Estimates suggest that 35 per cent of US families and 50 per cent of US teenagers have a personal computer at home. As many as 30 million people are on the Internet and 90 per cent of computers to be sold this year will have modems or CD-Rom drives.
The rate of growth is astonishing, says multimedia guru Nicholas Negroponte, director of the Media Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, in the US. The Internet population is growing by ten per cent a month.
Connection to the Internet is typically by modem, via one of an estimated 60,000 global systems providers. In the UK, there are about 4,000 of these, of which about 100 provide access to businesses and the general public, according to New Interactive Media – The Practical Guide, published by Zenith Media.
Almost 100 companies offer direct access to the Internet. The largest of these include: Demon, CityScape (which provides the Internet version of The Guardian) and Pipex (which provides the Electronic Telegraph).
A number of other companies offer their own subscription services in addition to full Internet access, such as CompuServe, which has 2.45 million users worldwide, Prodigy On-line (1.2 million users) and Delphi, which is owned by News International. In the US, the largest such company is America On-line, with 2.5 million users.
America On-line will launch a European version of its service in the UK, France and Germany in partnership with Bertselmann later this year.