Magazine article Online

From the Internet to Intranets

Magazine article Online

From the Internet to Intranets

Article excerpt

No one predicted it, least of all Bill Gates (a comfort for the rest of us struggling to keep up). Exponential is the only way to define the growth of the Internet, especially in the past two years since the World Wide Web burst onto the scene. Few would argue that the Internet has changed the face of the computer industry (and the online industry) more than anything else since the introduction of DOS and the first IBM PC.

In the early stages of its rapid growth, the Internet was an external phenomenon, and its impact on the computing industry was tangential. The real excitement was about people's ability to connect to networks around the globe using discussion lists, gophers, and tools like archie and veronica. It was about the thrill of finding information serendipitously--sure, it had to be that way since there was no organization on the Net and few good search tools. Some organizations created gophers for internal as well as external use, but the built-in limitations of the medium held little real interest for serious MIS folk.

Then came the World Wide Web. Now Java, graphics, animation, voice, and video are Web happenings. Netscape, Web browsers, and search engines are the rage. These developments all have far greater implications than simply searching, retrieving, or discussing information across a far-flung network. Most important, in a twist from the external to the internal, companies have discovered that the Web architecture that works so well on the Internet can work just as easily in-house--and for a lot less money than high-priced groupware products such as Lotus Notes and cousins.


This discovery has caused the market for Net server software and hardware to explode beyond all reason in just the past few months, as WWW and Internet tools have moved inside organizations to create "Intranets." (Intranets are internal networks using TCP/IP protocols, Web server software, and browser client software to share information created in HTML within an organization, and to access company databases.) Netscape's browser software is still free for the downloading, but the company expects to make its big bucks on its server software. Ditto for a lot of other players in the Internet-Intranet arena.

Companies like Eli Lilly, Levi Strauss, and Ford are finding Intranets a cost-effective, low-tech way to distribute a lot of internal information among many locations on a variety of platforms (Business Week, February 26, 1996). …

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