Everyone does!

Well, thatís the theory. The Internet itself is not owned by any one organisation, nor is it managed/policed or otherwise controlled by any one organisation. There are committees of service providers and telecom agencies who meet to agree basic standards and connectivity issues, but in essence, the Internet is the manifestation of an altruistic notion originally created to help the scientific and educational community share information through a common data highway. And this is why those whose business it is to try and make money from the supply of on-line communications services, such as Compuserve, are not too certain if they find the notion of the Internet a comfortable idea, since it seems to offer much the same (and more) facilities that they make their living from charging for, but using connections that are flat rate: charged neither by the minute of connection time, not by the byte of data transferred.

Some newcomers observe that the Internet is a form of a computerised anarchy. And they are right. It just happens that the early adopters from the scientific, military and education communities have established a code of usage and ethics that has kept the extremities of human greed and unpleasantness in check. There are instances where "unsuitable" material is conveyed on the Internet: but much as drug barons use the telephone and highways to conduct their insidious business, there can never be a 100% fail-safe guarantee that the seamier side of human nature cannot appear on the Internet from time to time.

And yes, it is possible for kids to reach in and grab some fairly extreme material from certain newsgroups. But then again, the other 99% of the net contains a storehouse of treasures: the paintings from the Louvre, the Library of Congress. All manner of "public" exhibitions of art, science and humanity are there for the browsing.

Understanding and developing the necessary reference skills will point you to a treasure trove of material on subjects as diverse as the politics of East Timor and the Vatican Library. Depending on what you actually do for a living, this instant on-line access to reference material can in itself be financially rewarding. But there is one popular pursuit that generally swings the decision in favour of a presence on the Net, and that is the successor to fax: email.

Hard Cash

For those who use the Internet for email the Internet actively makes money by saving on fax connect times. A ten page fax takes, say, 10 minutes to send: which costs roughly £5 to the USA. The data represented by a ten page fax might be 25k bytes. It costs about 4p to send that via a dial-up electronic mail service that uses the Internet. By batching your mail and establishing a system, you can save on postage and fax-and at the same time work entirely in the convenient medium of the paperless office, where you receive and send text files. This means that instead of a filing cabinet full of hard to retrieve paper, you have a disk full of simple to retrieve data.

It doesnít take a great deal of imagination to establish a cost benefit for such an approach to information flow. The standing monthly charges need to be amortized, and can be as little at £6.75 a month.

Individuals connected to the Internet for mail through their own stand-alone personal computers and modems are only a relatively small proportion of the email community. Companies and "organisations" (educational, scientific, government) who use Internet mail frequently do so from their computer workstations connected via local and wide area networks. The TCP/IP network protocol allows them to use a router to connect their entire LAN (or WAN, for that matter) into the Internet through a dial-up, ISDN or leased line connection.

Why TCP/IP? The blunt answer is because it works without regard to computer type or operating system in the robust manner required for such a vast enterprise as the Internet. Those who argue against its use are generally grinding a proprietary axe, since TCP/IP is a core part of the philosophy of Open Systems and public standards.

The interactive resource of newsgroups

A more subtle benefit of the Internet is the fact that it is now populated by such a vast number of enquiring minds that if you choose to post an item to a newsgroup asking a particular question to a problem (on just about any subject you care to imagine) then since the net has the "population" of a decent sized and highly advanced country, there is a very good chance you will get an answer: or at the very least, a pointer to one.

For example, I found out where to get replacement half shafts for a twenty year old Triumph Stag to cure its infamous rear end twitch. You may have less exotic requirements.

In many respects the Internet is like a public-access radio broadcasting system (or even TV: live images are to be found appearing now), but with the added convenience of being archived and capable of searching "off line".

Your ability to make money from the Internet is largely up to how you choose to use it, and what imagination and skill you bring to your surfing sessions.

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