Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Doing Business on the Internet

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Doing Business on the Internet

Article excerpt

The Internet's World Wide Web is the place to be--whether you're in public accounting or in industry or whether you're browsing for information, shopping for products or services or selling them. This article will tell you why you should be there and what it takes to get there.

The Internet was designed initially as a communications vehicle for sending person-to-person messages or for broadcasting to wider audiences. But it didn't take long for Internet techies to recognize that if you could pass messages back and forth on the Net, there was no reason why you couldn't construct virtual way stations--electronic sites anyone on the Internet could visit either to pick up a posted message addressed to no one in particular or to deposit one for anyone passing by. So, with some programming wizardry, the World Wide Web (www) was double-decked onto the Internet as one of the byways of what was to become the information highway. Web sites proliferated as users quickly realized that these virtual locations, which took only clever programming to construct, were electronic analogues of a storefront or an office. Internet users dubbed them "home pages." Once inside the home page, visitors can be directed to any number of other Web sites for more information.

These home pages quickly became more than way stations for messages. The programmers, not satisfied with just a stark image on a screen, added inviting graphics and sound clips to get Internet surfers to linger awhile. They also added hypertext-- software technique that allows a visitor who double-clicks on a word, icon or graphic to call up more information by being electronically transported to a related site on the Web.

Presto, the Web was transformed from just a fanciful playground for cybertechies into a serious business resource with vast commercial potential. And the cost of admission was relatively little.

Why should an organization establish a presence on the Web? Because it's an inexpensive way to reach millions of clients, customers and prospects. It's estimated that some 30 million people have access to the Internet. And that number is growing rapidly. While such raw numbers are impressive, what's more important is that the cost of establishing and maintaining a Web presence is not necessarily related to the size of the potential audience.

An even more significant reason for being on the Net: The inherent design of a home page--where anyone interested lingers for more information-- makes it a medium automatically customized by the audience itself: If people are interested, they will not only come, they will dig for more information.

What should that mean to the accounting profession?

Whether you're in public or management accounting, your business should be figuring out how it can use and benefit from the Web--for marketing and sales or for working with customers or clients.

And note well: Your competitors are either already on the Net or getting ready to launch.

--Stanley Zarowin

Gaining a presence on the Internet's World Wide Web with your own home page a site analogous to a billboard on the information highway used to be an expensive and arduous task best left to a handful of programming experts. Today, thanks to the introduction of a wide assortment of easy-to-use software, this project has become much simpler. While many contractors will do the job at relatively modest prices, it can be a do-it-yourself project even for those without programming skills. All that's needed is the interest and a few hours' time. Before deciding whether to tackle the job on your own or to contract it out, there are some things you should know.

HOW WEB PAGES WORK

The terms "Web site" and "home page" are often used interchangeably, but technically they are not quite the same. While a home page is a Web site, a Web site need not be a home page. A home page is a primary electronic address that an organization or person may create on the World Wide Web (often referred to as "the Web" or "WWW"). …

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