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A lot has changed in the past year: We're in the third release of both Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer, Java runs bulletins across the top of the CNN home page and the Shockwave plug-in allows us to perform complex animations on the Web.

With so much progress in one year, what's in store for all of us in the future? We asked industry leaders to pontificate (always a dangerous request) on the times ahead.




Berners-Lee - Inventor, World Wide Web
Andreessen - Netscape Ellison - Oracle
Yang - Yahoo! Kretchmar - Women's Wire
Colligan - Macromedia Cohen - ParentsPlace.com
McNealy - Sun Microsystems Kinsley - Slate
Woelfel - CNN Interactive



Tim Berners-Lee Tim Berners-Lee
Inventor, World Wide Web
http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/People/Berners-Lee/Overview.html

The Question: The Web is still very much a medium in its infancy. Technology has greatly accelerated its growth over the past year, making it a more viable tool for both individuals and companies. But trial-by-error seems to be the philosophy behind many a Web page. As the creator of the Web, is there a grand vision of where we are heading or an end-all purpose? When the potential of the Web is fully realized, will it rival or perhaps out-muscle the mass media appeal of the omnipotent television?

The Answer: There certainly is a grand vision, an accumulation of the hopes and dreams of people such as Vannevar Bush and Doug Englebart, which now suddenly can stand a chance of coming true at once. I wouldn't talk about the potential of the Web ever being "fully realized" as there will always be more and more powerful concepts built upon those which are stable and strong enough to hold them.

But there are many things which I at least was aiming for which we don't have yet, and we can take these as goals for the next few years. Among them is the Web becoming a place in which everyone can be creative, and which people can come together to be creative -- I've called that "intercreativity" simply because the word "interactivity" has been used to mean things like filling in forms, pushing buttons, and following links, which are relatively mundane.

A simple one is the concept of the Web as a single information space (in which we all have some place we feel at home) which you can view though any screen or headset in a consistent way.

There's the dream that if we can express ourselves on the Web in ways that computers can understand, then computers will suddenly be able to help us do things in ways which will make spreadsheets and search engines look like mousetraps.

There's the whole explosion which occurs when you can use information on the Web to verify what it is you can trust for what, and when your agents can do the same.

There is the potential for more powerful democracy and whole new forms of government, but at the same time for each person's individuality, self-expression and potential to grow. The richness of the information space should put back into our world even what broadcast television has, some say, taken out.




The Pundits: Inventor, WWW | Netscape | Yahoo! | Macromedia | Sun Microsystems | Oracle | Women's Wire | ParentsPlace.com | Slate | CNN Interactive |



Marc Andreessen Marc Andreessen
Vice President of Technology, Netscape Communications
http://home.netscape.com

The Question: How do you feel about the analogy of today's browser to a TV remote control? Each new release seems to recognize more styles and forms of information and content, but the browser's overall functionality remains a constant. When will a browser be more than a browser and what form would it take?

The Answer: I believe "browser" was an outmoded term about two years ago. Navigator is designed to be a window onto both a corporate Intranet and the public Internet -- not only can you view rich information in a variety of forms, but you can also conduct rich e-mail conversations, participate in discussion groups, talk to others in real time using text or voice, create and publish new content yourself, organize the information that you find important, access your corporate databases and data warehouses, run a variety of rich applications in your day-to-day business life (sales automation, project management, customer service, etc.), and even manage your entire corporate network infrastructure just by pointing and clicking.

As we continue to build on Navigator's capabilities to turn it into a full multimedia Internet desktop and to take it to *all* platforms and devices (including non-PC devices like NCs and video game boxes), we believe more and more people will spend more and more of their day inside Navigator, interacting with information, applications, databases, and (most importantly) one another.

All of the metaphors we currently know and love (browsers, servers, pages, applets, OSs, applications, etc.) are going to go through a series of wrenching changes over the next two years as the industry continues to shift to a network-centric model where everything interesting lives on the network, users deal with and interact with the network, and traditional desktop and server computers more and more become what Gordon Bell calls "merely bumps in wires."




The Pundits: Inventor, WWW | Netscape | Yahoo! | Macromedia | Sun Microsystems | Oracle | Women's Wire | ParentsPlace.com | Slate | CNN Interactive |



Jerry Yang Jerry Yang
Co-Founder, Yahoo!
http://www.yahoo.com

The Question: Two major forms of information providers on the Web are content and gateway. Content providers have the actual information users are seeking. The gateways point users in the right direction. A search engine is a gateway. The two forms seem to be bleeding into each other. News sites are providing reference links to other information sites on the Web and search engines are providing news and information, each trying to be THE place for surfers to find what they're looking for. Will these two areas merge fully? When will a search engine cease being a tool and start being an all-in-one source of content?

The Answer: The Internet also is unique because there is a lot of value for those that aggregate and allow access to the decentralized Internet information.

From the beginning, Yahoo's goals have been more than just organize and aggregate web sites, but also look at how to solve and bring the users closer to the content people are looking for. I believe that most of the other navigational services have the same goal in mind.

We believe in providing the best information to our user -- so if we can't directly have the information the users want, we'll make sure we send them to somewhere that has it. Conversely, if no one else has good information, we'll work to bring it to the users.

Our philosophy remains not to produce our own information -- all the content like news and weather are obtained through partnerships. The idea is that we can make other content sites successful because Yahoo can pass traffic to these sites.

I don't envision that Yahoo one day will be an "all-in-one" -- rather, in order for Yahoo to be successful, we need to involve more and more content providers to provide higher and higher quality information. I do see the dependence between search engines and content providers becoming more integrated and involved -- but they will need each other more in the future rather than trying to compete.




The Pundits: Inventor, WWW | Netscape | Yahoo! | Macromedia | Sun Microsystems | Oracle | Women's Wire | ParentsPlace.com | Slate | CNN Interactive |



Bud Colligan
Macromedia logo Chairman & CEO, Macromedia
http://www.macromedia.com

The Question: News on the Web is told in a very linear format. With the wider acceptance of extras like Shockwave and Java, stories are becoming more interactive and participatory. Imagine new features that will be available two years from now. Will interactivity continue to build? What can we look forward to?

The Answer: Video clips will be annotated with URLs that enable a viewer to actually link to other areas of interest in the video. More discussion areas and live interaction based on news reports will take place. Within three to four years, high speed Internet access will be more commonplace, enabling viewers to experience rich multimedia interaction with the news: Full screen video at 30 fps, direct access and two way interaction with correspondents worldwide, and much more complex linkages to a vast array of ancillary topics related to the day's news. Very exciting!




The Pundits: Inventor, WWW | Netscape | Yahoo! | Macromedia | Sun Microsystems | Oracle | Women's Wire | ParentsPlace.com | Slate | CNN Interactive |



Scott McNealy Scott McNealy
President & CEO, Sun Microsystems
http://www.sun.com/

The Question (same question to Colligan): News on the Web is told in a very linear format. With the wider acceptance of extras like Shockwave and Java, stories are becoming more interactive and participatory. Imagine new features that will be available two years from now. Will interactivity continue to build? What can we look forward to?

The Answer: The Web explosion took a lot of people by surprise, and we're just now scratching the surface of its possibilities. As accessing the Internet becomes as easy as picking up a telephone and dialing, we begin to see a fundamental shift in the way the media gathers, presents and distributes information.

By its nature, the Internet wrests power from the publisher and puts it in the hands of the author, collapsing the distinction between producer and consumer. In the old days, you had to be William Randolph Hearst and own a huge printing press to issue the news. In the future, as technology such as Java allows easy, interactive access to the Web, almost anyone with a PDA or digital camera can become a field reporter, posting stories to the Net about a neighborhood bank robbery or house fire. Or a single newsletter publisher with a single Web server and a whole list of e-mail addresses can pound out news to targeted audiences and then come back three weeks later and say, "Send me $20 and I'll keep sending you these updates." That's zero cost of goods sold, zero publishing cost to put it on-line. And the reports go out in nanoseconds so they are available on the consumer's schedule instead of the media's.

Time is compressed in the Web-based world, and this will have a significant business impact on news organizations. Any news startup that gets on the Web faster, moves stories better and does it interactively has the potential to take out a bigger, more established publisher.

I tell every company I visit that they've got to get on Internet time. It is no different for the news media. You don't have to outrun the Internet; but you do need to outrun everyone else who is on it. News organizations that recognize this and respond quickly should find ample opportunity to grow and serve the public as we go forth into the networked age.




The Pundits: Inventor, WWW | Netscape | Yahoo! | Macromedia | Sun Microsystems | Oracle | Women's Wire | ParentsPlace.com | Slate | CNN Interactive |



Larry Ellison Larry Ellison
Chairman, Oracle
http://www.oracle.com/

The Question: Once Network Computers become widely available, consumers will be able to access the Internet at a relatively low price by today's standards. Logically, this should increase traffic on the Web. What is one positive and one negative effect this will have on the Internet? Will this further legitimize the Web as a mass medium, especially in the eye of the advertiser?

The Answer: We cannot have a networked economy or a networked community when 70% of American households don't have computers. PCs are too expensive and too complex to ever achieve the penetration of telephones, 94% of households, or televisions, 97% of households. The Network Computer will make it possible for everyone to have and use a computer.




The Pundits: Inventor, WWW | Netscape | Yahoo! | Macromedia | Sun Microsystems | Oracle | Women's Wire | ParentsPlace.com | Slate | CNN Interactive |



Laurie Kretchmar Laurie Kretchmar
Editor in Chief, Women's Wire
http://women.com

The Question: The Web is no longer the exclusive domain of male technophiles. In a recent survey, women surfers increased 7% in three months. Will women users out-distance their male counterparts? How would a web site target a woman differently from a man as far as interface and functionality?

The Answer: Women will rival, if not outdistance, their male counterparts online.

Women don't have time to waste; they're busy with careers, families, friends, finances, so a web site for women, must be really great.

You can't just have "eye candy" and heavy graphics for the sake of being cool. The content has to be compelling, easily searchable and interactive. It must "speak" to women by addressing the things that interest them, and it needs to inform and entertain. And if a site does all that and does it well, it'll usually attract men too, which is OK by us! We've always said, "Build it, and they will come" and it's happening. Now, if everyone would just convince five friends to get on-line, the Internet would grow even faster.




The Pundits: Inventor, WWW | Netscape | Yahoo! | Macromedia | Sun Microsystems | Oracle | Women's Wire | ParentsPlace.com | Slate | CNN Interactive |



David Cohen
ParentsPlace logo Co-Founder, ParentsPlace.com
http://www.parentsplace.com

The Question: One of the most unique qualities of the Web is the ability to build a community of people who are geographically diverse through bulletin boards and chat rooms. As Web traffic increases, will this sense of community be diminished? How could such a problem be prevented?

The Answer: I don't see increasing Web traffic, or Web usership as a problem for the future of bulletin boards and chat rooms. The strength of the Web is its ability to bring together people who share a similar interest. The more people who use the Web, the more people who are likely to share your interest. Moreover, as people develop discussion on a particular topic, the ability to subdivide that discussion into more finely tuned areas develops.

What we see every day at ParentsPlace.com is that people in geographically disparate areas are able to communicate with each other on the specifics of parenting and child-rearing that most interest them. The more our traffic increases, the better we are able to serve our clientele by providing them a broader range of communities on more and more focused topics.




The Pundits: Inventor, WWW | Netscape | Yahoo! | Macromedia | Sun Microsystems | Oracle | Women's Wire | ParentsPlace.com | Slate | CNN Interactive |



Michael Kinsley Michael Kinsley
Editor, Slate
http://www.slate.com

The Question:News and information on the Web mirrors a magazine format more than any other medium. As a new media, the Web will likely seep over into broadcast and print. Home page addresses are already showing up on company advertising. What influence will the Web have on the style and format of other mediums? Will TV become more interactive? Are we heading into a world where all merge to one?

The Answer:Although the interactive possibilities of the Web are wonderful,the"couch potato" aspect of television watching--the comfort of just sitting there and having sound and images come at you--will probably retain its appeal. I know that after a long day of interacting with my computer at work, I don't much feel like interacting with my television.

That said, it does seem inevitable that home computers and TVs will merge into one machine, and, as internet connections and download time improve, the video, graphics, etc., of web sites will come to look more like TV shows. (The new sites being developed here at the Microsoft Network are actually being called "shows.") At Slate, though, we hope and expect that there will always be an audience of "readers"--as opposed to "viewers"-- on the web. And presumably cyberspace is big enough to hold all sorts.




The Pundits: Inventor, WWW | Netscape | Yahoo! | Macromedia | Sun Microsystems | Oracle | Women's Wire | ParentsPlace.com | Slate | CNN Interactive |



Scott Woelfel Scott Woelfel
Editor in Chief/Vice President, CNN Interactive
http://www.cnn.com

The Question: Currently, a story on the Web seems to resemble, more than any other medium, a magazine article with a few multimedia elements scattered within. Where do you see the future of storytelling on the Web? What sorts of interactive functions and capabilities would you like to incorporate to enhance the experience of the user?

The Answer: Imagine a web "page" that you enter like a room, operate through voice alone and where a search yields results that you can not only see and hear, but perhaps feel, smell and even taste. Sound like science fiction? Perhaps. But the rapid growth of the Internet and World Wide Web in the last two years is ample evidence of the revolutionary change to come.

Currently, the strength of the Web comes not from the media types that comprise it, but from the amount of control the medium allows the user. Compared to a magazine or television program, it's a more intuitive way to tell a story. Users select the order in which they gather facts, choose the source (Do I want this from a journalist or from the horse's mouth?), and can even interact with those making the news.

Once we take a step across the threshold that separates WHAT IS with WHAT WILL BE, the combination of interactivity and user control leads to greatly increased interest and understanding of news events. What more could a journalist ask for?




The Pundits: Inventor, WWW | Netscape | Yahoo! | Macromedia | Sun Microsystems | Oracle | Women's Wire | ParentsPlace.com | Slate | CNN Interactive |


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