This Is Not That -- Some Apophatic Internet Definitions

A supplement to the moral of the tale recounted in The Nadine Story

The World Wide Web is not...

The Web is not television

As with streaming media (see below) the cost structure is quite different.  More important however is the fact that establishing a web site is within the financial reach of anyone who can obtain a connection to the Internet.  Although I am a licensed broadcast engineer, I could never have afforded the cost of establishing a broadcast station that would reach as many people as this web site has done.

The Web is not print publishing

Again, the economic relationships differ enormously from print publishing.  Unlike a print publication, a web page may be read by millions and then vanish overnight without leaving a trace, having cost the "publisher" little or nothing.

The Web is not a reference library

Many years ago some wise person replied to a comment that compared the Web to a library without a card catalog, by saying that a more accurate assessment would be that the Web is a library without shelves.   Harry Evry, in an article in the Los Angeles Direct Marketing Association's online publication went a step further:

It is a sea of pages, full of written words and pretty images, that are scattered around the world, like a library without shelves, or aisles, or even book covers. It is full of waving banners and flashing signs everywhere the eye can see, competing for attention, and drawing unsuspecting viewers to its many hidden treasures and through even more unwanted scavenger hunts.

Many treasures there are indeed, but they frequently are mutable, evanescent and unauthenticated.

Electronic Mail is not Postal Mail

Email resembles postal mail in that messages travel from place to place.  That is where the resemblance ends:  every other detail, whether technical, economic or social, is radically different.  For example:

Streaming Media ("Webcasting") is Not Radio or Television Broadcasting

"Webcasting", the transmission of sound and images over the Internet to a user's desktop is only superficially like conventional over-the-air broadcasting.  In conventional broadcasting, if the recipient is in the proper geographic area (within range of the transmitter, or within the satellite's footprint) then the broadcast is available. The quality of the received broadcast and the cost to the broadcaster are identical whether nobody is listening or ten million receivers are tuned to the broadcast.

With streaming media, on the other hand, the recipient can be anywhere, as long as there is a connection to the Internet with an adequate bit rate in the path between the sender and the receiver.  However, the cost to the sender goes up as the number of receivers goes up -- the more people "tune in" to a streaming media source, the more bandwidth is consumed both at the sender's site and throughout the general network.

With over-the-air broadcasting, whatever the sender is sending is the program, and that's all that can be received.  Streaming media can allow the individual viewer the chance to see archived programs, an impossibility with conventional broadcasting.

This is not Kansas, Toto.

Unlike the case with conventional print or broadcasting media, on the Internet every member of your "target" market potentially owns his or her own printing press and broadcasting station.  These "targets" can and will shoot back.

One of the most interesting, challenging and potentially useful aspects of the Internet is that your customers can find each other, compare notes, discuss your performance as a vendor, and take action as a group in ways completely unprecedented in the real world.  In the past decade a number of large corporations have been forced to acknowledge product defects and to institute remedies which would not have evoked any public notice before the Internet created the possibility of a "critical mass" of dissatisfied customers assembling themselves apparently spontaneously.

Back to The Nadine Story.