I suppose the folks at the National Geographic Society experience a similar mix of pleasure and frustration as I encountered in writing this book. They have the job of documenting and mapping a world whose political landscape has undergone massive change in the last few years. In my case, I've undertaken a project to write about a virtual landscape that is growing and changing even more rapidly -- the Internet. Late in 1992, having written a chapter for a book in Jay Ranade's technical series at McGraw-Hill, I explored the idea of a book on campus-wide information systems. Mr. Ranade, a wise editor and a best-selling author in his own right, suggested a more general text on the Internet in general, and this book is the result.
My thesis is that you will not merely want to passively partake of the many and varied information resources on the Internet -- though surely you will want to do that. I believe that we are entering an era of online democracy in publishing, and I believe the Internet will be the place where the necessary tools will be forged. The early 1990s have seen the birth of the first of these tools -- protocols and software such as Gopher, the World-Wide Web, and NCSA Mosaic. The democratization of Internet information publishing has already begun, with thousands of Gopher and Web servers online, and hundreds of new ones coming on stream each month. As this book goes to press, the most reliable estimate of the population of the Internet is 20 million people. Most of users are consumers only. I believe the day will soon arrive when the vast majority of people with Internet access will also be information providers -- offering to the world their resumes, papers they have written, sketches they have drawn, and so forth.
Does everyone in the world really need to be able to read everyone else's favorite poem? Of course not. The new world of Internet publishing allows individual readers to select those documents of interest on demand -- your demand, not the wishes of the author or publisher.
Many readers of this book will undertake setting up a server as part of their job -- as a way for their organization to offer information to potential customers or beneficiaries. Others will set up servers for more personal kinds of information. Whether you run your own server, or whether you employ the services of a proxy (in the form of an enlightened Internet service provider who offers individualized publishing services via Gopher or the World-Wide Web) this book will explain what it takes to get started as an Internet information provider.
The early chapters of this book cover the basic issues of what the Internet is all about, the basics of the Internet protocols, what the client/server model means in the Internet context, and how to connect to the Internet. Person-to-person communication is perhaps the most commonly used Internet service, so e-mail is covered next. Subsequent chapters explain group communications mechanisms -- mailing list processors and Usenet News. Next we cover the venerable File Transfer Protocol, still the number one way people retrieve documents and software over the Internet. The chapter on FTP also offers detailed information on the multiplicity of file formats you will encounter on the net.
People don't just send e-mail and fetch files over the Internet -- they also communicate in real time. A remarkable young information provider named Charles Henrich contributed the chapter on real time communications. His boss, my old friend and colleague Charles Severance, contributed the next chapter, which explains how networked file systems can allow a user to access files on a remote computer across the Internet as if user and disk drive were adjacent.
Next we cover the important new browsing tools of the Internet, Gopher and the World-Wide Web, including a discussion of a tool that has been called the "killer app of the Internet" -- NCSA Mosaic. PC users will also want to consult Appendix A, which explains what it takes to install Mosaic under MS-Windows.
With the flood of documents and files available on the Internet, navigation has become a vital issue, so we devote a chapter to pioneering indexing and cataloging tools, such as Archie, Veronica, and a personal favorite of mine, John Doyle's Netlink. Next we move from catalog tools to WAIS, a mechanism for indexing large document archives in their entirety. So far WAIS trails Gopher and the World-Wide Web in its usage, but I predict that it is the sleeper application of the Internet.
Because Internet navigation can be such a challenge, Chapter 16 offers strategies and tactics for finding resources, people, and places on the Internet. Chapter 17, contributed by Judy Matthews, the physics-astronomy librarian at Michigan State University, offers insight into ways that professional librarians are exploiting (and cataloging) today's Internet.
Chapter 18 covers alternatives for electronic publishing, and explains the role of the Internet in the deployment of the digital library of the future. Chapter 19, contributed in part by my colleague Mark Riordan, covers security and privacy issues -- information vital to both consumers and providers. (Mark is known internationally as the author of the RIPEM package.)
Chapter 20 explains what choices are available to you as a potential Internet information provider. The insights of Nat Torkington, a young Internet information provider from New Zealand, contribute to the discussion of providing documents via the World-Wide Web. Chapter 21 offers specific examples of how to install Unix-based Internet server software. The section on installing the Gn Gopher was written by a most able programmer here at Michigan State, Dennis Boone. Installation of WAIS is covered by Jim Fullton, well-known in the WAIS and Internet engineering communities.
Chapter 22 covers some non-Unix options for Internet information delivery. One of these is the GopherSurfer program from the University of Minnesota -- by far the easiest-to-install tool for Internet information publishing. If you don't want to wrestle with Unix, buy yourself a PowerPC Macintosh, get it connected to the Internet, and with a drag-and-drop or two you are an Internet information provider. (My thanks to Jeff Stuit of the University of Michigan, who alerted me to this Gopher server for the masses.) You will also learn how to install GoServe, a server for OS/2, thanks to the narrative contributed by David Singer of IBM's Almaden Research labs. Finally, thanks to the narrative of Chris McNeil, you will learn how to install the KA9Q Gopher server -- a surprisingly way to run a server on a platform that was never intended for such purposes, MS-DOS.
Chapter 23 is entitled "Setting Up a Campus-Wide Information System," but don't be fooled by the title -- many of the topics covered could be useful in corporate settings. With all the technical material in the preceding chapters, Chapter 24 is intended to show that Internet information providers include real human beings; it offers profiles of some of the pioneers on the electronic information frontier. Chapter 25 offers my speculations on the future of the Internet, and Chapter 26 provides a sampler of the many resources available online. With thousands of servers and millions of documents already online, no single catalog is comprehensive; do not believe anyone who says he has cataloged the whole Internet. The goal of my sampler is to whet your appetite; you will use the online navigation tools explained in earlier chapters as your real travelogue. Erik Larson assisted in the preparation of the catalog.
Much of this book is technical, and the epilogue was written by a political scientist who philosophizes about technology -- Peter Lyman. Besides mulling over the meaning of the Internet, Dr. Lyman is the University Librarian at the University of Southern California (i.e. he's the director.) He casts an appreciative but wary eye on technology, and his insights enrich this book.
Many of the tools covered in this book did not exist when I undertook the project; all of the tools are undergoing rapid change even as I type this preface. Therefore the text offers many pointers to online resources that you can use to learn more and to obtain the most current information.
Looking to the future of electronic publishing, McGraw-Hill will use this book as a pioneering test case. Thanks to the initiative of Laura Fillmore and the Online Bookstore, several chapters of this book will be available for personal viewing and printing over the Internet. Point your Gopher client at
Some portions of the text originally appeared in June 1993 in an electronic journal, the Public-Access Computer Systems Review 4, no. 2 (1993): 4-60. You can retrieve that article by sending the following e-mail messages to firstname.lastname@example.org: GET WIGGINS1 PRV4N2 F=MAIL and GET WIGGINS2 PRV4N2 F=MAIL. My thanks go to editor Charles Bailey for his careful review of that document.
The cover of the book is a frame from a visualization depicting traffic on the NSFnet (an important part of the Internet in the United States). The visualization was created by Donna Cox and Robert Patterson of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and is used with permission.
There are many people I should thank for their encouragement, advice, and reviewing of draft material -- so many that I fear I may omit someone. I apologize if this is the case. First, my deepest appreciation goes to Jay Ranade for endorsing the project, and to Jerry Papke and the staff at McGraw-Hill. Don't let anyone tell you about the ruthless New York publishing industry; Jerry and his staff have been models of civility in working with a first-time author who was hopelessly naive as to the complexity of the job he was undertaking. Thanks, too, to the staff of North Market Street Graphics for coping with editing questions and the inevitable format issues.
Thanks go to another McGraw-Hill author, Sidnie Feit, for her technical review. Other reviewers of portions of the text include Jeff Mackie-Mason, Jeremy Kargon, Hannah Kaufman, Nat Torkington, and Doug Nelson. Charles Henrich, while sometimes brutally candid, was an especially helpful reviewer.
The fine folks at CICNet -- John Hankins, Paul Holbrook, Kim Shaffer and others have been helpful on this and other projects, as have Jeff Ogden, Jo Ann Ward, and Pat Smith and others of Merit Inc. Thanks to an important Internaut, Ed Vielmetti, for sharing some of his wisdom with me, and to the other information providers who consented to being profiled. And thanks to Dru Burton and Dave Rodgers for teaching me a bit about SGML, and to Gary Cosimini and John Cook for introducing me to Adobe Acrobat.
Thanks to Gabe Goldberg and Donna Walker for their encouragement and for suggesting the title; special thanks to Hal Varian for giving an economists' counsel to a new author. And I was lucky to receive encouragement from my family -- my father and brother, and various aunts, uncles, and cousins who knew about the project. My brother has tried every online information service and helped me figure out their Internet e-mail mechanisms. Thanks, too, go to my revered friends at the Peanut Barrel. And Chuck Severance -- yes, it's finally in print, and your picture's in it.
I would like to thank my management -- my boss, Dr. Robert Wittick, my director, Dr. Lewis Greenberg, and our vice-provost, Dr. Paul Hunt for entrusting me with responsibility for coordinating MSU's effort in deploying a campus-wide information system. That assignment, made in early 1992, afforded me the opportunity to observe and participate in the new world of Internet information delivery. I have been privileged to have met some of the leading technologists in this realm -- the Minnesota Gopher team, Tim Berners-Lee, Alan Emtage and Peter Deutsch, and others -- and through the magic of the net I've met many other toolsmiths and information providers. This has been the opportunity of a lifetime, and the ride is just beginning.
Finally, I would especially like to thank one very special person, Judy Matthews, for she not only contributed her own words in the form of one chapter of this book, she also is my sweetheart. Judy has been confident in the success of this effort from its inception, and her support has been unflagging despite many long nights of research and writing. Not only did Judy offer essential moral support, she also helped out with research, helping me locate many useful articles and online resources. Every author should be so lucky.
Whatever form your use of the Internet takes, I hope this book is helpful. Perhaps I'll see you on the net.