Far Out: Global Network Navigator Is at the Leading Edge of the Cyber Frontier, Pioneering an Approach That May Well Represent the Future for Magazine Publishers

By Forbes, Thomas | Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, September 15, 1994 | Go to article overview

Far Out: Global Network Navigator Is at the Leading Edge of the Cyber Frontier, Pioneering an Approach That May Well Represent the Future for Magazine Publishers


Forbes, Thomas, Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management


It's called the World Wide Web, WWW, or W3, or just the Web. It's the place to be on the Internet right now, and it has extraordinary implications for magazine publishers looking for markets in electronic media. Web usage grew at an astounding annual rate of 341,634 percent last year, according to The Internet Index, and use of the Internet itself is growing rapidly. The Web - which is really a method of organizing information on the Internet - is also the place to be seen: Wired linked up to the Web this year, and Mother Jones is there, too. A hot zine out of Great Britain called 3W is not only on it, but also covers the territory. You can also skim through the more than 100 magazines displayed in the online racks of The Electronic Newsstand (see FOLIO:, September 15, 1993, page 17, and December 1, 1993, page 64) through the Web, and every day, it seems, another daily newspaper puts up a home page - from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Casper, Wyoming, to San Francisco.

The most intriguing magazine published on the Web, however, is Global Network Navigator - a totally electronic venture launched last October by O'Reilly & Associates, a technical-book publisher based in Sebastopol, California. GNN calls itself "a news service, an online magazine, The Online Whole Internet Catalog, and a global marketplace containing information about products and services." Its editorial personality is savvy but friendly, and it contains features you won't find elsewhere. It's also a value-added front-end to all of the vast resources of the Internet. More remarkable, in a world that until recently was free of overt commercialism, GNN intends to support itself through advertising revenue

Glimpse of the future?

For other magazine publishers, GNN may be an illuminating glimpse of the near future, when online magazines will be a blend of various media and when readers with be able, for instance, to click on a word in a news magazine's coverage of a Presidential speech and immediately pull up a video clip of it - or click on an image of an advertiser's automobile to see how it takes a curve before pulling down comparative data and prices.

GNN is produced specifically, but not exclusively, for a multimedia Web "browser" called Mosaic - which at present is the most enticing to travel through cyberspace, and is representative of programs that may truly revolutionize the Internet as a vehicle for electronic publishing, Developed by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, Mosaic can bring text, video, still graphics and sound through the modem and into your office or home computer. There are versions for the Macintosh, DOS and UNIX operating systems. Mosaic supports audio and video - and there are many examples of both on the Web - but most of GNN's links don't contain either because they take so much time to transmit through the phone wires and modems that most people now use.

GNN does, however, take complete advantage of Mosaic's hypertext capabilities, which point users to related ideas in other online documents, whether they reside in a computer around the corner or across the world. Users can read an interview with a personal-finance expert at the University of Texas, for instance, and then jump seamlessly the databases that the expert refers to.

GNN is not a kitchen-table operation. Dale Dougherty, GNN's publisher, says that start-up costs have been in the seven figures, with a staff of about 20 people including editors, designers, salespeople, programmers and customer service reps. He hopes GNN will be breaking even in three years.

Among GNN's features, the Home Page touts the magazine's hottest editorial offerings and leads to the GNN Directory, which provides several new options such as The Whole Internet Catalog. The Catalog offers hypertext links to dozens of other intriguing areas on the net. There are further links to literally millions of documents and data within those headings, but - like a good tour guide - the Mosaic browser highlights attractions and lets the travelers backtrack to familiar territory if they're lost. …

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