Future Internet: XHTML -- On January 26, 2000, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) approved the new XHTML (Extensible HyperText Markup Language) which should vastly improve Internet connection speed and stability and make it easier for gadgets other than computers to hook up to the Internet. The full recommendation document is available on the Internet at http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/, but it is probably only of interest to computer geeks and direct HTML writers. The rest of us will reap the benefits but may not even be aware of the implementation of the new language unless we pay very close attention to the "location" line in the Netscape browser or the "address" line in Internet Explorer -- the first letter in addresses of web pages in the new language will be "X". Current versions of the major web browsers will be able to read the new pages and newer iterations will do an even faster job.

Broader bandwidth (equating to much higher speed) Internet connections are already becoming available in some (mostly US) markets. Several broad-band variations are coming on the market, but DSL (digital subscriber line) and especially its ADSL (asymmetric DSL) flavor, which is being sold directly in the US by regional phone companies and by other Internet service providers, seems to be taking hold more quickly than the others. Consumer ADSL requires only one standard phone line for voice and data transmission, and the Internet link is on-line full time -- no waiting for a modem connection. Several packages are usually available, and the standard consumer package may be cheaper than current rates for those customers who would otherwise lease separate phone lines for voice and data. Advice: as with all other new services, do not be among the first in your area to connect -- let other folks work out the bugs. For information about DSL from one Washington DC area provider (no service or product endorsement implied -- link for info purposes only) go to the "What Is DSL" page at http://www.dslpro.net/whatis.htm

The XHTML language, combined with faster connections, should make Internet speed 50 to 100 times faster than the current consumer standard 55k modem within the next three years.