96 expo to show off Internet Fair's legacy could be parks in cyberspace
The Eiffel Tower was built for the 1889 world's fair in Paris. Chicago's Columbian Exposition in 1893 introduced George Ferris' amusement park wheel. And San Francisco's majestic Palace of Fine Arts dates to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915.
The legacy of the Internet 1996 World Exposition could be enduring, spacious and well-designed public parks at the center of cyberspace.
Organizers of the ambitious project, which will be formally launched at the end of this month, are planning a yearlong extravaganza of cultural, educational and gee-whiz multimedia attractions from around the world that they hope will draw millions of new visitors to the Internet.
To accommodate the expected crowds and minimize delays, they're engineering a huge increase in the Internet's global capacity -- creating something that will live on long after the yearlong fair is over. They plan to house interactive exhibits on huge data storehouses linked by a new high-speed ``Internet Railroad'' that can haul the data around the world at record speeds.
``We're going to try to create the global village for a year,'' said Carl Malamud, the peripatetic non-profit entrepreneur who came up with the idea for the world's fair and is now on a round-the-world tour to line up support.
As founder of the Internet Multicasting Society in Washington, Malamud has made a specialty of ``liberating'' government data bases to provide the public with what he calls the fuel of the information economy. By the time of the fair's ribbon-cutting next January, he plans to expand the offerings to include the government's complete patent and trademark records, as well as corporate financial reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Now, Malamud's role is to convince profit-conscious corporations that the provision of public facilities is essential to the economic health of any community, even a virtual one. There is no charge to exhibitors, but sponsors and organizers are paying up to $100,000 in cash or in-kind equipment donations, with the proceeds being used to cover expenses or help create the infrastructure to make the fair possible.
``We think the global village should have parks,'' Malamud said during a recent stop in San Jose before he flew off to Tokyo, Bangkok, London and Amsterdam. ``We think our city will be a more prosperous city that way. But parks don't just happen. People have to say, `We want to do it.' ''
Gore's support In the United States, Malamud has secured the support of Vice President Al Gore, who praised the fair as an ``innovative, grass-roots approach to demonstrating the power of the emerging global information infrastructure.''
In Dallas, the Infomart is creating a ``cyberspace planetarium'' -- a room full of public access terminals for visiting the fair. The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will put performances -- from Handel's Messiah to Billy Taylor's jazz -- on the Internet. Former Sen. Gaylord Nelson will lead ``town hall'' meetings on environmental issues. Rep. Ed Markey is organizing exhibitors in the Boston area.
``We're going to set up this showcase, and it's going to be this really neat place for these applications,'' said Eric Schmidt, chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems Inc. ``The thing the Net can do, which you just can't do with broadcast technology, is interactivity.''
In the Bay Area, former newspaper publisher Will Hearst is soliciting ideas for using the 100 gigabytes of disk storage space set aside for regional projects.
``I remember going to the World's Fair in New York and visiting pavilions of countries I had never heard of,'' said Hearst, now a partner in the Menlo Park venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. ``In this one, people in the Bay Area will look and see what people are putting on the Net in Nigeria and people in Oman will see what's happening in Sunnyvale.''
Heading the Japanese effort is Jun Murai, a professor at Keio University, who effectively runs the Japanese Internet through the WIDE project, a coalition of 70 major corporations. Among the exhibitors will be the environmentally conscious model city of Huis Ten Bosch near Nagasaki.
>From Thailand, Aw Taw Kah, the huge outdoor food market, will be on-line with exhibits of Thai cuisine hosted by Ung Ang Talay, restaurant critic of The Bangkok Post.
Huge storage space
To house the exhibits, Malamud has secured a terrabyte of computer disk storage space. Now he's working on the plan to circle the globe with high-speed T-3 telecommunication links to enable international communication to move as fast as domestic traffic.
Terms such as ``terrabyte'' and ``T-3'' are still unfamiliar to many, but so was the telephone when Alexander Graham Bell displayed it in 1876 at Philadelphia's Centennial Exposition.
A century from now, it is likely to be common knowledge that a terrabyte of data storage represents roughly the equivalent of a million computer floppy disks. That's a lot of disk space.
``This will be one of the largest collections of hard disk drives in the world,'' said Barbara Fagan-Smith of Quantum Corp. in Milpitas, which donated the drives valued at $500,000. ``This is saying, `Cyberspace is real now. It's not just a cliche. It exists.' ''
T-3 may be slow in future
And in time, a global T-3 line, which can move data at 45 million bits per second and make possible interactive voice and video, may be considered slow. Right now, many countries are linked to the Internet at a fraction of that speed.
Vinton Cerf, a fair organizer who wears two hats as president of the Internet Society and a senior vice president at MCI, said he is trying to persuade global telecommunications carriers to dedicate more capacity to the Internet.
``It's essential if we're going to have the global business network we talk about,'' he said.
Cerf said the resources being gathered for the fair would help complete the Internet's transformation from a storehouse for information into a truly interactive medium.
``I want to go from browsing to directly interacting with people,'' Cerf said. ``We know we can do that.''
IF YOU'RE INTERESTED
For more information about the Internet 1996 World Exposition, send e-mail to email@example.com. The Internet Multicasting Service can be found on the World Wide Web at http://town.hall.org . Mercury Center INSTRUCTIONS ON PAGE 2A --What do you think this venture will mean for the future of the Net? Voice your opinion. Use keyword: MC Talk, select Browse Boards, then Tech Talk, then Internet / Online Services folder. Or, choose Letters for Publication in the scrolling window. Published 3/14/95 in the San Jose Mercury News. This material is copyrighted and may not be republished without permission of the originating newspaper or wire service. NewsHound is a service of the San Jose Mercury News. For more information call 1-800-818-NEWS.