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1996. The Year Ahead
Jan 01, 1996 :: Michael Sippey

OK, last week's column was a cop out, I admit it. Looking back at 1995 was a pretty easy way to fill a column. A bulleted list, some links, and some chin scratching reminiscing was all I needed. This week will be completely different, and will involve a bulleted list, some chin scratching and some prognostication instead.

OK, here it is. My list of things and people to watch out for in 1996...

  • Intranets. Corporate web-sites were the big thing in '95. If you weren't talking to your customers, your prospects and your competitors on the web in 1995, you just weren't hip. But 1996 will be different. Corporate MIS departments (and IBM!) will figure out that Notes just ain't worth all that dough, and instead run a few web servers behind the firewall and deploy Netscape on EVERYONE'S desktop. And I say Netscape for a reason. They didn't do much with their purchase of Collabra Share in '95, but just wait for what shows up in '96.
  • Private Web Sites. The bastard cousin of intranets, keep on the lookout for private web sites in 1996. Web sites for the eyes of customers, friends, partners, etc. Passwords, encryption, the whole nine yards. And they'll be something for the 2600 crowd to start hacking...just for the hell of it.
  • Neil Postman. 1995 was the year of George Gilder and Marshall McLuhan. But I think in 1996 we'll see a resurgence from Neil Postman, author of the seminal media critique Amusing Ourselves to Death. In his essay "Tehnopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology," he states beautifully what is quickly happening here in the US. "In a technocracy, tools play a central role in the thought-world of the culture. Everything must give way, in some degree, to their development. ... Tools are not integrated into the culture; they attack the culture. The bid to become the culture." And thus, we get Newsweek covers with stories about "the web," and movies about "The Net" and not what's on the web or what's being done with the net...
  • Java and JavaScript. I know what I said several weeks ago. But '96 (for better or worse) will bring an onslaught of Java and JavaScript enhanced pages. Not that those apps will do anything spectacular, but they'll be there. And there will be a whole heck of a lot more industry posturing about licensing and deploying the so-called uber-language. Look for Microsoft to somehow make Java apps that only run on Windows 95...
  • Bill Clinton. Even Business Week is saying it. The President will overcome his waffling problems and actually look presidential in the coming year. And people like to elect presidents. Remember in '92 when Clinton campaigned on MTV? Well, we're four years down the road. Look for all sorts of Internet-based campaign shenanigans in the coming year.
  • Cable Modems. Fast, faster, fastest. People are getting tired of surfing at 28.8k. And unless the RBOCs pull off a miracle, ISDN is dead in the water (it's just too damn hard to set up). Watch what happens to @Home's trials of coaxial heaven in Cupertino, California. But remember that these new fangled high speed devices are only one-way, so I don't think they're going to be used for hosting web-sites anytime soon... But I still want one.

Merry new year.



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