It used to be unheard of for Microsoft and Netscape, or AT&T and MCI for that matter, to be on the same team. The growing use of the Internet and the potential for government regulation, however, is making for some strange bedfellows in the Internet world.
Companies that are still considered bitter rivals are banding together in groups to fight for common goals, such as job creation and training, interoperable standards and - of course - a hands-off approach from regulators.
One of the most impressive groups was formed last week at the mega-conference Internet World in New York. The organization is called the Global Internet Project and is composed of 16 top international players in the Internet and computer worlds. The consortium will be managed by the Washington-based Information Technology Association of America, a trade group with 9,000 members in the software, systems integration and communications industries.
The GIP was founded by James Clark, chairman of Netscape Communications Corp., Mountain View, Calif. The vice chairman of the new organization will be John Gerdelman, president of networkMCI Services, a division of MCI Communications Corp., Washington.
In a mission statement that can be found on the organization's home page (www.gip.org), it says, "The group believes that the Internet must be viewed as a global medium transcending geographical differences that is transforming not only how commerce is conducted, but education, health care and society in general."
The group plans to work to educate public policy-makers around the world about the Internet, hoping to prevent unfavorable laws and rules.
"Because the Internet is global, we must address its challenges globally," said Clark in announcing the organization. "We will work with appropriate national and international bodies to find answers to a variety of difficult issues to assure the best possible future for all members of the Internet community," he said.
Other members include Oracle Corp., Redwood Shores, Calif., AT&T in Basking Ridge, N.J., Cambridge, Mass.-based BBN Corp. and IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y. Each of the businesses involved has assigned a high-level executive, most often an executive vice president, to represent the company. It brings together archrivals in a common goal. "Although many of the GIP's member companies are fierce competitors in the marketplace, we recognize the need to work together to ensure these myriad regulations do not stifle the growth of this important new medium," said Gerdelman at the conference.
One of the first things the Global Internet Project has done is a study on job creation and the Internet. The GIP estimates that more than 1 million jobs worldwide were created by the Internet in 1996. The GIP hired a team of investment bankers to determine that number by looking at the year's growth in Internet, software, computer, chip and telecommunications companies' market capitalization and employment.
"The Internet is creating jobs while also improving productivity and lowering inflation, said Vint Cerf, senior vice president of MCI, in his endorsement of the Global Internet Project.
The GIP also released a white paper, "The Emergence of a Networked World," which is supposed to help educate people around the world about how the Internet affects us in everyday life.
At the conference, GIP members outlined two of the organization's goals for the coming year. The first is to influence national policy on information security and authentication. The group has already developed recommendations for the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, which is forming international guidelines on cryptography.
In 1997, the GIP plans to hold a one-day conference on information security in London that will address information security.
The second goal is to protect the Internet from "unnecessary" regulation. The GIP is promoting the model of the mostly unregulated computer industry rather than the heavily regulated telecom industry for the Internet market.
The group plans to bring its suggestions for hands-off regulation to the World Trade Organization, the G-7 and the International Telecommunications Union.
Certainly, the GIP is not the first Internet consortium, but it is so far the most global. Earlier this month, 31 companies, including Murray Hill, N.J.-based Lucent Technologies, Cisco Systems Inc., San Jose, Calif., Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash., and Netscape, banded together to form the IP Multicast Initiative. That group's main goal is to promote the use of the IP Multicast protocol to send data to multiple recipients over the Internet.
Using the IP Multicast technology is said to help conserve bandwidth on the Internet. Many people are now worried that overuse of the Internet will cause problems in the system, even an ultimate crash.
Each of these groups hopes to work so well and efficiently together to solve Internet dilemmas that the government will not have to step in.
Members of the Global Internet Project
- AT&T BBN Corp.
- British Telecommunications plc
- Deutsche Telekom
- Electronic Data Systems Corp.
- Fujitsu Ltd.
- IBM Corp.
- MCI Communications Corp.
- NEC Corp. Netscape Communications Corp.
- Novell Inc.
- Oracle Corp.
- The Santa Cruz Operation Inc.
- Spyglass Inc.
- Sun Microsystems Inc.
- Visa International
- Information Technology Association of America