A Clue...to Internet Commerce

by Dana Blankenhorn

For the Week of October 13, 1997

Volume I, No. XXXIII

This Week's Clue: Internet Uber Alles

The Internet's going to replace the phone network in five years. It'll all be data - what goes in your phone will just be translated somewhere else. Scaling the Internet so it can do all this was the story behind Networld + Interop in Atlanta last week.

The background was Worldcom's stunning offer for MCI, which the stock markets have yet to stop applauding. Assuming the deal gets done as scheduled, in mid-1998, Worldcom's John Sidgmore would run 60 percent of Internet backbone traffic. But it turns out monopolizing the Internet isn't the play - moving Worldcom's voice traffic to TCP/IP is the play.

I learned that visiting the big equipment companies at N+I last week. Siemens, 3Com and Newbridge fed me lunch and talked up their "Carrier Scale Internetworking" (CSI) scheme, which is aimed at letting public networks (read telephone companies) and enterprises (read big customers) run voice, data and video on a single infrastructure. It's based on a "routing service control point," using Newbridge's MainStreet products, which Siemens will support in the public switches it sells and which 3Com will sell in the local networking systems it sells businesses.

With CSI, "IP becomes one of a suite of services offered under a multi- protocol broadband infrastructure," said Thomas Rambold, president for broadband networks at Siemens, in his nifty German accent. In other words, while "IP is the unifying protocol," it won't give you the "Ivory Snow" reliability (99 and 44 100ths percent pure) phone networks need unless you have rules to separate the hoi polloi from the rest of us. The "policies" - who's going First Class and who's going coach - would be mapped on everything from software in 3Com's U.S. Robotics modems to Siemens' phone switches. The Newbridge stuff would understand who's going where, when.

Now, this is not just an evil plot, as Bill O'Shea, president for business communications systems at Lucent Technologies Inc., explained later the same day. Game players need fast response, but they're not passing many bits, while folks downloading Internet Explorer pass lots of bits, but don't have such response concerns. Giving different kinds of digital services what they need to happen makes sense, especially if you're going to push calls to grandma onto the Net because it costs tons less to run (and costs are declining).

Of course, Lucent has another way of doing this. It's called intelligent switching. The company's designing a line of gear that scales all the way up to a fiber-to-fiber switch - for moving that half of a NAP's traffic that doesn't need to get off the highway every time it passes an exit.

Time will tell whose system sells, but it's inevitable that someone's will. In his N+I keynote, Cisco chief technology officer Edward Kozel said there's a variant of Moore's Law at work here, with the cost of moving a megabit being cut in half every two years. Circuit switching can't compete. That's why, in a few years, this letter will be just "Clues to Commerce."

SSP (Shameless Self-Promotion)

How do I stay in the know? Remember that it's Journalism -- checking the news, calling people, listening carefully, writing on deadline -- which keeps the clues coming, although I also handle consulting and commercial writing (ask about those rates via e-mail). (I've finally finished those features for NewMedia and Internet & Electronic Commerce Strategies ).If you're looking for excellent work -- like that found in my column at Atlanta Computer Currents or my regular work for Net Marketing magazine don't wait for the e-mail -- give me a call at 404-373-7634.

And now back to our show...

Business By Other Means

Clausewitz said war was diplomacy by other means. The same could be said of lawsuits and business.

The legal contretemps launched last week by Sun against Microsoft will mean a Merry Christmas for dozens of lawyers, and their children. It's also true that Microsoft "optimized" Java for Windows (no fair, right?). But Sun can't claim Java is both a "standard" and "proprietary" at the same time, can it? (Microsoft doesn't call Windows a standard - it just is one.) And Java is still far from "write once-run anywhere." Too many programmers are working too many hours "adapting" it for various JVMs.

What comes next? You can already download a run-time Java Virtual Machine from SunSoft. Wait until all their friends (like Netscape) start offering it, and shipping it, including a version for IE 4.0. That's where the battle will really be fought.

Where's The Money?

This jibes with what I find anecdotally, so it might be true. ActivMedia Inc., a Peterborough, NH market research outfit, claimed last week that product and service sales represent 85% of all Web site revenues, and should reach $13.3 BILLION this year.

This is a bit like discovering gravity tends to draw things toward the Earth, but it does bear repeating. What's an ad impression cost? What's a click-through cost? Now, what's a car cost? A software package? A nice dolly for the kids? You get the point. Plus, you can save big bucks from Australia, Japan or Germany by buying in the U.S. over the Web - even with the shipping and currency conversion. One more reason the U.S. dollar is riding high.

Equal Time

Mitchell Kamarck of Rosenfeld, Meyer & Susman, a California attorney who finally saw my criticism of USA Today (which ran his opinion that linking can be legally prevented without rebuttal), favored me with an e-mail, and in the interest of balance I offer his opinion to you.

"First, as you know, websites like to control where links enter a site. As the advertising is predominately 'on the front door,' websites want people to enter via that door to increase the number of 'impressions.' There are numerous cases of websites requesting that links be moved from an interior page to the front page. I am confident that you can think of some examples also.

"Second, for many of the reasons stated in your article, websites want formal, albiet free, relationships with linking sites in order to prevent implied licenses. Third, websites must make sure the linking site is not creating a false impression of an endorsement. For instance, I recently demanded that a doctor remove a link from his site to my client's site. The doctor was clearly attempting to create the impression that my client endorsed his services."

In time, with the help of lawyers like Mr. Kamarck, the question of linking - your right to link - will arrive in a courtroom. I hope linking wins. I think linking will win. If it doesn't, however, we can all still write Mr. Kamarck at mkamarck@rmslaw.com. That last wasn't a link, was it?


I've likely got the spelling wrong, but that was the name of Judy Holliday's home-based answering service in "Bells Are Ringing." Maybe everything old is new again.

I could swear that Dialogic, Vocaltec and Executone were selling an updated version of Judy's rig at NetWorld + Interop last week. It's a two-line "Web-Enabled Call Center" that would sell for $4,400, $2,900 if you already have a PC. With it, you could be on-call for small Web stores at nights and on weekends, answering questions, leading people through the site and taking orders.

Of course, David Rosenthal of Vocaltec assured us, it's really just a demo. "What I see is an Internet Service Provider buying a 96-line system," he said. "They would put the gateway on a shelf and Web sites would buy the service for, say, $200 a month. You could serve 400 sites, maybe even more." Maybe, but that home-based idea keeps popping into my head. Maybe it's time for a revival.

Clued-in, Clueless

Clued-in (finally) is AT&T, for figuring out what it does for a living. Its WorldNet "Managed Internet Service" (MIS) is a competitive offering which promises business customers high reliability. Virtual Private Network service and network security offerings are still a year away, but you have to start somewhere. Assuming Bernie Ebbers wins MCI, AT&T has a year to give him a run for his money, or the whole Internet's gonna be run out of Mississippi.

Clueless, (someone's gotta say it), is Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0. It's not that it doesn't work. It does. But it's bloatware. Worse, the supposed improvements (channels, e-mail, Windows integration) aren't worth the bloat. I had a hint on this after installing Office '97, which will find Netscape if you don't have IE handy. Trouble is it takes time, even on a fast Pentium box. Longer than it takes to read this paragraph. (And if you try to edit something Word has decided is a link - let's just say this is a family newsletter.) It's easier having both apps loaded, then cutting-and-pasting a URL and (if you're a dial-up user) clicking the "connect" button. There is a law of diminishing returns at work in Redmond - the upgrades just aren't worth it anymore. That's far more threatening to Gigadollar Bill than anyone, or anything, in Silicon Valley.

A Clue...to Internet Commerce is a weekly publication of @Have Modem, Will Travel. It's sent free to a qualified e-mail list. Like Netscape Navigator, it carries a list price -- $49 per year. (Unlike Netscape, we don't expect you to pay it.)Subscribers can receive either a .txt file or an .htm file. The .htm version features links which become active when online with a browser, or an e-mail package like Netscape 3.0. (Let us know which you prefer.) To take your name off the list, simply write REMOVE as the subject, or content, of a message replying to this post. To request your free copy, write us at Dana Blankenhorn@worldnet.att.net. We're on the Web at www.tbass.com/clue and www.ppn.org/clue.