Internet: The Best of 1996
The World of the Internet in 1996
by Joey G. Alarilla
Metropolitan Computer Time, December 9, 1996
Fittingly enough, 1996, declared by President Fidel V. Ramos as Philippine Information Technology (IT) Year, witnessed the explosive growth of IT in the country. While it may still an exaggeration to say that the Internet is the first thing that comes to mind when one mentions IT, it cannot be denied that the immense popularity of the Internet has caused people previously uninterested in computers to consider hooking up with an Internet service provider (ISP) to experience firsthand the much hyped-about joys of surfing in cyberspace.
Internet & the Intranet
Even as ISPs sprouted like mushrooms in 1996, cyber cafes became a part of the local scene. To those who were just beginning to appreciate the Internet and learning by heart such acronyms as TCP/IP (transfer control protocol/Internet protocol), http (hypertext transfer protocol) and HTML (hypertext mark-up language) and Internet-related terms like e-mail (electronic mail) and browsers, yet another arcane term would arrive on the scene --- intranet.
Definitely no typo, the intranet is the use of Internet technologies for a corporate network, and has been shown to be the main driving force behind corporate adoption of the new technologies.
And as arcane terms go, perhaps no other word was as widely mouthed by the Internet community in 1996 than Java, the name of the "write once, run anywhere" object-oriented programming language developed by Sun Microsystems, Inc., which coined the much-quoted manifesto, "The network is the computer."
The new network-centric model of computing being bannered by such industry players as Sun, IBM, and Oracle is best personified by the much-hyped network computer (NC) or thin client, a device that can download Java applets browsers and / or various computer programs from a server or the Internet, removing the need to constantly upgrade and spend on the maintenance of the client.
With the holding of Internet World Philippines 1996 (IWP'96) in September, the Internet craze reached a fever pitch in the country, as thousands trooped to the Shangri-la EDSA Plaza Hotel to attend the four-day conference and exhibit, making IWP '96 one of the most successful IT events in the country, and emphatically showing the growing popularity of the Internet in these shores.
The impact of the Internet on the Philippine IT industry is perhaps best underscored by the proliferation of ISPs in 1996. While at the start of the year an estimated 23 ISPs were operating in the country, this figure has since ballooned to over 80 as 1996 draws to a close.
Based on data gathered by Metropolitan Computer Times (MCT), however, only a few of these ISPs have direct links to the world's core Internet providers in the United States, Europe, or Singapore, with over 70% being value-added resellers (VARs) that, in most cases, share existing international connections with more than two ISP VARs.
The September issues of MCT tackling the Internet somehow point to Infocom Technologies, Inc. (Infocom) and Mosaic Communications (MosCom) as the country's "biggest ISPs" in terms of number of branches/ resellers and subscribers.
1996 also saw the establishment in April of the first and only organized group of local ISPs, the Philippine Internet Service Organization (PISO). PISO President Alberto Velasco, who is also chief executive officer of Mail Station and Mail Station Net, stressed that the group's membership drive is geared not only to ISPs, but also schools, and that PISO's ultimate goal is to provide affordable and accessible Internet usage to majority of the country's residents.
On August 20, 1996, President Fidel V. Ramos inducted the officers and trustees of PISO at the Malacanang Heroes Hall. Inducted as PISO officers were Albert Velasco (CEO of MailStation Net and MailStation), president; Norbert Chincuangco (Distributed Processing Systems, Inc.), vice president; Carol Laurente (RPNet), treasurer; Ali Reyes (WorldTel) and JR Contreras (IPhil), secretaries; and Julie Figueroa (Infocom / Sequel. Net), auditor.
The competition heats up
With the crowding of the market, ISPs had to take steps to maintain a competitive advantage.
Mosaic Communications (MosCom), the Philippines' first commercial ISP, announced its second major bandwidth expansion for the year in August, upgrading from 256K to 512K for its link to MCI in the US, in addition to a second link to SprintLink of 256K. For its domestic backbone, MosCom installed a 256K link in Cebu in addition to its existing 128K connection and a dual 64K link to Davao City. Both connections will be upgraded to 512K by early next year, according to its founder Willy Gan.
While MosCom already runs a domestic frame relay network across its major points of presence, in October it tested its ATM wide area network in Metro Manila using E1 links.
MosCom also scored a "first" by offering roaming service to California for MosCom subscribers.
Portal's E-mail to pager service
In August, Portal Inc. announced the launching of the first e-mail to pager service in the Philippines in tandem with Pitel's Beeper 150. This newest Internet-based service enables Portal subscribers to use their Beeper 150 pagers to access a summary of their e-mail messages.
Mail Station Net's unique approach
Mail Station Net, which claims to be the first ISP "to offer walk-in access to the Internet" through outlets in shopping malls and in the vicinity of schools, announced in September plans to set up regional outlets to implement its goal of bringing the Internet to the countryside.
Mail Station Net, a sister company of the more prominent postal service and data communications Mail Station, reportedly has an office in San Francisco that was established to promote and facilitate communication between overseas Filipinos and their relatives in the provinces.
WorldTel's focus on Internet solutions
In a move to become more competitive in an industry where 90% of ISPs are basically Internet access providers, WorldTel Philippines shifted its focus to Internet business strategies for corporate clients. Starting September 1, WorldTel Philippines stopped selling merely Internet access and turned to providing total Internet solutions to corporations, ranging from Web page presence to intranet consultancy and implementation.
WorldTel also signed up with local Netscape distributor Client Server Technologies, Inc. to become an Authorized Netscape Internet Service Provider, offering licensed Netscape browsers to corporations instead of shareware or downloaded versions.
Though WorldTel Philippines is no longer selling Internet access, this is being offered for free with the contracted services of WorldTel Philippines.
G-Net and EDINet's partnership
At the launching of Internet Explorer 3.0 on September 17 at the Filipinas Heritage Library's Bibliotech Internet Cafe, G-Net announced that its Max Pack, designed to allow easy Internet access for novices via the ISP's gateway, will bundle Internet Explorer 3.0 with five free surfing hours for G-Net subscribers.
G-Net is the full Internet access provider of Globe Telecommunications and EDINet Philippines, Inc., a pioneering company in electronic data interchange.
Internet content provision & Cybernet
Cybernet Information Service, Inc., one of the local ISPs with a direct link to the US, positioned itself as "The Content Company" with the launching in late October of Powerhouse.Net, a content-comprehensive Web site housing all Cybernet-hosted home pages of around 35 publications in the country. The content in Powerhouse.Net was developed by Sushi Graphics, the Web development team of Webmedia which is Cybernet's Internet Content Development Business Unit. Cybernet also acquired the Informix-Illustra object relational database management system (ORDBMS) that allows expanded and high-powered information accessing capabilities. This reportedly made Cybernet the world's first ISP to employ ORDBMS, according to Informix Philippines Country Manager David R. de Leon.
Internet job hunting site approach
Another company that focused on Internet content creation was Web Philippines, Inc. Founded on the vision of "Web Para Sa Pilipino, Pilipino Para Sa Mundo" ("Web for Filipinos, Filipinos for the Worlds'), Web Philippines Inc. provides Internet business solutions for the local community, offering the trabaho.com online job-hunting site, a spin-off from the WPI home page at http://www.webphilippines.com.
Infocom/PLDT tie up
The year's biggest partnership involving a local ISP was formalized at one of the biggest IT events of 1996 --- Internet World Philippines 1996 (IWP '96), held September 23-26 at the Shangri-la EDSA Plaza Hotel. Infocom Technologies Inc., reportedly one of the country's dominant ISPs, was re-launched on September 24 at IWP '96, formalizing the ISP's partnership with telecommunications giant Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT).
PLDT had acquired 51% of Infocom shares from Sequel Concepts, Inc. (SCI), which operates Infocom's Sequel.Net Internet service, in a move that will reportedly further nationwide access to the Internet, especially in the provinces. PLDT First Vice President for International Services Renato Gendrano was named Infocom's president and chief executive officer, while Julie Figueroa, SCI comptroller and former Infocom managing director, took office as executive vice president and chief operating officer.
With 200 new digital lines for faster link-up, Infocom launched several new services, most significantly a standard roaming feature that will enable Infocom subscribers to access their Internet accounts through PLDT's 1-800 and 1-900 numbers from any point in the country --- the first Internet service of this kind offered in the Philippines.
Infocom will benefit from an expanded domestic backbone and access to the global Internet via PLDT's international fiber optic submarine system called GAIN, or Global Access Intelligent Network. The two partners stressed their commitment to speeding up access to the Internet throughout the Philippines, attempting to allay fears that the union between the two industry giants will drive away smaller ISPs by emphasizing that other ISPs will benefit from the expended network.
Gendrano also touched on the subject of telephone metering and its impact on Internet use. Explaining that metering, which PLDT will implement in 1997, is based not only on heavy use but also distance, Gendrano disclosed that routers will be deployed nearer to subscribers, to lessen the impact on dial-up subscribers.
In a latter interview with Figueroa in late November, MCT learned that Infocom now has 310 PLDT lines, dispelling rumors that "their lines are clogged."
By next year, Infocom would have in place two E1 lines to the US since the company is setting up by year-end an E1 line to the US West Coast (California). Infocom started with 2008 Mbps line to the US East Coast (New Jersey).
Internet World Philippines 1996
In spite of FVR's no-show, Internet World Philippines '96 held at the Shangri-La EDSA Plaza Hotel from September 23-26 will go down as one of the most well-attended IT events in the country to date. Drawing at least 43 company exhibitors showcasing products and solutions for the Internet, IWP '96 was keynoted by Orlando Mercado, then chairman of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology. Java Evangelist Miko Matsumura opened the conference by stressing that the advent of the Internet has transformed the IT industry into a new playing field.
At the opening ceremonies, Representative Leandro Verceles Jr. of Catanduanes reiterated the need for the interconnection of all local ISPs to form a hub or central exchange. Recognizing the intense competition among the ISP players, Verceles stated that this will test the creativity of Filipinos to innovate products and services.
In his keynote speech, Sen. Mercado also pointed out that the advent of the Internet in the country could not have come at a better time, as it gives Filipinos the tool to jump-start and be competitive in the 21st century, and for once not be overtaken by ASEAN neighbors. IWP '96, which reportedly drew 60,000 attendees, was organized by Mecklermedia, and Sequel Concepts, Inc. / Aspanet Resources, and managed by Professional Synergy Systems Inc.
The Battle of the Browsers
One of the most well-attended events of IWP '96 was the "Browser Brawl" pitting browser market leader Netscape Navigator against brash upstart Microsoft Internet Explorer on September 25. The brawl, however, failed to materialize, as Netscape Communications Company failed to send direct representatives from its company. Earlier that day, word was already out that the brawl would not push through, with rumors circulating that Netscape was unable to send a speaker, or worse, that Netscape was backing out. Brian Shafer, Microsoft's international marketing manager for Internet products, USA, delivered his presentation with most slides directly attacking Netscape. It was left to Paul Ambas, managing director of Netscape's Philippine distributor Client Server Technologies, Inc. (CSTI) to present and defend Netscape's Internet / intranet strategy.
At a press conference held days after the aborted brawl, Netscape Regional Manager for Asean / South Asia Casey Ong explained that Netscape tried its best to send a representative to the brawl but was unable to do this due to lack of available people. He also stressed that while the browser is the most visible aspect of the Internet, the server of back-end is "the more critical operation," and that Netscape is concentrating on developing these products.
The "Browser Brawl" that was supposed to take place at IWP '96 reflected the competition between Netscape and Microsoft to establish a leading position in the Internet market --- a rivalry most graphically illustrated by Microsoft's positioning of Internet Explorer against Netscape Navigator.
In June, Netscape had appointed CSTI as authorized reseller in the Philippines, though it had yet to open a Philippine office unlike rival Microsoft, which is already represented in the country by Microsoft Philippines under Country Manager Michael Hard. Microsoft Corporation launched Internet Explorer 3.0 in the Philippines on September 17 at the Bibliotech Internet Cafe of the Filipinas Heritage Library in Makati City. The newest version of Internet Explorer was aimed at providing users better Internet surfing capability than Netscape Navigator, and is available for downloading at no cost from the Microsoft World Wide Web site. Filipinas Heritage Library Director Lyn Almario informed the attendees that the Bibliotech cafe will be using Internet Explorer 3.0 for walk-in Internet users, while Ricardo Duja, general manager of leading ISP G-Net, stated that his company will make Internet Explorer 3.0 available to its subscribers for free.
Meanwhile, at a press conference held by Netscape and CSTI in November, Netscape officials stated that the roll-out of Netscape SuiteSpot 3.0 and Netscape Communicator in first quarter 1997 will enable the vendor to compete head-on with Lotus development Corporation and Microsoft. Announced October 15 in New York, SuiteSpot 3.0 is designed to address the needs of groupware on intranets while Netscape Communicator will support open e-mail on the Internet and intranets.
Java the network computer, and Sun
The story of the advent of the Internet and the intranet in the country in 1996 would not be complete without Java and the much hyped-about network computer (NC), also known as network appliance or thin client.
The Java heat reached the Philippines as early as February with the holding of "GetJAVAtised Day" held on February 16 at the Shangri-La Manila Rizal Ballroom by Sun Microsystems Philippine business partner Philippine Systems Products, Inc. (PSPI). Sun and PSPI also kicked off the Sun Internet Associate Program (IAP) in the Philippines in the August, encouraging local systems integrators, value-added resellers, independent software vendors, IT consultants, Web page designers, ISPs, trainers, content providers, and Net users to participate in the program. Local IT companies that signed up for the program included AMANET, Alcatel, BusinessWorld Online, Computer Informations Systems, Client Server Technologies, Inc., First Philippine Software, Informix, Nubook, Mosaic Communications, Prime World, Planet Internet, Oracle, Sybase, and Sky Internet.
More than 900 reportedly attended the "Enterprise Java Solutions Summit: Internet / Intranet Advantages for Business" held by Sun Microsystems and PSPI at the Hotel Inter-Continental Manila Grand Ballroom on August 27. Sun announced the upcoming release of several new products, including the Java desktop and the Java chip, while emphasizing the Java paradigm of the zero administration client, also known as the thin client or network computer. Sun reiterated that dependence on "fat clients" or desktop computers with a lot of memory is proving to be highly unproductive and costly, citing a Gartner Group showing that the average annual cost of ownership for a PC is US$11,000 because increasing desktop complexity demands more support costs.
The Java Enterprise Solutions conference on November 11 saw the launching of Sun's long awaited JavaStation NC or thin client, a "zero-administration" device that is part of a networking strategy aimed at reducing the cost of ownership for computers in the corporate environment, as well as the introduction of the Netra j servers --- the first servers specifically designed to develop, deploy and manage the full range of Java applications. JavaStation is the first NC running pure Java as opposed to Java-enabled devices such as the NCs of IBM and Oracle.