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RealTime IT News

Netscape Chief: Internet Demands Fast Response

No matter what business you're in, there's a good chance the Internet is going to have a profound effect on it. That was the message that the chief of Netscape Communications Corp.'s Canada division drove home Wednesday to attendees of Internet World Canada 1999.

Todd Finch said the Internet economy is giving businesses unprecedented opportunities to grow if they adequately prepare themselves.

"In the Internet economy, growth is not a question. AOL in the first seven days of this year acquired more subscribers than in its first seven years. That's the phenomenon of network growth," he said.

He said businesses are realizing they need to innovate to grow because stealing customers from competitors won't cut it today.

Although much has been made of the fact that many Internet businesses aren't making money, Finch said in most cases, they choose not to make money. They do that, he said, because they realize growing their customer base is the key to achieving their goals.

He said in many cases famous-name businesses have made strategic mistakes by assuming they didn't need to keep up with fast-growing Internet competitors.

Another good example of how the Internet can bring rapid change can be seen among Canada's banks, Finch said. Before the Internet, market share among the nation's top five financial institutions moved at most only 1 percent. Today, the Internet is giving those banks the opportunity to really expand their business rather than maintain it.

Perhaps the biggest change the Internet brought, Finch said, is getting businesses used to the fact that the word "free" shouldn't automatically bring fear.

He cited Netscape as an example. After charging for their browsers in the beginning, competition from Microsoft's Internet Explorer forced the company to begin giving it away.

Finch said what happened to Netscape can happen to any company in today's Net economy.

"You have to be ready when your core product suddenly becomes a free product. You have to embrace it, learn it and be comfortable with your core product of today going away tomorrow."