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The More Things Change...

You've heard the old saying that 1 year in a dog's life is supposed to be equal to 7 years in a human's life (because people, on average, live about seven times as long as dogs). Likewise, it has been remarked that an "Internet year" is equal to about 6 weeks of real time, because things on the Internet change so quickly. This is a point we tried to keep in mind when writing this book, and it's an important point for you to remember when reading this or any other Internet book. Things change so fast on the Internet that it's very hard to keep up to date.

For example, just as we started writing this book, AOL went from pricing its service by the hour to a flat rate for unlimited access. Flat-rate pricing for unlimited access was the future, everyone said. You probably know what happened next: AOL was swamped with more customers than it could handle. To keep up with demand, AOL had to spend an additional $350 million to upgrade its network and was reported to be adding 30,000 modems and phone lines per month.

Also while we were writing, Netcom, a major national ISP, did an about-face. It seems that with unlimited access, about 3% of its customers were tying up about one third of Netcom's capacity. Netcom decided to rethink the concept of unlimited service. One idea under consideration was to disconnect a user's computer if it was on-line and not being used for an extended period. With flat-rate pricing, it's not profitable to allow subscribers to tie up a connection for hours on end with no useful purpose. Although we can't predict how these problems are going to be fixed, we can expect that ISPs and on-line services will come up with ways to prevent this.

Some on-line services used to offer large blocks of time, say 400 hours per month, for a flat rate. Although this was more time than most people could use, it didn't sound quite as good as "unlimited access." I expect that many on-line services will keep the term "unlimited access" for a flat fee, but will change their definition of unlimited service. One way would be to let you have unlimited access as long as you continue to transact business over the Net, but to log you off if your computer sits idle for, say, 10 minutes.

Of course, this is just one idea how this problem might be solved. By the time you read this, ISPs and on-line services may have a completely different pricing system. But even then, new issues will arise, and new solutions will need to be adopted, meaning things will change again—and again.

The bottom line is that, try as we might, we can't predict exactly how things on the Internet will be working by the time you read this. For that reason, we are reluctant to recommend particular on-line services or software packages on the basis of what they currently offer or what their competition does not, because these things are subject to rapid change. On the other hand, the basic ideas behind using the Internet are more stable, and some are even timeless. So don't get hung up too much on the details, which change all the time. Instead, get a solid foundation in the basic concepts of going on-line and searching for and finding the information you need. With a good grasp of the basic concepts, you'll be better equipped to understand and handle the changes as they occur.

Date: 2015-12-18; view: 1471

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