Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Capitalistic Efforts Increase on the Internet

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Capitalistic Efforts Increase on the Internet

Article excerpt

RESTON, Va. -- Those maps that gas stations used to hand out are free again, in cyberspace. Costly business research now is on the house. News gathered and printed at enormous cost is simply given away.

There has always been something vaguely un-American about the Internet -- so much going on there that does not involve making a buck.

Now, efforts are intensifying to pound the medium into a capitalist tool. Leaps in billing technology are making the long-impractical possible. The growing number of people on-line is an irresistible carrot for commerce. Created from U.S. military technology, shaped by scholars and recently overrun by just folks, the Internet developed what PC World magazine Editor Cathryn Baskin calls a "militant information-for- free mindset." That culture won't yield easily. But yield it may, some Web pioneers say. "Dollars and cents will overwhelm the old crowd," predicts Don Heath, president of the Reston-based Internet Society, representing the system's standard setters. "It's part of the evolution." And a potential shock to a system where people typically pay a monthly fee and then dig in. These days, hundreds of mainstream publications spend money to put their product on the World Wide Web. Academics pile the research that is their stock in trade on the huge communal information heap. Help yourself. People swap "freeware." Enjoy. Diners can buy books from the Zagat Survey series, rating restaurants, hotels and more, city by city. Or they can go on-line and see the collection for nothing. It may all sound like socialism or flower power or something. But the will to turn the Net into a pot of gold has always been there. Advertising has become increasingly sophisticated, with banners containing moving images beckoning them to click and read promotions that sometimes are tailored to the user's interests. Outside that mainstream, operators "spam" electronic mail addresses with mass distribution pitches. But few believe ads alone will support all that's going on. The Wall Street Journal offered hope for on-line information sellers when it surpassed 100,000 paying customers for its Web edition in April, less than a year after it began charging. Earlier, the public affairs on-line journal Slate indefinitely "chickened out" of plans to sell by subscription. Editor Michael Kinsley wrote "there are too many people who are too damned cheap ... er, we mean ... too engaged by the novelty of the medium" to go that route now. Such resistance pulses across the Internet's spectral landscape. But Heath detects less of it. "I've seen a change in a year," he said. Forces from the macro to the minute are pressing in on the freeloading. Global telephone companies are finally making big Internet investments to create fancier and faster service, and they will want a return. …

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