by Greg Girard

Making money on the Internet is an attractive prospect many of us have pondered but, for whatever reason, are reluctant to try. So what if I told you it were easier than you might think. All you need to make some extra cash is a little bit of knowledge, a computer connected to the Internet, and some imagination. I’ll get you started.

The Internet began as a dream, the brainchild of Tim Berners-Lee. A software engineer at the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, in the 1980's Berners-Lee designed a program to help keep track of his notes. He soon modified his program, which he called Enquire, so he could link files on other computers to his own. In the following years Berners-Lee developed the hypertext markup language, HTML for short, which allows your computer to display Internet documents or pages. He devised a scheme to give each page its own unique address, which he called the uniform resource locator or URL.

Since the inception of the Internet in 1991, along side the endless flow of information, an electronic or online marketplace has emerged. In this bold new market, the same rules of business do not apply. Here one person, (or a relatively small group of people) with an idea, can revolutionize the whole market. This virtual realm evolved in the absence of poverty, fear, need, authority or class structure, in complete anonymity and in the limelight, utterly free from manipulation. Simply guided by its own rules and forces, and proliferated by millions of people creating their own pages and archives, further expanding its reach.

Ernest Johnson, an e-commerce professor at the University of Regina, explains that "[in] 1997 the Internet oriented business concept came into the picture". One year later in 1998, two men (Sergey Brin and Larry Page) created a search engine that transformed the way search engines search the web - they called it Google. Today they are billionaires. I asked Johnson what the key ingredients to a successful website are: "the business moral and idea should be very strong". In other words have an original idea and a solid plan to market it. Johnson also cautions against replicating already popular sites "you should not copy somebody, this is not a burger industry". Certain areas are saturated on the web, social networking sites are one such area. While popular sites like Hi5, Myspace and Facebook generate a lot of money, it would be difficult to catch up to them simply because there are already so many of them.

 Once a fresh concept is realized, just about anyone can build a website using a basic knowledge of the HTML language. The next important thing according to Max Ivanov, a University of Regina computer science professor, for a website to strive for "is what's called a critical mass". A critical mass is related to the number of daily visitors to a site, known as traffic. Once a site drives enough traffic it will reach a critical mass whereby the site's popularity will begin to snowball "almost exponentially", says Ivanov, and advertising space on any such site is sure to be a hot commodity.

Some may find it a bit overwhelming at first but the Internet is a powerful tool through which information may be contributed as well as extracted. Learning how to use it will no doubt prove valuable for anyone looking to capitalize on the wealth of information it contains. The key for anyone who wants to build a website that draws attention and wealth, as both Ivanov and Johnson asserted, is to have a creative new idea and a solid business plan. As Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist who coined the term ‘virtual reality' put it: "We have been made aware of a new human potential" and people should embrace it.

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