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Ponzi Web

NY Times, 11-20-95, front page.

If Medium Is the Message, the Message Is the Web

By John Markoff

San Francisco, Nov. 19 -- The Associated Press was formed in
the mid-19th century when a group of newspapers decided to
invest jointly in a newfangled medium -- the telegraph -- to
speed the collection and dissemination of information.

Last week, A.P. announced that it would adopt a newer-fangled
medium -- the World Wide Web -- to begin distributing its
articles and photographs over the global Internet. It was
simply the latest, but perhaps most historically significant,
move yet by an old-line media organization into the World Wide
Web, the Internet multimedia information-retrieval system that
appears on the verge of becoming a mass medium itself.

If the medium is the message, then the message these days is
the World Wide Web.

In short order the Web, which three years ago was little more
than a research tool for physicists and computer hobbyists,
has flourished. It is being embraced by media concerns,
consumer-product companies and businesses of various stripes
that are creating thousands of so-called Web sites each month,
with the number of computers playing host to one or more of
these sites already exceeding 100,000.

Conservative estimates place the number of people who have
used the Web in the millions, and it is not hard to find more
breathless estimates in the tens of millions.

Capable of letting people use computers to send and receive
text, sound, still images and video clips, the Web
incorporates elements of the various print and electronic
media that have preceded it. And yet, the Web is poised not to
replace its predecessors but to take a place alongside them as
a social, cultural and economic force in its own right.

Its complementary role is already evident: many radio stations
and all the major television networks have Web sites promoting
their programs and stars. Newspapers, including The New York
Times, are devising cyberspace editions.

And few movies anymore are released without a promotional Web
site, including "Goldeneye" the James Bond film that opened
this weekend at theaters everywhere and on the Web at the
address http://www.mgmua.com/bond. The site offers the movie's
theme song performed by Tina Turner, more than a dozen video
clips from the film and illustrated biographies of the cast

Prime-time television commercials by Toyota and other
advertisers now routinely include a Web address. And Procter
& Gamble, whose advertising has long helped underwrite the
mass media, has even staked out prime Web real estate by
reserving addresses that include flu.com and toiletpaper.com.

"We are poised on the edge of a new medium," Clay Felker,
director of the magazine program at the University of
California at Berkeley's graduate journalism school, said.
"It's going to change the nature of how we acquire

As with each mass medium that has arrived before it, the Web
has reached this threshold through a confluence of a key
technology, a ready audience and a stream of corporate backers
willing to bet that profitable businesses can be built on it.
But few experts are willing to declare that the Web has taken
its place in the mass media pantheon because the profitable
business formulas have yet to be found.

Newspapers and magazines make money by selling individual
copies, subscriptions and advertising space. Radio and
television stations sell air time to those with money and a
message. Movie theaters sell tickets. But on the Web so far,
despite seed-money by adventurous advertisers and some
tentative efforts to charge for access to sites or services,
there is no certainty that this medium will achieve the
critical mass that capitalism demands of its mass media.

"How do you make a business out of the World Wide Web?" asked
Norman Pearlstine, editor in chief of Time Inc., which has an
experimental Web site called Pathfinder that offers selected
contents from the company's magazines
(http://www.pathfinder.com). But because ad revenue alone is
not carrying the freight, Time Inc. will begin testing ways to
charge visitors to its site.

And yet, the technological prerequisites are firmly in place.
The Web is an outgrowth of the Internet, which began as an
academic research experiment in the late 1960's. For more than
two decades the Internet remained largely inaccessible, used
mainly by computer scientists and Pentagon researchers,
university scholars and students.

Then came the World Wide Web.

Like the Internet, the Web began as a tool to let scientists
easily and quickly share information. Conceived in the late
1980's by Tim Berners-Lee, who was then a software designer at
CERN, the Swiss physics research center, the basic Web
technology was first put to use in 1990.

The big breakthrough came in 1992, when student researchers at
the National Center for Supercomputing Applications in
Illinois created Mosaic, a simple software tool called a Web
browser. Mosaic permitted access to information anywhere on
tke World Wide Web by letting the user point and click a
computer mouse on highlighted words or images on the screen.
The browser, which became available in commercial versions
like Netscape Communications' Navigator, not only made Web
sites easily accessible, it prompted businesses, organizations
and even individuals to create new Web sites by the thousands.

Thus did the Web quickly become a standard and accepted way
for the growing millions of the computer-literate to
communicate and to entertain and inform themselves. And unlike
each previous mass medium, the Web does not require its
audience to be merely passive recipients of information.

For very little money, and with a modicum of computer skills,
virtually anyone can create his or her own Web site. Anyone
with a modem is potentially a global pamphleteer.

One consequence of this democratization is that the Web can be
a remarkably anarchic forum compared with the old-style mass
media. "Think of this as television colliding with the
telephone party line," said Paul Saffo, a computer industry
consultant at the Institute for the Future, a Menlo Park,
Calif., research firm. "In terms of social consequences, the
Web is a great experiment. It's going to deliver us community
with a vengeance -- and we may find we don't want it."


NYT, 11-20-95, Business Section.

Losses From Computer Breaches Are on the Rise, a Study Finds

By Peter H. Lewis

Financial losses from computer break-ins and other security
breaches are on the rise, according to a survey of corporate
computer-security managers, with nearly half of all companies
reporting losses as a result of hackers, viruses, sabotage,
corporate spies and incompetent employees.

At least 20 of the 1,290 companies responding to the annual
security survey from Information Week magazine and the
consulting firm Ernst & Young, reported losses of more than $1
million last year.

But the poll also found that companies were more aware of the
risks arising from growing reliance on computer networks, and
were taking stronger steps to protect their information

"There is definitely increased awareness on the part of senior
management," said Daniel White, national director of
information security at Ernst & Young's Chicago office. But
Mr. White said that despite increased vigilance by computer
security officers, the lack of security tools made it risky to
conduct electronic-document interchange and other sensitive
business operations on the Internet.

"Lots of organizations are using the Internet in a thoughtful
way for marketing and information dissemination," Mr. White
said. "But do I really want to use it" for an
electronic-document transaction? "Not yet."

Details of the survey, the third annual one, are in the Nov.
28 issue of Information Week, available this week.

Among other findings were that nearly 80 percent of companies
surveyed had at least one full-time information-security
officer, a slight increase from last year. Of those, 45
percent report directly to the corporation's chief information
officer, reflecting the growing recognition of the importance
of computer security, Mr. White said.

Nearly 70 percent of those responding said their companies had
sustained a serious virus attack in the last year, a sharp
rise from 54 percent two years ago.