Just when word was getting around that creating World-Wide Web pages is really quite easy, Sun Microsystems changed the rules.
Freelance Web authors, who have been charging up to Pounds 500 a day to prepare pages for Internet publication in the relatively simple Hypertext Markup Language, now have the opportunity to master a genuinely difficult skill to enhance their earning prospects.
Sun has figured out a way for Web authors to program anyone's computer anywhere on the Internet. Not without permission, of course - but users of Sun's HotJava browser may soon forget that they are entrusting the installation of new software on their PCs to an unknown person who may be 5,000 miles away. Sun claims that the process is safe and cannot be used to spread computer viruses.
HotJava users will find that some places on the World-Wide Web offer them not just the usual mixture of text, images, forms to fill in and a few soundbites, but animations, games, interactive advertisements and simulated science experiments.
Ordinary Web pages can be livened up with visual effects. In one demonstration, letters skidded across the screen and came to rest to form a word. But a glance at the underlying program code revealed that this simple effect had required serious effort by a skilled programmer. The programs must be written in a new programming language called Java, which resembles C++.
There is a good chance that the Java technology will take root on the Internet since it has been endorsed by Netscape Communications, developer of the software that is used by 70 per cent of people surfing the World-Wide Web.