Wide-Open Web? Think Again

Opinion: With the rise of private Internets, uniqueness may be back in.

Remember when you would pick an e-mail system based on its unique capabilities? Maybe youd pick cc:Mail or IBM PROFS or even Microsoft Mail for the ability to shuttle e-mail around your company with a reasonable assurance that the message would get to the intended recipient.

The rise of the Internet and the World Wide Web forever upended the dynamics of e-mail, making it as easy to send mail to Moscow as it is to send mail to a co-worker down the hall. Uniqueness was out, and the ability to play well with others became the deciding factor on corporate e-mail.

For the CIO, uniqueness may be back in. Ive been noticing lately all the plans to set up private Internets, private Webs and cost-based e-mail. This marks the third big change for the technology manager.

The first big change was the need to shift private corporate transactions among customers, suppliers and manufacturers to secure public networks. The second (and ongoing) change was the need to shift from transactions to conversations using e-mail, Web sites, blogs and community sites to engage customers and potential customers. The third change will be selecting the networks that best enhance both transaction and conversation.

Consider the following: One of the hottest rumors recently was Googles alleged plans to buy and build a private Internet that would rival the public Net. While rumors have a way of dissolving over time, Googles efforts to secure building leases and equipment RFPs indicate a stronger desire than simply eliminating peering costs for Internet access.

Googles plans appear to be traveling toward a head-on collision with the big telecommunications companies, which are arguing that companies such as Google are getting a free ride on the backs of the billions of dollars the telecom providers have been investing in Internet infrastructure.

By legislation or corporate competition, companies such as Verizon appear determined to end that ride. In the e-mail arena, both Yahoo and AOL recently endorsed a plan to use Goodmails services to charge mass e-mailers a fee for e-mail distribution. No matter how you add it up, the days of the wide-open Internet and applications such as e-mail and VOIP riding over that Net appear numbered.

/zimages/3/28571.gifGoodmail isnt the only good mail, and doesnt even really claim to be. But it is a good thing. Click here to read more.

When the Internet standard arose, you as a technology manager no longer had to evaluate which of the unique but incompatible e-mail systems was best for your company. You could make the choice on which system most closely adhered to the worldwide Internet network. Now the job gets tough again as you evaluate which private Net, VOIP or anti-spam e-mail provider best fits your corporate business strategy.

Will you go all Google at some point, not only for public and private search and e-mail but also for secure Internet access? Will your telecom contract with Verizon for mobile communications also include priority Internet routing? Will customer complaints about getting spammed and deep-sixing your corporate e-mail solicitations lead you to advocate becoming a Goodmail customer? These are all new technology alternatives that are either available now or will soon become corporate IT possibilities.

The rise of the private Nets and applications springs from very reasonable business strategies. If your company invests several millions or billions of dollars in a project, youd like to get some return on that investment. That makes sense, but it also involves putting some gates and fences around what were once wide-open grazing fields.

The Internet, by being accessible to all, rolled over all other competing proprietary technologies. The advent of Internet-based e-mail systems made it easy not only to send e-mail to Moscow but also to send millions of spam e-mails. The creation of those fenced-off fields marks a third stage of maturation in the Internet and also adds a new level of complexity for the technology manager trying to make the right choices to support a companys business strategy.

eWEEK editorial director Eric Lundquist can be reached at eric_lundquist@ziffdavis.com.

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