The number of Net users is increasing daily, and surfers are becoming ever more worldly in their tastes. Where once the mere existence of a Web site you could call up via a telephone line was enough to amaze and astound, now sites have to be far more tempting.
And one of the most obvious ways to tempt the capricious surfer is by supplying not just pictures, but moving pictures.
But how close is video streaming to becoming the standard of the Internet experience?
We are on the threshold, says Martin Wrigley, chief technical officer of TV production company, the Two Four Group. His company already has a subsidiary, twofourtv.com, which specialises in producing Web videos.
Wrigley sees three obstacles at the heart of universal acceptance of video streaming off the Web, and all three are eroding fast.
The first is technical. While the country waits for broadband and ADSL to arrive, the current 56Kbyte bandwidth is, he says, perfectly capable of delivering video streaming.
Already, dedicated content delivery networks exist to carry streaming media direct to the ISP. Aided and abetted by the intense competition between the likes of Microsoft and Real Networks, the technical provision for video streaming takes a significant step forward every six months, says Wrigley.
As subscribers to digital TV know, you can have all the data pipes in the world but if they don't play a good tune customers won't want to know. Which is where video streaming hit a second barrier - content.
"You must have properly produced, compelling content," says Wrigley. "It is all about production values."
Amateur work will soon look as embarrassing as a l950s TV advert, and do the host Web site no marketing good at all.
But, just as movie makers adapted to the arrival of the TV, changing the way they directed and edited programmes for this new medium, so will the industry adapt to the new constraints and opportunities of the Web.
However, argues Wrigley, just having the technical capability and the programme production capability does not mean that there are no more barriers. The final barrier, he says, is belief.
"We need to show people that quality is achievable, get them to understand and see what can be done today," says Wrigley. "It will not be very long before a video streamless Web site will look old hat and boring."
And with video streaming, some of the barriers to e-commerce will be broken down. Research suggests that Webcast viewers spend, on average, 80% more time online and sites with streaming media show a 34% increase in sales.
Statistics like those should help ease the dotcom burn rate - they might even tip you into profitability.
This was first published in November 2000