Your Internet Consultant - The FAQs of Life Online

3.22. Why are there so many different (competing) Internet tools?

First, sheer numbers. There are many different Internet tools for a variety of reasons. One, Internet users need a lot of different services because there are lots of things they want to do. Originally, each service was aimed at a specific niche: FTP was for file transfer, Archie was a database of FTP files, Gopher was a distributed menu-based document server. For example, they need Telnet to do remote-login, FTP to do file transfers, and so on. Each tool has its own purpose. For this reason alone, users end up with a lot of tools.

Second, the Internet community is vast, wide, and dispersed. It's not uncommon for many individuals or communities (sometimes unknown to each other) to be working on similar problems and to come up with their own solutions to those problems.

For example, Gopher, Hytelnet, TechInfo, and WWW all, to some extent, represent solutions to several problems. Similarly, in the "how do I find someone's e-mail address" arena, there's Michael Schwartz' NetFind, Daniel Kegel's uwho, whois++, and so on. Many problems can have more than one solution.

Each tool was created to meet its own organization's needs, so each works differently and usually offers slightly different features. We don't all work the same way--you'll like some tools more than others, or pick one based on price, availability, or the computer environment with which it works.

Note: So, often a number of tools exist that let you do basically the same thing. As if that weren't enough, often many ways exist to access any given tool. Consider three of the ASCII-oriented clients for WWW--there's a line browser (generally named www), screen-oriented browser (called web), and (most popularly) one called Lynx (lynx) which seems to do ASCII access to the Web best. Differences include the commands to move the cursor, get help, and so on (the "look and feel" of the programs), what types of computers they're available for, and how well they perform. Users with the proper type of connections probably prefer to use Mosaic, yet another Web browser, which handles text documents as well as still images, sounds, and movies.

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