BUSINESS ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB: where "word of keystroke" begins

July 31, 1997 -- Value-added services from ISPs & others

Transcript of the live chat session that took place Thursday, July 31, 1997. These sessions are normally scheduled for 12 noon-1 PM Eastern Time (GMT -5 when standard time, GMT -4 when daylight savings time) every Thursday.

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Since the chat itself happens at a rapid pace, it's often difficult to note interesting facts in particular URLs as they appear on-line. Here's a place to take a more leisurely look. I've rearranged some of the pieces to try to capture the various threads of discussion (which sometimes get lost in the rush of live chat).

Please send email with your follow-on questions and comments, and suggestions for topics we should focus on in future sessions. So long as the volume of email responses is manageable, I'll post the most pertinent ones here for all to see.

Threads (reconstructed after the fact):

Today's participants


mark henderson -- I'm new to this chat room what's it all about

Richard Seltzer -- We'll be starting in about five minutes (at 12 noon, Eastern Daylight Time.) Today we want to focus on Web-hosted value-added services (from ISPs and others). When you connect, please introduce yourselves and let us know about your interests.

Laurent -- Laurent Thérond here. Former French ISP managing director, currently working with a financial institution in Boston. Unfortunately, I will have to leave around 12:30...

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome Laurent and also Paul Tarquinio. Paul, please introduce yourself.

Laurent -- Oops... I forgot... I'm a Computer and Information Sciences Engineer. The word "engineer" is more popular in France though. But well, I like it.

Paul Tarquinio -- Paul Tarquinio here. I'm a consultant in a training group here at DIGITAL. We develop CBT, multimedia, and Web information and training.

Laurent -- Hi Richard! Thanks for your good work!

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Todd, Rick, Tony, and Carol -- please introduce yourselves.

Todd Moyer -- Hello. I'm a software engineer at DIGITAL, working on System Management (some on the Web). I'm also interested in web publishing.

Rick van Valkenburg -- Hi. Rick and I finally remembered about this chat BEFORE 12:55pm ;-)

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Rick. Where are you located?

Rick van Valkenburg -- Hi Richard, I'm in New York City and have a modest electronic publishing and drop-shipping www site.

Rick van Valkenburg -- Hi. Rick V. here. I had mentioned drop-shipping, at this point I'm just focusing on one line of product, forwarding orders to the producer... and also doing books in association with Amazon and Bookpages in U.K.

anthony alvarez -- Hi Richard, this is Anthony from Acunet.

David -- hello everyone - david in Boston here

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- Hi! My name is Barbara Hartley Seltzer. I'm in marketing support and am still learning about the Internet.

Carol J. Snyder -- Bonjour Tout le Monde (surtout Laurent et Richard!) Carol J. Snyder here of snyderinfo (Internet Consulting*Web Design) Boston specializing in web database integration and search engines (web promotion)... Interested in Value-Added Services of ISPs ...pros and cons..(going with "1 Stop shopping" or "Mix and Match"

Ed Jaros -- Hello all from sunny Green Bay, WI

Richard Seltzer -- All -- there are two sides to today's topic. On the one hand, we want to better understand the true costs of setting up and maintaining a Web site. And on the other hand, we want to know what the options are. Who is offering value-added services that you might want to plug into on a modular basis (rather than all or nothing)? Who is using such services today and how? And what is it costing them to do it that way? And what other kinds of services are needed?

Costs of setting up and maintaining a Web site

Richard Seltzer -- Carol -- Kaye Vivian sent an interesting followup message that I added to the transcript at It points to a series of three Ziff-Davis articles discussing true costs of running Web sites. Yes, the hidden costs are enormous. And no, I can't imagine why any small to medium sized company would want to do it all on their own.

Carol J. Snyder -- RE: Costs of setting up and maintaining web site
QUESTION 1: Do You want to handle the whole thing yourself?
Can you? (e.g. 24/7, technical issues, etc.)
QUESTION 2: WHY do you want to handle the whole thing?
(e.g. your have all the team members (graphic designers, techs, copy editors, etc.) and you want the POWER and FLEXIBILITY ?

Cost of Web-hosting a small site?

Carol J. Snyder -- RE: COSTS of web hosting services--In my research I've seen prices ranging from $9.95 a month for JUST hosting a few web pages with email capability to $29.95 a month for COLD FUSION/NT capability to hook databases to your web site...Then there are the "BIGGIES"...shall I mention names? BBN ( who charges hundreds of dollars a month for T1/T3 lines for dedicated servers for the "Fortune 500" types who NEED big web sites...(e.g. Chicago Tribune..LA Times, etc) I say it's based upon YOUR NEEDS...and "you get what you pay for"

Carol J. Snyder -- COSTS and NEEDS: Ask we do electronic commerce? Do we need verification of credit cards over the 'Net? So why pay for services like CyberCash capability and Secure Servers IF you don't need them?? Will your web site take advantage of autoresponders? Are you interested in RSA security? Do you need CGI scripts written for you by the vendor? ALL these things can add up in $$

David -- Carol - good points -- I am not sure how the ISP's charge for their services - ie. space on their hard drives - numbers of hits - etc. I always kind of worry about going into a blank-check situation ??

Richard Seltzer -- Carol -- Yes, the cost does depend on your needs; but part of the problem today is just sorting out what the options are for meeting those needs. When pricing info isn't readily available in apples-to-apples form, you could easily sign up at one price, when there's another provider who would charge you a small fraction of that for the same service.

Todd Moyer -- What is the general rate for web hosting a small site? That is, if I get a web address from the InterNIC (?), how much should it cost to associate it with a provider's IP address? How much hassle is it to move if I'm not happy with the first provider's service?

Ed Jaros -- Todd - I would pay no more than 25 bucks a month (hosting your own domian name) and you could probably get it for as little as 10 per month depending on the service you want.

Rick van Valkenburg -- I recently opened a telnet-only account with 5 e-mail aliases and 5 mb of storage for $10 a month. CGI bin access for another $5/mo. Then they charge $150 to register the domain, (plus interNIC's fee)

Ed Jaros -- I've found domain name registration for as low as $25.00 plus the Internics fee of $100 for the fist two years.

anthony alvarez -- At Acunet, there are NO HIDDEN charges. All fees are listed at

Richard Seltzer -- Tony -- "Hidden costs" doesn't usually refer to what you are charged by an ISP. It's all the other kinds of development work, maintenance work, cost of making changes. That's where all the money goes -- even if you have the best ISP in the world. Folks building commercial sites need to get a handle on those costs. The more outsourcing they do to consultants and to value-added services providers the better off they are likely to be (at least their costs should be predictable).

Cost of Switching ISPs

Carol J. Snyder -- RE: If you're not happy with your current web hosting much of a hassle is it to switch? Excellent question! DEPENDS upon the new (and old) provider...Some will charge (e.g. $100) extra to "reassign" your site..It's really not that big of a's only a matter of changing some Domain Tables...Again ask lots of questions... Read the web host/ISP's site and fine print..ASK your colleagues and friends you trust about recommendations

Do-it-yourself vs. hosted solutions

Carol J. Snyder -- I advise my clients (small to mid-size companies) NOT to host and maintain their own web sites. Usually, it's because of the following reasons: The "Over all picture" is missing for most of them, and that's where these chats can help clarify and educate end-users

Richard Seltzer -- Carol -- Amen. And maybe add -- "Lack of understanding of how the Internet works and where it's headed." I'm glad I'm not in the Web consulting business. I'm sure many of the headaches must come from customers who insist that they know what they want, then you do what they asked for, then they wake up and want it done all over again.

David -- carol - I think you are right about hosting -- do you know of a really good litmus test to use in evaluating the capablities of a hosting service ? How does one sort the wheat from the chaff in selecting a vendor ?

Todd Moyer -- One reason a company might want to host it's own site is for better access to visitor data. If I'm a publisher, for instance, I'm very interested in what pages my visitors are accessing, how long before they stay on the pages, where they came from/went to... I know providers could provide some of this, but probably not as much as I can get if I own the data.

One-stop vs. modular approach to building Web sites

Richard Seltzer -- Carol -- Yes, those are the subjects we want to get to. I want to better understand if the mix-and-match, "distributed web-site", modular approach makes sense; and if not, why not? Part of whether it makes sense is the comparative cost -- the complete cost of running a Web site. The other part is what is really available today and on what terms and from whom?

Carol J. Snyder -- RE: "1 stop shopping" versus "specialized components" would be nice to have "1 stop shopping" so you or your clients can go to one source with questions, comments, problems, and, or course, compliments HOWEVER...I'm finding that there's no such animal...Different ISPs and web host services know different things..They're just more skilled or knowledgable or have more experience in certain areas... so I'm learning to "Pick and Choose" Based upon a needs assessment

Todd Moyer -- I would prefer to have my web site all at one place just for simplicity. I could see different features as making one company more attractive to be my one web associate company. To make splitting up a site reasonable, a company would have to offer very specialized expertise. Hosts for a database may be good candidates for this.

Richard Seltzer -- Todd -- Re: one-stop shopping. You may be lucky and find one vendor who can provide you everything you want today. But I believe that the one thing you can count on in the Internet is change. I want the flexibility to outsource a new kind of capability from another hosting provider -- if and when that makes sense for my business. I'm not going to want to have to move everything to the new site. I'm not going to want to shop for a new one-stop vendor that also happens to have the new service I want. I want to be able to just plug the new capability into my Web presence -- through hyperlinks and otherwise. I want an open, modular solution. I'm willing to pay for flexibility.

Carol J. Snyder -- I vote with Richard Seltzer, our host! The flexibility of value-added services can't be underestimated. I, too, am willing to pay for such services. EXAMPLE: If my current ISP doesn't offer COLD FUSION 3.0 web database integration services, and we need that feature,...why not get some add-on from elsewhere? Another example is the Verity Search Pak for indexing your web site...Maybe your ISP "Knows" about it...maybe they don't..Be careful..

Defining "value-added services"

anthony alvarez -- What value added services are you referring to? I can imagine guestbooks and secure order forms as 2 examples. Comments please..

Richard Seltzer -- Tony -- By value-added services I mean capabilities like -- store-type transactions, streaming audio and video, meeting rooms, etc. -- capabilities that a company may want to add to its Web presence, but may not want to go to the expense and time of setting it all up from scratch in-house.

Finding the right ISPs or other hosting services -- "The List"

Rick van Valkenburg -- I recently found this WWW site which has a current database of many vendors and will search them all to find the lowest price for the (computer)item you're looking for. This seems to be the best kind of service your could ask for. I think they get their revenue from ads.

Richard Seltzer -- Rick -- I'd like to see the same kind of search service for ISPs and for the kinds of value-added services we are talking about.

Todd Moyer -- lists ISP's for a given area code and gives some info on their services and prices.

[See also, last week's transcript -- for list of hosting services that aren't ISPs, and for pointer to searchable list of hosting services].

Richard Seltzer -- Todd -- When I took a look yesterday, "the list" (now provided by Mecklermedia, at their site) was broken. Also, (maybe I'm wrong), the set up of that list seems design for shopping for dial-tone, base-level services (hence the area code arrangement). When it comes to Web-hosting and value-added services, the location of the provider is pretty irrelevant. (E.g., this chat is hosted by Web-net, a non-profit organization here in Boston. But the actual server on which the chat runs is located in Maryland and is run by Digiweb).

Collaborative filtering as a value-added service -- Firefly

Richard Seltzer -- Todd -- Think about access to broader info than just the folks that came to your site. A large hosted service could use an application like Firefly to capture preference and profile info on large numbers of people -- including your visitors, but also including visitors to many other sites. The bigger the base of personalization data, the more interesting, useful, and profitable applications you could build of it to enhance your own site. To me that kind of "collaborative filtering" is much more interesting as a value-added service (with multiple customers) rather than just sitting on my own site.

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- Rich, would Firefly give you the preference and profile info on people visiting other people's sites. That doesn't seem right to me.

Richard Seltzer -- It doesn't provide personal information -- just statistical data on the numbers of people interested in what -- that kind of thing.

David -- My understanding of Passport (now they have released 3.0 I believe - just the other day ) from Firefly is that it does gather alot of personal info - and the vendors who use Passport can chose to buy/share/trade/exchange the profile info from Firefly - and that is Firefly's value added since they are working to build software and maintain the databa$e now....

Richard Seltzer -- David -- Interesting, re: firefly, I'll have to look into that. In that sense, you could say that Firefly isn't just selling software, they are also offering a value-added service -- hosting all that data for their customers.

David -- Richard - my last visit to Firefly - that was my impression - but they have changed business models and directions in each successive visit-- so it could be different by now...

"Live Event Server" from Digex

Richard Seltzer -- By the way, I also got another interesting followup message this morning from Bob Zwick (Bob@Cottage) which I have added to last week's transcript . He points to an article about Digex which now offers a "Live Event Server". This definitely is a "value-added service" like we've been talking about. Unfortunately, it seems to be just an alternative for conference calls, rather than a full-blown service to help anyone set up large public events. (The cost is about $40 per day per user -- which means you aren't going to want many participants.)

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- Digex's $40 a user seems expensive. Am I missing some hidden costs?

Richard Seltzer -- Barbara -- Yes, I believe that $40 per user per day is extravagantly expensive. But keep in mind that this is for live audio-video events. They are pricing in competition with conference calls and videoconferencing services. They aren't really playing the Internet game yet -- just using Internet capabilities to provide services that compete with traditional businesses.

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- Rich, I didn't realize audio-visual was involved. When I think of chats, I think of ones like this - text. I guess I function on the simpler model the better theory.

Richard Seltzer -- Barbara -- Yes, today, chat is largely text, like this. But in the not too distant future, you'll see all kinds of mixed applications, including audio and video. (It will be like "talkies" killing the silent films, and all my great typing speed will be worth nothing :^(

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- Rich, there always will be a need for good typists!

"Referrer logs" as value-added service

Ed Jaros -- Several ISP's in my area provide up to the minute "referrer logs" so you can see who is coming to your site and from where instantly. Nice feature to know who is calling you if they are on your site as you speak with them. You can even trace their IP address to see who owns it (maybe a competitor)

Richard Seltzer -- Ed -- Do you have URLs for those ISPs? Or could you email them to me for addition to the transcript?

Ed Jaros -- Check out . Also I believe my friend at can provide the same through his business partners but i'd have to double check to be sure.

Search as value-added service

Carol J. Snyder -- Verity Search Pak (Verity Search97 in Cold Fusion 2.0) is now incorporated into Cold Fusion 3.0 (see It's "cool" because you can index 2 types of info (a) your entire web site by keywords/"string search" b) a database on your site.

Carol J. Snyder -- I just read something about it being able to go out to search engines and grab "predefined searches"...I'm still reading/learning like the rest of you. As Richard, our host, says, "Change is the name of the game for the 'Net."

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- Carol, how does the Verity Search Pak index your web site?

Richard Seltzer -- Carol -- Re: search engines for a single site, like Verity. What kinds of results does it provide? Is it much different from what you can get if you make sure all your pages are indexed at AltaVista and just do your searches prefaced by host:yourdomainname ?

Roaming access as value-added service

Todd Moyer -- One differentiator ISP's could offer is range of access, particularly for customer's who travel a lot. For instance, if my ISP is nation or world wide, I could log on as a local call from many places, whereas if it's local, I would have to pay long distance fees to read mail, make changes, get access.

Richard Seltzer -- Todd -- Yes, roaming access would be a valuable service. I've heard that it's available, but I don't know from whom or at what cost. Any suggestions?

Todd Moyer -- I think AT&T's World Net offers roaming access. They'd be a likely candidate anyway.

Value-added services outside the US?

Richard Seltzer -- Laurent -- Among the followup messages we had from last week's chat was one from Bill Dunlap at Euromarketing. He basically said that the situation in Europe is very different than in the US and that the kinds of value-added services we're talking about aren't available there and there isn't any demand for them there yet. Do you agree with that assessment?

Laurent -- I know Bill by the way! He is mainly right. In France we have what we call the Minitel since a long time. The Minitel is a kind of Network Computer that offers different online services. People first tried to replace their old Minitel servers with Web servers. They now start to discover that they can do a lot more with a Web server.
anthony alvarez -- Is the MiniTel system part of the Internet? Can people overseas access minitel thru telnet?

Laurent -- Anthony> Yes, you can but there is a special subscription mechanism...

Richard Seltzer -- Laurent -- Might there be need for value-added services based in the US as extensions of the Web-sites of companies located in Europe? (Or am I just dreaming.)

Laurent -- Richard> Of course... One can be optimistic! The French is going to boom very soon. We are always slower to adopt foreign technologies but when we start to get some interest in them we generally go further than anyone else. I can see at this time quiet a few services that are required by French organizations.

Laurent -- Richard> Mirroring is one important service... Recently illustrated by Microsoft. People in Europe were unable to access Microsoft Web site in proper conditions. Microsoft is now mirroring its whole site on a server in London. There is an ocean between Europe and the United States and it means sluggish download times.

David -- Laurent -- do you see other Euro countries moving onto the web in any significant numbers ? I guess UK - Germany - Benelux - and some of the Nordic countries are moving fast - -but maybe that is just my wishful imagination at work ?

Laurent -- David> Scandinavian people LOVE the Net. They are at the same level as the United States.

Submitting info to search engines -- Exploit "submission wizard"

David -- Richard -- was wondering if there is a Power feeder out there rather than having to feed each Search engine individually - ie. enter info in one Meta-Feeder and then have it update all available known engines simultaneously...?

Ed Jaros -- David - I have heard of search engine services similiar to what you describe but from an accuracy standpoint you're better off submitting by hand individually.

David -- Carol - have you done any research into how best to feed these web engines - now that there are so many of them ? is there a site which you can feed info into one place and have it update many search engines at one time rather than to do them all individually ?

Richard Seltzer -- David -- Yes, there are a number of services like Submit-It where you can add info to many different search engines and directories at the same time. Check my article at I prefer to do it by hand, but my site is small and I'm non-commercial. There may be very good reasons for paying a service, like Submit-It, and hitting all the bases quickly.

David -- Excellent info Richard - thanks ! I will check out Submit it - and makes sense to do the entry by hand as you and Ed have indicated -- there are really only 10 Giant search engines anyways -- so to hit 100 when 10 do 90% of the volume is probably sufficient anyways.

Rick van Valkenburg -- There is also a "submission wizard" called Exploit that will submit to all the major engines, I don't know how well it updates. You download the software and pay a fee to enable submissions to the full list of engines. at last I looked.

David -- Thanks Rick - sounds good - will check it out!

anthony alvarez -- I am also using "submission wizard" from Exploit. It seem
to work fine. The UI is nice too. Find it @

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- In regard to one-stop submissions, it is better to submit individually. Each search engine has its own requirements and some places you want to be listed in are directories, which require special placements and specific information.

Looking for high-performance hosting service

David -- Thanks Carol -- for example -- if I am going to develop a monster database with millions of records and heavy graphics - streaming video - etc -- would there be a standout vendor that comes to mind to be able to host this kind of a site ? They need to be connected directly to the backbone as well so a little ISP who is hopping alot probably wont work... ?

Ed Jaros -- David - From a cost standpoint over the long run have you investigated hosting on your own?

Richard Seltzer -- David -- You might want to check with Acunet in Marlboro. Anthony Alvarez from there was connected to this chat just a few minutes ago. You can reach him at

"Meta Content Framework"

Laurent -- Carol> The future will certainly be something about MCF... (Meta Content Framework) or in English: how to fix the mess...

Richard Seltzer -- Laurent -- What is "Meta Content Framework"? Has a nice ring to it.

Laurent -- Carol> Drop me a note... I'm doing some research on MCF...


anthony alvarez -- Now i often use UNIX talk program to keep in touch with my resellers overseas especially China. It is an efficient way to answer question and stay in touch without making a long distance phone call.

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- Anthony, that's an interesting point - using chat on the Internet for a meeting rather than conference calling. It not only saves money but everyone can then have a written document about what everyone said (if someone takes the time to capture it).

Richard Seltzer -- Tony -- "talk" can be fun, but I don't consider it a "value-added service". Rather it's a base UNIX utility. But something like a server dedicated to RealAudio files would be value-added and could be a modular add-on. Doesn't Acunet offer that as a service?

anthony alvarez -- The Chinese phone system is not high performance. My business partner in China has no problem using UNIX talk compared to web based chat services. As a result we always use UNIX talk. My $0.02.


Ed Jaros -- At i-world last week I was very impressed with a new service called alexa at It provides you with logical links to other sites similiar to what you are currently looking at based upon other alexa users and where they went. They also archive webpages so 404's can still be brought up through their index. Did I mention it's free? Also provides a Paging feature like AOL's buddy list for live chat on-on-one.

Richard Seltzer -- Ed -- Interesting. I had heard of Alexa in a very different context (maybe it's a different company) -- wanting to become an archive of all the content on the Web.

David -- I am actually a Beta Tester for Alexa - -very neat product

Carol J. Snyder -- Yes... is the "new" kind of search service, according to Interactive Age. Alexa is developed by Brewster Kale, formerly of The Thinking Machine...famous developer of WAIS (I believe)
Be sure to check it out...everybody..

David -- Alexa is from the people at the Internet Archive - -who as mentioned - Archive the entire Net (as much as possible)

Ed Jaros -- Richard - The Alexa concept was the one thing that stuck in my mind the most from the show and I can see it bringing in a lot of advertising dollars when it is up to speed. I am signed up as a beta tester and waiting to get hooked up.

David -- yes - Carol is right about Alexa -- you can check it out and see what you think - is just begninning now - so dont expect a lot yet -

Ed Jaros -- David - Where can I find out more about the Internet Archive?

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- How can any source archive the the entire Net? There's just too much info.
David -- Barb - they have many solaris machines spider webbing the net continuously and they then archive it all onto massive Adic tape jukeboxes -- it is massively huge project -- you have to wait many minutes to recall info - because it is like a disc-jockey project - but if it is important to really know some info - it is the ONLY source for it- hence that is why it is so important ...

Richard Seltzer -- Barbara -- The current idex at AltaVista is about half a terabyte. If you have a few dozen terabytes of disk space, you could probably archive all that (text) content for a few years to come.


Paul Tarquinio -- I don't know much about today's topic. I'm interested in Chat as info delivery strategy.

Laurent -- Paul> There is a whole theory on text-based chat system. It's supposed to be more efficient than normal meetings. I believe it's true but it doesn't apply to every case.

Richard Seltzer -- Paul -- You might also be interested in the topic as a potential customer of such services. If you have occasional need for multimedia Web capability to deliver training -- say to customers and partners -- it may not be worth it for you to set up an entire Web facility to do that. Rather you might want to rent that capability when the need arises -- as you would for traditional satellite-type video delivery.

anthony alvarez -- I like this CHAT interface. BTW, who made it?

Richard Seltzer -- Tony -- The interface is a .cgi script. Sudha Jamthe, who runs Web-net could tell you more about that. (Actually, she's been trying to get in touch with Acunet about the services that you offer.)

Unanswered question -- online catalogs?

Dawna -- Does anyone have any interest in online catalogs?


Laurent -- All> I'm really really sorry but I must leave now... I have a lot to say about this though... Please, use my E-mail and drop me your question... I will do my best to answer... We could also organize a special "virtual meeting" or "real meeting" to talk about all that good stuff...

Richard Seltzer -- All -- It's getting to the end of the hour. Please, before you sign off, post your email address and URL so we can keep in touch.

All -- I think that this is a very good topic. I'd like to continue it next week. What's the consensus? Shall we?

anthony alvarez -- VERY Good topic, value add services enhance any site and increase traffic. Thank you.

David -- lets continue !

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- Bye. See you next week.

Paul Tarquinio -- Richard, thanks. Interesting discussion. regards, Paul

Carol J. Snyder -- great topic--lots of questions to ask ourselves... NEEDS... performance?, service?, features?, price? Bye all

Ed Jaros -- Thanks all - out

Richard Seltzer -- All -- As usual, I post the edited/threaded transcript in the next day or two. Check and send email with your followup messages for addition to the transcript. Also, please be sure to check last week's transcript. There were lots of good followup messages you may have missed.

Richard Seltzer -- Thanks to all. Hope you can join us again next Thursday.
Please spread the word. (Also, please remember we'll be taking a two week vacation break after next week. We'll be off Aug. 14 and 21, returning Thursday Aug. 28).


Stages of Internet business evolution

From: Richard Seltzer Date: August 1, 1997

The last couple chat sessions, about value-added services, have led me to characterize the stages of Internet business evolution a bit differently than I have before.

The first stage is pretty much the same:

Pilot, pioneering efforts, using existing boxes, existing staff (supplemented with kids still in or just out of college). Static pages. Pre-existing content (taking out marketing brochures, annual reports, etc. and posting them in HTML form).

The second stage I used to think of as "ready for production" or "ready for real business". Now I would call it "the blitzkrieg that turns into a pyrrhic war" -- where costs outweigh benefits.

Convinced by pilot projects that the Internet is the way to go, corporations commit significant resources to their Web effort -- but typically without a clear idea of the business objectives or of the means available to achieve those objectives or of the Internet business environment. The business people typically abdicate control to the technology folks, and the focus moves to creative flashy design and effects. Meanwhile emphasis on corporate branding and process and standards makes the creation and updating of plain static pages ever more time-consuming and costly -- making Web publication, in many cases, more expensive than print publication of the same static material.

The expectation was that with major investment, the Web would become a source of sales, rather than just a way of distributing marketing material. But with enormous numbers of sites competing for the attention of potential buyers, and with most buyers not yet in the e-commerce frame of mind, and with the sites themselves not providing any particularly good reason for people to frequent them, on-line sales are disappointing. High-cost ad campaigns can temporarily drive traffic to a site and up sales, but not enough to make it profitable. Meanwhile, the technology ante seems to keep going up, with the apparent need to adopt and customize more and more new software for new attention-getting effects. Meanwhile the background costs of linking the new Web-based sales operations to existing systems (inventory, fullfillment, billing, order status, etc.) keep escalating. The real cost of running the Web site(s) can end up costing many times more than original estimates, and continues to escalate.

In the third stage, (which I see now as a possibility, not yet a reality), business people retake control of the Web operation and restructure it to be flexible, modular, distributed, and responsive to changing business needs.

This is the stage where "value-added services" become very important. When a company wants to add a new capability, it turns to an ISP or "Internet presence provider" who offers that as an add-on service. Then costs are predictable, startup is fast, and if it turns out that the expected business benefit didn't materialize, you can just pull the plug on that piece. Ideally, a wide range of services would be available from a wide range of providers, and you could mix and match different modules to meet your changing needs and to get the best price and support for each, rather than expecting to find the one heaven-sent provider that has everything you want and everything you could ever want in the future. Your Web site looks and feels to users like a single site, but different pieces may actually be hosted with different providers scattered all over the world.

In a corporate "intranet" the same model could apply, with the IS department providing some of the building blocks and services for internal customers, and outsourcing others.

Stage one focused on marketing (in the sense of on-line publishing of marketing materials, with the illusory goal of saving printing costs).

Stage two (today) is focusing on transactions but is discovering that building an on-line store and linking it to legacy systems and then trying to drive potential customers to a site are all difficult, unpredictable, and costly challenges. Costs are running out of control and, in many cases, far exceed benefits.

Stage three -- the glimmer of hope we're now seeing -- focuses on building relationships. Success here depends on:

1.understanding the real strengths of the Internet for letting people interact with people -- hence understanding that successful Web-business tends to be people-intensive, not automated,

2.letting business goals determine Web direction, rather than technology, and

3.pursuing a modular, distributed Web site approach, and taking full advantage of the value-added services offered by ISPs and others.

Anyway, that's how it looks from here. Please send your reactions.

Richard Seltzer

Yes to "stages"

From: Ed Jaros <> Date: Tue, 5 Aug 1997 07:44:16 -0500

Wow... Great way to sum it up!

I think you're right on track.


"The Internet without people is marmalade without toast ... Vive la toast"

From: Blair Anderson <> Date: Sat, 02 Aug 97 18:03:52 +1200

Re: Thoughts on stages in the evolution of Internet business

Richard.. I keep missing these early morning appointments [NB -- Blair is in New Zealand, so the live chat sessions take place in the wee hours of the morning] , but despite myself I will hang my hat here... (grin)

I agree with you in your reexamination of the path to possibilities..

There also needs to be some acknowledgement that a great deal of the "effort" and "faith" placed in the internet is an investment in positioning.. providing the lessons can be assimilated into the corporate fabric, there is much to be gained.. A web site is a focus for new initiatives and benefits that pertain to other areas of strategic benefit. The web is an honorable place to source competitive intelligence. A Website is (almost) an obligatory contribution. Interaction with the end user is an overt source of corporate knowledge.

I feel that "too much" emphasis is on adoption of a commercial return from hearing the "till bell toll", and not enough valuation of strategic advantage. Boards of Directors are sensitive to the politically correct notion that "tits and bum sites" should be filtered.. but have little appreciation of the sociological impact of the net on staff loyalty, turnover, or development, say as it applies to telecommuting, personal development or job satisfaction. (and even more resistance to paying for advice on these matters.. hell, they can get it off the net for free!.. if they only knew how.)

How much is this CEO/DIRECTOR assimilation of the web conscience important ??

A ship without a captain... Im afraid..

The fuidity of the medium and the fickleness of chance has seen some staggering successes.. all well reported and generating some misguided envy.. but some top decisionmakers still choose to sail blindly through the global internet marketplace, steering on a prayer..

Its not surprising that some company's return a 404 not found, before crashing on the rocks of mediocrity.

Instilling a net dynamic starts with people, and ends with people..

Quantifying bandwidth, has to be seen in the light of the power of amateur networks like FIDONET that ran a global functional anarchy.. at 2400baud, and provided the foundation upon which the internet became pervasive.. it did so, because it worked.. underpinned by "the benefit of point to point, and point to many networking".. speed was not a constraint to growth. The Internet is not new, its just confused, it has not evolved to support such simple features as a file resume.. or a binary delta update.. instead carrying the baggage of infinite bandwidth. The net suffers from ever increasing numbers of "save the world emerging technologies.." all competing for venture capital and stock price.. yet we still dont have a stable WINDOWS, or a PLUG and PLAY hardware platform. (yea yea.. its coming... but its always in next years acronym.)

Anyone with a PENTIUM MMX 200, looks at the user with anything less, as if they are a troglodite.. an emotion carried thru the Net's capacity to disseminate anything that makes itself feel great..the notion misleads people into productivity bubbles of expectation.

How anybody can take a risk and promise anything on time across the net defies this writer..its not the times it succeeded, but the cost of when it fails..

I would not recommend the internet as a carrier of 111 or 999 services.. but its a good place to meet someone who can contribute something to the quality of life and the corporate model.

The internet without people is marmalade without toast.

Out of the sea of data, it is people who bring about the actionable intelligence.. its the potential for the qualified dialog that makes the difference.

A net buying decision is just an accident of informed choice.

Vive la toast!

Blair Anderson (, International Consultant in Electronic Commerce, Encryption and Electronic Rights Management

"Techno Junk and Grey Matter" (HTTP://WWW.ISDN.NOW.CO.NZ), Christchurch, New Zealand

Questioning, and defining MCF

From: Laurent Therond Date: 4 Aug 1997 wrote:

Good morning Richard,

First a few comments about your paper "Internet Business Evolution". I agree with you: we are heavily in phase II. Organizations are overspending and they do so for some unrealistic reasons. However it's now clear that electronic commerce is going to boom by the year 2000. No one wants to be left out. A market of 200 millions customers is not something you can ignore if you are in business.

Now, as you wrote, there are enormous numbers of sites competing for the attention of potential buyers. It means that organizations with a strong off line presence will succeed first in their on line endeavors. One cannot forget that sound business is based on relationships. I believe it will always be very difficult to create strong relationships on line. Nevertheless the Net can help and support these relationships.

Of course there will be exceptions. Amazon Inc. could be such an example. At this time Amazon is overspending, literally burning its IPO's bounty. Amazon's sales will strictly depend on its marketing efforts. Every popularity swing will cause disastrous problems.

Amazon's success is directly related to its business volume. Business volume is directly related to business relationships. A one time customer won't grow Amazon's business. Conclusion: Amazon will perhaps succeed but not without a concrete (off line) strategy).

In the long term, marketing services will certainly gain control of their organization's Internet Presence. Because it's nothing more than a natural part of their responsibilities. Internet publishing becomes more and more user friendly. Business people will push to get even more easy to use products and tools. Marketing services will learn how to outsource their specific projects. Business people will bind Internet Presence Providers with stringent Service Level Agreements. Internet Presence Providers will get a lot more professional.

About the Meta Content Framework. The Meta Content Framework (MCF) is a tool to provide information about information. The primary goal is to make the Web more like a library and less like a messy heap of books on the floor.

The MCF has its origins in knowledge representation system such as CycL, KRL and KIF and advanced database models (the relational object model) such as those in SQL3.

The MCF is not intended to be an extension of markup languages such as HTML. While it is possible and often useful to embed meta-content within HTML files, it would be better to extract out and independently represent this meta-content. The MCF is intended to be a format for this representation.

Tomorrow, some Internet Presence Provider will have the opportunity to use the MCF to serve their customers. That will change the Net. As everyone will be able to use pertinent search engines to locate a specific information, Web sites will become more accessible.

You will still be able to cheat using "hot" keywords to describe your site but these techniques will rapidly backfire (People don't like to be fooled!).

I hope this is useful,

Have a great day,

Best Regards,

Laurent Thérond.

The Strength of

From: Richard Seltzer Date: Aug. 4, 1997

While I agree that relationships are essential, I believe that it is possible (perhaps even easier) to build relationships on-line, as opposed to through traditional business. And I believe that is an excellent example of how to do it right.

Through their many interactive features -- I've been "interviewed" as an author, have posted book reviews, have expressed my preferences, have participated in their interactive John Updike story, am an associate, etc. -- I feel they have built a relationship with me. I feel like I belong there.

I am a rather fanatical reader (you can see the complete list of every book I've read for the last 39 years at My house is wall-to-wall books. But I don't feel any allegiance to any of the many bookstores where I have spent quite a bit of money over the years. But from my first purchase from them about four months ago, Amazon hooked me. I now spend an average of $150 a month there.

As for MCF, I'd like to hear more about that. My first reaction is -- why? I don't think of the Internet as a library. The static content is not what interests me. I'm much more intrigued by interaction with other people, which is I believe where the Internet is headed -- not connecting people to documents more efficiently, but rather connecting people to people. But I really need to know more. It's impossible to judge a new direction in technology without getting hands-on experience.

More on MCF and Amazon

From: Laurent Therond Date: 4 Aug 1997 wrote:

I believe as you do that the Internet will be best used if used to connect people instead of documents to people.

Nevertheless the fact is that when you try to locate a resource using a common search engine, you can't get to be productive.

This is an issue for the general public which expects immediate benefits from the Net.

To get further information about MCF, please check the following documents:

Finally, I'm pleased to know that you are an Amazon customer. I'm also an Amazon customer.

I don't use their "interactive" features but I think they are nice to have.

I regret that UPS is doing such a bad job with them. Indeed I got 3 of my last 4 orders VERY late.

Have a great day,


Still more on MCF and Amazon

From: Richard Seltzer <> Date: Tue, 5 Aug 1997 11:20:35 -0400 (EDT)

Thanks again. I do need to look into this further. I'd be especially interested if MCF made it easier to identify and locate live events, and also if it helped overcome some of the current barriers to search engines (e.g., content inside frames and databases).

Regarding Amazon, delivery-wise, I guess I've been lucky. No complaints.

By the way, if you use them a lot, sign up as an associate, then when you want to buy a batch of books, quickly throw together a Web page with the appropriate links for those particular books. Then click from your page to the Amazon page to add an item to your shopping cart; go back to your page, then click on the next and add it, and so on. It doesn't take long, and your referral fees for your own purchases should more than offset the cost of shipping.


Microsoft article: The Passion Model

From: Tracy Marks <> Date: Wed, 06 Aug 1997 01:40:00 -0400

You might be interested in reading this article just posted on Microsoft's site:

We Came, We Clicked, We Yawned by Christopher Locke


>We know it. They know it. Let's face it. From the humblest home pages to

>the towering powerhouse media monoliths, nobody has the slightest

>idea what they're doing online....The point is to put up stuff that

>people care about...Call it the Passion Model, call it what you like --

>it's the only one that really works. The eyeballs rationale isn't gone,

>of course, but in this "new" passion-driven model, the attempt to attract

>attention needn't be arrogant and cynically manipulative. It has the

>potential to evolve into something far better suited to the medium.

Tracy Marks, M.A.

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