INTERNAUT

Top trends this year include a close look at defining the Internet

Shawn P. McCarthy

Now that most government agencies have successfully adapted Internet and intranet technologies to share information with each other and the public, new trends are emerging. Here are seven trends to watch in the months ahead:

''Policy-makers working on new Internet regulations are going to have to decide what the Internet is and is not. This gets tougher as innovation continues. For example, as television programs become available via the Net, do TV rating regulations such as those for prime-time and late-night viewing apply? If people see Internet services on their television monitors, how will that affect TV advertising policies?

Here's how

Concerns about potential legislative problems prompted MCI WorldCom Inc. vice president Vinton Cerf and Corporation for National Research Initiatives president Robert Kahn to write an extensive paper outlining how Congress could head into a morass. They urged efforts 'at top policy levels to define the Internet' as telephone, cable, Internet and wireless companies continue to lobby Congress for new rules favoring themselves. The paper appears on the Web at www.internetpolicy.org/briefing/12_99_story.html.

''Money spent on year 2000 problems can finally be channeled in other directions, such as bandwidth upgrades or security enforcement. The Securities and Exchange Commission, for example, cut its monitoring efforts after financial institutions reported few problems with their transition. SEC ended special data collection efforts with the New York Stock Exchange and the National Association of Securities Dealers after Jan. 5, turning its attention instead to online securities fraud. For more information, visit www.sec.gov/news/tokyojoe.htm.

''Many government agencies will switch Internet service providers in the months ahead, in search of better prices and services such as digital subscriber lines to replace expensive dedicated bandwidth. A recent J.D. Power and Associates study, at www.jdpower.com/releases/ISP090899.htm, reports that concerns about pricing and performance will lead about 12 percent of sites surveyed to change providers this year. Another 22 percent said they were considering a change.

''Government will begin adopting voice over IP technologies. With more bandwidth comes new opportunity, and if agencies can use the Net for interdepartmental and regional office calls, you can bet they will try it as a cost-cutting measure.

''The rise of Linux will continue. Why? Tight budgets in information technology departments and the need for flexibility on Net servers have forced administrators to look at open-source Linux operating systems. The kernel will continue to evolve to meet changing needs.

Four successful Linux initial public offerings raised hundreds of millions of dollars last year, and a good deal of it is going into further development of Linux. For the server market, at least four Linux flavors'Red Hat, TurboLinux, SuSE and VA Linux'are receiving large investments for a support infrastructure and OS extensions. Corel Corp. is focusing on the desktop PC market and will use its version of Linux to promote its WordPerfect Office suite.

At the high end, the Energy Department's Los Alamos National Laboratory has been a Linux pioneer and is considering the OS to run supercomputers it will add this year.

Meanwhile, Linux inventor Linus Torvalds has said he wants to expand the OS to notebook and handheld devices.

''Government will expand its online commerce initiatives to serve citizens who want to order and pay online for specific government services such as licenses and reports.

All federal, state and local agencies are on track to try to make it possible, according to vendor predictions.

Commerce One Inc., an electronic commerce software provider and developer in Walnut Creek, Calif., recently announced a new business unit in McLean, Va., that will provide e-commerce products for federal, state and local governments.

''Net regulation will pick up steam. President Clinton wants to regulate Internet pharmaceutical sales to reduce consumer risks. His proposal, which requires congressional approval, would oblige Net pharmacy sites to give customers evidence of compliance with federal and state laws.

Those are my top seven trends for this year. I'd like to hear yours.

Shawn P. McCarthy designs products for a Web search engine provider. E-mail him at smccarthy@lycos.com.

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