Presented at Networld + Interop London, October 1996.
What makes you think you have a choice, anyway?
The importance of making one's company accessible to the internet community is already well understood. Very few companies of any stature attempt to operate without, at the very least, a promotional presence on the web, and the ability to exchange smtp mail with the outside world.
However, what distinguishes the effectiveness of a company's relationship with the internet is the degree of integration between its internal information systems and the company's interface to external networks. The internet community become bored with purely promotional material very quickly, and require interaction with a company via the internet to be at least as effective as they might achieve by telephone, or by letter, or by visiting the offices of the company.
One example of a company trying to achieve this level of integration is Blackwells Bookshops, where the bookseller's stock control database is accessed via the website, so that the prospective purchaser can see how many copies of a book the shop has in stock. The company also uses the site to promote its Personal Accounts. With at least 300 internet bookshops, and competition from mail order and catalogue booksellers; being able to demonstrate that a book can be promptly delivered from stock, and promoting customer bonding through account facilities are cornerstones in its approach.
Another example, that has become a classic within its own industry is the Federal Express parcel tracking system. Here, people can follow the progress of their shipment by directly interrogating FedEx's tracking system through a web based interface.
Other well established business models which depend on a successful technical and cultural integration with the internet include Walnut Creek's CDROM publishing business, Jobserve's contract computer consultancy listings, and O'Reilly's book and software publishing business where prospective authors, developers and customers can all successfully interact with the company via the internet.
Eighteen months ago, companies such as these attracted considerable esteem through their activities on the internet. It was then unusual for a company to have the internet as a key part of the way in which it managed its customer relationship throughout the sales cycle, from promotion and awareness forming to pre-sales, sales support, transaction processing, and after sales support.
However, this is now becoming the norm rather than the exception. FedEx's competitors also have internet interfaces to their parcel tracking systems and many booksellers other than Blackwells are properly equipped to fulfill requirements from the internet community.
People now expect, as a matter of course, to be able to deal effectively with their suppliers via the internet, and whereas eighteen months ago, a company that was able to properly support a relationship with its customers via the internet might have been thought innovative, today a company that cannot promptly support its relationships via the internet is clearly losing the respect of its customers. Whereas people once thought well of FedEx because they offered internet based parcel tracking, people now think poorly of Parcelforce because they don't.
Hence, the question is not so much Is it safe to connect our Network to the Internet?, but We have to connect our Network to the Internet, how can we defend it?
Posted by Mike Prettejohn in Security
The first Netcraft Web Server Survey was done over the last weekend in July 1995. It had responses from 18,957 hosts. NCSA was then by far the most commonly used server with 57% of the responses, followed by CERN with 20%. When the survey went public, the first people to access the site were the Apache developers, just four months into their project, who were euphoric to find that 658 sites were using their software. These days the number of Apache sites is comfortably into six figures and their most likely source of competition is Microsoft, rather than the other freely available Unix servers.
The growth of the survey
The growth in the number of sites from 18,957 a year ago to todays 342,081 partly reflects the natural growth in the number of sites, and partly that we have got better at finding them. The eighteen fold rise in the number of hosts in the Web Server Survey over the year compares with a doubling in the number of internet domains found by Network Wizards in the six month period between July 1995 & January 1996. Network Wizards are due to report their July 1996 results shortly; presumably the number of domains will be considerably up on the 240,000 reported for January, as from our own research, in mid July there were 420,000 domains in .com alone.
The size of the survey
With over 342,000 hostnames, the Netcraft Web Server Survey is probably the world's largest collection of web sites; the closest published figure that we have seen is the 275,600 hostnames claimed by Digital for its AltaVista database. Until May 1996 we allowed robots full access to the survey, and so by definition, if we had details of a site, then the search engines had the urls too. Eventually, the files containing the urls to sites running the most popular servers became so big that they were only taken by robots, and so we stopped publishing report files that were more than half a megabyte in size. Since then we seem to have outstripped AltaVista in the quest to find more sites, though this could change; as far as we know our methods are completely different from AltaVista's, and there's no 'right' way to do it.
Written May 1995 for a Future Marketing seminar, minor updates October 1995, June 1996.
What is the Internet?
The Internet is the world's single biggest networked community; it spans every continent, thousands of networks, millions of computers, and tens of millions of people. And it is growing like a trifid.
From a marketing perspective, the more people who use the Internet, the more important it is to be represented on it, and in recent years businesses have acquired Internet connections, electronic mail addresses, and Web sites in an attempt to make themselves accessible to the Internet community.
How big is the Internet?
The short answer is Big Enough.
A crude guess is that currently (June 1996) some 75 million people worldwide have Internet access and that this is increasing at around eight percent per month.
There are some more scientific studies of the size of the Internet. In particular, Network Wizards periodically do a survey of Internet domains. The January 1996 survey shows some 9.5 million hosts connected to the Internet, with about 450,000 connected systems in the United Kingdom.
On these figures the Internet community is a more important market than most individual countries. However, the mechanics of the Internet mean that the cost of servicing the community is very much lower than opening an office in a new geographical area. Typically the marginal cost of disseminating information on the internet is nil, which compares favourably with phone calls, faxes, printed brochures and traditional media advertising.