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The following article was written by Coleman Patterson and appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.

Web presence vital to business success, March 24, 2006, 9C.

Imagine the amazement that people experienced when telephones first appeared in the late 1800s.  Its invention and succeeding proliferation across the world fundamentally changed the way people communicate.  Companies have used the telephone to enhance the ways they conduct business.  They can communicate with customers, suppliers, and vendors from great distances in real time.

In the late 1900s, another communication revolution quickly swept the world.  That “invention” was the Internet and just as the telephone was embraced by business, so too has been the Internet.  Companies use websites to introduce and promote themselves to the world, to present and sell inventory, and to communicate with customers, suppliers, and vendors.  Visitors can access company websites from almost anywhere in the world at any time of the day or night.

The similarities between the telephone and the Internet do not stop with commonalities in how they are used to communicate with others.  The Internet works much like the telephone system. 

Parties wanting to communicate by telephone need access to telephones connected to the phone system.  To connect to the system, people typically purchase telephones and sign up for phone service with a telecommunications company.  Once telephone accounts are established, customers receive telephone numbers.  Phone numbers are given out to others and placed in phone directories.  Vanity telephone numbers use the letters on the telephone dial to make phone addresses more memorable.  The digits in a telephone number direct the telecommunications equipment to locate and “ring” the appropriate phone on the network.  Finally, communication occurs when the parties on the connected telephones exchange information with each other.

In Internet terms, parties wanting to communicate with each other need to be on the web (which is a network of computers).  They establish Internet accounts with companies that specialize in connecting people to the web, providing computer space for websites, and reserving domain names.  Domain names, or web addresses, are analogous to vanity telephone numbers and are used to identify a particular computer on the web.  Domain names should be submitted to Internet search directories.

Rather than communicating directly with people, Internet surfers use browser software on their computers to view web files on computers elsewhere on the web—one computer requests access to particular files from a second computer and the second computer replies.  Companies can present text, video, audio, and interactive content to web visitors through their websites.  Web editing software programs can be used to design websites and content.

It is hard to imagine that there are many organizations today that don’t regularly use and depend upon telephones to help conduct business.  That once new and daunting technology has become commonplace.  To operate without a telephone would put a company at a serious disadvantage to its competitors.  The time might soon be approaching when lacking a web presence will be a disadvantage for businesses.  If the rate of adoption of web technologies continues to advance as quickly as it has over the past decade, companies without those technologies might find themselves as disadvantaged as companies today without telephones.

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© 2006, 2007, 2008  Coleman Patterson, All Rights Reserved