The Internet World 95 conference last week answered the question: "Who's making money out of the Internet?" Mostly it's the organisers of conferences about it and publishers of books (especially those entitled The Idiot's Guide to X, where X is any or all of the Net lexicon). And if you're selling magazines or T-shirts emblazoned with "net.slogans", you're probably seeing profit, too.
The same isn't yet true of the companies whose software is so widely used on the Net. Netscape Communications has an estimated five million users worldwide for its Navigator browser for the Web, giving it some 85 per cent market share. "How many of you here use our browser?" asked Matthew Moore, European director of business development for Netscape, during his lecture. A forest of hands went up. "How many of you have paid for it?" The forest flattened. Netscape's strategy of making its browser available for free - for a 90-day evaluation only, which probably makes it one of the most ignored licences in the world - fits in, though, with its plan to spread its name far and wide, so people will buy the sleeker, faster versions it is working on now.
As most of us use telephones to dial on to the Internet, programs will always need some nice piece of graphics to distract us while the data crawls down the phone line. The conference included 30 terminals available to the public to use to "netsurf" to their heart's content. Unfortunately, all 30 terminals were sharing a single line, slowing the flow of information to a trickle. It was less netsurfing than net-paddling. But there was a new distraction in the top right-hand corner of the Netscape Navigator's main window. In place of the "breathing logo" of the previous version, the new one shows asteroids flying past a dark planet.
No sex, please
The bookstands were doing a roaring trade. The hit of the show was a publication called HTML for Fun and Profit. (HTML stands for "HyperText Markup Language", a simple set of conventions for designing Web "pages".) "We've sold 20 or so," said a man on the stand at lunchtime on the second day. And how about the book in the rack beside it - the one called Net.sex? "Only one. We don't have any brown paper bags to put it in either," the man said.Reuse content