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The Independent Online

Technology Correspondent

When word first emerged last week that the climber Alison Hargreaves had been involved in a tragedy on K2, it did not come via conventional news wires, but through the Internet. When the singer Michael Jackson spoke to his fans last Friday, it was not in a television interview, but by answering questions fed in on the Internet. Increasingly, the Internet is challenging the other news media, not only in format but in speed.

It is already the case that standard news events - such as Mike Tyson's victory in his first boxing match for four years, early on Sunday morning - are available worldwide just half an hour after they are issued by news agencies to media outlets. Once data is stored on a computer connected to the World Wide Web, part of the Internet which can transmit both words and pictures, it is available at once to any of the Internet's estimated 30 million users.

Significantly, this could replace other mass media: in June National Opinion Polls published research which found that 20 per cent of Internet users in the United Kingdom do not read a daily newspaper. Detailed information about Ms Hargreaves's accident on K2 first emerged last Wednesday night through an Internet magazine, Outside Online. One of its correspondents had spoken on satellite phone to a mountaineer who had just left K2.

Computer experts believe that eventually software programs could replace some mass media by periodically trawling the Internet for new stories about particular topics and delivering them to computer screens. "The successor to today's Web will offer animation, sound and interactive graphics, not just isolated files," George Colony, director of Forrester Research, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said.