PLANT PATHOLOGY AND THE INTERNET: A FORWARD LOOK
University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany
The Internet is a very fast-growing information network, and e-mail, newsgroups, FTP and the World Wide Web are used by more and more people. Altavista, one of the largest search engines for the Internet , had indexed more than 90 million webpages at the beginning of 1998. The Plant Pathology Internet Guide Book  contains more than 2000 websites related to plant pathology and is growing every week. So there is an 'incredible pace of change' , and the Internet will have a major impact on developments in the sciences.
Internet technology brings new facilities to plant pathologists and allows nearly everyone to participate. Keywords such as information systems and management, networking, electronic publishing and online discussion are commonly used to describe the new possibilities. But the Internet is more than the availability of more and more information, it is a new quality of information exchange and dissemination. An example of this new quality is electronic journals such as Molecular Plant Pathology On-Line. Papers are not only published faster than in printed journals, they also offer the chance to use features such as 3D-animations or video sequences to illustrate results. To contact colleagues is a simple mouse-click, and specific information can be searched for from your own PC via the Internet much more quickly than possible previously.
Diagnostic aids have become available on the Internet, using the increasing power of HTML. The construction of dynamic web pages makes the user interface comfortable and easy to use. In most cases the visitor to a certain web site does not even recognize that he/she is requesting information from a database, because the database is hidden behind a (hopefully) user-friendly interface.
Besides the major advantages of the Internet for plant pathology, there are still some difficulties, including technical problems such as availability of computers and servers in developing countries, loading time and costs. Authorization of published information and copyrights are further problems we are now confronted with.
Based on examples, this paper will present what is possible now and in the future, but will also take a critical view of problems that might evolve using the Internet.
1. Altavista: http://www.altavista.digital.com
2. Plant Pathology Internet Guide Book: http://www.ifgb.uni-hannover.de/extern/ppigb/ppigb.htm
3. Scott PR, 1997. Plant Pathology 46, 615-635.