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February 15, 1998

Numbers, statistics help
reveal scope of Internet activity

By Timothy C. Barmann

This week, let's look at some interesting numbers and statistics. Let's start with America Online.


AOL says it's raising its monthly access charge to $21.99, a 10 percent jump, effective in April.

The on-line giant said its unlimited access plan has been so popular that the company needs to raise its price to cover the higher costs it is experiencing.

Several local Internet providers have said it is difficult to make a profit by charging $20 a month for Internet access and were not surprised by the increase. They will likely watch how AOL subscribers react to the rate increase and some may conside r whether to raise their own prices.

(More on how AOL's price change may influence local Internet providers, as well as a chart listing their prices, will appear in a future Cybertalk column.)

AOL said that on average, subscribers spent 23 hours a month on-line, three times what they used to spend before the unlimited plan went into effect.

Speaking of on-line usage, a local Internet access provider says its subscribers were on-line 21 to 26 hours a week for most of 1997.

InteleCom Data Systems of East Greenwich, posted some statistics of its users on its Web site (http://idsdialup1.ids.net/idsdialup/news.html?category=12479).

The average duration of all calls ranged from 26 minutes to 29 minutes per call for each of those months, according to the company.

What's interesting is that most people are spending only a fraction of the time on-line they have paid for. IDS subscribers get 100 hours of connect time for $20 a month.

ANOTHER LOCAL Internet provider began displaying statistics last week to help gauge the speed of its network versus its competitors.

The chart, updated every 15 minutes by Log On America of Providence, shows how many milliseconds it takes for a ``packet'' of information to travel from a computer in San Francisco to the Web servers of 12 locally based companies.

That sounds like an obscure measure but those milliseconds add up quickly when you are trying to load a Web page. The figures can help gauge the speed of your connection to the Internet through one of these companies, said David R. Paolo, president o f Log On America.

Each 15-minute slice doesn't mean much, Paolo said, because there are so many variables that may affect how long it takes for information to travel through the tangled Internet.

But Paolo said the company will compile the data and show the average of all the numbers, which may begin to give a picture of which local company's network is faster.

However, this will be a limited picture. It will show only how long it takes to access one particular computer on one particular network. Accessing other Web sites elsewhere will not necessarily yield the same results.

In any event, it will be worth a look once the averages are posted. The page is at http://isp-stats.loa.com/stats.shtml.

MICROSOFT HAS finally edged out Netscape Communications Corp., in Japan at least, in their bitter fight for the Internet browser market.

More people are using Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser to access major Japanese Web sites than Netscape's Navigator software, according to Dataquest, a San Jose, Calif., market research firm, as reported by Reuters.

Microsoft's browser had a 53 percent share, compared to Netscape's 45 percent share, Dataquest said. The firm based its comparison by examining visitor logs from major Japanese Web sites, including Yahoo! Japan and ZDNet Japan.

These are among the first independent numbers that show Microsoft taking the lead away from Netscape, which has seen its marketshare dwindle over the past two years. It's significant because you will remember that Netscape is largely responsible for the Web's early success and widespread popularity. Its Navigator browser was used by practically everyone exploring the Internet.

Then Microsoft entered the race and hasn't looked back. Microsoft has always given away its browser, while Netscape asked its users to pay for it. That marketing strategy is pushing Microsoft ahead. Netscape finally caught on and is now giving away i ts browser too.

AMONG THE EARLY hype about the Internet was that the global computer system was designed to withstand a nuclear attack. Supposedly, if one city was knocked out in a war, the network would be rerouted. Nothing can be further from the truth.

There are just 13 computers that control the huge list of more than a million Internet Web address. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority at the University of California oversees these computers under a contract with the Defense Department. One of the 13 is the master computer from which the other 12 get the directory information.

The casual administration of this system was illustrated recently when the head of the group, Jon Postel, requested that the operators of the 12 computers get its address information from his computer. He made his request by E-mail and about 8 of the 12 operators complied, according to the Wall Street Journal.

A few E-mail messages caused a major shift in how the Internet is administered that could have disrupted practically all Internet traffic. Postel said it was just a test and there were no disruptions.

BELL ATLANTIC said that now 1 in 5 homes has a second telephone line, in the company's latest earnings report. Certainly many of those extra lines are for Internet use.

Finally, here are some numbers from Win Treese, who compiles The Internet Index. He calls it ``an occasional collection of facts and statistics about the Internet and related activities.'' He distributes these via E-mail about every three months. Ac cording to his latest mailing last month:

Timothy C. Barmann is a Journal-Bulletin staff writer. His column runs every other Sunday on the Computers and Technology page. Send him comments via e-mail at tim@cybertalk.com or U.S. mail, c/o the Journal-Bull etin, 75 Fountain St., Providence, R.I. 02902.