Time warps in cyberspace

Time warps in cyberspace

Is time compressing? How long did it take for Microsoft's Windows, distributed computing, or the C language to really take hold? Five, 10, and 20 years, respectively? Now take a look at the World Wide Web. The number of Web users increased eight-fold, to eight million, in the past year, the Wall Street Journal reported in January.

Sun Microsystems' Java is barely out of beta, with virtually no development tools available, and companies are scrambling for Java developers. Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) authoring tools abound. Every other advertisement we see on television has an attached to it. At my office, the staff is charging headlong into putting announcements, applications, and manuals online.

Web development time and normal development time are on completely different tracks. As a matter of fact, here are three formulas that address what I see as Web time compression.

Web development time = Normal development time / 10. At one time, you expected to see or produce a product in 10 months in normal development time; now, if that product is a Web product, it will be announced next month. By easily being able to change documents to HTML, we can get information to our staff on the intranet in a matter of days, whereas printing, collating, and distributing paper copies used to take weeks.

I wrote two little database lookup applications using Common Gateway Interface/Web tools: one for staff telephone numbers, mail stops, and so on; and the other a property search application that will report where computers are and who has them. Each application took me a couple of days (with a learning curve), and they are available now to anyone here with a browser on his or her system. Wintel, Unix, Macintosh? Doesn't matter. Which brings me to . . .

Web developer patience = Normal developer patience/25. Web development patience is about one-twentyfifth of what I would allow for a typical development cycle.

Oh, how easy it is to provide those applications. No loading DLLs, extensions, interface problems, distribution hassles, platform differences, or long, drawn-out testing. I make a change on the server to my Web application, and it is there for everyone to access, right now, period.

"You would like what feature? Give me a minute - oh yes, there we are, let me change this line. OK, hit reload. Wintel, Mac, or Unix user? No problem. You can have access to the exact same information and have the exact same look and feel on your desktop as anyone else. Develop something in C++ for each platform instead? You've got to be kidding . . . " Web user patience = Normal user patience/1.3. The typical user will allow for at least 30 per cent more time or effort to use an application if it is on the Web. In spite of a little less elegant front end, a longer load from the server, and a few more screens to go through, the typical user will still prefer the Web version. Users know that we are not cluttering up their hard drives with a bunch of support files or making them reload the application every time it is upgraded. It is just there when they want it - in its latest version.

A caveat though: Because the technology is new, I think users will have that patience for only a short while. Give it a year (a Web year?) or so, and the factor may go to less than 1.

So my advice is to embrace this new technology as soon as possible. Your staff and customers aren't waiting. This isn't a train going by: This is a Boeing 777 and its wheels have left the ground.


Would you believe . . .

Pizza Hut US's overall sales increased by 15 per cent when they began marketing and promoting the pizzas on the InternetSun Microsystems' Internet marketing plans have resulted in increased sales of more than $1 million per month. Sun also used the Internet to cut customer support costs by more than $1 million per year and increase customer satisfaction.

Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) sold $20 million worth of products and services over the Internet in 1994.

According to SIMBA Information of Wilton, Connecticut, sales of goods and services over online networks will total between $2.5 billion and $5 billion by 1998.

The estimated number of Internet users worldwide varied between 20 to 30 million last year. There are about 21,700 commercial sites. reprinted with permission from Fuji Xerox Australia's IT News newsletter

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