Indonesia May 2005

In late May and early June, 2005, I made my second trip to the Mentawais in Western Sumatra, Indonesia. This time with some friends aboard the surf charter Pelagic .

Glossary of Surf Terms

We started the trip with a very healthy swell at a place affectionately called "The Hole" -- a big hollow left. I left some soft tissue on the reef. We surfed mostly lefts, but some fun rights as well. We got a spot called Lighthouse solid double overhead and really fun. We surfed Bravos (also known as Rags Left) head high to DOH and pumping. My friend Skylar charged big crowded and super hollow Lances Right while I found a more "playful" and empty right just up the way from it. The Pelagic crew were awesome, not hesitating to move a lot to find perfect surf.

We had a great photog who shot all digital in the water, on the tender and on land. He handed me a CD with all my shots as I walked off the boat: David Collier . The best shots he got of me are below.

After getting my share of perfect waves (and damage on the reef), I decided to leave a few days early to get back to work and the family. This entailed a hairy four hour crossing in a tiny hired speedboat driven by guys that looked (and smelled) kinda scary but turned out to be really cool. We hit two nasty squalls on the crossing -- the sky would turn dark and then it seemed like rain and waves were coming at us from every direction. The little boat had no radio or GPS, just a rusty compass. Every time we made it through a full deluge alive, the captain, all drenched, would flash a toothless smile and give me a high five.

Lots of fun. Glad I survived. The swell was a lot bigger and more consistent this time of year. Next time I may opt for the 120 foot Indies Trader IV , queen sized beds in the staterooms and a helicopter for the crossing.

Indonesia September 2004

In September 2004, I went to the Mentawais in Indonesia with Skylar Peak, Jake Burton and a few friends. We chartered the Adventure Komodo, one of the nicest and fastest boats in the area. Mike Balzer, a well known surf photographer, joined us to take pictures.

The surf in Indonesia was at a totally different level from anything I’d ridden before. From the first day, I really had to step it up. By the last day, I was finally getting a handle on the place. I was so stoked about the experience, I plan to go back in 2005.

While I was there, I rode the biggest, hollowest, fastest waves of my short surfing career, 5-7 hours a day, for 11 days. Here are some of Mike’s shots.

Fiji Summer 2002

My second consequtive year surfing this world class resort in Fiji (more below). Of the 7 days we were there, we only got good surf for about 3. Cloud Break was up to double overhead. I got a taste of what it’s like when it gets really good. Scott Winer was on the trip and as usual got some great shots. Kelly Smith and his fiance Jessica Risko (“J Ro”) came along. Kelly rips. Here’s my best wave of the trip, my first near-barrel at Cloud Break.

Lighting the Way

By illuminating our similarities, the Net can outshine isolation and hatred

by Sky Dayton

(Originally published after the attacks of September 11th, 2001)

Like me, you were probably glued to the Web, TV, and the radio on September 11 in a state alternating between disbelief, grief, and outrage. Our security had been compromised, and it made me feel a sense of powerlessness that I couldn't do anything to prevent the tragedy.

I won't rehash that day—that has already been done eloquently and in abundance by others. And I feel very strongly that the best way for most of us to combat those who would do us in is to continue to thrive despite it all; if it is our freedom and vibrant life that their misguided acts seek to snuff out, we declare victory simply by continuing to flourish and prosper.

However, I will make a couple of observations about the Internet and communication in the context of September 11. I believe that the Internet has an important role in the long-term solution to hatred around the world and the terrorism it promotes.

One ingredient missing among people who are blindly prejudiced against one another is the free exchange of ideas and communication. Other things may be missing as well, such as religious tolerance or even (as in this example) basic human decency. Evil does exist and must be handled with force, but even evil people require the support of others for their survival. Fortunately, the vast majority of people are basically good. But even good people can be misled.

Talking with a murderous lunatic will not make him sane, but it can wake up those who may fall under his spell. This is why maniacal dictators are so opposed to Western television and the Internet. They make claims about not allowing their cultures to be "corrupted"—but really, they're just keeping their populations in the dark. The worst terror will come from the places most isolated from the rest of the world.

The boom in Internet-enabled communication has already brought the civilized world closer together.It's common these days for us to send emails to people around the world. Through the Web, people of nations all over the Earth interact with one another billions of times a day, and in the process, learn of one another's cultures, customs, religions, dreams, and all the minutiae of daily life.

This communication creates aspects of common reality and an affinity among people. It's hard for prejudiced but basically decent people to support the murder of innocents when they have seen their faces and share a common reality. Even if that common reality is a love of basketball stars or the latest Pokemon craze. Again, I'm not talking about curing lunatics here—only those who might fall under their spell.

It used to be that realities were divided by geography, by the thousands of miles that separate people and cultures. The Internet promises to erase the space between people and make geography irrelevant. This is especially important in those places still isolated from the outside world today.

It's hard to believe that back in 1994 many considered the Internet a novelty. Critics made condescending comparisons to CB radio. The Internet, they said, was just a passing fad. How silly
and wrong they were.

The Internet has grown up in seven years and taken its rightful place as a primary communications medium along with television, radio, and print. This was more obvious than ever on September 11.

We've all heard the stories of people from New York City instant messaging friends to let them know they were OK, of millions of family and friends checking up on each other across the world by email, of the Web providing instant detailed information on every aspect of the situation in a way no other medium can. Phone lines were jammed, but emails got through.

September 11 has passed, and we're still here. The Internet is still here, and its value to our culture is greater and more obvious than ever before. Moreover, the Internet is now an important ingredient in bringing people out of the darkness of isolation and erasing hatred around the world.

More communication is always better. Enough of it will illuminate even the darkest corners of the Earth, build common realities, and even create affinity and understanding between people where there was only blind, ignorant hatred before.

At EarthLink, this is why we come to work in the morning—to bring about a better world through the free exchange of communication between people over the Internet. This is our mission, and our contribution.

Fiji Summer 2001

Tavarua Summer 2001

I went to Tavarua, a world famous surf island in Fiji, for the first time last summer. I was fortunate to be with a great group that brings Scott Winer, associate photo editor of Surfing Magazine, along every year to take surfing shots. Scott is a world class photographer, a great bodyboarder and a not so great backgammon player (which I took advantage of).

Tavarua has three main breaks: Cloudbreak, a reef that captures energy from deep water swell rolling out of the Southern Ocean to produce massive barreling left breaking waves; Restaurants, another reef break that’s a little smaller than Cloudbreak but churns some of the most amazing left barrels on Earth; and Tavarua Rights, which very rarely breaks (to my dismay as a regular-foot). Here’s some interesting trivia: The character played by Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway has to get his little boat over a giant wave to escape the desert island he’s been trapped on for years. That wave is Cloudbreak.

Unfortunately, our trip was interrupted by a storm and we had a couple of additional days when the waves just weren’t breaking. However, when it was breaking, Cloudbreak was firing. Scott Winer took a few good shots of my amateur style trying to surf this epic left for the first time. I envied the goofy-footers on our trip (and noticed curiously that over half of the surfers there were goofy-foot).

Your Health under Your Control

Log on and get answers

By Sky Dayton

(Originally published July, 2001)


We're alive at an interesting time. Over the next few years and the coming decades, we will see incredible advances in medicine, including cures for fatal diseases, greater longevity, and improved overall fitness and health.

As I mentioned in a recent bLink column, I think the Internet will be one of the primary catalysts for these advances by allowing scientists and doctors all over the world to communicate instantly and share their knowledge.

On a much more basic level, however, the Internet will affect how each and every one of us approaches healthcare. Traditionally, we got information about taking care of ourselves from our local medical doctors and other health practitioners like chiropractors, physical therapists, acupuncturists, etc. Unfortunately, no matter how caring and competent our local practitioners are, they can't possibly be fully up to date on the latest advances in medicine or the broad range of treatments and therapies available for every physical condition.

With the Internet, we now have an alternative source for health information. With hundreds of online discussion groups and health-related Web sites, covering almost every conceivable topic, anyone can log on and get answers, or at least be pointed in the right direction.

In the January 1999 issue of bLink, I mentioned a great example of this in the LaGrow family, EarthLink members who contacted us to let us know that the Internet changed their lives. The LaGrows had a young daughter who gradually lost her ability to walk and became wheelchair-bound. For years they went to specialists who could give them no diagnosis. When they finally did receive a diagnosis—a rare disease called dystonia—there was no hope of a cure, until they turned to the Internet. Searching the Net, they found not only Web sites discussing their daughter's disease, but learned about a conference of medical professionals and dystonia patients. A few months later, they found a local specialist to help them—and they found a seemingly miraculous treatment. Within 24 hours of beginning the treatment, their daughter was walking on her own again.

The LaGrows are the perfect example of a movement gaining momentum every day online. This movement toward Internet self-help doesn't mean that the Internet will replace the local practitioner—quite the contrary. The Internet will be a valuable resource for local practitioners. But it does mean that patients (healthcare customers) now have the ability to become better informed and to demand that their health practitioners are, too. Ultimately, this should raise the quality of treatment at all levels.

In a very real way, the Internet puts YOUR health under YOUR control. Anyone can use it to find helpful people and essential information that might be difficult, if not impossible, to find through other means.

As you begin to explore the Internet health resources offered in this issue (or those you've discovered on your own), keep in mind that these resources may seem a little overwhelming at first. There is so much material available. You can literally get information from every possible perspective and every possible healing practice. As individuals and patients, we must balance this great flood of information by taking the time to inform ourselves thoroughly. As I've said before, the Net is a bit like the Wild West. It's not terribly well-regulated or neatly laid out, and it's up to us, as Internet users, to judge the worth of the information we find. But as the LaGrows discovered, the effort spent can bring great, lifelong rewards.

Remember also that the more each of us makes use of and contributes to Internet health resources (through personal Web sites, message board postings, etc.), the more we will help drive the great medical advances which are already on the horizon. With people all over the world searching for truly workable health solutions, the methods that do work, and the doctors and other practitioners who are successful, will become broadly known—not merely those already inside the healthcare establishment. As recognition of these people and methods spreads, they will begin to influence the way everyone thinks of healthcare and they will spur on the researchers who are working for a brighter future.

Here's to your health!

Valedictorian Speech: To the Internet Class of 2000

by Sky Dayton
(Originally published Summer 2001)

At this time of year, students all across the nation are preparing to graduate into the real world. For many Internet companies—after a wild, two-year education—that graduation has already taken place.

For me, 1999 was both a great and strange year. Great because EarthLink continued to boom. Strange because of the stock market euphoria enveloping the Internet world.

There was something in the air that year, something youthful, wild, and intoxicating. Myopic investors besotted with optimism threw money recklessly at just about any company that had anything to do with the Internet. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan put it best when he described investor glee during that period as "irrational exuberance."

1999 was like senior year of high school for Internet companies. School is a funny thing—success and popularity are determined by a set of social laws that have nothing to do with the outside world. Note how there's often an inverse relationship between popularity in school and success in later life. The prom queen bags groceries at the local supermarket, while the geek who never quite fit in runs one of the world's largest companies. (I was a relatively unpopular gawky kid voted "most likely to succeed" by my fourth-grade class—I'll let you decide to which category I belong.)

2000 saw the Internet graduate into the real world. A class of companies was thrust out of their protected pale into the glaring sunlight of reality. Weak, one-dimensional adolescent enterprises that once easily made great headlines were now forced to get a job.

Here we are in 2001 and reality is harsh. Finally! Because when the stock market responded solely to buzz and rewarded companies with zero revenue and zero chance of future profitability, it cheapened the hard work of legitimate entrepreneurs and companies with real business models. For me, graduation to reality has been a welcome, if ugly, process.

While day traders made a killing on Internet stocks in 1999, it was an agonizing year for entrepreneurs with sound business models. Too much capital flowed into too many Internet companies, increasing competition for the handful of enterprises that insisted on approaching their market sensibly. Companies that couldn't find any other way to differentiate themselves competed solely on price, giving away service to gain customers. And investors played along by plugging the holes in their business models with barrels of stock market cash.

The "free" ISP, born in 1999, serves as the most infamous example of this indiscretion. While there is precedent for a 100 percent advertiser-supported medium, such as television and radio, the costs of providing an ISP service are well above the advertising revenue possible today. Any neophyte CFO can tell you that. But investors turned the other cheek and pumped billions into free ISPs. Today, most of them are out of business and billions are lost, but not before, at least temporarily, driving up the cost of doing business for EarthLink and other prudent ISPs with sound models.

The stock market downturn of 2000, which continues thus far in 2001, has already purged weaker companies (like many of the free ISPs) from the system. And it isn't over yet. But while painful for all, this return to reality is a blessing for real companies. grad

Commercial enterprises exist to provide a needed product or service in order to make a profit. Every now and then, the product or service can have a major lasting, positive impact on the world and be incredibly profitable. The Internet promises this combination, which is why it's so fun to be a part of this industry.

The Internet is an entrepreneur's dream. Here we have relatively low barriers to entry (it's easier to set up an Internet business than most other types), a service that is in insatiable demand the world over, and a technology that lowers the costs of doing business in just about any industry it touches.

In the long run, this means great profits for well-run Internet businesses. I've written in this column before that the Internet was still a "ground floor" opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors. I believe it even more, now that the competitive environment is healthier.

But we need a healthy view of the Internet industry. The press that once lauded anything labeled "dot com," in a 180-degree reversal, now delights in tearing apart all Internet companies and gleefully reports on firms closing up shop and going out of business.

The "irrational exuberance" of investor sentiment that Greenspan warned of has been replaced by "irrational pessimism." The thinking used to be: "It will always be this good." Now it's: "It will always be this bad." Both viewpoints are wrong.

So what is really going on here? To see it, one must look below the superficial froth of the stock market and newspaper headlines. Underneath, there's an undeniable current that has been flowing in the same direction since 1993: The Internet is fundamentally changing the way business is done and the way people interact, every day.

Regardless of stock valuations, financial market conditions, and anything anyone in the press has to say, more people are using the Internet to do more things more and more of the time. Since the Internet began its boom in 1993, the number of Internet users in North America has exploded to 120 million today, with nearly 250 million Internet users worldwide. That's impressive growth by any standards, and it shows no signs of letting up anytime soon. This means that the Internet isn't a fad or a bubble or any other transitory phenomenon. The Internet represents a basic shift in the way people do things.

Since the earliest computers were created, the goal of information technology has been to remove the excess time and space from personal and business activities. The first word processors made it much faster and easier to produce high-quality documents. The first home accounting software meant people could spend less time balancing their checkbooks. The first office email program meant people could send messages to each other without trucks and airplanes.

The Internet is the culmination of information technology. It is a way for people everywhere in the world to communicate with each other instantly. It is an infinitely large warehouse of nearly all information in existence. It is a public forum for debates on every topic imaginable. It is the only medium for businesses to directly and immediately interact with their customers. As it continues to grow, it will be the most pervasive communications medium of the 21st century.

The euphoria of 1999 is now long past, and the pessimism that followed may seem like it will never end. But it will. It takes many, many years to build an industry, and the Internet is just starting to mature. Much has happened, but this is only the beginning.

Cabo San Lucas Spring 2001

I surfed with some friends at a deserted “secret spot” in the back country near Cabo San Lucas, Baja in the Spring of 2001. The day before, we surfed the spot until dark, and when we tried to get our van out to get back to the hotel, we got it stuck in the sand. Fortunately, we had packed big lunches which we couldn’t finish, so we converted the leftovers to dinner and slept in the van. We woke up the next morning to a beautiful sunrise and head high perfect waves!

There were only a few other guys out, and one of them was Chris Owen, a Nokia sales exec who also happened to be a great surfer and surf photographer. In fact, one of his shots had recently landed on the cover of Surfing Magazine. When Chris put on his flippers, helmet and waterproof camera rig, he offered to take some shots of me.

Broadband is Hot, but What's Next? (Hint it's called "802.11")

Wireless home networks and the beginning of "Packetspace"
by Sky Dayton
(Originally published February, 2001)

In this column, I want to step beyond broadband and talk about the next turn in the Internet road.

As more and more people get broadband connections in their homes, we can expect more than just faster speeds and a better Internet experience. The Internet itself is going to change and become even more pervasive than it is now. The next phase of the Internet will be about connecting to the Net WIRELESSLY. And this will create something I like to call "Packetspace."

Right now, the heart of the Internet is wires—there are big, big wires (called Internet backbones) connecting the computers of Internet service providers (like EarthLink) and universities and government agencies, and then there are smaller wires spreading out from each of these, ultimately reaching your house as phone and DSL lines or cable connections.

For the most part, this will not change and most of the Internet will continue to run over good old-fashioned wires. However, the WAY we connect to the wires of the Internet will change.

Once you have an EarthLink broadband connection to your home, you have a big "pipe" connecting you to the Internet. More and more people are putting small home networks on their broadband "pipes" so that several computers can share the connection. This is a great way to make the Internet more useful—it allows you to access the Internet from more than one computer and from more than one place in your house. Wired home networks aren't easy to set up, however, because they require you to string cables to every place in your home where you'd like to connect. Luckily, setting up a home network is suddenly easier because of new advances in wireless technology.

Right now, dozens of companies are manufacturing computer cards that allow your computer to transmit and receive information wirelessly. The vast majority of these cards use a new wireless standard called 802.11. (The numbers aren't really important, but you'll be hearing a lot about 802.11 in the future, so I thought I'd mention it by name.) Devices using the new 802.11 wireless technology can communicate with each other through the air from 100–500 feet (over 1000 feet if installed in a high place without obstructions), and can send information at up to 11 million bits per second—that's 200 times faster than a dial-up connection and over 10 times faster than DSL.

This opens up all sorts of possibilities. First off, it will make home networking a snap. By simply installing cards in your computers and setting up a wireless hub, you can access your broadband Internet connection from anywhere in your house—take a laptop into the backyard to check your email, refer to your car manufacturer's Web site as you work on your car in your garage, etc.

But connecting your computers wirelessly is only the tip of the iceberg. Soon all kinds of devices, including computers from major manufacturers like Apple, Dell, and IBM, will be wireless-ready from the get-go, as soon as you take them out of the box. In the near future, your wireless home network will connect all kinds of devices: your computers, printers, Palm handhelds, home phones, cell phones, and more.

Take Ceiva for example. Ceiva is a digital picture frame that downloads your pictures from a Web site. I have one in my office, and it rotates between different pictures of my family. With wireless networks, next-generation devices like Ceiva will no longer require a phone cord plugged into the back. You'll be able to put them anywhere in your house and have them download pictures wirelessly over your broadband connection.

Internet telephony, which means sending phone calls over the Internet (where their cost is nearly free, no matter where in the world you are calling), is finally possible with broadband connections. Broadband gives you a big enough "pipe" to send high-quality phone conversations out across the Net. Soon, an 802.11 wireless card in your phone will let you talk over your broadband connection from anywhere in your house, bypassing phone companies altogether.

The 802.11 standard has actually been around for a while, but only recently has it become an agreed-upon standard. Now that manufacturers agree, they're beginning to make all kinds of 802.11 wireless devices and, consequently, the price is dropping. Two years ago, setting up a home wireless network cost thousands of dollars. Today it costs a few hundred. Soon it will cost less than $100.

Okay, so now imagine you have set up an 802.11 wireless network in your home. Here's where things get really fun.

The 500–1000-plus feet range of your 802.11 wireless devices means that your wireless network could easily overlap with your neighbor's. This ultimately means that neighbors can share Internet access by combining the "pipes" from their houses into one big pipe. Suppose you need to download a really big file. Just "borrow" some bandwidth from your neighbor to get it done faster.

The technology for this kind of sharing is just around the corner. Obviously, sharing will be voluntary and selective, and your privacy and security will be protected. But, there will be lots of benefits to sharing your bandwidth. First off, we typically use only a fraction of our available bandwidth; most of the time it just sits unused. With sharing, you might even charge others for the right to use your bandwidth! In effect, everyone with a wireless home network and a broadband Internet connection could become a mini-Internet service provider (selling or bartering their bandwidth). And when half the people and businesses in your neighborhood have wireless broadband networks, it will create a really big wireless network with dozens or hundreds of broadband connections tying it all to the Internet. With 802.11, it could happen within a year or two. And the result will be that all of us will have access to a lot more bandwidth all the time. house

When you walk down the street in one of these wirelessly networked spaces, all your Internet devices will light up, letting you know that you have lots of cheap options for accessing the Internet. Your Palm might tell you that you can now send and receive email over a fast connection (even quote you prices, like "Joe is offering Net access at $4.00/day; Sally's is $1.00/hour"). Your cell phone might light up and tell you that you can now make a cell phone call over the Net to anywhere in the world for $0.05.

Over the Internet, information is sent as "packets," small chunks of information. In this new wireless world, packets would be flying through the air in every direction, finding their way to broadband Internet connections and getting routed across the Net. Anyone with a wireless-enabled device (soon that'll be ALL devices) can walk into such a space and begin communicating with anyone anywhere, sending out and receiving packets of information. That's why I like to call areas such as this that have been saturated by wireless networks "Packetspace."

Packetspace is the next phase of the Internet. On top of the wired heart of the Internet we will have a wireless world, where the Internet simply exists everywhere. All of this may sound a little far-out, but it's coming very soon. Companies are already beginning to make high-traffic public areas like airports into Packetspace by installing wireless network hubs and high-speed Internet connections.

Your EarthLink broadband connection is the first step. EarthLink is here to help you get the most out of your Internet experience now and in the future, whether it's over wires or through Packetspace. You will be hearing more about this wireless technology from us as it develops. The next few years are going to be very interesting!

Shopping for the Next President

We comparison shop on the Internet for books, music, and clothes, so why not elected officials?

by Sky Dayton

(Originally published December, 2000)

I woke up one day in October and realized the presidential election was only two weeks away. I started to panic. If you are anything like me, you probably spent more time emailing than paying attention to the election.

I don't consider myself a very political person, but I do feel I have a responsibility to study the issues and vote for the candidate who I believe will do the best job for all of us. The only problem is that making decisions like that takes time and effort.

Then I realized that maybe it wouldn't take quite as much time and effort as it used to. With a burst of inspiration, I logged onto the Internet and began to participate in what I believe will become a new phase in democracy: shopping online for the next President.

During election years, it seems I typically only hear about the top two candidates. These are usually the guys buying lots of TV ads, and they are the ones featured on televised debates. Their pictures tend to be all over the newspapers (even if you're just looking for the crossword).

But on the Internet, the view is a little different. Within five minutes of beginning this unusual shopping spree, I discovered something I never knew before. There were over a dozen candidates running from different political parties. And dozens more running campaigns as independents or write-ins. I guess I had a vague inkling that other people besides the Republicans and Democrats were campaigning this year, but I never realized how many.

What's more, suddenly I had access to information about all these other parties and what they stood for. Every one of them had a Web site in 2000, which is probably the first national election year in which this was the case. And it means that researching all of the candidates is suddenly possible for all of us.

After looking at official Web sites, I started browsing message boards where people were discussing the election. Although people spend a lot of time arguing with each other in these groups, they also do try to answer each other's questions, when possible (like, where can I find out this candidate's actual voting record?). This was a whole new resource.

I spent about an hour online, and in that time, I learned more about this year's presidential candidates (mainstream and less mainstream) and their parties that I had ever learned from watching TV, listening to radio talk shows, or arguing over dinner with friends.

This is what I love so much about the Internet. It removes the time and space between you and the rest of the world. Suddenly we all have access to information about almost everyone involved in politics and the current election. This means that every political party has a better chance of reaching people with their message.

Sure, it may be a long time before alternative parties make a real dent in our two-party election process, but the Internet can certainly help to make this happen. Whatever your personal opinion of Ross Perot, eight years ago he performed a valuable service by forcing Democrats and Republicans to address subjects they most likely would have ignored otherwise. He made the national debt a national priority.

Because the Internet makes it possible to learn about other parties and other points of view, third-party campaigns will become much more feasible, and reach many more people. As a result, I believe people will start demanding that the mainstream parties pay attention to other issues, rather than following their own agendas. Election politics will have to become more responsive.

If every party and every candidate had a Web site this year, imagine what things will be like in four years, or eight years. The Internet will become a fundamental part of getting your message out, reaching people, and getting people to vote. It will become an incredible tool for democracy.

We're still at the beginning stages, but already I can tell that the way I approach voting and elections has changed. With a little Internet research on my part, I can make informed "buying" decisions about who I'm going to vote for. Like most other shopping on the Web, shopping for the next President online is easier than it is offline, and I'm much more confident that I'm not overlooking a better deal somewhere else.

Community on the Internet

Everything you've wanted to know about North African falconry in the 1300s, but were afraid to ask
by Sky Dayton
(Originally published October, 2000)

The word "Community" used to apply to people living in a certain geographical area: the neighbors on your block, the people in your town, your local school or club. With the spread of the Internet, the concept of community suddenly gains a much broader definition. And that's a good thing.

Though you hopefully share much in common with your neighbors, there is no guarantee that they will have similar hobbies and interests to your own. If they do, then you're lucky. Chances are, your access to like minds has been greatly limited.

Before the Internet, physical distances separated people of like interests. Like the characters from Gilligan's Island, their search for others who shared their passions was constrained to a suffocatingly small pool of available participants.

Stamp collectors, model railroaders, and the like counted themselves fortunate to find others living nearby who understood the nuances and detail involved in their particular hobbies. Lacking local contacts, perhaps they corresponded with others through the mail, and kept up on the latest through magazines or newsletters. Those interested in more obscure topics were less fortunate, often living out their lives knowing few others who shared their interests.

The Internet has changed all of this. The Internet now connects hundreds of millions of people across the world to one network, unbounded by geographical limitations. Of course, older technologies, such as the telephone, and long before that, the telegraph, have connected hundreds of millions of people for a much longer time. The problem with these technologies was that they didn't allow someone to search through everyone who was connected and find people of like mind and interest. Yes, there are hundreds of millions of people who currently have telephones, but in general, you are only able to contact people you already know.

falcon The Internet is the first mass communications medium that allows any two people anywhere to connect with each other, and allows someone to search and sort information to find new people.

This means that suddenly we can form new communities based not on geography, but on common interests, and we can do this with an ease that was never before possible.

Some areas of interest are so obscure there may only be 30 people in the whole world who care anything about them. But these small groups of people will be passionate beyond reason for their subjects. If you have ever browsed through Internet discussion groups, you have probably seen listings for groups interested in arcane topics like "Small yellow birds from the upper Congo," or "French military medals from the 1600s," or "Housecats of the ancient Sumerians," which might be a subgroup of "Pets of the ancient Sumerians." The likelihood of the participants in these discussion groups finding each other out in the "real world" is pretty slim. But on the Internet, they can hook up within minutes, across the world, after a brief search.

And, of course, it's not just hobbyists who benefit. It's anyone looking for others who share similar interests, similar backgrounds, or even similar problems. If you are an American living in Turkey, the Internet can help you locate other Americans living nearby, who could probably lead you to grocery stores carrying items you would find homey and familiar.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a disease, on the Internet you can find others in the same situation and compare notes about doctors, therapies, and what has and hasn't worked. This kind of interaction was much more difficult before the Internet, and often happened only through referrals by your own doctor.

And, of course, if you are looking for songs to teach your pet mynah bird, information on raising grubs for a living, textbooks on medieval British archery in Yorkshire, or any of hundreds of thousands of other esoteric topics, you are bound to find kindred spirits on the Internet ready to swap wisdom. Of course, the truly great thing about the Internet is that if you can't find that perfect community that already exists, you can always start your own!

Welcome to the Internet Age

by Sky Dayton

(Originally published February 2000)

The Internet has long been a magnet for misguided predictions. For example, it was once reported broadly that the Internet was merely a passing fad, the modern equivalent of CB radio. Sounds ridiculous, but it was all over the news media at the time. Then there were the predictions that the Internet was going to melt down. And for a time, it was believed by many that the Internet would ultimately consist mostly of cyberporn that would poison our children (an actual Time magazine cover story!).

Clearly, those prophecies were wrong. The Internet is going to change the world in countless positive ways, and isn't going to melt down in the process.

So what does the Internet's future look like? The best way to get a grip on where the Internet is going is to understand its true nature.

Some time ago (I confess, many months after starting EarthLink), I finally "got it." I realized what this Internet thing is. It's simple:

The Internet is the result of a common language for computers.

The common language is called TCP/IP, which stands for "Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol." (A "protocol" is a standard procedure that regulates communication between computers.)

Linking similar kinds of computers together is nothing new. But TCP/IP was unusual in that it allowed any kind of computer that could speak TCP/IP to talk to any other computer that could speak TCP/IP. So a tiny iMac on your desk could tell knock-knock jokes to a massive supercomputer at MIT.

TCP/IP gave rise to the Internet. The Internet is actually the result of linking a bunch of computers together and making them all speak the same language.

TCP/IP is a bit like a human language such as English. Once it is understood, creative people start making up new words and new combinations of words; start writing books, poems, and songs; and building on the base language in all kinds of ways. Thus, TCP/IP gave rise to all kinds of amazing applications written by smart computer programmers who spoke the language.

The two most popular creations to result from this common language are email and the Web. Shortly after connecting their computers with TCP/IP, some smart scientists realized they could use their computers to send messages—and email was born. Then a really smart scientist named Tim Berners-Lee figured out an ingenious way to navigate through information by clicking on words in a document. He added text and pictures to these documents, and the Web was born.

And then a wave of entrepreneurs decided that anyone should be able to connect their computers to the Internet, and they started Internet Service Providers (ISPs). By linking modems together with computers that route TCP/IP information (called "routers"), ISPs set up networks that interconnected with each other and all kinds of TCP/IP networks.

EarthLink began as 10 modems in a tiny office I rented in Los Angeles, connected to a router that was connected to Sprint's TCP/IP network, which interconnected with all the other big TCP/IP networks. If you dialed into one of those 10 modems (actually eight, because there were always two down for maintenance), EarthLink would take the TCP/IP packages from your computer and transmit them first to Sprint and ultimately to a destination on the Internet.

Why is all this relevant to you? Because you have inherited this amazing communications medium, probably the most powerful communications medium ever invented. Netage

History shows that every great advance in civilization was preceded by an advance in communications technology—from the earliest invention of alphabets to the printing press to the telephone. Every time it became easier to communicate, civilization advanced.

The Internet communications revolution will change the world. It's already changing our country, and I think it will spread to the far reaches of Earth and bring humanity closer together and improve life for everyone it touches.

Of course, there are many more immediate priorities: poverty, illiteracy, hunger, human rights. Obviously, putting a computer in the hands of a starving child is a misguided gesture.

But by linking people together, the Internet breaks down geographic and cultural boundaries that keep us from seeing problems, and keep people with solutions from reaching areas in need.

Some day, researchers collaborating over the Internet will find the cures for cancer, AIDS, and other devastating diseases. Likewise, major advances in biotechnology, nanotechnology, transportation, and other fields will be brought about by people exploring the frontiers of science together over the Internet.

You're inheriting the Internet Age. It's a great time to be connected.

The Internet as Infrastructure

Like electricity or roads, the Net will become so basic and necessary that we'll take it for granted

By Sky Dayton

(Originally published January, 2000)

If you're like me, your friends and family may think of you as an Internet "addict." The Internet has become as necessary as a fresh cup of coffee in the morning. The day just can't get started without logging on. Maybe a lot of us ARE addicts. When the Internet is not available to us, we really notice. It's become fundamental to our lives.

My wife and I found ourselves in that situation earlier this year when we traveled to Egypt so she could finish researching her latest novel. Though Egypt is an amazing country, and well worth a visit, easy and widely available Internet access is unfortunately not one of its attractions. In three days, the two of us racked up a $1200 phone bill for logging on to the Net. Yikes!

This brings up a broader issue. Egypt, and other Third World countries, are being left out of the world economy to the degree their citizens have difficulty getting online. Though these countries lag behind in other areas, their lack of Internet access only perpetuates their current situation. Putting citizens directly and easily in contact with the rest of the world would be a huge step toward raising their quality of life.

This will become increasingly important over the next few years. Considering the growth of the Internet and Internet users, it's pretty clear that the Internet will become more and more basic to our lives. We might be the last generation to marvel at the amount of time we spend online. Our children will take the Internet for granted. In fact, they may not even know of the Internet as a discreet thing. It will just be infrastructure, like basic electricity and roads.

For the Internet generation, applying for a job in another country will be simple and normal. Being daily pen pals with someone half a world away will be nothing special. Hearing news firsthand from people who are there will be expected. Starting your own online store will be just as traditional as the mom-and-pop grocery store on the corner — only a lot easier.

And once they manage to get themselves connected in the coming years, citizens of poor countries like Egypt will no longer be disenfranchised by geography. They will be able to participate in the world economy. In fact, they will bring the world economy to their homes, and will begin to share in the prosperity the Internet is promoting around the world.

Right now, however, we are still pioneers. We are still blazing trails. Despite its amazing growth, the Internet is still a frontier town. You can't do everything you want online. Most newspapers and magazines have only a few years of back issues archived and available. You can't find all the stores you want online. Some of the services you want don't even exist yet. Many processes are still complicated and difficult. And the experience is slower than most of us would like.

This is because the Internet hasn't been fully invented yet. But it's moving very fast. What took decades in the American West, with men and women building cities from scratch, will take mere years in the online world. Whole empires are now being born daily, and innovations are constantly springing up to make your Internet experience more valuable to you.

In light of how new the Internet is to the world, I recently started a new company called eCompanies to help the Internet grow at light speed. With EarthLink's backing, eCompanies is an incubator of Internet companies, and we hope it will give birth to dozens of start-ups that will make the Internet your most valuable tool for ANYTHING you want to do.

The best is yet to come. In a matter of a few years, when the Internet begins to reach its full potential, the whole world will pass through it. And then it won't be the "Internet" at all. It will simply be the way the world runs.

So if you, like me, have been labeled an addict, never fear. You are simply at the vanguard of things to come. In the next generation you won't be addicted to the Internet any more than you could be addicted to air or water or transportation.

Making Sense of the Stupidity Myth

Rather than "dumb down" the Internet, we need to educate users so that they're Internet savvy

By Sky Dayton

(Originally published November, 1999)

I've got a beef with the technology industry, and I'm going to rant about it. I'm sick of industry executives who think their customers are somehow inherently stupid.

I'm tired of that trite industry refrain, "If only a PC was as easy to use as a TV, we'd have more people using it." Let me point out that a TV is the most brain-dead device ever invented and that it is commonly referred to as the "idiot box." TV is not a model the technology industry should emulate, ever!

No, we don't need to make PCs dumber. Of course, we need to continue to make using them more intuitive. But instead of trying to make PCs and the Internet stupid, the industry should be investing in the people who use our products and services, educating them so they can be savvy users.

Dumb Is Dumber
Through EarthLink, I have had the honor of helping over 1.3 million people connect to the Internet. In the process, I've learned two major things:

  1. Big surprise, people aren't stupid!
  2. Being there to help people is really important; you can even build a business around it.
People do want an easy experience, but they don't want the experience dumbed down. They want to learn, to understand how to get the most out of a technology, and if you give them a chance, they'll really get it.

Not everyone agrees. AOL's approach is to dumb down the online experience to the lowest common denominator. In the process, they diminish the value of their service. AOL is an amusement park on the Internet: The rides are mediocre, the lines are long, everything is sterilized and safe, and the place is surrounded by a high fence.

The EarthLink PURE Internet experience is completely different. Instead of dumbing down the service, we work to bring our members up to the level of the Internet. We send them bLink and other helpful guides, such as the EarthLink Guide for AOL Graduates.

So, instead of assuming people are dumb, we assume they're smart! Just not yet Internet savvy.

Everyone Can Learn this Stuff, Even My Mom!
Some people think that either they or others they know can never be good with technology. This is a fallacy.

Take my own mother: a poet and, until recently, one of the most technologically averse people I've ever met. To try to make her car more human, my mom put a carpeted slipcover over the steering wheel!

I sent my mom an EarthLink disk way back in 1995. She called me when she got it and asked me what she should do. She had just recently bought a computer. As a test of how easy EarthLink's service was, I told her to follow the instructions and call me if she had any trouble. Instead of a call, an hour later, I got an email from her. Not only was she able to figure it out, the Internet changed her life. She now spends 3–4 hours a day on the Internet emailing other poets and arranging readings. My mom, a Luddite, is now Internet savvy.

Contrary to industry belief, people aren't inherently stupid or technology-disabled. They actually desire knowledge, they want to understand how to use technology to better their lives, and then they want to get on their way.

The Human Touch
But no matter how streamlined and intuitive we make the interface, and no matter how much we invest in educating the people who use our service, when someone enters this amazing new medium, they inevitably have questions, and automated answers won't do. They need a human to help them.

Instead of seeing this as a cost, like many other companies, at EarthLink we saw it as an opportunity to get really close to our members. So today, 1,600 of our 2,300 employees just answer calls from EarthLink members who have questions.

Interestingly, as we've made our service better and more intuitive to use, the types of questions we receive have shifted. We get more and more non-technical questions, like, "OK, I'm on the Internet now. What do I do?" So we tell them.

There's a huge value in being the place people can call 24 hours a day to answer any sort of question they might have about the Internet. There's also huge value in helping people become Internet savvy. At EarthLink, we've built a business around it.

Looking for an Education Elixir? Don't Look to the Internet!

By Sky Dayton

(Originally published September, 1999)

Two years ago, in the annual education issue of bLink (EarthLink's member magazine), I wrote a column refuting a popular idea — that the Internet was a magical cure for the woes of our educational system. I got a lot of positive feedback from that article, especially from EarthLink members who were parents or teachers. Two years later, as I once again scan the editorial landscape to determine the most pressing issues in education, I still find headlines and politicians proclaiming that the reason we can't educate our children any more is that they don't all have computers hooked up to the Internet.

Back to Basics
First of all, I'm the biggest proponent of technology you'll ever find. EarthLink even provides Internet connections to classrooms through our Knowledge Network program. But, without basic education as a foundation, computer technology is useless. The Internet is the greatest communications medium in history, but the quality of the communication flowing on it derives directly and completely from the quality of education. If our kids can't read or write, the Internet and all of its power to transform our future will be squandered.

Before we focus on putting a computer on every desk and wiring every school to the Internet, we should make sure our high school graduates actually know how to read, write, and do basic math. Our future quality of life stems directly from the quality of our education.

So what's wrong with our education system? I don't profess to have all the answers, nor can I try to do justice to the topic in this short space. But I have noticed a few interesting trends.

Complexity = Lack of Understanding
In business and life, everything is simple once it is understood completely. Consider a massive Boeing 747 jet as an example. Unless you're trained as a pilot and understand the technology involved, just sitting down in the captain's chair and staring at all the buttons would leave you spinning and confused. Worse, if you tried to tinker and pushed the wrong button, the consequences would be severe. But to trained pilots, that complexity doesn't exist. To them, it's a walk in the park.

In the past 30 years, education has become a "complex" subject. It used to be relatively straightforward. Now, we have the proliferation of "authorities" who would have us believe that the process of educating children is esoteric and unknowable to parents, and even to teachers.

Ironically, it seems that the more "authorities" there are for a given subject, the less is really known about it. I mean, how many authorities have you heard of in carpentry, or even computer technology? None. Where we have discovered the fundamental laws of something, we don't find authorities. They aren't needed, because anyone can become adept in the subject.

Clearly, the current educational system has not discovered the fundamental laws of education. Instead, we have spiraling complexity, quasi-educational excursions into areas such as "values clarification," "self-esteem," and even "death education," and the wholesale prescription of psychotropic drugs to schoolchildren. In the process, there is a complete departure from the basic education that has been the bedrock of our culture. To any independent observer, it appears that education is out of control.

A Technology for Learning
What's missing? We didn't have any of these "solutions" decades ago, when the standards for a public high school graduate were much higher. Nor did we have a computer on every desk.

If any technology is needed in the classroom, it's a fundamental TECHNOLOGY FOR LEARNING. We need a workable, replicable methodology anyone can use to assimilate and then apply knowledge. Computers and the Internet may well have a part in this, but the process of learning is much more fundamental.

At least everyone agrees that the consequences of doing nothing are severe. If we forget basic education, we can forget our future — with or without the Internet.

The Internet Economy: On the Ground Floor, Headed for Opportunity

By Sky Dayton

(Originally published August, 1999)

In the past four years, the Internet has emerged from obscurity to invade our culture faster than any technology in history. Amazingly, though, the Internet is still in its infancy. It has yet to be adopted by 70 percent of U.S. households and remains a huge, mostly untapped market.

But not for long: By the end of 2002, this untapped market will shrink to 30 percent of U.S. households, making the Internet a mass-market content and commerce medium.

Who will emerge as leaders of this new content and commerce medium? Will it be traditional media giants like Time Warner, Disney, and Fox, or Internet companies like AOL, EarthLink, and Yahoo? Or some mix? These three trends will help define the winners.

Traditional Players Fall Short
Traditional businesses have trouble moving at the speed of the Internet. Many believe incorrectly that large media, telecom, and commerce companies can simply move their operations to the Web and replicate their real-world successes. Barnes & Noble, for example, already knows the book business, already has a strong brand, lots of cash in the bank, and book inventories. So, why couldn't it simply build a great Web site and become the KILLER bookstore on the Web? Ask

Most traditional companies fall short because they fail to embrace the Internet quickly and thoroughly enough. The Internet moves so fast that only nimble, scrappy startups can keep up. We have this concept of Internet time: Every year in an Internet business is like seven real-world years. We move seven times faster than the rest of the world.

Another problem these companies face is that consumers don't associate their traditional suppliers of products and services with the Internet. When consumers move to the Net, they will choose Internet-specialist brands over traditional brands.

Think about the clothes you wear. You buy shoes made by one company, suits by another. When presented with options, educated consumers choose specialist brands over generalist brands.

On the Internet, the same is true: The strongest brands are new Internet specialists like Lycos, Infoseek, Yahoo,, CNET, AOL and EarthLink, to name just a few.

The Power of Partnerships
Traditional brands can overcome this to some extent through partnerships, which is the second trend shaping the Internet space.

The right partnerships combine the market power of a traditional media, telecommunications, or commerce company with the Internet-centric focus of an Internet specialist.

Consider EarthLink's partnership with Sprint. Although Sprint had entered the dial-up Internet access business, the company recognized that it would be difficult to embrace the dial-up Internet access sector completely, and that consumers actually wanted an Internet-centric brand to provide their access service.

Our partnership created a service that is now a contender for the number-one position among pure Internet access providers. This is a near-perfect example of how a traditional player partnered successfully with an Internet company.

Others have followed: Disney purchased a stake in Infoseek; NBC purchased a stake in Snap; USA Network announced a merger with Lycos. These partnerships between old and new companies are not only smart, they're inevitable. Expect many more to follow.

Access Leads the Internet Economy
The third trend defining the market is that growth in the Internet access segment leads the growth of all other segments of the Internet market.

The Internet economy is already a major subset of the world economy. But, in order to access that economy, consumers must be connected to the Internet. And the only way to do that is through an Internet service provider like EarthLink or AOL.

There are, however, important differences between EarthLink and AOL. AOL customers use the service an average of about 25 hours each month. But only about four of those hours are spent on the Internet. The rest are spent inside AOL's proprietary environment. (AOL said that Internet usage actually slipped from 18 percent of total online hours to 17 percent in a recent quarter, making AOL the only place in the world where Internet usage is DECREASING.)

People want the Internet. More and more, they need it. But they won't get a great Internet experience from AOL, because AOL's economic model is predicated on keeping its users inside of its advertising-laden content.

When AOL users are ready to graduate to a pure Internet experience, we're there to help them. Note that when they move to EarthLink, their usage jumps to an average of 42 hours per month — all on the Internet.

In summary, when the dust settles, Internet-focused brands will win. That's what consumers want. Traditional players will link up with Internet companies today to position themselves for the future — a future dominated by the Internet economy. And where does that economy begin? Right here. With Internet access companies like EarthLink.

Most importantly, the Internet is STILL a ground-floor opportunity.

A Mogul in Every Home

The Internet changes everything … even in Tinsel Town

by Sky Dayton

(Originally published April, 1999)

In 10 years, you'll get almost all of your entertainment over the Internet. You will still watch TV, but TV will be just another stream of bits traversing the Net. Your local movie theater will "download" its films over the Net, doing away with inefficient and costly film print distribution. Instead of stamping millions of CDs, musicians will put their works on the Net, where you'll download and listen to them anytime, from anywhere.

The New Democracy of Distribution
In the old media, there were very few distribution channels that artists and entertainers could use to bring their work to audiences. And these few channels were hoarded by an elite minority of old media moguls. The Internet, on the other hand, offers a virtually unlimited number of distribution channels for entertainment producers. With the Internet, anyone with compelling content can access a potentially global audience.

The result will be a global laissez-faire entertainment market, where the best entertainment wins because it's the best entertainment, not because it's produced by those who also own a distribution channel. I don't think the old media, especially Hollywood, is ready for this kind of efficient entertainment market.

The Audience Is Waiting
Today, the amount of art and entertainment produced far outweighs the relatively tiny selection that eventually finds its way to an audience. Sure, there are hundreds of TV channels, and music CDs, magazines, newspapers, and books abound. But, if you think about it, every one of us knows (or is) an artist who has struggled all their life to find distribution for their works.

Some argue that the really good stuff still somehow manages to get through the distribution bottleneck, but I disagree.

Probably 90% of what's on television is complete garbage. The old media rationalizes, arguing that trash is "what the masses want." Assuming there is any truth to that insult, it's that we watch because we don't have any choice. If grocery stores sold nothing but macaroni and cheese, that's what we'd learn to survive on.

Why Not Now?
There are two barriers to the Internet becoming the universal entertainment medium, and both of these show signs of giving way.

First, there is consumer adoption of the Internet. Today, despite the Internet's deep invasion of our culture, 75% of U.S. households still haven't connected to the Internet or an online service. It's simply a matter of time. In 10 years, 90% of households will have access to the Internet, and the holdouts will find it hard to participate fully in the world.

Networking pioneer Bob Metcalfe (the inventor of Ethernet) opined 20 years ago that the value of a network goes up by the square of the number of people connected to it. For example, a network of 2 people has a theoretical value of 4; a network of 100 people has a value of 10,000. The value of the Internet increases exponentially every time someone connects to it. So, if the Internet is this good with 25% of the U.S. connected, imagine what it will be like when the 90% of the WORLD is online.

The next barrier keeping the Internet from becoming the universal entertainment medium is bandwidth — how "wide" and fast the connection is from your home or business to the Internet.

Modem access is fine for viewing text and static pictures, but video and high quality music require faster connections. The deregulation that's finally breathing competition into the stagnant local telephone industry should help. And in the next few years, cable, wireless, and satellite service will also challenge telephone companies to provide speedy Internet connections to the home.

New Entertainment Options
With higher bandwidth will come a whole new set of Internet entertainment services. On-demand video will allow you to watch the shows you want, when you want. Interactive games and voice communication over the Internet will be commonplace. And, as mentioned above, the amount of entertainment available will mushroom, since anyone with a good idea and the diligence to create something will have access to the first free, global distribution channel ever.

All of this promises to shake up the world of entertainment, putting the power of creativity firmly in the hands of the artist, and the power of true choice in the hands of the consumer.

Hollywood will never be the same.

The Old Media Still Demonizes the New

The Internet helps save a family and reshapes a democracy, but it still gets broadsided from predictable places

by Sky Dayton

(Originally published February, 1999)

Two very different recent events illustrate the range of ways that the Internet has changed our lives for the better: Parents, distraught after years of shoulder-shrugging by physicians and specialists, use the Internet to find a cure for their nine-year-old daughter's crippling illness. Sound like a movie? Actually, it's the true story of the LaGrow family. And on the other end of the spectrum is the Internet release of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's report. While I won't comment on the report's content, Friday, September 11, 1998 (the date of the release), was a landmark for the Internet and the democracy of the United States.

The moment the Starr report was uploaded to the Internet, it was immediately available to anyone with an Internet connection, anywhere in the world. For the first time in history, average citizens had access to a powerful political instrument at the same time as the Congress and the President himself.

The Internet represents a striking advance in the free flow of ideas, information, and commerce — all necessary elements of democracy. It gives everyone a voice, a chance to listen and be heard.The Internet is clearly changing the world for the better.

Misconception or Disinformation?
So how do we reconcile this with the recent Carnegie Mellon University study that asserts Internet use would probably make you depressed? The Internet opens doors to more communication and social interaction, which would seem to enhance life, not diminish it.

Some history helps put this study in perspective:

In June 1995, Carnegie Mellon released a study which concluded that 83% of Usenet newsgroups images were pornography. With little fact-checking, Time magazine actually made the study and its conclusions the centerpiece of its "Cyberporn" July 3 cover story. This story stirred up to an anti-Internet hysteria, which culminated in the Communications Decency Act, passed by Congress and signed by the President, only to be struck down later by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

After a strong backlash from seasoned Internet experts and the Internet community at large, the Time reporter responsible for the story acknowledged that the study's credibility was suspect. In fact, the holes in the study's logic and methods were big enough to drive a truck through. In reality, pornography made up only about .5% of the Internet's traffic.

Recently, when Carnegie Mellon once again released a study critical of the Internet, you probably noticed the mass media again seized it and promoted it broadly. (Time actually bucked the trend and ran a story rather critical of the report.)

This latest study, a survey of only 169 Internet users living in Pittsburgh — purported to represent the tens of millions of Internet users in the U.S. alone — claims Internet use causes depression. The study has, of course, been vehemently rejected by the Internet community.

It stands to reason, if more communication, access to ideas, and information make you depressed, something other than your Internet access is probably wrong.

The traditional mass media, broadcast and print news, often appear overeager to find fault with the Internet. Why? One motive could be that the Internet strips the old media of their monopolies. Though journalists certainly won't become obsolete, the ivory towers they are accustomed to working in will.

The Bigger Picture
You are already one of the estimated 25% of U.S. consumers who have access to the Internet. You already know what the Internet really is and how it affects you.

But what about the other 75% — those who have yet to connect for the first time? Will the Internet's demonization by some in the old media prevent it from taking root in our society?

No way. The Internet is a juggernaut. EVERYONE will be connected in some way in the next 10 years. It is a revolution in communication that is certain to change the fabric of our society.

With Internet access, the world is at your fingertips. You can harness its power, the global free-flow of communication, and you can change the world with it. Or, heck, you can just order pizza a lot easier.

Reach Out and Regulate Someone

The Internet won't flourish under regulations written for the telephone industry

by Sky Dayton

(Originally published July, 1998)

The Internet is the world's next mass medium. It will ultimately eclipse television, telephone and radio as the broadest, most powerful communications tool ever invented. The Internet has already spawned thousands of new businesses and created multibillion-dollar industries overnight. Better yet, the power of the Internet will be available to everyone on Earth.

But as the Internet becomes more mainstream, there are increasing calls for Washington to extend the regulations established to govern telephone monopolies so that they apply to the Internet as well.

Calling for Regulation
Most recently, the Federal Communications Commission came under pressure from local telephone monopolies (also called Baby Bells) to regulate voice calls made over the Internet just like regular calls made over telephone networks.

After cries of protest from the Internet community, the FCC decided against immediate regulation, but also said it would still consider regulating Internet telephone services on a "case by case basis." Such regulation, if enacted, would squash a revolution in low-cost calling before it has a chance to begin.

Arcane and outdated telephone company regulations should be kept as far away from the Internet as possible.

Packets vs. Circuits: Efficiency Drives the Internet
There is no technical or economic justification for applying telephone regulations to the Internet. For one thing, the Internet uses a fundamentally different technology than telephone companies do to transmit traffic.

On the Internet, all information travels in "packets." Transmissions, such as email messages, are broken up into discrete bundles of data, each capable of finding its way across the Internet to its final destination. These packets flow much like cars on a highway many cars traveling along in the same lane, one behind the other, toward their individual destinations.

In contrast, calls over telephone networks use individual "circuits" dedicated lines extending from one end of a phone call to the other. On the highway analogy, the telephone network requires that each car has its very own lane all the way to its destination. While this may be a commuter's dream, it's a very inefficient use of our highways!

This superior efficiency is a major reason why Internet communication is so inexpensive and, at the same time, why it threatens the 100-year-old dominance of the Bell monopolies.

Pressure from the Bells
Responding to this significant threat, the Bells have lobbied hard in Washington for Internet regulation. They have tried to pressure the FCC into regulating ISPs, such as EarthLink, just like telephone companies.

The Internet, however, is here today largely because the FCC and other government agencies have abstained from such regulatory action. They have, until now, rightly concluded that to apply telephone regulations to the Internet would be to strangle it in its infancy and deny its chance to grow.

But the FCC needs your help. They are under increasing pressure from lawmakers, who are in turn being pressured hard by the Bells, to bring the Internet under the so-called regulation of the local telephone industry.

What You Can Do
While the government has made great strides in putting its various branches on the Internet, few of our lawmakers actually use the Internet themselves. This has got to change; we can't expect our representatives to make informed decisions about a service they've never used.

Fortunately, though, most of the offices of our Representatives and Senators do have email accounts (go to for Representatives' and for Senators' email addresses). Send them an email, and ask if they use the Internet themselves, and if not, ask them to get on it before they think of making laws to govern the Internet. Tell them you want to keep the Internet free of cumbersome regulation, especially regulation written for 100-year-old telephone networks. You might be surprised at how effective your voice (over the Internet) can be.

Making Some Sense of the Madness

The Natural Evolution of the Internet Industry

Originally published 4/1/96, revised 8/21/96
by Sky Dayton,
Founder & Chairman,
EarthLink Network, Inc.

State of the Internet industry
Only two years ago, the Internet was virtually unknown in the mass-consumer market. Today, it is a phenomenon reshaping global communications for millions of people. Almost every industry is touched by the Internet's fanatical momentum. It is growing faster than any other new technology industry in history, and it has the potential to change the way people interact on Earth.

In many ways, the Internet's communications properties have acted as a catalyst to its own growth, making it a self-fueling entity.

Despite its growth and its assimilation of whole industries, the Internet is still a nascent market. Many in the industry fear a backlash if the Internet fails to deliver on its hyped potential fast enough. Even now, media pundits have begun to circle overhead looking for the opportunity to strike and be the first to predict such a backlash.

Most agree the Internet will be the foundation of what some call the "Information Superhighway", a communications system that will tie together all existing voice and data applications on an open, inexpensive and fast network. However, the current Internet industry lacks a clear definition of how it will mature toward this vision.

As in all markets, maturity will bring segmentation of products and services within the Internet industry. An understanding and prediction of this segmentation is needed.

Need for definition in the industry
We need a segmentation map of the Internet industry. Without some sort of guideline of how the market will mature, companies will have difficulty putting their potential products and services in context with other companies and in focus within the rest of the industry.

Many large companies today are pursuing unrefined "Internet strategies". Thousands of start-ups are also clamoring to produce products and services for the Internet. Until recently, investors hoping to cash in on the craze were buying any stock with the word "Internet" attached to it, and analysts continue to have difficulty differentiating thousands of new product and service offerings.

Additionally, industry experts are still trying to explain the failures of dozens of previous ventures in the interactive video and proprietary online services businesses, especially those backed by top-tier players such as AT&T, IBM and others.

Companies that don't predict segmentation will have their offerings segmented by market forces nonetheless. Hundreds of companies, from start-ups to blue chips, went through this experience in the PC revolution.

This paper gives participants in this new industry a guide to the coming segmentation, thus allowing them to better define and position their offerings in the context of one another.

The premise of this paper is that Internet market segmentation will be based on the structure of Internet networks themselves.

The OSI model
The Internet marketplace is already segmented in a way analogous to the basic architecture of networking. Network architecture is best defined in the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model developed by the International Standards Organization (ISO) over the past 15 years.

The OSI model was created to provide an open-standard reference for network development. It lets network developers work on different parts of the same networking problems in a way that will allow their final work to be compatible with other developers' work.

The OSI model describes the building blocks of all networks. It lays out how a network is built, from the foundation up. Computer networking began as a wire connecting two computers. In order to communicate, the voltage on the wire was modulated. As networking evolved over the years, engineers began building up from this foundation, one layer at a time, with each successive layer allowing greater network functionality.

Much of today's networking technology, including the foundation protocols of the Internet, TCP and IP, was developed without direct reference to the OSI model. So were hundreds of other protocols. However, OSI is an attempt to put networking protocols in context.

Understanding the OSI model
Here is the OSI model:

Layer Name Description Example
Application The communications applications themselves. email, file transfer, client/server applications. Applications such as Netscape & Eudora talk to this layer.
Presentation Syntax for data conversion, makes session layer available to application layer. ASCII, binary conversion, encryption and decryption, sockets
Session Starts, stops and governs transmission order. Sockets, synchronization
Transport Ensures delivery of the completed message. TCP, SNA, UDP
Network Routes data to different networks. Forms packets. IP, x.25, IPX, AppleTalk,
Data Link Transmits from node to node. Divides bits into frames. Ethernet, Token ring, Frame Relay, Bridging
Physical The connection medium. The hard, physical connection. RTS, CTS, RS-232, copper, fiber, wireless.

The access sector of the Internet market is currently populated by Internet access, cable and telephone providers. Each company in the access sector can be plotted on the OSI model above.

The company I founded, EarthLink Network, is an Internet access provider focused on the consumer market in North America. For most of our network, we purchase layers 1 through 4 from our partner, UUNET Technologies. They deliver TCP/IP packets (layers 3 and 4) to our customers over dial-up modem lines in hundreds of cities. They, in turn, purchase layers 1 and 2 from local telephone companies. These companies deliver dial-tone or other layer 1 and 2 services to UUNET.

If UUNET can send a ping (a TCP/IP packet from one point to another) to our customer, their job is done - the customer has an Internet connection. We take over at that point and deliver the services the customer uses to communicate on the Internet: email, Usenet, ftp, Web, etc. These services operate on layers 5 to 7.

Early analysts might have seen our relationship with UUNET as competitive. EarthLink predicted industry segmentation, however, and recognized the relationship was complimentary. UUNET decided to focus its business on layers 3 and 4 principally. It buys layers 1 and 2 from carriers and packages the whole thing up into a 4-layer product.

Other Internet access providers, such as Netcom and PSINet, have attempted to build 5 layers at once, all during massive growth. While this strategy made sense early on, these companies will have to defend many more layers against competition. Their competitors will specialize more and more on one or two layers, resulting in better efficiencies than Netcom or PSINet could ever have on a multi-layered strategy.

Since the first edition of this paper was published, PSINet has refocused their business on their traditional core competence: layers 3 and 4. After several quarters of diluted attention and stunted growth, they sold off their consumer dial-up access business and concentrated on business-to-business and wholesale Internet access, where they have always been strongest. With this new, focused strategy, they will be able to compete much more effectively in their market segment.

Other companies have failed to embrace market segmentation by assuming their expertise in lower layers would translate into an advantage in higher layers, particularly where their implementation required them to provide all 7 layers themselves. Today, this is tantamount to IBM's early attempts to own all aspects of the personal computer business.

Recent examples of such disasters were AT&T's foray into computer hardware and online services, USWest's interactive video services and MCI's consumer Internet service. These companies' traditional technology expertise did not translate into expertise on higher layers.

Though telephone and cable companies are pursuing Internet access strategies today, their core business is on layers 1 and 2. With recent deregulation, it is detrimental for them to leave layers 1 and 2 unguarded from major new competition to pursue a completely new business on higher layers.

Layers 1 and 2 are the foundation of the Internet. Because telephone and cable companies were regulated monopolies for so long, they have let this foundation languish. They have not kept up with sweeping innovations in the upper layers. As a result, most consumers now suffer with an Internet experience at a mere 28.8k/bits per second; their computers can process bits thousands of times faster than the network can send them.

The telephone and cable operators have a significant task before them to upgrade and maintain the foundation of the Internet in a newly competitive market. In the long term, they will be more successful focusing on new challenges and opportunities in their traditional lower-layer businesses than pursuing purported opportunities on the upper layers.

OSI model applied to all Internet industry sectors
The OSI model defines how the technology of the Internet underlies the segmentation of its products and services. The industry can also be subdivided into sectors which classify the different types of products and services available on these network layers.

The Internet currently has six market sectors:

  1. Hardware
  2. Software
  3. Access
  4. Content
  5. Services
  6. Expertise

In order to see how companies in each of these sectors operate in the context of one another, all can be classified on the OSI model. The chart on the following page is a random sampling of companies in each sector.

Name Hardware Software Access Content Services Expertise
Application Apple, Intel, Dell, Gateway Netscape, Microsoft,
Sprynet, GNN
Prodigy, CNN, WSJ
Yahoo, Excite, Infoseek,
CKS, Digital Planet, USWeb
Presentation Sun, SGI, HP, IBM, DEC, Intel Netscape, Microsoft, Interworld
Netcom, Sprynet,
Prodigy, BBN
CyberCash, RSA, Compusrve, BBN, I/Pro, Netcount CKS, Digital Planet, USWeb
Session Sun, SGI, HP, IBM, DEC, Intel Netscape,
Netcom, Sprynet,
Prodigy, BBN
BBN, Compusrve, I/Pro, Netcount CKS, Digital Planet, USWeb
Transport Cisco,
Bay, 3Com,
FTP, Netmanage, Network TeleSystems Netcom,
Compusrve, Sprintnet, BBN
BBN, Compusrve,
Network Solutions
EDS, Perot, BBN
Network Cisco,
Bay, 3Com,
FTP, Netmanage, Network TeleSystems Netcom,
Compusrve, Sprintnet, BBN
BBN, Compusrve,
Network Solutions
EDS, Perot, BBN
Data Link USR,
Stratacom, AT&T
MCI, TCI, Sprint, Worldcom, AT&T MCI, TCI, Sprint, Worldcom, AT&T MCI, TCI, Sprint, Worldcom, AT&T Anderson,
EDS, @Home,
Physical USR,
Stratacom, AT&T
MCI, TCI, Sprint, Worldcom, AT&T MCI, TCI, Sprint, Worldcom, AT&T MCI, TCI, Sprint, Worldcom, AT&T Anderson,

Many companies overlap onto different layers in more than one sector. Most companies, however, generally maintain their core business on one or two layers in one sector only.

The OSI model specifies that each layer only deals with the layers immediately above and below it. Similarly, companies will be most successful doing business with other companies on the layers immediately above and below them. As an illustration of this, we have seen many recent failed partnerships between cable or telephone companies and computer software and hardware companies. These companies are many layers apart, as the OSI model shows. The best partnerships are between companies occupying neighboring layers.

Also, complications in developing and deploying networks and network-based products are directly proportional to the number of layers involved. Conversely, the fewer the layers involved, the simpler and more reliable the networking technology.

With more layers involved, the technology becomes more complex, but it also allows much greater flexibility. For example, Morse code operated at the first layer only, and telephone technology deals only with the first and second layers. Both afford little room for innovation compared to the seven-layer full Internet connection.

Because Internet technology is so versatile, it will be difficult to fit the industry into a "commodity" description. While one or more layers may become commodity businesses, there is so much flexibility in the implementation of multiple layers, it will be a long time before the entire industry commoditizes, if ever.

The Internet has the potential to become the greatest communications medium in history. It will take thousands of developers at hundreds of companies to provide the innovations necessary for the Internet to achieve this potential. Whether or not these companies become a financial success depends largely on their anticipation of the market's segmentation.

Many companies will not foresee this segmentation and will fail to position themselves to occupy a layer, or segment, of the industry. Or they may pursue a segment but fail to understand its relationship with the layers immediately above and below.

Companies that understand and embrace the natural segmentation of the marketplace will be able to make wise decisions about partners and competitors. By anticipating changes in the market, these companies will be principal contributors to the Internet of the future.