of small publishing companies in the face of larger ones, the answer is, of course, yes. One thing computers and Internet do is reduce the production and distribution cost to almost zero for the classical forms of publication -- print and graphics. So little firms, even individuals, can compete effectively with the very large producers. But, when it comes to video, it still takes a lot of money to produce materials with the production values we have grown used to. That is why BIG still counts in the worlds of TV and movies. Perhaps that will change with the recent advent of desktop video, and with a growing acceptance of unprofessional video that offers spontaneity and a sense of actual presence.

  9. From the point of view of publishers, what will occur with copyright as networks develop? Are you familiar with the case of the Church of Scientology and the online publications of its secret books? What do you think about that?

    • What will happen with copyright is quite uncertain right now, and will probably remain so for a long time. On the one hand, the whole publishing industry is rising up to try to create new and stronger forms of copyright legislation that protects software and Web publications and makes it a crime to copy beyond strict limits. Laws are being proposed which would make the a large portion of the contents of the World Wide Web illegal. On the other hand, the whole concept of copyright may be flawed because it is based on the technology of hot type and the printing press. One copyrights form of contents, not the contents themselves. The concept is to prohibit making of identical or near-identical copies while not getting in the way of communicating the same idea in different forms. Now, it is easier and easier to make copies which are not identical. It is ever-easier to copy materials, and ever-harder to discover who is violating copyright in subtle ways.

      I am only generally familiar with the battles between the Scientology people and their critics who have put their "secret" documents on the Web. The actual battle is between the Scientologists who charge tens of thousands of dollars for access to their training which includes access to the "secret documents," and the critics who want to establish that the contents of the documents is "rubbish." My impression is that this is a holy war. Copyright protection is only an incidental issue in this fight, a weapon that was used by the Church of Scientology to close down the Web sites of their opponents.

      The final court decisions on this Scientology battle are not yet made. There will probably be a continuing chain of such copyright battles during the years to come. Remember, in the dark ages, the manuscripts in the monasteries were only for the eyes of the sophisticated religious elite, not the general public. The printing press put an end to that exclusivity, and today the Internet may put an end to the exclusivity and secrecy of many religious and other documents.

  10. From your point of view in the Electronic Publishing Group, you have a general view of electronic publications, both in the U.S. and internationally. What differences appear to exist in the market requirements in North America and in Europe?

    • The most profound things about publishing on Internet is that distance is no longer a cost barrier, nor is time to distribute a publication. Once something is on the Web, it is accessible everywhere in the world where there is decent Internet access. Right away. Publishing on the Web is automatically international. And it is automatically near-instantaneous. This overcoming of the barriers of space and time is something absolutely new and radical in publishing. So anybody anywhere can publish for any market, there or anywhere else. Servers for hundreds of Latin American Web sites are in places like Miami, Boston, New York and Los Angeles. Each market for information, of course, has its own peculiarities. But now, a Web publishing company in Rome can aim at the fashion marketplace in Los Angeles and New York. A Hong Kong publisher can aim at the New York toy market. A Madrid website can be aimed at the people in Hollywood.

      The differences that still exist are the old ones of culture and language and the fact that Internet access is more tightly government-controlled in Europe than in North America, and more expensive. But these control and cost barriers are rapidly melting away. And, as they melt, what is discovered is that time and distance no longer stand in the way for electronic publishers.

  11. Are the familiar models for electronic publications and journalism applicable in Latin America?

    • I think so. Basically, yes. However these models for electronic publishing continue to be in rapid transition. The electronic newspapers of today are different from how they were a year ago and will be different a year from now. Unlike for newspaper publishing, there are no standard models yet for successful online services on the Internet.

  12. How will the domination of the English language be resolved in the future with respect to other languages on electronic networks? What will be the future of Spanish in particular, given the great demographic growth of Spanish-speaking populations? Will it be possible to take advantage of a real-time language translation application?

    • First of all, the domination of English on the Web is temporary -- except insofar as English is already, de-facto, the World's international language. It is cheap and easy for the people in any nation to put lots of local materials online in the local language. The Web is very different from video or films that way. Finland is too small a market for a thriving local film industry but not too small for a large number of Web sites. So, the Web will see more and more materials in many languages. There is no worry about the survival of Spanish in cyberspace. Already, there are over 1,000 Spanish-language Web sites, with over 100 Spanish-language newspapers online. And the number is growing daily.

      Finland and New Zealand are way ahead of the U.S. in per capita use of Internet. And most all the materials and communications are within the those individual countries. This is not a technology where the United States culture will dominate.

      And, yes. More and more Spanish is spoken in the U.S. Whenever I go to Miami, I make it a point to speak to people in the streets and in the stores using only my bad Spanish. I rarely have a problem or need to use English. It is almost the same on the streets of New York. I expect it will be that way in the virtual reality alleys of Internet in the future.

      There are several sources of software today that will allow a Web user to translate materials between Spanish and English as well as between other language pairs. We have recently researched this topic for a client. The translations are awkward but usually good enough for the users to get a general understanding of what is being said. This kind of software is being improved and soon will allow people to exchange e-mail with others in the world, no matter what languages they speak.

  13. What is your opinion about the process of concentration going on among media companies and the assimilation of content industries into grand media empires, such as the case of Time Warner and MSNBC?

    • I think most of the recent set of mergers of media companies, such as the ones involving Time Warner, Turner Broadcasting and MSNBC or Disney and ABC, make little sense at all, except from a purely financial viewpoint. There is some synergy in these mergers, but it is little and far between. Most of the businesses being merged have very different markets, different creative requirements, different production requirements and different characteristics. What has a publisher of school books for children in common with a studio that produces sophisticated adult dramas? What is the synergy between a publisher of statistical databases and a producer of soap operas?

      From a money viewpoint, the story is different when it comes to investment in infrastructure. For example, the cable companies need capital to invest in new interactive services, and the phone companies have a lot of cash. Thus, it makes sense for US West to buy Continental Cable. The merger mania among richer companies goes beyond the world of media. In 1995, there were almost 9,000 mergers and acquisitions in the U.S. worth about $460 billion.

      The film and video related industries are big money ones, compared to the "small is beautiful" sites of the Internet. This is because of the high cost of video production. It is mostly in those big money, video related industries, the mass media, where the buyers for content companies are. Mergers have been happening because large amounts of cash were available to make them, not necessarily because the merged companies make sense together.

      The media megadeals of the past two years involved immense payments and the assumption of mountains of debt. Time Warner offered $7.5 billion for Turner, Disney paid $19 billion for ABC, and Viacom bought Paramount Communications Inc. for $9.9 billion. Seagram paid $5.7 billion for 80 percent of MCA Inc. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. purchased New World Communications (producer of TV shows and owner of TV stations) for $2.5 billion. After the mergers, the stock prices of each of the acquiring companies went down significantly. And, most of these stocks have stayed down. The big entertainment media companies have been unable to integrate their huge acquisitions in any meaningful way so as to generate fatter margins. This has left many investors disillusioned. They do not buy the synergy argument and question the wisdom of the mergers.

      So the mergers result in large holding companies that can only exercise financial management because the people at the top cannot understand the requirements of all the individual businesses. Such conglomerate holding companies have been with us for a long time. General Electric, for example, makes nuclear reactors, refrigerators and washing machines, is in the defense business and is involved in banking and insurance. Its media holdings -- RCA and NBC -- have been a small part of the whole. In some cases, being part of a large conglomerate can work against a media company in a fast moving market. Holding company management tends to look mostly at numbers and to have an industrial era orientation that is deadly to companies striving to conquer cyberspace. RCA was once the world's leader in television set and consumer electronics technology and manufacturing, and now all of this is abandoned to Japanese and Asian countries. Why?

      As for grand schemes of powerful companies, I do not worry too much. Look at the grand empires of the recent past. Fifteen years ago, we worried about IBM controlling all aspects of the computer industry. Only a few years ago, we worried that the powerful monopoly of AT & T was going to control everything having to do with communications in the U.S. Recently, both of these highly diversified corporations have been spinning off their key pieces into independent companies. IBM is still reeling from the blows of Microsoft, and AT & T seems to be falling into pieces right before our eyes. I expect the mega-media empires to fall to pieces in a similar fashion.

  14. In Europe, there is a lot of consciousness with respect to preserving cultural identity. Do you not think that developments such as the that involving Time Warner and MSNBC are dangerous from the viewpoint of cultural diversity?

    • The new media mergers are more of the same as far as the mass-media worlds of cable, TV and film are concerned, and therefore dangerous in that they mean more U.S. Hollywood and made-for-TV media flooding the world. These mergers would be dangerous in the world of Internet if they were the only projects around dominating everything. But there will be thousands of alternatives too. We are used to thinking about newspapers and broadcasting, where immense investment is required, where large businesses have a great advantage and where economy-of-scale can drive out small competitors. In the world of Internet publications, the investments are relatively small, large businesses are too slow because of their bureaucracies, and there is diseconomy of scale. Why did Europe Online collapse? Why did AT & T's online thrust, Interchange, collapse? Why is Bill Gates closing down the Microsoft Network? Why is Prodigy collapsing despite the billion dollars poured into it by Sears and IBM? Why are little upstarts like PCNetwork and C-Net so important in the world of Internet? Because intelligence and initiative mean a lot more than big corporate backing with a ton of money.

  15. Should Europe be fearful of the Americanization of its culture?

    • Of course it should. Europe should have been fearful of that starting after World War II, and the process of Americanization has already gone a long way. The main tools of mass cultural imperialism have been TV and films, which tend to present a very distorted view of who we are in the U.S. and how we actually live. These visual media are very expensive to produce, and we can make so many films and TV programs in the U.S. because the market of English speaking people is so large. Europe and the rest of the world have been flooded with these materials for over 50 years now, and the flood gets bigger every year.

      Europe's growing cable and satellite TV systems have many channels to fill with content, and it would simply cost too much to produce the required material in Danish in Denmark, in Swedish in Sweden, in Italian in Italy, etc. Getting that content mainly means getting U.S. materials, perhaps dubbing in the local language on the sound track. Right after English, though, comes Spanish, where the world market is big enough to justify an international market for video materials, such as soap operas made in Venezuela.

      Internet is different. It is very cheap to create content for the Web and very easy for people to emphasize their own cultures and create materials for their own markets, no matter how small. We have to stop looking at Internet as if it is another mass-media. It is something else.

  16. Internet was born and grew up in a fairly spontaneous manner which has respected individual communications and interactivity. Without doubt, heavy duty players (like Microsoft) now want to take over the market. Are there risks of monopoly control of Internet?

    • There are risks, but so far major dangers have been staved off. For a period in 1994-1995, it seemed that Microsoft was trying to make Microsoft Network the standard online approach instead of Internet. That was only 14 months ago, and Microsoft has now switched its strategy to a more modest goal of being one of the major Internet information providers. At the same time, Microsoft has adapted a new strategy to be the dominant supplier of Internet server and browser software. It could well succeed at that new strategy, using its partnership with Intel to drive the Sun and Java people into relative obscurity. Microsoft represents a similar monopoly threat to Internet today that IBM was to the entire computer industry in 1980.

      Infovia in Spain represents another attempt to create a closed private network (run by Telefonica) and to get businesses and consumers in Spain to use it instead of Internet. CompuServe and America Online would have liked to do the same in the U.S. but finally gave up to be compliant with Internet. I believe Infovia will have to move in the same direction.

  17. What are the killer applications for Internet in the immediate future? Is it still possible that two crazies in a garage can revolutionize the digital future?

    • I think telepresence in virtual reality will be the killer application of the 2000 - 2005 period. By this, I mean that you or your avatar will be able to meet, chat and do things with the avatars of all kinds of other people in cyberspace. Your avatar is the cyberspace "being" that represents you, perhaps just a dynamic image of your own body, but perhaps the body of a younger or older person, a wizard, or a lion or eagle. You will talk with the voice of your avatar, perhaps your own voice, perhaps with the voice of somebody else, real or imagined. Sitting comfortably at your computer, you will control where your avatar goes in cyberspace, who it is with and what your avatar does and says. There will be cyberspace meeting rooms, great hallways, cathedrals, small intimate bars and bistros. People will meet by cyber-beaches, on top of mountains, in caves underground, in Japanese gardens. As time goes on, the illusion of being there will be better and better, until, at some point, it is almost indistinguishable from the real thing.
    • The reason why I see this as a killer application is that it has strong appeals for both the business world and for ordinary people. It can save a lot of business travel. Business people can have cybermeetings, no matter where the individuals are in the world. You will laugh, fight, have serious discussions, negotiate and do business in cyberspace. Encryption can be used to assure privacy. Separated friends and lovers can meet together under intimate conditions. You can meet new people -- travel to exotic places with them. You may fall in love, even have virtual sex. If you can do all of this with a cost structure something like that of Internet today, it is bound to be a killer application.

      The telepresence application will increasingly replace the telephone. In the process of doing so, telecommunications companies will have to go through very profound internal change. They will have to move from where most of their revenue is for voice services to where their revenue comes from digital packet communications services. This will not be easy for them.

      Yes, it is always possible that a few bright people will come up with something that upsets everything we know and creates entirely new possibilities. Cybernetic extensions of the human body offer one set of possibilities. Direct neural transfer of information would involve computers that connect directly to the brain bypassing our senses. Suppose we knew how to pick up brain signals so a person could control a computer simply by thinking certain thoughts or by vocalizing words to himself privately. Suppose we learned how to transmit patterns and images from a computer directly into our brains so we could overcome the linear restrictions of language? Suppose we could carry around a number of small plug-in modules when we travel in Europe. One would allow us to speak and understand Polish perfectly, another Danish, another Finish, another Romanian, etc.

  18. Do you think Internet offers a real opportunity for small companies of all kinds?

    • Yes, I think Internet offers all kinds of new opportunities for small businesses because it offers a "level playing field." General Motors and British Petroleum can have websites, but the websites of my local hardware store and my local fruit store are just as accessible. So is my wife's "50th Birthday Website." Internet is like the telephone: the powerful and rich cannot control it or blank out the voices of the millions who use it. New companies are emerging with new business concepts all the time. Much as they might like to, the big communications companies cannot reach out and squash them.

  19. Bruce Sterling points out that the availability of too much information, in reality, does not serve anybody. Is there not an informational chaos in Internet right now offering more possibilities than realities?

    • Yes, the Internet offers a chaos of information, just like the world itself does, or any large library for that matter. I also agree that Internet still offers more possibilities than realities. And I think that both of these are good things. There are many realities already there in addition to the possibilities. I don't think there is such a thing as making too much information available as long as people can pick and choose the information they actually pay attention to. Much better search tools are needed for finding information on the Internet. The natural-language search tools offered by the major search services today are extremely primitive, but they do work. I know from recent research I participated in that they can be improved a lot.

      It is the reality today that Internet is the best single resource for general research. Of course, not all information is there, but no place begins to have as much. Sometimes one has to use two or three different search engines, but searching seems almost always to pay off -- on any topic.

      The CIA spends billions of dollars a year to build databases of intelligence on every country in the world. But where do many CIA analysts start out when they are given a special research project? Internet. Newspapers spend millions maintaining their archives of news stories. But where is the first place to look for background information for a newspaper story? Internet. We have a good local library, but where is the best place for my 16-year-old son to do research for his homework? Internet. About 15 minutes before writing this, I decided to research the subject of EDTA chelation therapy for neural toxic metal disorders. A friend had told me to look into this. It took me two minutes to get into rich information sources starting with Yahoo. And, in 12 minutes, I knew everything I wanted to know. Sure beats a three hour trip downtown to the nearest medical library.

  20. After twenty years in the Electronic Publishing Group, what do you think about the boom in Internet in the last few years ? How has your company evolved during these years? Have services that you offered in the beginning evolved? How?

    • First, let me be clear. My professional involvement as a consultant to the online information industry goes back to the early 1970s when I was a senior professional at Arthur D. Little, Inc., and a consultant to NASA, Mead Data Central and several other of the very first online service businesses. Our current consulting firm, The Electronic Publishing Group, goes back only to 1993, however, when a small group of experienced colleagues and I decided to create it rather than having to put up with the high overhead costs and pressures of a large international consulting firm. It is at that point that some of us switched our focus from business and professional electronic publishing activities to ones involving the general public, like use of Internet. For some people today, "consultant" means something like a temporary employee. That has never been the case for me. My colleagues and I have always been concerned with emerging technologies and trends in our consulting practice. We are always on the forefront of something. In 1970, it was the possibility of an online service retrieving laws and case reports for lawyers. Today, it is the possibility of everyone being deeply involved with the online media.

      Over the years, I have seen several technology booms (periods of initial rapid growth), some short, some long. The overall boom in computers has been around 45 years now and is still rolling forward. The boom in mainframes lasted about 15 years, the boom in mini-computers only about 10 years. The boom in personal computers has been going on 16 years now and still has some strength. There have been many other smaller booms within the larger one, such as network computing and the use of notebook computers. The first online bloom, for business and professional applications, was between 1970 and 1985, but this area is still growing. Now, the boom in consumer online communications, starting with CompuServe and America Online and now moving to Internet, is only about six years old. I am sure it has at least another five years in its present form, where the World Wide Web and e-mail are the main vehicles.

      But just like there were booms within booms in the computer industry, the same will hold for online interactive communications; the World Wide Web as we know it will give way to something bigger and better. Whatever the successors to Internet and the Web are called, they will be cheap, offer broadband communications with full multimedia, and host applications we can only dream of now, such as virtual reality telepresence. Looking at online interactive communications in this broader context, we have got at least another 25 years to go.

  21. From the point of view of education, what effect does the Net have on children and adolescents? Is it creating "nerds" with social problems?

    • Only a small percentage of young people actively participate in online life now, perhaps 20 to 25 percent, though this number is growing. And their participation is variable, from those who spend hours a day to those who might go online once a week to exchange mail with friends in Europe. I think the effect is on the whole quite positive for the majority who use e-mail, for it teaches writing skills. People who would never have the patience to write letters by regular mail now participate. Working on the Net is very different than watching TV or playing Nintendo or Sega video games. It is an intellectual exercise, one of communication with others and discovery about the world.

      I don't think the Net makes children shy or creates nerds, but it is an excellent way for shy children and nerds to begin communicating with others in writing. Shy people can experience this as "safer" than being with somebody else in the flesh. Many friendships have been started or maintained online, often leading to meetings and direct social interactions. I know a number of people who might be called "nerds", and they tend to be in a lot of communication with others. They are people intensely into technology and with little patience for small talk, but they have their own networks of associates and are far from isolated. There are nerds and jocks (sports-involved kids) in our local high school, among others. Guess which ones will end up making a lot of money?

  22. Sometimes, cyberspace is portrayed as what will engender a democratic utopia in the future. At other times, the democratic aspects of it are seen as a deception that will allow the appearance of Orwell's Big Brother. What is your opinion?

    • Like the telephone and the corner bar, Internet is inherently a many-to-many medium. That is its nature. And that nature, I believe, in the long term works against central control of content and censorship. However, make no mistake, Internet is not enough by itself to bring democracy to the whole world. Cultures change slowly, and the struggle goes on. Islamic fundamentalists who do not allow women to walk on the street or work will have no problem cutting Internet off at the border.
    • Some governments, unfortunately including our own, would like to control cyberspace, censor what is said and censor what is received. Some governments would like to make sure everybody gets the same message. Singapore and China want both to use Internet as a commercial vehicle and tightly censor content. Some governments want to squash what they consider to be pornography. Such control can be exercised over mass media like newspapers and broadcasting, but not with cyberspace without drastically changing the kind of communication vehicle Internet is today.

      How successful such attempts at control will be is yet to be seen. But we have historical experience that gives us a clue. Consider what happened between World War II and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Soviets took the "Big Brother" approach to computers and regarded them as tools of the military and the state. They built databases about the lives of citizens. They wanted to use computers to extend communist domination over every aspect of people's lives. Massive government projects were initiated to gather and store information about every detail of the lives of every citizen. They failed. The Soviets developed no computer industry of any significance. They built no PCs at all. The few mainframe computers they built lagged 10 years behind those in the West. They did not have the expertise or machines necessary to carry out their plan of control by computers. I think any attempt of any government in the future to control their populations by controlling the online medium will come to the same result.

  23. How is teleworking affecting the lives of reporters and editors? What percentage of them work out of their houses?

    • Teleworking, for some newspaper people, goes back over 15 years when reporters started carrying terminals or PCs that linked to the newspaper's editorial systems. Teleworking means that more stories can be written and edited outside of the newsroom, enlarging the effective virtual space of the newsroom to be anywhere that a reporter or editor can use his/her laptop and modem the story in. Another change is extending the working hours. The extent to which the newspaper allows or encourages this affects the extent to which it can happen.
    • The idea of everybody having to work together in a common physical space goes back to the early days of the industrial revolution. The individual machines in early factories used to be driven by a series of belts that connected to a water wheel or steam engine in the basement. When the steam engine or water wheel was started, all machinery started to move at once. It was essential that all workers keep the same hours. This ethic still exists in some newsrooms, despite the fact that technology now allows great flexibility of place of work and time of work.

      I do not know what percentage of newspaper editorial people work at home. My impression is that many, if not most, work from home part of the time. For some, home is the main location of work.

  24. And you, do you work at home? Tell us, if you don't mind, what your routine in a typical day is like.

    • My office is on the third floor of our home, and Melody Winnig, my wife and colleague, has her office on the second floor. Our four computers, printers, and scanners are connected by a LAN, and we have three telephone lines, a fax and copier -- everything needed for work. I expect to have a 2.5 megabit connection to the Internet via a cable modem within a few months.
    • We live in a large house -- 11 rooms in all. We are is in the midst of a forest, thousands of acres of trees and farmland. Houses are far apart along the edge of the woods. We have to go everywhere by car. Boston is about 40 minutes away by expressway. I spend time raking leaves and chopping wood from the trees that fall down by our house.

      Every day is different, so there is no steady routine, except for perhaps walking the dog Ollie in the woods, which Melody often gets me to do around 4:00 p.m. I do non-work things sometimes in the day, like shopping, driving my sons around and getting the car fixed. And I sometimes work at night. So does Melody. When I am in Europe or Latin America, I carry a powerful laptop that has all of my essential work software in it, and I access the Web and my e-mail as usual from wherever I am.

      Advantages of working at home are many for me: no need to fight Boston traffic and spend 2 hours a day in the car, no need to pay the overhead of a separate office (which means we can keep our consulting rates a lot lower than those of the big consulting firms) and flexible integration of home and work life which can vary day to day by need. My commute is up a flight of stairs. And whether at home or in the office, I can look out at trees and the country. A walk in nature is never more than 30 seconds away.

  25. A final question. Do the new technologies make you happy?

    • Yes, they do make me very happy.

I have written a number of other works which touch on themes in this paper from various viewpoints, both serious treatises and fiction stories.  I encourage you to look over the items I have online by going to my Writings Index Web Page. 

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March 1997