Doubting Thomases wanting tangible proof that the Internet is more than just some passing industry fad didn't need to look any farther than last week's Internet World show here.
The show was about the hottest place to be -- literally. Just ask exhibitors who on opening day endured 35-degree temperatures inside the oven-roaster tent erected outside the main convention hall to house the spillover of participants.
"It was cooking," says David Toth, vice-president of Hitachi's network products group.
Internet World simply has outgrown its surroundings, coming a long way from its humble 1993 beginnings, when 50 or so exhibitors promoted their wares for some 4000 attendees at the Fairmont Hotel here.
Attendance this year totaled about 40,000 people, and exhibitors numbered around 360. The event has grown so much that next year's second-quarter show will move to the larger Los Angeles Convention Centre. Also relocating is the East Coast fourth-quarter show, from the Hynes Convention Centre in Boston to New York's larger Jacob K. Javits Convention Centre.
And, by next year, who knows if any of the news from last week's show will even matter in this wildly fluctuating Internet landscape?
"Come the New York Internet World, the technology could change," says Jeffrey Bardin, a Lockheed Martin Internet services team leader who is working on the Environmental Protection Agency's World Wide Web site. Developers are having a hard time keeping up because as they are focusing on one project, the APIs might change in a updated version of a browser, leaving them in a quandary, he says.
Although he was interested in many of the offerings from smaller vendors, particularly products that enhance the appearance of Web pages, Bardin admits it would be a gamble to bank on them "because you don't know if they're going to be around."
Will a company like GUI 'N Da Hood -- Web designers from Oakland, California -- still be spending money on a booth at next year's Internet World? For every Netscape Communications on the show floor, there's a NetCarta, NetCentric, Net Force, net.Genesis, NetGrafx, NetLink, NetManage, NetPartners, NetPhonic, Netscan and NetSource to check out.
"Some of the upstarts have some good products ... but if I was going to buy something, I'd probably stick to something I know will be around,'' says Bruce Sheehan, an Internet specialist with the Texas Department of Commerce.
The big, established companies made a number of announcements at Internet World. To name a few:
-- Microsoft formally unveiled its BackOffice 2.0 server software that includes its recently released Exchange Server 4.0 messaging engine, Internet Information Server 1.0 and SQL Server 6.5 database.
The Redmond, Washington, computer giant also showed off its new Internet Explorer 3.0 Web browser, featuring new voice, video and data conferencing capabilities. In addition, it showed the latest update of its Web authoring and management software, FrontPage 1.1.
-- Netscape showcased its Navigator 3.0 Web browser featuring enhanced management and security, and tools for creating live online applications.
-- IBM updated its Internet offerings at a glitzy 90-minute presentation. Announcements included the launch of its Net.Commerce electronic commerce software for setting up virtual stores on the Internet.