International Briefs

January 13

Japanese Companies Cash in on Internet Access,

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

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

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

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

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, 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)

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