Internet Investor

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The Independent Online
SO THERE you are, hooked up to the Internet and the World Wide Web. What do you do next? Mostly, you wait. Then you wait a bit longer.

You have probably noticed the hype in recent days about Bill Gates's latest encomium, "Business@the Speed of Thought". Presumably he believes that most of us think very, very, very slowly. Certainly that is the experience most people have of the Internet. If you want to take this up with Bill yourself, please feel free to do so.

Robin Williams's genie in Disney's Aladdin boasted of "phenomenal cosmic power" and in the same breath complained of "itty bitty living-space". We tend to be faced with similar problems when approaching what is out there in cyberspace. There is an awful lot of it and we end up trying to funnel it through a small choke point, a modem.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against modems - I use one myself. But the developments in modem speed have not kept pace with what's being served up on the web page.

One automobile manufacturer recently spent in the region of pounds 120,000 creating a beautifully crafted website which, according to my source, took nearly 10 minutes to download.

Financial services are coming on to the Internet, but not very quickly!

Sluggish websites are directly responsible for the slow adoption in the UK of Internet banking and e-commerce in general. That is the conclusion of recent research into the on-line banking industry by the software development group Jyra Research.

Jyra's analysis of the website performance of top banking organisations shows a disheartening spread of results, with responses from the sites often taking as long as one minute, and with repeated failures to download requested pages.

According to Jyra, one of the worst offenders was Citibank's website, with some page requests failing or timing out. NatWest had the most lethargic website, with an average response time of 30 seconds, while First Direct's site came out on top, with response times averaging three seconds.

I cannot say whether this next item of news is related, but when Citibank launched its service back in June last year, it offered free Internet access via Virgin Net. Now Citibank has changed allegiance to BT Click. The offer is still for free unlimited Internet access, though you pay for the telephone call at BT's local call rate.

A free installation CD disk for BT Click is yours by calling 0800 08100 or, if you feel the urge to stay on line while having a leisurely snack, you could download the installation software from the Internet.

I look forward to the day when using the Internet is a truly interactive experience and not, as it occasionally can be today, like watching paint dry.

Bill Gates: billg@microsoft.com

Jyra Research: www.jyra.com

Citibank: www.citibank.co.uk

Robin can be reached at RobinAmlot@aol.com

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