RealTime IT News

International Briefs

January 13

Japanese Companies Cash in on Internet Access, Hardware
Japan's markets for online access as well as computer network-related products continue to expand with the support of heavy investment in information technology by the private sector.

ISP NTT's Open Computer Network topped the 100,000 mark at the end of November, including roughly 9,100 corporate customers.

The number of ISPs has doubled over the past calendar year, hitting 2,326 at the end of October.

Demand is growing rapidly for routers, ISDN terminal adapters, and software for e-mail and bulletin boards.

Internet Makes News More Democratic
The Internet can make the news more democratic, giving the public a chance to ask questions and seek out facts behind stories and candidates, said Steve Case, chairman of America Online, at a conference in Virginia on journalism and the Internet.

Other speakers noted that easy access to the Internet also means anyone can post information for others to see.

"In a world of almost infinite voices, respected journalists, respected brand names, will probably become more important, not less," Case said.

The Internet today is about where radio was 80 years ago, or television 50 years ago or cable 25 years ago, he said. It is growing rapidly because it provides people fast access to news and a chance to comment on it.

(Associated Press; January 9, 1998)

Bill Gates: Gatekeeper of the Internet?
Recent attention from the U.S. Department of Justice serves as a reminder that Microsoft's Bill Gates needs to be watched with a critical eye, not an adoring one.

There is a danger that if Microsoft integrates its browser with the operating system, it would become a gatekeeper for the entire Internet. Content providers would have to ensure that their information could be viewed using Microsoft software and no other. Worse, Microsoft could use such control to boost its own growing Internet offerings over competing content.

Microsoft's pursuit of dominance has direct implications for Asia. Countries such as India and China want to nurture indigenous software industries, but how are they to flourish in Microsoft's deepening shadow?

(Asiaweek; January 9, 1998)

Japanese Internet Media Group Softbank to Buy Stake in GeoCities
Softbank, the Japanese multimedia infrastructure and services group, is investing in GeoCities, a California company that hosts virtual communities on the Net.

It is buying about $51 million worth of GeoCities' shares through its U.S. subsidiary, Softbank Holdings. The investment, which gives Softbank a 22.5% stake in GeoCities, will make the Japanese company the second largest shareholder in the U.S. company.

Softbank is also the largest shareholder in Yahoo! with a 30% stake.

GeoCities, established in 1995, has average revenues of $650,000 a month from advertising and 1.2 million users, a number which is growing by 6,800 a day, according to Softbank.

Softbank and GeoCities have set up a joint venture company in Japan--GeoCities Japan--which has signed up more than 40,000 users since it was established last October.

(Financial Times, Britain; January 7, 1998)

Drafts Of Thai Internet Content Law Come Under Criticism
The draft Internet law that the Thai Chapter of the Internet Society (ISOC-TH) will be forwarding to the Minister of Transport and Communications continues to face criticism from within the country and abroad.

The law effectively results in restrictions on Internet content (such as criticism of royalty) unmatched with a greater freedom in the media.

The law fails to parallel current accepted levels of freedom of expression in the country, and thus ISPs may have to curtail some services or risk fines and imprisonment.

(Bangkok Post; January 7, 1998)

News Media Develop Info Services for Youth
A host of news media organisations are developing online news services targeted at teenagers, including CNN, Reuters, Channel One and ABC News.

Teen MagNet, Reuters' news service for adolescents made its debut last August, and is now featured on the Yahooligans site.

"Teens are interested in information that's relevant to them," says Katie King, director of Teen MagNet. Adolescent interest in the Net is enabling publishers to tap into this market at a relatively low cost.

"Teens will be the first mass consumers in the Internet market," says David Dowling, president of Media.com, a subsidiary of Grey Advertising.

(Financial Times, Britain; January 5, 1998)

"Community" Buzz Concept of 1997
The word "community" richly deserves its Buzz-Concept-of-the-Year status for 1997, but corporates are still wondering how to transform their sites into places where people voluntarily spend time online.

"Knowing what really happens out there before you set up shop is a key step," according to Marc Smith, a researcher at UCLA's Center for the Study of Online Communities.

Companies can foster a community on their own site, or partner with a "community developer" such as Tripod or GeoCities, or interface with already existing communities on Usenet.

"Some companies are more or less suited for community. You need to think about how your real-world community of customers works before you try to create one on the Web," says Kara Berklich, director of communications at Tripod, a lifestyle site.

(CIO Magazine; January 1, 1998)