The new issue of Wired magazine declares that the big on-line services have been rendered obsolete by Mosaic, a "graphical browser" that anyone can download for free. But that prediction's a bit heavy on the hype. Sure, it's a blast to access video and sound files in a point-and-click fashion, but for most of us, setting up Mosaic is an act of techno-self-flagellation. Even experienced programmers, like the ones at Quantum Research Corp. in Bethesda who initiated me into the mysteries of Mosaic, encountered a bugfest as we surfed the Web with top-of-the-line hardware.
"Mosaic tends to be unstable because it's freeware," explained John Lewis, 25, as the Mac's screen froze yet again. This time we were attempting to download an exclusive audio file from Madonna, who's been plugging her forthcoming album, "Bedtime Stories," all over the 'Net. (Eventually, we accessed her new, nose-ringed album cover photo and lispy come-on: "Hello, all you cyber-heads. Welcome to the '90s version of intimacy: You can hear me, you can even see me, but you can't touch me!" And, boy, were we glad.)
Mosaic has more educational applications, of course. You can browse great museum collections, visit the Library of Congress, dissect a frog, marvel at the publicity still of the guy who runs the National Science Foundation. In his spare time, Lewis has designed the Space Activism Home Page (http://muon.qrc.com/space/start.html), which provides updates on such legislative issues as private mining on the moon, and offers links to NASA archives. He showed me a brief video clip that depicted the space shuttle docking at Space Station Alpha. "It's our movie now," he said, downloading it from NASA in seconds, demonstrating how truly free the World Wide Web is.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.