Home Assignment: Bring in a print out of your favourite web site

The world wide web has emerged as the 8th major mass medium.

The Internet is the wired infrastructure on which Web messages move.

One way to understand the Web is to look at how major components function.

The Internet’s growing reach makes it increasingly attractive for advertising.

Transistors, or silicon chips, and fiber optic cable are two technical innovations that allowed for the Web’s invention.

Nonlinear communication is the heart of the Web as mass medium.

Major news media are using hypertext to revolutionize how news is told.

Many mass media are converging into digitial forms.

The Web is inherently hard to regulate – as the CRTC is learning.


The communication revolution introduced by the World Wide Web in the mid 1990s requires a new model to understand new ways that the media are working.

The new model classifies some media as passive.

These are pull media, which include traditional media like radio and television over which you have control to pull in a message. You can turn them on or off. You can pick up a book or not, go to a movie or not.

Push media, on the other hand, propel messages at you whether invited or not. An example of push media is direct mail or telemarketing. On your computer, push media include in your face advertising like the banners across your screen that advertise products. These messages find you.

This is a radical departure from traditional pull media. Push media select to whom to send messages, sometimes are personalized by combining certain factors unique to you.

No model is perfect, which means push media and pull media are extremes that rarely exist in reality. Most media messages are push-pull hybrid. Most emerging new media have such hybrid capabilities.


The Web is not just singular on-screen pages. The genius of the Web is that the on-screen pages are linked to others.

First Canadian on-line newspaper was the Halifax Daily News.

Tim Berners-Lee quietly created the World Wide Web while working at this European particle physics lab.

24 Hours in Cyberspace chronicles the event

People no longer go linearly from Newscast 1 story to Newscast 2 story. By using all kinds of on-screen indexing and cross-referencing, they can switch instantly to what interests them. It is seamless.

Some 1998 facts:

37% of Canadians are Internet users

70% surf from home

14% from work

6% from school

51% are male

49% are female



About the nuts and bolts of the medium.


Web site: An institution’s or individual’s presence on the Web is called a site.

Browsing: The process of moving through web pages is called browsing or surfing.

Servers: The computers that connect Web sites are called servers.

Internet: Is a system that connects local networks of computers.

Cyber: The prefix cyber- is affixed to almost anything involving communication via computer.


Text and simple graphics take relatively little bandwidth, or spcae to transmit via cable or telephone lines. These pipes are still rather narrow and bottlenecks are created with very limited bandwidth. In time, as the Internet grows, continuing improvements and capacity will allow for more complex graphics and full motion video.

Will there be enough Internet space for real-time movies, television programs and radio is still yet to be determined.

Audio and video is presently limited to snippets of poor quality.

As delivery capacity increases with more super-fast, high-capacity lines, the Web will deliver more audio and moving-image products that require high-capacity transmission systems.

Rogers communications has lunched the WAVE which allows data to be transferred via coaxial cable at one hundred times faster than conventional telephone company modems.



While the Internet infrastructure is growing and improving, local cable television systems and telephone companies are in a frantic competition to upgrade their existing community wiring.

Some futurists see the Web eventually subsuming all seven traditional mass media – books, magazines, newspapers, recordings, movies, radio and television.


The Internet had it origins in a 1969 U.S. Defense Department computer network called ARPAnet, for Advanced Research Project Agency.

The U.S. Pentagon built the network for military contractors and university researchers doing military research to exchange information.

1983, the National Science Foundation took over part of the network giving researchers access to four costly supercomputers at Cornell, Illinois, Pittsburgh and San Diego.

Universities that joined in the NSF network already had intracampus computer networks.

As a backbone system that interconnects networks, Internet was the name that fit. Most institutions pay an average of 43,000 to hook in.

1992 High Performance Computing Act authorized $3 billion to develop and install computers at leading research centers so they can exchange information.



1990S The World Wide Web became operational

Mead Data Central, an Ohio company, offered Lexis, the first on-line full text data base in 1973. It offered state and federal statues, court decisions and other legal documents.

1978 launched Nexis. It was the first on-line database with national news organizations and Associated Press.

Lexis/Nexis comes nowhere near the glitz of America On-Line or MSNNBC.



Online services:

Although a late comer in the online business America Online or AOL had the largest subscriber base in 1998 at 11.6 million, after acquiring its main competitor CompServe.

The Microsoft Network has 2.6 million subscribers.

Bell Canada’s Sympatico has approximately 400,000 subscribers.

Commercial Sites:

Every major company has a Web site. Some companies use the web to sell products such as in Canada and some offer services such as or

Payment is by credit card.

Institutional sites:

Universities and professional associations maintain sites like and the trade journal Editor & Publisher covering the emerging online news industry

Or the weather edu/~own/EARTHCAST

Media sites:

Time and CNN and NBC


Barnes and Noble

International Business Machines


A 1995 survey showed that 37 million people in the U.S. and Canada under the age of 16 has access to the Internet. (13% of the population in North America with an average of annual household income exceeding $80,000).

Latest statistics: 30 million Canadians, 260 million Americans and 90 million Mexicans


No one has devised tools to measure traffic at a Web site in meaningful ways. Such data are needed to establish advertising rates that will give advertisers confidence that they’re spending their money wisely on Web advertising.

For traditional media, advertisers look to standard measures like cost per thousand (CPM) to calculate the cost effectiveness of ads in competing media.

The most cited measure of Web audiences is the hit. Every time someone browsing the Web clicks an on-screen icon, the computer server that offers the Web page records a hit. (Fixed such as Wired Magazine’s average 100 hits for every person logging in. Not a 600,000 count but 6,000 or the 200,000 hits a day for the Playboy site. Many of these people are the same people returning to the web site, and not a new audience).

Because of the variety of audience measurements, there is no standard advertising pricing.


Three researchers at AT7T’s Bell Labs developed the semiconductor switch in 1947.

The semiconductor led to data compression and digitization.

Digitization is an on-off technology, in which data are converted to on-off codes where data is reduced to a series of digits, 1 for on, 0 for off.

Compression is a technique devised to squeeze different calls onto the same line simultaneously.

With traditional telephone technology, dating to Alexander Graham Bell’s 1976 invention of the telephone, only one message could be carried at a time through one telephone line. In 1965, people marveled as 51 calls could be put through one copper wire at the same time with on-off digital switching.

Miniaturization is the use of transistors dramatically reduced the weight and size of broadcast equipment as well as the size of computers.

In the early 1940’s computers built on tube technology were so big it took several buildings to house them. IBM no expects to be producing GMR disks that can accommodate 2 billion characters on a thumbtack. That’s equivalent to 2,000 novels.

Fibre-optic cable, another invention by Corning Glass’ fibre-optic cable, makes it possible to transmit huge amounts of data. With fibre optics, the entire Oxford Dictionary can be sent in just seconds.


Until recently, we were all accustomed to mass messages flowing from start to finish in a linear sequence, much like the Information Theory Model. Newscasts start with the most important item, a novel builds climatically to the last chapter.

In 1962, in a book called Literary Machines, Nelson coined the term hypertext for non-sequential writing, an alternate way for people to receive and send information. (Much like have multiple books open in the library for a research paper).

Hypermedia links text, sound, images and movies all together. and

Hypertext Fiction includes games like Myst and Riven which put players in dream like landscapes where they can wander through adventures in which they choose the course of events.

Convergence: Today, the traditional primary media are in various stages of transition to digital form. Whether a convergence of the cable television systems and the Internet occurs is too far distant to consider.

Futurists claim that all the devices people use for communicating have started crashing together into one massive megamedia industry.


1996 Information Highway Advisory Council suggests that the new information superhighway is changing the way Canadians work and live:

  • Knowledge based industries are growing faster than any other industry in Canada
  • Between 1981 and 1991 Canada’s cultural sector grew by 32% and will continue to grow as new forms of information and entertainment continue to materialize.
  • Even traditional manufacturing, agricultural and other resource industries are depending more on technology for growth an improvement to compete in a global marketplace.

1998 CRTC policy questions about the World Wide Web and growth in Canada include:

  • How fast should the infrastructure be built?
  • Who will pay for the infrastructure?
  • What will be the requirements for Canadian ownership and control?
  • How can copyright and intellectual property be protected?
  • How can Canadian culture be protected?


Some examples include:

University of Waterloo students had access to several sex groups.

A convicted pedophile in Calgary possessed pornographic images of children off the Internet.

During the Bernardo Trial two newsgroups and offered Internet users access to information and rumours about the crime and subsequent trial.

The Canadian Criminal Code makes possession of these images a criminal offence-but it’s not against the law in other countries.

Jerry Shallit teaches computer science at the University of Waterloo. He has developed a theory called Shallit’s Laws.

  1. Every new medium will be used for sex.
  2. Every new medium will come under attack, usually because of Shallit’s first law.





SOURCE: Abridged from Chapter Seven:

Vivian, John and Maurin, Peter (1999). The Media of Mass Communication. Second Canadian Edition. Prentice Hall, Canada.