The Present of the Information Highway

Commerical Online Services

American Online

CompuServe Information Service

Dow Jones News/Retrieval


Prodigy Interactive Personal Service


The world of on-line service is vast. And it can be very expensive as well. So, making smart connections, which is put yourself in control of the information you want, is key to survive in the information age.

There are five major commercial services. Each of them offers a unique blend of functionality and accessibility. They also carries its own pricing structure and choice in interface. They usually includes information such as
All of them also provide on-line encyclopedias which updated quarterly, so the information is very current. Beside information searching, these online services also provide communication media such as
To conclude, CompuServe Information Service, GEnie and Dow Jones News/Retrieval are better equipped for business users because they offer greatest range of facilities at a premium price. On the other hand, American Online and Prodigy are more suitable for home users because they are less expensive and easy to user, but they lack the depth of information. So to choose an online services for yourself, you must consider what your needs and preferences are.

Type of Applications

Dating Services

As computer science students, we spend most of our time with computers. This may limit our chance to know other people outside our field. If you are interested in meeting different kinds of people, then, you can use the dating services on the Internet.

Through the Internet, you can choose the kinds of friends that you want. For example, if you would like to know a girl - all you have to do is push the right buttons, and the internet may deliver for you! The Internet will search and find those people who match your basic choice. Some of the sites not only provide peresonal information, but also pictures as well. You can pick as many people as you want. Then, you can look through all of them and pick those that your are interested in. You can pick as many as you want!! If you are too shy to initiate the communication, you can list your peresonal inforamtion in the Web and wait for others to contact you.

Dating Sites

Translating Services

Once you have found the person of your dreams, you have to start the next step; send a mail. However, if you want to contact someone who does not understand English, then, what can you do? With the Internet, you don't have to worry about this problem. The translating services can help you to translate various languages, such as Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, or Spanish. For example, you want to know how to write "How are you" in Russian. What you need to do is to type in "How are you" in English and it will show you the Russian writing.

Translating Sites


Let say, after talking with each other for a while, you find that both of you have the same interests and you want to develop a closer relationship. What will you do then? The best way is to buy a present for him/her. However, if you are too busy or too lazy to go to shop in the mall, you can do your shopping through the Internet. You can access to the Internet mall. The Internet mall is just like the our daily shopping mall, such as Market Mall, except with a much wide variety of 'stores' all aroud the world. The home page of it is like a mall directory. It lists a variety of categories, such as "The Internet Mall" classify the categories and put them into different levels in the mall. Click the one you like and will bring you to an appropriate level. Then, you can shop around there, choose the present you like. Let say, in order to express your feelings to him/her, you decide to buy the traditional but the most powerful present, that is a bouquet. You can order different kinds of flowers and send to different places even across countries. Moreover, you can browse and view the item before you purchase it.

Shopping Site

Hunting Jobs

If you develop a mature relationship with him/her, you may get married, or develop a 'real-world' realtionship. After getting marry, your burden will become heavier. So, you may want to find a better job to support your new family, those kids get expensive. Again, the Internet can give you a hand. You can look for job by typing in your desired position and the Internet will search and list all the available jobs. If you want to increase your chance of getting a job, you can even post you resume so that some companies can browse through it. It is much convenient than sending letter to companies and it saves a lot of time too.

Educating Services

Suppose you are a lucky person and you get a new job. However, you are assigned to do something that you have never learned, say build a new WWW home page for the company using HTML. You can take advantage of the educatation services of the Internet by browsing to "A Beginner's Guide to HTML". In fact, there are a lot of information servers in the Internet for us to look up information, such as manuals or magazines

Utilizing Groupware

Groupware Reference

Finally, the Internet serves the groupware purpose, like the e-mail. You can now keep in frequent contact with your overseas friend by sending an e-mail. Nowadays, many companies advertised in the World Wide Web provided with their e-mail addresses to improve the communication with their customers. Groupware is an interesting topic, for more information you can check out the presentation prepared for this class about CSCW and Groupware.


Everyday, we handle our daily life business through the Internet. From dating friends to hunting jobs, which are used to take a long time. Now, it can handle by the Internet easily. We benefit a lot from it.


When there are advantages, there are also disadvantages. The disadvantages of the information highway will caused problems to some of the users. The problems are the:

The main technical problem is the current bandwidth. It is not enough to support video and real-traffic on the information highway. Although the current speed of transmitting text information is fast, a document with video, audio or images would greatly reduced the speed of transmitting information.

Another problem would be the electronic viruses on the information highway. Viruses on the information highway travels faster and reaches a wider target area. Viruses can erase hard disks, causes systems to crash, and intermittent file or data erasures.

Privacy and security is a major problem on the information highway. Right now, there are no security on the net. It is easy for any user to 'steal' messages by copying someone else's IP address. The lack of encryption increases the problem.

The last problem is the ease of use. The navigation aids, like mosaic, WAIS, netscape and veronica, are provided to help the users to retrieve information on the internet. But the navigation aids are not easy to use, it is also not easy to search for information. For example, the search word entered might not returned the right information or an empty list.

Although there are disadvantages, the information highway still provides a faster and efficient way of retrieving information.

Table of Contents
Updated April 10,1995