Businesses Get Online and "Net" Results

Businesses of all sizes and varieties are rushing to place their home pages on the Internet's World Wide Web. Many successful entrepreneurs give credit to the Internet for giving their business a jump start. It just makes good sense to mine the Internet for consumer information, professional tips, news about the competition, and other vital data. Of the nearly 40 million people with access to the web, 25 million Americans and Canadians swell the ranks. Many of these users are taking advantage of this unprecedented access to customers and information and helping their businesses to grow. Here are statistics about those who are already plugged in:

College Educated 67%
Hold Professional or Managerial Positions 50%
Female 35%
Average Hours/Wk of Use 6.0

It would seem that everyone in business, especially new business owners and managers, would use the information-gathering assets of the Internet as an important first step. In addition to buying, selling, and communicating with customers and suppliers, the world of the Internet is ever-expanding, offering new opportunities for gathering and spreading the latest business "intelligence" by means of newsgroups and mailing lists (see definition of terms). Because of the accessibility to real-time "news" of all sorts, the Internet is the information deliver system of the future.

But climbing aboard the Web wagon does not seem to be a priority for many who might benefit. A 1996 survey of independent business owners revealed that only 40 percent of small businesses even own a modem. Since this survey, the picture may have changed somewhat, but it would not be surprising to learn that small businesses have maintained some measure of this resistance to change. Owners are often preoccupied with day-to-day operations, and taking on a major "learning-curve" project can be forbidding. It's the old fear of the unknown coupled with the very real fear of wasting time. Who can justify the hours needed to learn to speak this techie language?

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The "lingo barrier" should not be a deterrent. Internet travel is easy once you learn a few basic phrases (just like when visiting any foreign country), and some of the terms frequently used are far less confusing when laid out in a "row." To make the Web a less sticky proposition, weave your way through these definitions:

World Wide Web - Not the same as the Internet itself. The Web is only one area of the Internet, and the chief venue, so far, for commercial interaction. ISP Stands for Internet service provider, one of a number of companies providing the link between you and the Internet. Examples of ISPs are UUNET, NETCOM, and Sprint. In addition to the larger providers, there are regional providers, as well.

Browser -- Software that gives you access to Web sites. An example is Webcrawler.

Search Engine - Similar, but not identical to a browser. This is on-line software helping you to find specific information. Examples are Yahoo! And Alta Vista.

Web Site - A location you "rent" on the World Wide Web: Think of the site as the "land" upon which to "build" your Web pages (see below).

Web Page(s) - This series of screen-by-screen "pages" begins with a home page. From this starting point, the user can search by category, or by selecting hypertext words ("key words") that are underlined or otherwise highlighted in the text. Information included can be whatever information (including order forms, applications, and other take-action-now segments) the page-owner wishes to provide.

Usenet - The "clearing house" for an entire range of Internet "addresses" used for posting e-mail messages.

On-Line Discussion Groups - also known as Newsgroups. Providing access to messages posted on a specific topic found in Usenet, this is a way to find out the latest word on any topic in business or industry.

Mailing Lists - Discussion groups accessible to subscribers to one main address.

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