L. Detweiler

WWW: Cyberspatial Presses

from the Internet Writers Resource Guide

The World Wide Web has grown at a breathtaking pace, in some ways more so than the actual physical growth of the Internet. There appears to be a great cyberspatial Web rush as diverse individuals and organizations work to broadcast their signal via home pages, electronic brochures and advertisements, etc. The age of the cyberspatial printing press has arrived.

The old cliche goes that "freedom of speech only belongs to people who own presses". Doesn't this strike you as a kind of oppressive sentiment? Why should freedom of speech have anything to do with money or status? Indeed, the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg broke down entrenched barriers in exactly this realm. And the logical conclusion of this equality, egalitarianism, and populism in the ability to disseminate ideas is evident in the Web.

Suddenly the computer and its network of veins, cyberspace, is engendering the same type of revolution that the printing press did, with a fundamental difference: the press made available cheap books for distribution, i.e. the burden of the receiver was diminished greatly, but sophisticated skill and expertise was still required of the sender. Today, anyone can set up a printing press in cyberspace for a very minimal cost that is dropping rapidly.

Let me give an example of how to set up a cyberspatial broadcasting station for about $10 a month such that you don't even need to own a computer. The internet provider Webcom in California provides what is called an HTTP server, "HyperText Transfer Protocol". An account on one of these servers, and some way of accessing it, is the only major technical hurdle to surmount. (Other providers give you an FTP area, however FTP is a much slower way of accessing Web pages and if possible you should try to avoid it in favor of services that cater to Web customers if that is your chief interest. However, probably the best approach are services that support both, because not everyone has HTTP access and the FTP gives you a wider audience.)

Webcom was built by a disgruntled Internet user, Andrew Weber, who was frustrated with the lack of Web services in his region, and set up a company to cater specifically to Web users. Companies like this embody a great spirit of entrepreneuralism and commitment to service. They are dedicated to providing the best Web servers, and focus on quality, uninterrupted "Web broadcasting" service. Other providers all over the country offer similar services.

But you should be careful before signing up. For example, a very popular company for generic internet accounts, Netcom, has so far proven to be remarkably intransigent in providing HTTP capability or even sufficient FTP bandwidth, and is definitely losing customers and market share because of it. Other companies oversell their bandwidth, or the HTTP server support takes a back door to just selling as many user accounts as possible, or the customer service is shoddy, etc. Some companies excel in high-priced, for-hire Web design and may not even let you create your own pages except through their staff. (These services are targeted for putting together glossy brochures for companies, but not much for the Web-on-a-shoestring interest of individuals.) If you are a "newbie", you should especially try to find a company that might be able to offer you more than no help whatsoever in setting up Web pages. Ask around in newsgroups for your local area or local computer group meetings.

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