IUBio GIL .. BIOSCI/Bionet News .. Biosequences .. Software .. FTP

Internet issues (very long) (fwd)

Bennett Dyke bdyke at DARWIN.SFBR.ORG
Wed Jun 29 13:07:16 EST 1994


At the risk of swamping everybody's mail systems, I thought it might
be useful to forward this document.  It deals with just the issues of
commercial use of the Internet that have come up recently on this list.

+----------------------------------------------------------------------------+
|   Bennett Dyke                                                             |
|   Department of Genetics               Internet:  bdyke at darwin.sfbr.org    |
|   Southwest Foundation                    Phone:  (210) 674-1410 Ext 281   |
|   P.O. Box 28147                            Fax:  (210) 670-3317           |
|   San Antonio, TX 78228, USA                                               |
+----------------------------------------------------------------------------+

         INTERNET GROWING PAINS - By Andrew Lawrence
 
 When Laurence Canter decided to promote his law firm's immigration
 advisory services by posting out messages across the global
 Internet computer network, he suffered the electronic equivalent
 of being run out of town.
 
 Tens of thousands of Internet users from across the world showed
 their displeasure by swamping the Canter & Siegel company mailbox
 with angry warnings not to repeat the mailing. Their messages,
 along with a large number of genuinely interested responses to the
 advertisement, caused the computers at Canter & Siegel's
 commercial Internet providers to crash under the strain.
 
 Caught in the cross-fire, two suppliers decided not to carry
 Canter & Siegel's Internet traffic. They will probably face legal
 action. Meanwhile the law firm, unrepentant, quickly found a new
 Internet provider, and Martha Siegel, Laurence Canter's partner is
 promising more mailings and more controversy.
 
 To those who have never come into contact with the Internet,  the
 bitterness surrounding Canter & Siegel's actions is something of
 mystery. After all, the Internet, a massive web of interconnected
 computers extending across the globe, is ideally suited to
 mailings of this kind and can theoretically deliver a vast global
 audience of potential customers. When the National Science
 Foundation, the US government body which owns part of the Internet
 backbone, lifted its semi-official ban on advertising last year,
 it was almost inevitable someone would start pushing at the open
 door.
 
 But to many in the Internet community, Canter had committed a
 gross breach of 'Netiquette', the informal set of rules which
 govern behaviour on the Internet. Posting unsolicited electronic
 junk mail, or distributing advertising across the electronic
 bulletin boards (known as newsgroups) is considered by many to be
 a serious offence. "Don't even think about going down in Internet
 history this way" warns the moderator of one of the newsgroups.
 "It was utterly unconscionable behaviour", says Bill Washburn,
 executive director of the Commercial Internet Exchange
 Association, an industry association. "Obnoxious and intrusive"
 says Mike Godwin, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
 
 But Martha Siegel is neither deterred nor repentant. She sees the
 dispute as part of a wider struggle between the new pro-commercial
 users of the Internet and the academic community who once
 dominated the network but are now losing control. "If you cut
 through all this what you will find is a group of old timers who
 don't want their private domain invaded".
 
 That domain is certainly being invaded. The Internet, which
 started out as means of exchanging non-commercial information
 between government and academic research centres, has reached a
 critical phase in its history: it has become so large, and is
 growing so fast, that the pressure for its full commercialisation
 has become intense.
 
 Between half and three quarters of all traffic on the network
 originates from commercial organisations. At present, these
 organisations are enjoying the benefits of a powerful, low cost
 and reliable international resource. But, like newcomers crowding
 onto an unspoilt beach, their activities may need to be controlled 
 - and they must understand the limitations - if the Internet is to
 reach its full potential.

 Recently, the US government funded research agencies which played
 such an important part in the establishment of the Internet
 concluded that funding or attempting to police huge parts of the
 Internet is no longer desirable or feasible. They have relaxed the
 rules on its use for overt commercial gain, and told individual
 research centres to fund their own Internet activities.
 
 With "the prohibition period over", says CIX's executive director
 Bill Washburn, the Internet is undergoing massive
 commercialisation. Driven by the prospect of a huge market, aided
 by new technology which makes it easier to use (see below), and
 encouraged by the new business culture, dozens if not hundreds of
 individuals, companies and consortia have started projects,
 businesses and technical initiatives to exploit the Internet for
 business.
 
 "We're talking about a whole array of business opportunities for
 conducting business in a new, high speed, heterogeneous
 environment of the future", says Washburn. The Internet, he says,
 can help companies reach untapped markets; overcome geographical
 constraints and language and legal barriers; sell more without
 fewer sales staff; and improve the speed of business
 communications and administration. It has the potential to
 completely revolutionise some areas of business.
 
 Tony Rutkowski, executive director of the Internet Society,
 agrees. "The Internet is now overwhelmingly commercial. There are
 an enormous number of commercial users". But the optimism should
 not distract from many of the limitations of the Internet. Even
 Washburn, an avid supporter of business on the Internet, counsels
 that commercials organisations would not expect too much. "For
 business, the first question should be 'How can I participate in
 the Internet and save money. Lets forego the question of how to
 make money for a while".
 
 There are several reasons why he gives this advice. The Internet
 was not designed to carry commercial traffic, and is fundamentally
 unsuited to it. Although it is being changed, this is happening
 only gradually and not without disagreements. There are several
 area where business practices need to be thrashed out and the
 technology improved if the Internet is to live up to its
 potential.
 
 According to Internet statisticians, the Internet is growing so
 fast it is almost out of control. Some twenty five million people
 are said to be on the Internet, and every twenty minutes a new
 user is connected. At current growth rates, says Tony Rutkowski 
 of the Internet Society, the number of registered computers on the
 Internet will surpass the number of people (five billion) on the
 planet by the year 2001. With figures like these, it is not
 surprising that businesses are rushing forward to participate. But
 they do not tell the full story. The size of the business audience
 is far smaller.
 
 John Quarterman, president of Texas Internet Consulting and the
 publisher of Matrix News, points out that measuring the size of
 the Internet is a very complex problem: " No-one knows its true
 size". His research suggests that while the Internet is
 undoubtedly the largest network in the world, and is growing fast,
 its size is often exaggerated.  The most widely used method of
 measuring the size of the Internet is to use the known number of
 IP (internet protocol) hosts - these are the computers that have
 an internet address. There were about two million of these in
 December 1993, according to Quarterman. Some estimates argue that
 for every IP address, there are ten computers or end-user
 workstations which can connect to each Internet node. This makes
 20 million Internet users,  a figure that is frequently rounded up
 to 25 million to take account of recent growth. A more realistic
 estimate, used by Quartermann, is 7.5 users per host, making 15
 million Internet users.  Quartermann also points out that many of
 these Internet hosts, for a variety of reasons, are not actually
 reachable; in fact, he says, the 2 million figure of IP hosts may
 only be 0.5 million. This means the number of internet users could
 be as low as 3.75 million. In all likelihood, the number of
 Internet users is nearer 15 million than 3.75m - still an enormous
 number but short of the some of the more dramatic estimates for
 the Internet. These figures do not, however, include people who
 can access the Internet via commercial gateways, such as MCI Mail,
 Sprintmail or CompuServe. The availability of Internet services
 across gateways is usually restricted to electronic mail and some
 access to newsgroups.
 
 The little demographic research that has been undertaken (again,
 by Quarterman of Matrix) suggests that most users are young (below
 25), and nearly three quarters are either students or are working
 for educational or government establishments. 
 From a business point of view, this a difficult demographic
 profile, since while the number of budget holding decision makers
 may still be high, they will be very dispersed. Its promise lies
 not in today, but tomorrow, when many of today's Internet users
 more responsible positions. The problem is further compounded
 because there are no centralised directories and the sheer size of
 the network makes targeted communications extremely difficult.
 There are already signs of a market developing in lists of
 newsgroups; this may later extend to mail addresses of influential
 users.
 
 If the demography of the Internet is a problem for organisations
 new to the Internet, overcoming the sentiment against its
 development for business is likely to be even more so. The
 reaction against Canter & Siegel is a clear demonstration of what
 happens if an organisation oversteps the mark. "For purists, the
 use of the Internet for commercial activity is still pretty
 unacceptable", says Washburn of CIX.
 The lack of public email directories makes targeting difficult and
 advertising and promotion much more desirable; in theory, the way
 to do this is to post electronic promotional messages to the
 Newsgroups, yet 'netiquette' forbids this unless done very subtly.
 This is one area where Canter & Siegel believes things must
 change. "It is highly presumptuous of those individuals to think
 that the Internet should not be carry advertising". says Martha
 Siegel. She is now forming a company to help people do exactly
 this, a move which will certain bring her into bitter dispute with
 many Internet users.
 
 According to Bill Washburn of CIX, advertising is not expressly
 forbidden - but 'in practice there are real constraints'. Those
 that do advertise, he says, "must not be intrusive, especially in
 a junk mail sense. You need to provide value and not send out what
 looks like, feels like or sounds like propaganda".
 
 Mike Godwin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a consulting
 company, agrees: "There have always been people who try to make
 money [over the Internet]. Don't confuse advertising with
 obnoxious and intrusive advertising".
 
 At present, the battle between those pushing for more
 commercialisation, and those who want less, is finely balanced.
 But as pressure grows, the temptation to push back the barriers of
 netiquette will grow, provoking angrier reactions from the groups
 against commercialisation.
 
 The impending battles have no adjudicators, since the Internet is
 not under anyone's control. In theory, the battles could end up in
 the courts, with a radical liberal wing arguing against constraint
 of trade and alleging nuisance against those who try to prevent
 them sending out messages; against them, network access providers
 could claim that breach of contract led them to cut off Internet
 access.
 
 There have been occasional calls for bodies such as the standards
 setting IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force), the Internet
 Society or the CIX (which represents commercial network providers)
 to take responsibility and try to put forward some kind of
 constitution which could be written into network access providers
 contracts. However, none of these bodies is likely to feel
 remotely prepared for such as massive policing job.
 
 Washburn is hoping that some kind of community spirit prevails.
 "There is a huge reservoir of sentiment for keeping the Internet
 viable. I would say lets puts the community on top of the priority
 list and work out what we can do in terms of sentiment".
 
 If this spirit does not prevail, the newsgroups could become
 swamped with messages, forcing details of their existence to be
 kept quiet or even password protected. Similarly, many electronic
 mail addresses will be forced to go "ex-directory". Both measures
 would harm the openness, and to some extent the usefulness, of the
 Internet.
 
 The Internet is practically free to most users. However, the
 growing numbers of people using the Internet, largely fuelled by
 the development of the world wide web and the Mosaic graphical
 interface, is starting to cause problems. Several providers of
 information have been swamped by demand, causing them to re-assess
 whether, or indeed why, they should invest to maintain their
 levels of service to non-paying customers.
 "In my opinion, things must change. A lot of people have put up
 free information on the Internet because it was mutually
 advantageous. Now, some things are so valuable and so popular that
 the suppliers can't afford to cope with the level of demand" says
 Washburn. As a result, some academic sites are turning over their
 resources to companies who charge commercial users but not
 academic ones who provide complementary information.
 Jon Crowcroft of the University College and an Internet committee
 member, agrees. "Commercial users may get charged where academic
 ones do not" he says.

 Such restrictions are unlikely to slow the growth of the Internet,
 but they will diminish its appeal. The likely impact is that
 information and services on the Internet will start to fragment
 into categories: some will be free but have little commercial
 appeal; some will be free but will be 'sponsored' by advertisers;
 and some will be restricted or charged by connection time or a
 'licence fee'.
 
 In the information and publishing business, commercial providers
 are already starting to develop strategies around this fragmented
 model. The London Financial Times and Reuters, for example, are
 both evaluating plans to offer some services over the Internet
 using passwords to control access. Uses will then be charged by
 connection time. Internet Publishing, a London based electronic
 publisher, takes a different approach. "Our philosophy is that
 there should be no barriers on entry. Those that put up boundaries
 will quickly be ignored" says Eamon Wilmott.  Internet Publishing
 publishes valuable  newsletters paid by sponsorship, and will
 offer books and software using a model similar to the OMG 
 
 Business applications demand security, especially if money is
 involved; the Internet has a dire reputation for viruses, hacking
 (unauthorised entry into computers) and the theft of passwords. A
 recent example occurred in New York when a network access provider
 discovered that someone had been "trapping" passwords and email
 addresses. It never discovered who or why.
 
 The security problem is non insurmountable. As Dr John Crowcroft
 points out, "the attitude of people on the Internet is not
 immature. They understand that security is the responsibility of
 the end system".
 
 There are several ways to do this, starting with "firewalls".
 These ensure that messages from outside the Internet cannot get
 beyond the Internet gateway and into a company's main network. The
 result, however, can be to restrict use of the Internet among
 employees to simpler services such as electronic mail. Moreover,
 the Increasing use of passwords by all users is likely to inhibit
 the free access that runs deep in the Internet culture.
 
 One encryption method is now becoming established as standard - a
 'dual key' system known as "Pretty Good Privacy" or PGP. PGP
 appears to be uncrackable, and is the subject of enormous
 controversy, partly because of a dispute over the ownership of
 algorithms, and partly because the US government - and some others
 around the world - do not want it to be used commercially. The US
 government is pursuing a case one of PGP's developers, Philip
 Zimmerman, alleging that he put PGP onto the Internet, thereby
 violating export controls.
 
 Is PGP going to be secure and flexible enough for business use? It
 is not clear. Sandy Whitsun, Electronic Data Interchange business
 manager for Hewlett Packard has been grappling with the problem:
 "The question is "What is security? What methods do you use? Is
 encryption enough? If so, which method do you use?" She believes
 there are different answers to these questions depending on the
 application. A multi-level approach might become common on the
 Internet. "There are some transactions we couldn't care about who
 sees them or when they get there", she notes. For others,
 encryption would be a minimum requirement.
 
 A partial solution would be to use the X.400 message handling
 standard developed for business purposes by the International
 Standards Organisation. This is already the chosen method being
 used by thousands of companies representing millions of users who
 interlink their electronic mail and other systems. They are
 unlikely to move such sensitive applications onto the Internet
 until there is a clear business case, and security is guaranteed,
 says Roger Dean of the European Electronic Messaging Association
 (EEMA).
 
 X.400 standards can be used over the Internet, and many
 multinationals already do. But is the security of  X.400 preserved
 when an Internet backbone is used? "That isn't clear" says Dean.
 
 There is a further problem: it is extremely difficult to  prevent
 surreptitious traffic analysis over the Internet. This can matter
 in some situations: for example, two companies that suddenly start
 sending large volumes of information to each other could arose the
 interest of takeover speculators. The solution is for the network
 access providers to agree to continually generate random messages
 as background noise. No such agreement looks likely for some time.
 
 "We need a bank to put funds transfer onto the network. Whoever
 sets something up quickly and deploys it should win the spoils",
 says John Dawe, head of Internet access provider Pipex.
 
 To date, there are at least three initiatives aimed at putting
 some form of funds transfer onto the Internet. They include
 Commercenet in California ; the Internet Engineering Task Force
 using proposals from Bell Arbacus; and Digicash in Holland, which
 is developing a system using electronic tokens.
 
 None of these systems is yet up and running, and the transfer of
 money securely remains a major problem. Today, the most common way
 to send money is by sending a credit card number in an electronic
 mail message - a method which is clearly vulnerable, since mail
 messages frequently get intercepted, copied and distributed
 without the sender knowing.
 
 In the absence of a better method, groups such as Commercenet in
 the US are likely to use credit card numbers along with
 encryption. However, this is only suitable for small sums, not for
 large or bulk payments.
 
 In Silicon Valley, California, home of many leading computer and
 router companies, the Internet culture already runs deep. But its
 use for business purposes has, with a few notable exceptions,
 largely been restricted to electronic mail and the exchange of
 non-commercial software.
 
 The CommerceNet initiative aims to change all that. "This is
 monopoly busting. We think there will be an immediate demonstrable
 edge in competitiveness for companies that are participating",
 said Jay Tenenbaum, chairman of Enterprise Information
 Technologies when the plan was announced earlier this year.
 
 The lead partner in Commercenet is EIT, but it includes major
 computer companies such as IBM, Hewlett Packard and Digital
 Equipment, component suppliers such as Intel and National
 Semiconductor, and, so far, one bank, the Bank of America. The US
 Government's Technology Reinvestment Program is providing $6
 million.

 CommerceNet sets out overcome practically all the shortcomings
 that affect the Internet today. It will develop secure multi-media
 messaging, build up privately and publicly accessible mail
 directories, and is exploring the best methods to support
 electronic funds transfer. It will use the PGP (Pretty Good
 Privacy) encryption technique, allowing for the transmission of
 electronic letters of credit and digital electronic signatures.
 Special applications, involving electronic data interchange, are
 being developing for the electronics industries in California.
 
 Participants in the group are developing a start-up kit for easy
 access, which will include the supply of high quality affordable
 connections. Commercenet  be heavily promoted - but only in
 Northern California. In a marked switch away from the global
 emphasis of almost everything on the Internet, Commercenet is
 designed to serve a local geographic area. Other similar
 initiatives are expected to be developed in the Boston, Austin
 (Texas) and Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.
 
 In spite of the commercial opportunities, the goal of Commercenet,
 is more about saving money than making it, says Sandy Whitson,
 electronic data interchange business manager for Hewlett Packard.
 "Our motive is the proliferation of the technology - its part of
 the evolution of electronics".
 
 Tony Rutkowski of the Internet Society thinks the lack of a funds
 transfer system will not inhibit the Internet's appeal. "There are
 an enormous number of uses that don't require an exchange of
 money" he says, citing research and development, public relations,
 customer support and distribution as functions which can all
 benefit from using the Internet.
 
 A common complaint about the Internet - that it is too difficult
 to use for most business people - is now rarely heard. The reason
 is the development of graphical navigator's such as Mosaic and
 Cello, and the multi-media World Wide Web These systems have
 transformed the Internet, making it far easier to use and
 attracting new types of user and boosting traffic levels.
 "Although the Internet is huge, it hasn't really started to
 happen" says Eammon Wilmott of Internet Publishing. He sees the
 Web as the "first superhighway application" which will fuel
 spectacular growth. "A year or two ago, you had to put in twenty
 hours to learn to use Internet. Now its point and click".
 
 The effect of Mosaic has been dramatic. From a standing start, the
 World Wide Web accounts for 10% of Internet traffic, and is rising
 fast. The National Center for Supercomputer Applications in
 Illinois, which developed the Mosaic application, is getting 1.3
 million connections per week, simply because Mosaic 'defaults' to 
 logging into its computer unless it is changed by the user.
 
 The Mosaic software, which runs on Windows, X-Windows  and the
 Apple Macintosh, is free. However, several software suppliers are
 moving into the market, buying rights from the NCSA to develop
 more advanced applications around the product. These include
 Quarterdeck, Santa Cruz operation, and several smaller companies. 
 
 If Mosaic has put strain on the network by boosting traffic
 levels, the plans of the major software companies could put some
 sites into crisis. Microsoft, Novell and Lotus are all developing
 seamless interfaces for linking their PC and network software into
 the Internet. This is certain to encourage a new wave of end users
 to join the Internet.
 
 The traffic levels are certain to create problems, although Tony
 Rutkowski points out that they will be most significant at the
 periphery. "The big carriers have all the bandwidth in the world"
 he says.
 
 Because of the impact of the world wide web, slow response times
 and clogged telecom lines are already common at some popular
 sites. An example was seen at the Winter Olympics, where the
 information service was overwhelmed with 100,000 enquires on the
 first day.
 
 There are three parts to this problem. First, many sites will have
 to buy more or larger computers to support a growing number of
 log-ons (and to support a fast growing routing table of at least
 10 megabytes); second, many users will be under pressure to
 upgrade their telecommunications lines; and third, the Internet
 addressing will ultimately have to be changed.
 
 The first two problems are financial, and will be dealt with on
 that basis. Those that cannot afford to upgrade their computers or
 lines will have to restrict access. The third is technical. "The
 original design of the protocols had not envisioned this kind of
 success. The routing of the network is becoming unmanageable" says
 Jon Crowcroft, a member of the IETF's next generation working
 group. "We have until 2008, plus or minus three years, until we
 run out addresses" 
 
 The IETF is considering the introduction of a new protocol, which
 has more hierarchical levels and longer addresses. But it will
 have to be compatible with existing systems, which cannot be
 changed. Indeed, it is not even clear that the IETF would have the
 power to force through changes if Internet users did not want
 them.
 
 Some believe that the introduction of a new addressing system -
 which would necessitate changes to software - will further
 fragment the Internet into different groups with different
 technologies and profiles. 
 
 THE SUPERHIGHWAY MYTH
 The dramatic take-off of the Internet has co-incided with another
 related development in the field of computing and
 telecommunications: the first experiments in video-on-demand and
 the first plans to build high-bandwidth information superhighways.
 It inevitably leads to the question: is the Internet already
 established as *the*  international superhighway.
 
 The question can be broken down into three: will the Internet ever
 be able to support the kinds of high-bandwidth interactive
 applications which are associated with the idea of a superhighway;
 is it commercially suited to carry such applications; and is there
 or will there ever be such thing as a superhighway.
 
 The Internet's ability to support high-bandwidth interactive
 applications is being explored by the IETF at present. Time
 Warner, the entertainment giant, and Reuters, the information
 services company, are among those that are believed to have
 submitted ideas. However, it seems unlikely that existing lines or
 protocols will easily support the piggy-backing of continuous
 video streams; any video of demand type applications are likely to
 be on the periphery of the Internet among organised groups of
 users.
 
 The IETF is also looking at other issues which the Internet needs
 to address if it is to support large numbers of business and
 mass-market applications. These include support for much larger
 numbers of devices, mobile computing, guaranteed response times,
 multicasting (simultaneously sending streams out to many stations
 at once) and media independence (ie support for satellite, radio,
 dial-up lines etc). 

 Some of these technologies are relatively simple to fix, some will
 take many years and some may require the use of non-Internet type
 protocols. Even Internet enthusiasts think it unlikely that the
 business community will wait until the Internet technology is in
 place before pushing ahead. "It is easy for people that are coming
 from one point of view - telecommunications, of Cable TV, or the
 Internet, to say that they have the foundation of the
 superhighway. My view is that it will be a motley combination of a
 few" says Bill Washburn of CIX.
 
 Has the use of the Internet been over-exaggerated. Certainly, the
 difficulties have been played down and the size, scope and
 uniformity of the Internet has been played up. As it is currently
 set up, the Internet is a difficult commercial environment for
 many if not most types of business, especially those that need
 guaranteed levels of security, guaranteed responses, the ability
 to mass market services and impose charges.
 
 Its evolution as a business tool will happen more slowly than the
 growth of traffic levels suggests. In the process, business users
 will have to deal with the increasing fragmentation of the
 network.
 
 Two of the Internet's great advantages are in danger of eroding:
 Its homogeny, in that most users today have similar attitudes,
 similar access methods, similar technical requirements and use
 similar protocols; and its ability to provide free access to
 virtually any host on the network.
 
 In its place, a larger, more powerful, but fragmented Internet
 will emerge. This will ultimately be more useful for business, but
 creative approaches will be needed to gain competitive advantage.
 In effect, the Internet will have ceased to exist as one entity,
 and become what it was always intended to be: a meeting point for
 thousands of smaller and often very different networks. 
 (C) Computer Business Review | Select 5005 for more information.





More information about the Bio-soft mailing list

Send comments to us at archive@iubioarchive.bio.net