The Information Explosion

by Jason Snell

By just about any standard, three years isn't a long time. But as we reach InterText's third anniversary, I can say that a lot has changed in the on-line world in that time. The Internet, for example, was incredibly huge and growing exponentially when InterText first appeared in March of 1991. But it's only really been in the last few months that the Internet has become a "hot subject" in the American news media.

NBC Nightly News did a series on the Internet, and included an Internet e-mail address at the end of every broadcast. Wired magazine, an Internet-hip technology and lifestyle magazine out of San Francisco, is now one of the hottest magazines in existence. A million books have been written on the Internet, and no doubt a million more will come out by the end of 1994.

But commercial on-line services are also experiencing a bit of a renaissance. CompuServe, a service that's showing its considerable age (it's been around since the late '70s, I believe -- now that's old), is still popular. Prodigy, a clunky service that's desperately trying to improve its image through an ad barrage on network television, still has more subscribers than any other commercial on-line service. Rupert Murdoch's Delphi service offers users close links to the Internet.

The hottest commercial service, though, seems to be America Online. A graphically-based system (whose interface still falls a bit short, I might add), AOL has just begun offering its subscribers access to Usenet newsgroups. Other Internet functions are coming.

And I'm not sure how, but the people on AOL have discovered InterText. We've been barraged with subscription requests from AOL in the past few months, and now offer a site for current and back issues of InterText on that service. (See the end of the issue for specific information.) No doubt all those new on-line explorers are also interested in other on-line publications, too.

Now when we began InterText three years ago, there were only a handful of regular electronic publications out there. David "Orny" Liscomb's FSFnet had led the way, and DargonZine picked up where it left off. Jim McCabe's Athene appeared, as did Daniel Appelquist's Quanta. Adam Engst, one of the contributors to this issue, began his Macintosh newsletter TidBITS.

After Jim McCabe decided that he couldn't continue doing Athene, I began planning InterText. Geoff Duncan also came on board, and away we went. From the start we set out to supplement the entertainment we provide with some useful information for our on-line readership. That information came in the form of our "page of ads," a listing of other on-line publications that we thought our readers might find interesting.

In three years, a lot has changed. There are dozens of electronic resources out there, ranging from the mainstream to the very, very eclectic. Though for a while we tried to keep on top of things, there's just no way to publish a complete listing of on-line publications in InterText anymore, if there ever really was.

However, a complete list of such publications does exist, compiled by John Labovitz ( and available on the Internet via FTP and on the World Wide Web. Rather than produce a list that's inferior to John's, and inferior to the listings in those many Internet books I mentioned, we've decided to stop publishing our list altogether.

Rather than shirk from that commitment we made with the first issue, the commitment to point our readers toward interesting resources on the Internet, we've decided to fulfill that commitment in a different way. Beginning with this issue, our "page of ads" has been replaced by Need to Know, a regular column featuring an interesting on-line information source, or a person doing something different in the on-line world.

In the future, the Need to Know profiles will probably be written by people other than the InterText editorial staff, but if you've found an interesting resource or person and think we should know about it, please send mail to with information about it. And as always, we'd love to receive your comments and criticisms of InterText. You can send those messages to the above address, as well.

While I'm on the subject of the explosion of on-line resources, I should mention that there is now another electronic publication in much the same "business" as InterText. It's a journal named Whirlwind, edited by Sung J. Woo (, whose "Bleeding Hearts" appeared in InterText last issue. Whirlwind features contemporary fiction, poetry and essays, and publishes in both PostScript and ASCII formats. Those on the Internet can check out Whirlwind by looking at in /pub/Zines/Whirlwind.

Yes, the on-line world sure is growing at a rapid pace, and the next few years will probably bring us even more change than the last few did. (For more on that, see Geoff Duncan's column in this issue.) But we at InterText are committed to be in the game for the long haul. Next year, we all intend to be back here again, waxing philosophic on the changes our fourth year of publication has brought.

We'll see you then. And every other month in between then, of course.