FOR THE RECORD: Wednesday, April 5, 1995: CORRECTION: Two Internet addresses in a Sunday article were reported incorrectly. They should have read: State of Washington: http://olympus.dis.wa.gov. Spokane Public Library: http://Splnet.spokpl.lib.wa.us/spl.html.
In two months, city residents who have no idea what the World Wide Web is or why it’s a big deal to some folks can check it out for themselves, thanks to the Spokane Public Library.
Using a federal grant, the city library will install 20 computers that can plug people into the World Wide Web, the fastest-growing part of the Internet.
The Web’s hot feature is “home pages,” created by a rapidly growing number of companies, organizations and institutions ranging from the Library of Congress to small Spokane businesses. A home page is like an electronic brochure or file folder - a snappy array of headlines, words, pictures and other data calling attention to the organization that puts it together.
One of the most popular home pages is operated from the White House. After a person activates the Internet address for the White House “page,” his computer links to the one running that information in Washington, D.C.
At that point, using his mouse or keyboard, a person can look at maps of the building, move to the Clinton family photo album, or activate a sound file that reproduces a short yowl from Socks, the First Cat.
Dan Walters, Spokane library director, said home pages are popular because people can look at one set of information and pictures, then jump to another thousands of miles away, all with the click of a mouse button.
Nearly every state has its own home page, including Washington. The city of Spokane will have one of its own in five months, operated through the Spokane Public Library.
The Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, even rock band Van Halen have home pages for fans who can click on parts of those documents to see snapshots taken at recent concerts or find out dates of coming shows.
Though no one keeps accurate track, new home pages are increasing by 5,000 every two weeks, most of them created by businesses, media companies, schools and hospitals.
The pages range from splashy creations by corporate giants like Microsoft to little Hot-HotHot, a California firm that sells up to 300 varieties of hot chilies by mail order.
Matching that growth is the boom in people tapping into the Internet and the Web. Most Web users must have a full-fledged Internet connection and special software that lets a PC manage the pictures, text and other data.
Prodigy, one of the major on-line services, recently gave its subscribers a built-in Web browser that makes access easy. Once America Online and CompuServe add similar features, those cruising the Web will grow by millions.
Spokane’s own number of home pages is between 40 and 50, and includes those for Gonzaga University, Clarke and Stone Books, Mountain Gear Outdoor Equipment and about a dozen modest versions created by small firms and computer consultants.
Mountain Gear’s highly visual home page offers a quick summary of its product line, then lists other home pages created by recreation companies across the country.
It also gives visitors the option of connecting to the Grateful Dead home page “just because it’s cool,” said the page’s designer, Jim Heissenbuttel.
The company gets about four requests a week for catalogs from people who come across the home page through their own Internet browsing.
The first Spokane business to create a home page was Clarke and Stone Books, which sells science, construction, nursing and engineering texts.
Visits to its home page far outnumber orders. When people do buy, they prefer fax or phone orders, reflecting the fear that computertransferred data can be and is sometimes intercepted by others.
Still, if the goal is to reach beyond the Inland Northwest, the World Wide Web gets results, said co-owner Julie Clarke.
“Our farthest purchase came from Brazil for an engineering text,” she said.
Businesses hiring someone to set up a home page can pay between a few hundred dollars and $5,000, depending on what’s featured. It also costs between $15 and $30 per month to keep the page stored on an Internet-connected computer.
Many are predicting the World Wide Web will become the primary way most people conduct their business within a decade. Others say the jury is still out.
Spokane computer consultant David Paulsen, an Internet home page designer, contends some business practices can be done more efficiently online than through current methods.
Companies that produce and ship manuals and documents will give up that practice and tell customers to grab that information through a computer, he said.
Added Clarke of Clarke and Stone: “I’m enthusiastic about where all this is going.
“I (and partner Nancy Stone) felt that we wanted to get involved in this kind of venture now. If we waited too long, we could end up regretting we hadn’t started earlier,” she said.
MEMO: Tom Sowa writes about technology for The Spokesman-Review. Readers can send him e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.