Jesse Berst: Internet health check -- good and bad news

Children need regular checkups to make sure everything is growing okay. Likewise, as the Internet grows up, it needs regular checkups to make sure its development is on track.

Children need regular checkups to make sure everything is growing okay. Likewise, as the Internet grows up, it needs regular checkups to make sure its development is on track.So I got out my cyber-stethoscope. I ran some tests. I consulted specialists. The results demonstrate where the Internet is healthy. And where it is prone to illness. Here's what my examination uncovered:

GOOD NEWS

Overall growth

  • Roughly 180 million people are online worldwide (Nua Internet surveys)

  • The number of Web sites grew from 1 million to more than 5 million in the last two years(Netcraft)

  • Two-thirds of U.S. homes will have Internet access by 2003 (Yankee Group)
Prognosis: Growth spurt will continue for the next few years at least.

Traffic

  • Unique Web visitors grew 15% in a year, from 55 million to 62 million (Media Metrix)

  • Users spend 40% more time on the Internet than a year ago (Media Metrix)

  • They log on from home 28% more than from work (Mediamark Research)

Prognosis: Consumer-oriented sites will overtake techie sites in the next year as the Web goes mainstream.

Ecommerce

  • Global ecommerce will reach $1 trillion by 2002 -- a 66-fold increase from 1997.(Deloitte Consulting)

  • The number of PCs used for ecommerce activities grew 41% from 1997 to 1998.(Infobeads)

  • 44% of U.S. companies are selling online now, and 36% more expect to do so in the next 12 months. (The Association of National Advertisers)

Prognosis: Patient demonstrates above average capacity for economic growth.

Demographics

  • 46% of Internet users are women (CommerceNet/Nielsen Media Research)

  • 50% are parents (Cyber Dialogue)

  • 10% are over 55 (Mediamark Research)

Prognosis: Patient will grow into a nice, average,typical citizen.

BAD NEWS

Infrastructure: A child can appear ordinary on the outside, yet have weak bones on the inside. In a similar fashion, growth of the Net's underlying structure is stunted. Which leads to sudden failures, like the UUNET outage experienced here at AnchorDesk yesterday.

Prognosis: Patient may be subject to blackouts and periods of severe unreliability.

Advertising

  • U.S. companies advertising online has dropped from 68% to 61% (ANA)

  • Companies have cut ad budgets, from an average of $714,000 to $649,000 (ANA)

  • The average going rate for ads was off another .5% in Q1 of 1999, to $35 per 1000 impressions. (Internet Advertising Bureau[IAB])

Prognosis: An unhealthy year 2000 for sites that depend exclusively on ad revenue.

Abuse

  • Roughly one-third of at-work Net use is recreational -- double that of a year ago (Surfwatch Software)

  • Internet scams now rank No. 1 on the list of Top 10 scams (North American Securities Administrators Association)

  • More than 6 million U.S. Net consumers say they have fallen victim to credit-card fraud (National Consumers League)

Prognosis: Patient's rebellious nature could lead to official restrictions and reduced popularity.

Doctor Jesse's Summary

The Internet is still young and growing. Regular examinations reveal where it is maturing nicely, and where it might run into trouble. I'll be back in six months for another check-up.

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