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Photo by John Bahr

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Strategic Plans and Reports

PANPLAN: A Strategic Vision for the City of Seattle Public Access Network

by Rona Zevin, PAN Director, July, 1996

Introduction/Background

This section will discuss the growth and evolution of the Internet as it relates to PAN. The key points to take away from this section are:

  • The growth of the Internet is explosive -- the hype is backed up by the numbers.
  • Seattle area citizens are and will continue to be ahead of the mainstream in their adoption and use of the Internet.
  • The nature of the Internet, and particularly the worldwide web, is evolving from a medium for static publishing of "electronic brochure" type information to a mechanism for transacting every type business with people and organizations all over the world.
  • PAN is a great first generation web site, but Seattle must invest more aggressively to deliver the kind of high-quality, transaction-capable system that it's citizens will expect.
  • A number of the terms contained in this section will probably be unfamiliar to many readers. As a result Appendix B is a glossary where definitions of terms can be found.

Internet Growth is explosive

"The appeal of universal connectivity and access to people and information is overwhelmingly compelling, and will continue to drive Internet growth in a rapid upward direction ..."

Gartner Group Briefing, April 1996

"The Worldwide Web is where the action is on the Internet. Yes, the Internet supports a variety of activities, such as electronic mail and bulletin boards, but none has grabbed the attention of the marketplace [sic in] so dramatically a fashion as the Web."

JP Morgan World Wide Web Report, May, 1995

It is almost axiomatic that the Internet is experiencing explosive growth. This section will examine several meaningful quantitative ways to characterize this growth:

  • Servers: the number of physical computers that are providing information to people via the Internet.
  • Traffic: the volume and mix of information that is being sent by these servers.
  • Users: the number of people and/or the number of computers connected to the Internet.

Servers/Hosts

The first important metric is the number of computers that are hosting Worldwide Web content for users of the Internet. Mark Gray at MIT produces an estimate of total Web servers on the Internet as a byproduct of his Webcrawler (a software program that hops from one Web server to another indexing their contents) which is constantly surveying the Web. The results below imply a nearly five fold increase in Internet servers between April of last year and this year.

Number of HTTP Servers - Graph Image

Source: Mark Gray, MIT

Traffic

Next lets look at how much usage these servers are getting. Appendix A contains a detailed analysis of Internet traffic in the period from December of 1992 to December of 1994. Traffic is broken out by type of activity. Every type of traffic has at least doubled in volume over the two year period. But Worldwide Web traffic has experienced an incredible growth rate of 56% per month over that two year period.

Number of Internet Users

Determining the actual number of Internet users is perhaps the trickiest task of all since users wander on and off the network and there is no real centralized tracking system for them. A starting point is available because every user that accesses the Internet must have a unique network address at the time they are on the network. This is called an IP(Internetworking protocol) address. A gentleman named Mark Lottor has written a program that surveys the entire Internet for every unique IP address and totals the count. The graph below shows his results over time and indicates a growth rate of around 85% per year since the beginning of the 1990's.

IP Addresses Register 1989 - 1995 - Graph Image

Source: Mark Lottor http://www.nw.com/zone/host-count-history

The problem is that IP addresses can be pooled and shared by a larger number of people than there are addresses. Online services like America Online and The Microsoft Network take this approach. So the actual number of users is far higher than the graph above would indicate. MIDS (Matrix Information and Directory Services) is a service of Texas Internet Consulting, one of the leading Internet demographers today. TIC has done numerous surveys of network administrators at Internet sites to develop adjustment factors for the firm data that we have discussed thus far. company that has spent some time trying to account for , the graph below depicts MIDS estimates of total Internet population.

MIDS Categories - Graph Image

Here is how MIDS defines each of these categories:

Core Internet: 16.9 million users of 7.7 million computers that can distribute information by interactive TCP/IP services such as WWW or FTP as of October 1995.

Consumer Internet: 26.4 million users of 10.1 million computers that can access information by interactive TCP/IP services such as WWW or FTP as of October 1995.

The Matrix: 39 million users of electronic mail as of October 1995.

MIDS estimates that the number of Consumer Internet users has been growing at 100% per year since 1988.

Using Personal Computer distribution as a proxy would indicate that at least one half of these users are located within the United States. Applying this to the figures above produces an estimate that about 5% of the US population was among the Core Internet users described above in October of last year. When email usage is considered the number jumps to about 7.5%.