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Sunday, 16 January, 2000, 20:27 GMT
Has the internet changed forever?

Does the Time Warner and America Online merger mark the beginning of a new age for the internet? Will it become as important in people's lives as televisions, newspapers and telephones?

Are you excited about the "internet century" or are you concerned about the dominance of a handful of companies controlling information?

HAVE YOUR SAY This is getting scary. All it takes is for someone like AOL or Microsoft to take over the organisations who maintain the global DNS (hostname) servers and they can distort the net to their gain, by effectively taking out the competition's web sites. I'm a Linux user, and believe I should be able to browse the web in whatever fashion I choose without being dictated to by the fat-cat bosses of these large organisations who merely seek to control what appears on billions of computer monitors.
Michael McConnell, Scotland

I just wonder what would be the scene in the field of movies, entertainment and media, had TV not been around. Has the advent of TV not helped these industries boom? As the books are not advertised on TV, their sales have gone down. My point is that TV has proved itself as a mode of transport upon which the others ride.
Now, even TV would ride piggyback on the Net. Net will be the engine. The merger of AOL / Time Warner has changed the world the way we see it. Things won't be the same anymore. Advent of TV was a speck compared to the entry of Net/Media conglomerates. Lifestyles in the coming two years will change faster than they changed during the last 50 years.
Divesh Mishra, India

As a few people have said before, all of this is irrelevant to UK users, because this deal, be it good or bad, will be worthless to a sizeable number of our population for as long as BT continues to line its own coffers at the expense of the future economy of the country.
It is sad to think that one company can do so much damage to a whole country, from which we may never fully recover. Unless Internet calls are made free or unmetered, we risk becoming a third world country with regard to the internet and e-commerce....THANKS BT!
John McQuillan, N.Ireland

I can't wait for my two young girls to grow up in a world of cheesy American e-commerce and pathetic ISP's. Bring back Netscape or anything else not designed by Microsoft or SUN. It is interesting how so many Americans have defended this merger with some pretty weak arguments, how many of you have shares in AOL or Time-Warner. Maybe by some fluke BT in the UK will eventually stop trying to figure out how many it is making in profit per second, and beat the Americans at their own game.
Dermot Casey, Ireland

Although a mega merger, the internet remains a medium of communication and commerce for the smaller players. This merger may well be recorded in two years time as a panic move by two giants grappling with the fact that anyone can challenge their market, from anywhere, irrespective of size. The question now will be, what influence AOL & Time Warner, can exercise jointly on technology innovators and governments with its sheer financial armoury.
Olavo Ferreira, Canada

Monopoly's never do the general public any favours. With more and more of the world's wealth and power being owned by fewer and fewer organisations the prospect is frightening. There is so much potential wealth to be gained from the web that sooner or latter someone will try to own it. Sounds improbable at the moment but not necessarily impossible.
Mike Savins, UK

When I majored in Broadcast Communications in college in 1977-79, there were laws in this country to discourage the creation of mega-media giants. For example, no one entity could own more than one newspaper, one radio and one TV station in the same area. This merger, I fear, could put too much power into the hands of too few. More frighteningly, this appears to be the trend!
Linda Cowls, United States

The idea that the Internet might be "changed forever" implies that it is in some static state right now. There is no reference point, really. There has been perpetual change in the Internet from its inception, and that trajectory continues. The AOL Time Warner merger represents a minor shift, a mega-company stepping in to provide media for the next digital chapters. Like we didn't see this one coming.
Soon operating systems will be largely online simply to respond to trends, hardware advancements and an increasing appetite for quick, dynamic change. We will look back at this era - with its mergers, developments, competition and innovation - and review ourselves as pioneers on this frontier. AOL Time Warner is to be expected, as are more mega-mergers. Naturally.
Scott Hampton, United States

AOL is only one of hundreds, thousands of providers in the world. They do not *own* the internet and will control nothing. If Time-Warner and CNN *were* successful they wouldn't have to be bailed out. By bailing them out AOL has assumed massive debt, probably a payback for the ruling against Microsoft.
What AOL is really worried about is that with newer competition from telephone providers like AT&T and cable providers, they can't maintain their growth.
Judy, USA

I have a nasty feeling that this new merged company has the potential to have the same stature on the internet that Murdoch's newspaper group has in the UK print media market - just because there are other sources of information out there, it doesn't mean that people will go looking for it. The financial, cultural and political clout of the organisation could be highly significant, probably even beyond that of many smaller governments.
Mike Fay, UK

It appears that few of your correspondents find the offerings of either AOL or Time Warner interesting enough to merit even a few mouse clicks to view them. I certainly don't, there's an awful lot of far more interesting material out there. No one is going to go to the effort of going on the web just to see advertising.
Sites which are not offering real content though will not be visited AS LONG AS it remains as easy as it is now for individuals and small organisations to create their own sites and to get these listed with search engines etc so the rest of us can find them. We should all defend this to the death.
Heather Bradsahw, UK

Ohhh another monopoly! The only good thing that may happen is that internet access may become free (No call costs) or have a flat fee for access. The merger may also speed up the development of broadband access like cable or ADSL which in the UK is lagging behind considerably. However I'm sure all this will result in more targeted advertising and commercials.
Mat Griffin, UK

The internet is owned by America - this merger will probably mean hundreds of legal spam mail and kilometres of adverts making the internet just one empty superficial fiasco
Conrad, Belgium

People talk of a new dawn for the Internet resulting from this merger. Probably this is right. But we have seen how swiftly the Internet progressed in the last five years: from a " world public library" to also a "world market place". The most important thing about the Internet to most users is the fact that it is a free world. A free world that everyone is welcome without a Visa and you could visit, stay and live freely. The merger, my fear is, will give AOL/Time Warner a near complete monopoly simply because each of these companies control a chain of important businesses which directly impact Internet services. I am worried about the potential of these companies having the Internet in their grip and the rest of the world dancing to their tune. Perhaps we should encourage the telephone companies build sand dunes on the road.
Inuwa, Nigeria

The internet allows us to roam through places we may never have thought possible before, and if large corporations allow us to do it easier and more quickly, then I say more power to them... and to us.
Howard Silverfarb, Indonesia
Has the internet changed forever? Well, yes and no. Radio, cinema and newspapers didn't disappear with the advent of TV. And the internet, though richer and capable of combining all of these media, will neither totally replace them nor constrict their individual on-line selection. The same goes with the telephone and other two-way communication. The beauty of the internet is that it can be anything to anyone, whether for information, entertainment or communication. Who can argue against that? Like the internet itself, the choice of what it can offer has dramatically expanded our reach. Let large corporate entities, like AOL-Time Warner (with its massive resources), accelerate this process and in fact make it fully possible in the first place. The internet allows us to roam through places we may never have thought possible before, and if large corporations allow us to do it easier and more quickly, then I say more power to them... and to us.
Howard Silverfarb, Indonesia

This merger won't affect the internet much as one of the strange things about the internet is how people like to go for the quirky, independent, small sites. So any attempted domination is likely to have the reverse effect. However, 2 big effects: one is to increase the opportunity Time Warner have for spreading their version of the news. A dominant position in information dissemination is not positive. The other effect is that of the current and potential valuation of the merged company. It must be unreal. It is so huge as to mean no individual share holder can have influence. And it must certainly crash sometime, at which point a lot of people will lose out. That will be the biggest effect of this merger.
John Brown, Belgium

This merger will obviously have massive impact on available internet services for subscribers. While some of AOL's actions have been contrary to accepted standards throughout the internet, if AOL subscribers and other ISP are not restricted by this alliance, it shouldn't hurt anyone. AOL subscribers should understand that AOL's incentive to package profiles for every subscriber, and sell that information, will be stronger than ever when combined with Time Warner's media services.
Tag Bunny, USA

It is an acknowledged fact that AOL's customers are mostly people new to the Internet. AOL software smartly configures everything for them and makes using the Internet very easy. Most of AOL's users could not change their start page if they wanted to. What a captive audience AOL have to sell their e-wares to! For most of AOL's users believe AOL's world IS the Internet and won't mind being marketed to death or being fed the news form a mega-corporation with more assets and political clout than many countries. This however does not have to be future of the Internet!
Art Luden, Australia

Undoubtedly , big corporations are the powerhouses of innovation and in that context this merger is good. Whether it will pass out as a fad or prove to be path-breaking that time will tell. As far as the matter of monopoly is concerned , the field is very evenly set today and this will be so for a long time to come.

If the merger results in a better, even more accessible service for people to exploit then that is something which should be applauded.
James Devlin, UK
The merger can only further ensure that the importance of the internet as a medium for knowledge continues to increase. If the merger results in a better, even more accessible service for people to exploit then that is something which should be applauded. The internet has the potential to become, alongside TV the most important medium available to spread news and knowledge throughout the world.
James Devlin, UK

I think these big mergers are scary. The megacorporations that are emerging from these mergers are worth more than the entire economy of countries like Finland or the Netherlands. Companies this big will have a very big say in the world economy and the way we deal with new technologies, yet if you are not a stockholder of these companies, influencing them will be almost impossible.
As far as I know there are even debates centring on the question whether companies that big should have similar rights as nation states. A very scary prospect if you ask me.
JM Fernandez Sandra, Netherlands

I don't think this merger has changed anything fundamental - what will is the un-ending improvements in technology. On that subject I have to agree with Neil Croft, BT need to drop prices now, or risk harming our future as an on-line nation.
David Saxby, England

The internet was once an open, friendly place, but now it's lost its soul.
Mike Knell, Ireland
The Internet has changed beyond recognition in the last few years, and not all the change has been for the better. It's got faster, more usable and more accessible to non-geeks, but at the same time it's become money-driven, commercialised and paranoid, as security bolts that didn't cause too much concern before have to be locked down to keep the legions of crackers with nothing better to do at bay.
The Internet was once an open, friendly place, but now it's lost its soul. Driven by commercial imperative rather than by research interests, it seems that the only thing that matters on the 'net any more is money.
Mike Knell, Ireland

Corporate Imperialism. Surrender Individuality. Surrender Creativity. Surrender Your Culture. Surrender your free will to the American way of life.
Christopher Liuzzi, USA

Is this the start of another great monopoly or is just me?
T. Hughes, England

This is great news for the world. The only concern I have is that a monopoly will follow the merger and instead of entertainment and knowledge being available to the masses, there will be no competition. The mind boggles with the potential avenues that can be explored by the merged company
John Hughes, England

Unlike television or radio the possibility of access is open for everyone and everyone, even children, can have a web page and voice their thoughts.
Ann Weir, USA
Unlike television or radio the possibility of access is open for everyone and everyone, even children, can have a web page and voice their thoughts. I believe the internet will greatly enrich the lives of those who choose to utilise the great capabilities it offers.
Ann Weir, USA

The Internet will now revolutionise the way the next generation think and live. Unfortunately, as usual Britain will be left behind in this advancement, as we do not have unmetered access, and until BT is seen by all as the monopoly it really is, and broken up, we never will.
Paul Edwards, Wales

Within the next ten years, the internet will be seen in the same light as the television, radio and telephone. People should be aware of the qualities the internet has to offer. Children hopefully will be taught how to use the internet from an early age, and internet access should become far easier, such as using televisions.
Dominance of the web does not concern the average browser, as long as the internet stays relatively inexpensive to use.
P Alexander, Wales.

The whole point of the Internet is that is isn't owned by one entity. Admittedly, as more and more companies use it as tool for commerce it has changed, but I can't see this making any difference.
John Hagerty, England

It really does not change anything as long as the local servers are not owned by them. It is like the millennium bug. Big talk but no bug. First when a single company starts owning huge chunk of servers, or the communication lines we are in trouble. Similar trouble as with any monopoly or monopoly like situation.
Mikko Toivonen, Monopolyland

AOL are widely acknowledged as the worst ISP on the market - they have always overcharged and provided appalling software, support and everything else. This merger can only make things worse.
Dan Norcott, UK

I don't see the Time Warner and AOL merger having any significant effect on the Internet. No doubt it will effect AOL customers, even so it will probably not being a detrimental effect. My personal opinion is that no company or group of company's can have a significant impact upon the Internet that will effect the millions upon millions of users.
Robert Carr, Sheffield, UK

This is nothing fantastic. The internet is not the great global provider that it was falsely envisaged to be. I'm sure that there's many children in Brazil that will be deeply affected by this (sic).
Rob Readman, England

It's only a matter of time before telephone, tv, and internet will be in people's pockets, nothing exciting about that. I do hope, however, that that industry is not monopolised by one company. Look at the legacy of Microsoft... Windows 98, Windows 95, Office 97, Office 2000, Internet Explorer 4, Visual C++ version 6, or was it, Windows 2000 version 1.1. Which one do you want to buy, 'cos you'll have to pay for another version next year.
Colin, Netherlands

The Internet will never take off to the degree it should in this country until BT stop robbing the majority of the online community. Telewest have shown that unmetered internet access is possible at 10/month leaving BT stifling the growth of E-Commerce. Don't forget the vast majority of the UK still can't access cable telephones and many areas never will.
Neil Croft, England

Would have liked to see the result of the merger be named "America On Time" :-) .
Dirkjan Luykx, The Netherlands

The market valuations of these mega-mergers are scary and the prospect of the Net being an open place seems to be more and more in doubt as the companies seem to want to hold one's hand and guide one in certain directions.
Srinivas Rangaraj, Canada

Sorry, did I miss the point? I thought the internet was forever changing.
mark sargeant, uk

I've been a user of the Internet since it was a loosely connected collection of university machines, and advertising was banned so as to keep the thing "pure". Initially I found this anarchy charming, but as the Internet was gradually hijacked by every hate group, "activist", environmentalist and racist on the planet, I began to long for the day when a real pricing structure would place some sort of market discipline on these loonies. If in ten years the Internet is no longer a nest of racists and activists of all kinds, then this merger will have been a small price to pay.
jon livesey, USA

If Time Warner does for AOL what it did for Atari, It will be a tremendous break for Microsoft, AT&T and others.
James Woods, USA

Maybe Microsoft will have something to think about for a while. However, after reading about these companies in "Burn Rate", there maybe not that much to think about. The worlds biggest merger of paper money between an appalling ISP and a magazine publisher, frightening stuff ! When will they make any money, by the next millenium ?
Dan, UK

Would this merger represent a monopoly? Is someone 'manufacturing consent'? Decide for yourself: As of June 1996, Time-Warner owned Time Warner Entertainment, Six Flags, Warner Bros. and all its various branches (i.e. WB TV, Warner-Brothers records, the Warner-Brothers studio, WB stores), Warner/Chappell Publishing, the Atlantic Group, Time Warner Audio Books, Elektra Entertainment, Warner Music Int'l, 40% of SubPop, 50% of Columbia House, Time-Life video, Warner home video, Witt Thomas Productions, Sunset Books, Time-Life Books, Little, Brown, & Co., Warner Books, Book-of-the-month club, Oxmoor House, Cinemax, HBO, 1/3 of Sega Channel, 49% of E!, Time Magazine, Fortune, Life, Sports Illustrated, SI for kids, Vibe, People, Money, In Style, Parenting, Baby Talk, Martha Stewart Living, Sunset, Health, Hippocrates, Asia Week, President, Dancyu, 50% of DC Comics, 83.25% of American Lawyer, Who, Entertainment Weekly, Cooking Light, Southern Living, and Turner Broadcasting--which in turn owns the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Hawks, The Turner Retail Group, Goodwill Games, Domest! ic Home Video, the WCW, Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, New Line Cinema, Castle Rock Entertainment, Turner Entertainment (which includes MGM and RKO), Turner Pictures, Turner Publishing, TBS, TCM, TNT, CNN and all its variants, including Headline News, and the Cartoon Network.
John Jack, USA

I'm both excited and disappointed by this deal. The predicted information society is a lot closer now. The flip side is that the Internet and its successors are always going to be dominated by big business. AOL is an online service that has always preferred people to use its own content or official links rather than surf the Internet. It wants to own the Internet just like Microsoft and a few others. All the talk about the freedom of the individual on the Internet was misguided. Individuals don't usually own big computer servers, telecommunication systems, big Internet sites, magazines, film studios, TV stations, and cable companies. These things will form the backbone of the future Internet and the owners of these will dominate our future. We have just seen the creation of one of those owners.
Ray Brown, England

My concern is that a trend is starting on the Internet, now that profits are actually starting to occur online. What the future may hold is a situation where content providers will head to the same cash-rich advertiser-happy type of programming that American television (as well as Hollywood) has settled into. The Lowest Common Denominator style of content could bring on a generation of people who are only connected to a digital reality constructed by and for the profit of advertisers. Real life? Not with the type of content limitations that AOL has already become famous for.
Fitz Gitler, USA

These are two companies that are so unsure what to do next, that they are just giving up and merging. What ever happened to focus on "Core Competences"? All I see is Steve Case buying broadband (cable) access and picking up Warner Brothers, Time Magazine and CNN in the bargain. Remember: bigger is not better; or smarter, faster, or cheaper. It is just bigger. I read somewhere that AOL Time Warner is expected to become the fourth largest firm in the world. I think that time will tell if this corporate dinosaur will rule the earth, or go extinct!
Charles Landauer, US

Auntie Em, I'm frightened! There are already just a handful of companies (Entertainment companies) controlling how we get news. If you've ever seen news in LA, you know how scary it is. We have no idea what's happening in the world, because local, and even network news, doesn't much tell us about anything that doesn't directly involve the U.S. I don't see that changing, but possibly getting worse with this merger. Typical news story: "A Latte without Leaving Your Car: Life is Good". I'm REALLY scared.
Matt G, USA

Giant multinational corporations are now buying up internet companies. Government agencies are chomping at the bit to enact legislation to tax the internet and control information, all under the guise of "protecting the children." If the present course is maintained, then the internet will be as mainstream (and boring) as television in 20 years.
Tom Byrne, USA

Many are frightened by the prospect of this merger turning into a monopoly, yet AOL and Time Warner are famous for being so frightened of their customers that they routinely sanitise their broadcasts. Why is everyone so frightened of one another? If anyone with a sufficiently loud voice were to yell "boo", we could watch tens of millions of limbs stiffen, eyeballs pop, and mouths gape.
Wayne Wilner, USA

I fear the AOL Warner domination in the future. I would not like to discover one day, that the internet is under Ted Turner's control. Would you?
Dominik Piotrowski, U.K.

The US media is bad enough already, concentrated in just a few hands. Will we find that the internet is to become, similarly, concentrated in a few hands. It looks like, unfortunately, that it was is happening and there is little the individual in the midst of these corporations can do. I know I am not going to stop using AOL because of it. Just take the crunch and hope that some level of independent thinking will continue to exist somewhere. Hope.
Jay, USA

It is astounding the impact this will have on the econony, creating more of a gap between the 1st and 3rd Worlds.
James Osborne, UK

It was interseting to see the disparity in reaction on the market with Time W shares soaring and AOL falling back. Presumeably this means 'the market' thinks its' a far better deal for TW than for AOL, with no upside for AOL - what do AOL know that we don't ?
ken fawell, Norway

This merger does NOT shake up the net. While it makes sense that it takes place, let us not lose sight of a few things: - Most internet users do not use America Online, which offers a cheap but restrictive, cumbersome and poorly supported gateway to the internet. - Time Warner's "wealth of material" might, or might not include the content you are interested in. While it makes sense that these two companies work together, it is important to remember that they operate within strict commercial limits, and offer a very particular way to access the internet. This has implications both in terms of the degree and quality of access to the net, and the nature and extent of the content the users are exposed to as a condition for signing up to AOL. Yuk. Carlos Pi
Carlos Pi, UK

AOL and Time Warner. Well to people in this country, it's not really a great issue. Time Warner are an American media giant so it really will mean more to the American market than here. Things will start to get scary here in the UK when companies like BT, Cable and Wireless start to try and merge with ITV or even the BBC. So until then, I'm not bothered by the AOL/Time Warner merger!
gary harvey, UK

The World Wide Web has allowed John Smith to become Bill Gates with one spark of inspiration/creativity. Whether one thinks the Web has lost it's soul or not - the point is, with imagination (and a modem), wealth awaits everyone and anyone. Wealth of: knowledge, ideas, inspiration, revenue etc...
Chuck_d, USA

The culture of population of the world is changing as a consequence of revolution on the communications. Commerce, the basic activity to earn a living, means communication. Every transaction in the world is made over a base of communication. But words, arguments and images which conform the message that sell need the media to reach millions of people. In the past, canoes were needed to broadcast the message. Today the media are spread on E-mail, fax, TV, webpages, phone, letters... but could we imagine a unique future media on which all what we need will be in front of a screen? It needs power to be done and perhaps we are living the beginning.
Daniel, Argentina

The merger, although creating quite a powerful monopoly, will not have as much control as people think because independents will still be springing up to hedge the growth of an all powerful corporation. That is the American way.
Mike Fisher, USA

It's obvious that all media are beginning to converge on the internet. It's 'always on' nature and interactiveness make it the ultimate medium for public information, communication and entertainment. This is the first merger of its kind but it surely points to the direction these massive multinationals are pursuing. However, that's not to say the little man is kept out. People should begin to realise the opportunities currently open to them on the internet. Start-ups like Amazon only began three years ago and whilst the US webmarket is looking almost saturated they haven't the cultural perspective to consume other national markets. This means that in the next few years it'll be the European, Asian and other global countries that see the surge of entrepreneurialism that the US has recently seen. The future is in our hands. Who's gonna make the first move?
Finn Nesbitt, UK

Fantastic news! The new media empire formed by merging America Online and Time-Warner is bound to be just the ticket for those seeking the truth (it's surely out there somewhere). With such enhanced media clout, we can now look forward to fearless journalism on the systematic corporate and political abuses of people and the environment around the globe. Someone will now expose the cynical activities of fossil fuel industry lobbyists and their political allies, even while dangerous climate change hots up. I will finally be able to read regular, unbiased reports of mounting citizen opposition to the free trade agenda. Journalists will now critically examine the big lie that economic globalisation is 'inevitable', 'beneficial', and that, implausibly, there Is no alternative? This is what the biggest media merger of all time really means, isn't it?
David Cromwell, UK

I fear that this merger will create a closed shop. AOL/Time Warner will dominate the content on the internet and force excessive charges on 'Joe Public' to see this content. Maybe the internet will become the next tV/radio but what will the cost be??
J Rowland, England

How ironic...AOL just get through pushing the Department of Justice to find against Microsoft and then they go and do a deal like this. It was bad enough that they bought Netscape and reduced the competition in the browsers, but to do a deal with a mega media company like Time Warner is just scary. It is going to get harder and harder to find a media channel where you can get unbiased news. That's one reason I keep using the BBC site even though I've moved to America. IS everyone sure that the James Bond film 'Tomorrow Never Dies' was a work of fiction..? I think it will happen sooner than we think.
Gavin McKeown, USA

I think that the merger will have a positive impact on the state and the quality of the internet. The only problem that I forsee is that of intellectual property, as in the protection of valuable online contact. I have heard of a start-up UK company called BreakerTech that has pioneered technology in the digital rights management field. In layman's terms their encryption and licensing technology means that publishers of music, books, film, images and even programming code can put their content on-line and offer it to the masses (for sales or marketing purposes) without the fear of it being ripped-off and the value being lost.
Martin Brindley, England

This merger, whilst carrying all the traits of a 'scary super-company' is nothing like the Microsoft situation. Microsoft is THE standard for PC operating systems and applications - no Windows, no work. Time/AOL should be less influential for a number of reasons - the most fundamental of which is that no-one is gaining the means to control access to the internet - the merged company will not own or run the majority of servers or connections. Remember that one of the biggest wonders of the internet is that it is a completely decentralised system which does not lend itself to a single point of control. Time Warner is essentially a content provider (and whilst a whale of a provider, there are plenty of other 'fish' in the net). They gather information and assemble it into a form 'palatable' to the greatest number of people - which everyone has the choice of taking or leaving - I'm usually not interested in what they're showing me, so I vote with my finger (um...index).
Todd, UK

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See also:
11 Jan 00 |  Business
Shares soar as giants merge
10 Jan 00 |  Business
Q&A: Merger shakes up the net
10 Jan 00 |  Business
The first 'clicks-and-mortar' company

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