The primary means today whereby people gain access to electronic material is over the World Wide Web. The growth of the Web is amply documented at http://www.cyberatlas.com and similar sites. Predictions for the number of Web users worldwide in the year 2000 run up to 1 billion (Negroponte 1996); students have the highest Web usage of any demographic group, with about 40% of them in 1996 showing medium or high Web usage; and people have been predicting the end of paper libraries since at least 1964 (Samuel 1964). Web surfing appears to be
substituting for TV viewing and CD-ROM purchasing, taking its share of approximately 7 hours per day that the average American spends dealing with media of all forms. Advertisers are lining up to investigate Web users and find the best way to send product messages to them (Novak and Hoffman 1996). Figure 21.1 shows the growth of Web hosts just in the last few years.