Network Applications and End Users

- A Focus Group for Impact 96, aka BA296-7


Group Meeting Summary, 10/9/96

  • coordinate the best time to view "The Net"
  • exchange ideas and research about each other's areas of interest.
Today, we further examined each other's related issues concerning electronic commerce.

Descussion detail

We discussed the implications of offering insurance services over the internet (ie, the regulations involved). Currently, insurance services on the internet are all of informational. Actual insurance policy transaction only happen in Utah, and the business volume in that category is very slim. However, all major insurance providers have their web sites setup. Quite a few of service provider offer insurance quotes across hundreds of insurance companies. Direct sale of insurance policy may be happening in the near future, dependent upon regulation approval.

Minitel is currently the biggest electronic information provider in France. Associated with minitel are quite a bit of disadvantage: high price of communication, few service providers (20,000), limited information base (only the ones with minitel can view or post information). However, minitel does have some potentials: well established network, fully operating commercial rings, gained critical mass (6.5 million terminals). Internet in Europe may replace minitel, however, minitel can convert itself into an internet access provider and shift all its customers onto its internet server. If this situation does happen,minitel might give internet in Europe a big boost into commercial world.

We also discussed the implications of electronic commerce for inter-firm relationships,and how it can serve as an efficient platform for transactions at the business-to-business level.

Meeting 10/22: Brief recap

Cynthia, Suzanne, Ziun, Alissa

  • discussion regarding the format of our specific part of the Focus group web page, and its relation to the overall Internet Commerce web page.
  • we all need access to the web page, so we can all contribute directly and rotate weekly updates
  • this week's subject: different business models we have seen on the web (Cynthia's area of focus). Everyone contributed several sites, from retail and interactive seminars to real estate and electronic trading. Discussion included pre-internet status of these businesses, whether or not they could exist outside the Internet, and specific advantages the Internet brings to each of the businesses and revenue models .
  • Alissa has changed the focus of her area to the specific issues surrounding electronic securities trading on the Internet.

Business Models of Commerce on the Internet

With the start-up of so many new businesses specific to the Internet, and the number of existing firms jumping onto the Web, an examination is due of the differing business models being applied. There seems to be plenty of hype regarding the potential profits of doing business on the Web, but in actuality, few companies have seen break-even, much less positive earnings. Several pertinent questions arise: which revenue models are actually producing results (profits, brand awarenss, etc.)? What are some assumptions behind each model, and how are these likely to change as the Internet matures? What are the competitive advantages that firms might need to successful internet strategies? What types of business activitities will customers be willing to pay for once the novelty wears off, either over the Internet or though increased product pricing?

We will focus our investigation on two types of businesses:

  • Firms that did not or could not exist prior to widespread use of the Internet (let's call these New.Com)
  • Firms that eixst elsewhere in space and time but are adapting to or making use of the Internet (call these Adapt.Com)


Certain business ideas are specific to the Web in that they exploit the new ways that people can interact and access information. Despite the entrepreneurial ideas, however, revenue models have emerged that seem to mimic their non-net counterparts rather closely.


examples: Amazon, Merchant Winery

Advertising Revenues but Free to Customers

examples: BigBook, Rent.Net

Subscription Fees

examples: AOL


Many traditional business also attracted to the Internet. Some see competitive advantage in reaching more customers and selling product through a new distribution channel, and others see the Web as just an "electronic billboard".

New Distribution Channels

examples:, pctrade


examples: Levis,

Group Meeting 10/31/96:

Internet used in Europe:
  1. Spain
    • Spainish government is pushing forward for broad internet usage in its domestic market. By pooling the telecommunication vendors financial support, the government is encouraging citizens to purchase subsidized low price computers to access the internet.
    • Our group conclusion: Although the Spainish internet market are virtually non-exist, and almost no contents providers. With the government so forcefully pushing forward on internet, it could achieve the success result like the minitel in France.
  2. Swedish and French internet market
    • Current internet users in Sweden: 150K
    • Current internet users in France: 400K
    • Our group conclusion: Given the vast amount of population in these two countries, internet users represent less than 3% of the total population. Which may be difficult to induce immediate massive internet commerce. However, given the success example of internet commerce in the United States, it may very likely that financial service and information providers be conducting service over the internet in the near future. With the globalization of the internet, Susanne suggested that the demand for translation of web pages will increase rapidly.
Changes to cultural institutions,

We discussed the pros and cons of the possibilities offered by the Internet and multimedia to view images and pictures from museums.

  • Pros:
    • improving access of people to pictures/paintings which are in museums far away or abroad (where it may be costly to go)
    • convenience (no opening hours, no need to move, no hassle, better visibility as noone will be blocking your view, no getting tired) - possibility to look at details, magnify the image/painting
    • availability of information related to the painting/painter readily available and possibility to widen this research through hyperlinks to other URLs) and possibility to compare different pictures/paintings with each other which is not possible in real life, thus increasing the education content
    • possibility to see pieces of art which are not currently shown in museums which have limited space
    • Multimedia and networks, by facilitating access to art may entice some people to go to the museum and see the real thing. They may be used as a form of advertising for museums. They may also be used to increase learning. In particular they allow to tailor the information - for example the user could specify that he is particularly interested in getting information on symbolism in the different paintings viewed, or he could specify that he only wants to see 18th century paintings from a special painting school.
    • We discussed what we meant by experiencing the real thing, in a museum in terms of atmosphere, real size of the picture/painting or of monuments, colour, depth of the painting (a painting on the Internet has no depth), the age, the smell, the context (in a museum one is surrounded by paintings, a feeling not felt when watching a screen), the silence of the museum.
    • We disagreed as to whether this experience was a lonely experience or a shared experience.
    • We also discussed the possibility for museums to become increasingly art libraries where people can do research, view CD-roms from other museums for example or look at databases. This would require that museums collaborate together to set up these study tools.
  • Cons:
    • bandwith capacity limits the experience. It takes time to download the images. CD-roms are a better solution.
    • the quality does not enable to live the same cultural and artistic experience as the real thing. The typical museum atmosphere is lacking, you may not share your experience with a companion
    • this is another reason for people to stay at home and not meet anyone
    • the people who have never seen the real thing may not be encouraged to go and see it as the substitute may not attract them or may be sufficient for their needs. Having never experienced the real thing, they may not know the difference and risk confusing the two.
    • multimedia and networks may have a negative effect on museums' funding, as governments fund museums which attract visitors (to promote culture) but also hope to see these visitors spend money in the country (indirect economic benefit). As funding often depends on the number of visitors, this system will need to be changed to include visitors of museums on the Internet (this will bring the issue of what will constitute a visit as a visitor may only look at one picture).
    • We discussed the analogy with watching sports matches on TV instead of going to the stadium. These are two very distinct experiences, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive as people continue to go to the stadium and see the real thing. On TV you see better and get more information, commentaries whereas at the game you draw your own conclusions and share an experience with people around you (although one can share the TV experience with others).
    • We also discussed whether multimedia and networks really improve the access of people to art as the Internet is still not widely available throughout the world, in particular outside the US. So access to computers and the Internet in public places suchas libraries could improve access to 'museum'-related sites. Another item we discussed was the need for the education system to bring students to museums so that they can experience the real thing and not risk being satisfied with the Internet experience.
    • We also disagreed on the type on whether the people going to the museum and looking at museum pictures on the Internet were the same people or not.
  • Another lesson we drew from the discussion was that museums should learn from multimedia and network experience and try to be more user-friendly, provide more education (more information) and entertainment (in particular trying to appeal to smaller children in order to slowly educate them and help them enjoy art).

Group Meeting Summary, 11/13/96


  • English and American culture in multimedia and networks
  • The predominance of English and American culture in multimedia and networks is a particular concern for many countries, the French being the most vehement of all.

    As regards the language, not only are most technical expressions related to multimedia in English (as most of the technologies originated in North America), but also most of the content. Some estimates that more than 80% of the web sites on the Internet are in English, which doesnIt leave much to the other languages of the world.

    France, which has long viewed itself as a linguistic power, leads a loose alliance of French-speaking countries, known as "la Francophonie", which it uses as a weapon in the battle against perceived Anglo-Saxon encroachment. The first modern language regulation aimed at monitoring and transforming the use of French dates back from 1966 and emanated from President Charles de Gaulle, a name associated with French independence, nationalism and power. Several other regulations followed and committees were set in place to examine issues relating to the use, practice, promotion, enrichment, and dissemination of French in France and abroad. The first Parliamentary regulation dates back to 1975 and took the form of a consumer protection law; it provided for an exception to the "use French" rule when the word for a product had no French equivalent. The 1994 Loi Toubon replaced the 1975 regulation, with a much clearer cultural objective. French is required for all radio and television shows and advertising; exceptions include musical works, original version films, and language learning programs. Private individuals or entities engaged in "public sector" activities (a term not defined in the law) must comply with the language regulation. However, the extension of the law into the sensitive area of privacy rights was successfully challenged under constitutional law by opponents to the bill as an excessive constraint on the freedom of expression.

    The French were also instrumental in the drafting and adoption of the European Community Directive requiring that its member countries dedicate at least one-half of their television air time to European -made programs. The Directive was the European answer to the fear that Europe's cultural autonomy, and thus its cultural creativity were being seriously undermined by the tentacular American intrusion. Europe, which takes pride in its multi-secular capital of culture, took this step to try to prevent the United States from commodifying culture.

    However although one can see efforts by the French to help their cinema survive, initiative is still lacking as regards more modern technologies, in particular the Internet. More sites on the Internet seem to have been created by the French-speaking Canadians than by the French proportionally. This issue is related to the underdevelopment of the use of the Internet in France.

  • Topics of insurance internet commerce:
  • 1. insurance internet servers' exposure on the web: Very few people actually visited the insurance companies' web sites. Only a little more people have visited the agencies' web sites to get insurance quotes. However, people have in some way heard about some web sites provide insurance quotes and information.

    2. consumer behavior in purchasing insurance: People still will buy insurance through their old agents, but at the same time getting insurance quotes from the net or call around to find better quotes. If cheaper quotes surface, then switching insurance companies is likely.

    3. privacy issues: In general people feel uncomfortable giving out personal information. People are even offended when they know their credit information has been acquired by the insurance company. Only driving history and automobile information that people feel are necessary for the insurance company to have.

    4. fairness issues: When people find out that they are being declined of insurance coverage due to a model output, their immediate feelings are unfair, upset, discrimination. Some would have the patient to find out more about the reasons why they are declined and if reasons are legitimate, then they would accept. Some people would just complain to the management of the company.

    5. consumer expectation of insurance internet commerce: People expect buying insurance from the net is instantly. Waiting around for e-mail confirmation seems unacceptable. Instant approval or response are expected when people submit the application form.

    6. feasibility of insurance internet commerce: People are made of different interests. Some would feel uncomfortable and not trust worthy to buy insurance through the net, some would like to try out the new technology given that buying insurance through the web will be cheaper. However, people in general value the human touch that the insurance agent has. So, if not the agent, they would want to talk to some real human in the insurance company to go through the documents.

Group Meeting Summary, 11/20/96

Web Page:

  • must be finished by 12/5
  • do we all have access yet? if so, what is the URL?
  • consistency - we should all edit, reconfigure, make changes as we see fit! we all need access! content, graphics, etc. must be more consistent as well as navigation issues.
  • still need to link back and forth to the other I-Commerce group
  • missing meeting notes - get previous notes onto the page
  • Biz model section still under meeting notes from 10/22 (?) and should be moved

Alissa's subject focus:

still unclear. should join up with one of the areas we are currently pursuing.

Internet in France

As Suzanne delves further into the issues of the Internet in Europe, she is finding that most emphasis and media attention is focused more on the infrastructure and politics than the users and potential applications of the Web. We discussed the following points that will be addressed in both this section of the group web page and in Suzanne’s individual report.

  • Master Plan and committee approach to infrastructure issues typically implemented in Europe is leading to a slow, bureaucratic, and politically charged process, but very few actual users of the Internet
  • little media attention currently paid to the applications and uses of the internet.
  • primary media focus is on the potential for ABUSE such as child pornography, pedophile solicitations, etc. as well as privacy issues.
  • France’s Minitel system is slowly improving, but likely would die with mass adoption of the Internet. potential political implications?
  • Minitel currently has 70-80% market penetration. PC’s have less than 15% penetration. Will the introduction of Network Computers increase Internet use in France, or will customers need the added functionality of a regular PC to instigate use of the Internet?

Suzanne's project focus: Internet in France

For her project, Suzanne will focus specifically on the Internet in France. This market is particularly interesting for several reasons, including the following:

  • France currently has fairly restrictive legislation regarding the content and timing of television braodcasting. How will this carry over to the Internet? France Telecom has a 50% stake in Minitel. How much political influence do they weild and what are the implications?
  • French consumers have been traditionally wary of non-french language materials and products. how will the global scope and primarily english-language Web be accepted (or not)?

Cynthia's project focus: Web page for teen girls

Cynthia outlined her idea for a web page focused on teen girls and young women. realizing that the scope of the project will allow only for an outline and first pass at a business plan, she would like to go ahead with this project.

  • basic idea: be an information resource and chat group setting. target girls ages 12-15 who tend to have lots of questions (re: other teen, sex, their bodies, boys, girls, paretns, school-work, etc.). this could also be a great setting to “meet” kids from different areas of the world and address more broad issues relating to politics, different roles of women around the world, travel, education, lifestyles, etc.
  • traditionally computer-related prodcuts and software have been targetted at teen-age boys and young men. this is generally considered an enormous market. as such, there “should” be an equally huge market of teen-age girls available, assuming they are reachable. these lead to big questions going forward:
    • why are there fewer “techno-girls” than nerd boys?
    • is the above question true?
    • if true, at what age do boys and girls diverge in their use of and attraction to the Computer (young children use PC’s approxinmately the same way)?
  • revenue model of a girl-focused page looks good. look at traditional media such as all those dumb teen magazines to see how much advertisers value this market.

Group Meeting Summary: 12/2/96

During our group meeting, we discussed of the following topics:

Electronic Commerce Website: We carefully examined the current attributes of our website and agreed that it needs contextualizing. Our individual subjects researched need to be linked together. This will make our web page more comprehensive to the viewer.

Internet Infrastructure: We discussed the ramifications of internet usage in the international context. Specifically, we addressed the telecommunications infrastructure required for internet growth.

The infrastructure is improving dramatically among developing countries. There are extensive plans by both public and private entities to increase communications capabilities within South America and the Asian region. State of the art technology is being implemented in developing nations, leapfrogging that of the U.S. For example, telcos are currently installing fiber optic, coaxial cables, and increasing density of telephone lines.

Furthermore, the global trend of increasing deregulation of telcos facilitates a growth of international internet usage. This is due to an increase in competition among telcos, which result in more affordable communication services.

Regulations: Additionally we discussed regulation issues on an international level. We examined censorship on international internet usage.

For instance, France and China are both struggling with censoring information on the internet. The French government strongly desires to preserve French culture, banning broadcasting of American slang, etc. The internet is difficult to police and is filled with American culture. The regulation of this new medium will definitely pose a challenge for France's regulatory efforts.

In additiona to preserving culture, China's government is concerned with their citizens having access to foreign information and vice versa. Their strategy is to control access, by turning the internet into an "intranet" for China.

The question we ended with, food for thought: Should there be an entity that is separate from national governments which impose international regulations regarding cencorship on Internet Service Providers?

This page is created by Daniel Jiang.