IT'S GETTING EASIER TO BUILD YOUR DREAM HOME PAGE
I know a lot about Eve Andersson. The attractive (from the looks of her photo, anyway), 20-year-old mechanical engineering major at Caltech is obsessed with the number pi (). She has even written a poem about it. Her favorite composer is Rachmaninoff, her favorite word is "asymptotic." She likes amaretto-flavored coffee, weight-lifting, playing the piano, and someday she plans to "have a bathroom tiled in a fractal pattern."
I did not learn all about Eve by talking to her. (After finding out all this, I wasn't exactly sure I wanted to.) I browsed her personal homepage(http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/eveander/) on that ever-expanding region of the Internet, the World Wide Web.
TURKISH BAZAAR. Corporations large and small may be rushing the Net to establish their own billboards in cyberspace, but the Web is more than ever a vibrant Turkish bazaar of thousands of personal home pages. A home page is the introductory page to a Web site, the book cover, in a sense, to a digital collection of words, images, even sound and video clips, and links to other Web sites that anyone with a computer, a modem, Web browser software, and an Internet connection can access with the click of a mouse.
Some home pages are fascinating, funny, and oddly moving explorations of their authors' lives. Philip Greenspun, a graduate student at MIT, uses his home page to publish Travels with Samantha, his book-length manuscript about his wanderings around North America with his Apple Macintosh computer. (Guess what its name is.) Others are little more than electronic resumes, places to post research papers, or are of interest mainly because of their links to other sites. Some stretch the limits of what you would want to know about anybody: One man has posted medical photos of his internal anatomy that make you long for the days when there was no World Wide Web.
If you yearn for a page you can call your own, joining the ranks of "content providers" is easier and cheaper than ever. You still need to learn Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML), the Web's lingua franca, but new software makes creating a home page a snap. And a growing list of companies will offer you space on their Web servers, computers with fulltime Internet connections, for peanuts--or for free (table). On June 28, Prodigy began posting text-only personal home pages of some of its 2 million subscribers, and promises full graphics later this summer. America Online will soon offer similar options.
If you want to combine your personal page with your business, or want a strictly commercial page, you won't get away so cheaply: Space for a full-featured home page with snazzy graphics, interactive features, and plenty of content should run about $1,000 a year, plus outside design fees. For example, space for business home pages at Hurricane Electric (http://www.he.tdl.com/) starts at $39 a month; for a personal page, it's as low as $1 a month.
HALL OF SHAME. Before you begin, take a look at what's out there. If you want to see some of the more graphically interesting home pages, use Netscape's Navigator, still the browser of choice for most serious Web surfers. That's because Netscape supports such advanced graphics and text capabilities as jazzy backgrounds, centered text, text wraparound, tables with multiple columns and rows, and variable fonts. Check out the Enhanced for Netscape Hall of Shame at http://www.Europa.com/yyz/ netbin/hos_homepages.html for some strange and wonderful examples.
A more generic and larger directory (last count, 3,761) is Global Network Navigator's (GNN) Netizens. Within GNN you'll also find the Home Page Construction Kit, containing a simple home page template and links to more resources.
NEW LINGO. But a template will only take you so far, especially once you realize that the secret to a successful home page is frequently updated content and graphic ingenuity. If you really want to take advantage of the powerful graphics and text features that have made home pages so popular in the first place, you'll have to learn HTML first. Don't worry, it isn't a complex programming language. "If you can learn to use a nongraphical word processor like XyWrite or WordPerfect for DOS, you can learn HTML," says Web developer Robert Denny, whose software has helped launch many home pages. There are some good HTML primers on the Web itself, but if you're like me, you'll find it easier to learn by cracking a book. The best I've found is Laura Lemay's Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML in a Week (Sams Publishing, $25).
You can create HTML on any word processor, but it gets tedious typing in all those , , from MediaTech Inc. (http://www. mediatec.com/mediatech/) already supports some of them.
Once you've created your page, you have to decide whether to put it on somebody else's server or have your own. Many providers will help you publicize your page and even offer technical advice. But make sure the company has a reliable Internet connection--check by visiting other home pages on its server to see if they are easy to access. The major drawback to using offsite providers is the limitations they place on the size of files, features you can offer, and the difficulty of updating content.
There is another alternative: your own Web server. One of the most popular server programs is Robert Denny's Windows HTTPD 1.4. You can download it for free at http://www.city.net/win httpd/. Be warned, however, that this option is still more for the propeller-head set: You'll need a separate phone line so your page can be available at all times, and a fixed Internet address, not the kind that changes each time you log on. It's also a good idea to have a computer dedicated to the task--keeping your regular PC safe from the prying eyes of hackers. This can be quite an expensive hobby--more than $300 a month--if all you want to do is put up pictures of your dog and discuss your summer vacation. But it's certainly an option worth exploring as the price of Internet access declines and Web server software becomes more secure and easier to use.
Perhaps you're wondering about my own home page. Like so many pages on the Web, mine is a work in progress. You can view it at http://turnpike.net/mfrons/ index.html. Let me know what you think. But be gentle. Once you see my home page you'll know that I'm a very sensitive guy.
For an HTML version of this story, which you may load on your browser and use to link to the Web sites mentioned here, check out the down-load areas of Business Week Online on America Online. Or E-mail Marc Frons at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will E-mail you a copy.
A Personal Home Page Tool Kit
There's plenty of advice online to help you create a Web page. Here are some places to start:
HTML AND WORLD WIDE WEB
Tutorials and links to other sites http://www.csulb.edu/tutorials.html
A HOME PAGE CONSTRUCTION KIT
A basic template and other tools http://nearnet.gnn.com/gnn/netizens/construction.html
JOHN DECEMBER'S INTERNET TOOLS
A complete home-page directory http://www.rpi.edu/Internet/Guides/decemj/itools/references.html
FREE WEB PAGES
A list of sites and other Web resources http://metro.turnpike.net/J/JonsPage/freepages.html
DATA: BUSINESS WEEKEDITED BY JIM ELLIS Marc Frons