Design franchises

Recovered from – Mar 21, 1997

Last week saw two portentious announcements. USWeb announced that it will start a nationwide franchise of internet consulting and web design firms. Compuserve revealed one day later that the online behemoth was planning a web hosting service. The CompuServe plan is less ambitious than that of USWeb, which intends to create a nationwide network of independently owned one-stop Web shops, complete with hosting, training, and design services.

“I’d like a Big Mac, fries, a Coke and ten pages with alot of links.”

Although I’m sure it will make a big impact and most likely get some accounts, I believe that franchise one-stop shopping is not what most companies want for their advertising. The internet in its present form is advertising, not much different the magazine ad. I don’t think that if a major Madison Avenue advertising agency set up nationwide franchises, that they would keep their reputation for high quality national work. I predict less than expected results for these cookie cutter franchises, but rather, several independent design firms will become the go-to guys for the big accounts.

Check out one of the top firms portfolios here.

Net Losers

Recovered from – Mar 19, 1997

News happens everyday. Today Microsoft did something and Netscape responded with blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda. Sometimes, like today, the news isn’t that interesting. I am the first one to be shouting out predictions for every news article to hit the Associated Press, but today…who cares if Microsoft is going to produce their own video chip. It won’t affect your life, believe me.

So instead, I feel like editorializing. It’s Almost News.

The Internet is entering its third generation. The first was all scientific and sterile. Educators and researchers using the network to send and publish dissertations and the newest articles. It was mostly acedemics using straight text to transmit ideas. College students, professors and scientists were 99% of the online population using Archie, Veronica, Newsgroups, and email. The circle expanded to include the computer savvy public with the proliferation of BBSs and MUDs. The second generation saw BBSs become more graphical with ripscript and proprietary software spawning the easy to use online sevices such asAmerica Online, Compuserve, and Prodigy. That was almost 10 years ago.

The third generation has arrived in clichés of surfing and arachnid behavior. The WWW arrived and it came with its friend, Commercialism. They came to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And they were all outta gum. Commercialism hit the internet in a BIG way.

OK, here is the editorializing part:
The first generation (and some of the second) has developed a scornful disdain for the third generation (and some of the second). Catch phrases like “Netiquette” and “Netizens” and “The internet has been my backyard for X years” and “I have been online a lot longer than you…” have sprouted up like crab grass on my dad’s lawn. It’s the first virtual generation gap… Isn’t that just kick you in the crotch adorable??

If you ever hear someone say one of those or simliar catch phrases, repeat after me:

“Sure Grandpa.” (Don’t forget to nod your head dutifully)

Every generation since the beginning of civilization has been spewing ridiculous rhetoric about how things were better in “MY GENERATION!” Are we on the road to hell as a society? It sure seems that every new generation seems to have problems that the older generation had never developed. Coincendence??? Buy the Time-Life Book!

The internet is a scary thing to most people. Movies are being produced making things even worse. (See The Net, Hackers, Lawnmower Man, Sneakers etc..) And to top it all off, people who got there first are acting like they own all of cyberspace.

Where am I going with this?

Don’t act like you are in some inner circle of the internet. If I can influence someone in some way, I want to say, Don’t let HITS go to your head. An audience doesnt make you better than someone else. There will always be some newbie, who can hack better than you, be more creative, get more laughs, write it better and produce it better. It’s the nature of the beast. Keep up with the newest generation or become stuffy and pretentious with the older generation.

I saw an old man (70-80) in a diner yesterday reading OMNI. I think that’s great. I hope when I have kids, I don’t say, “When I was a newbie…I mean your age.”

Virtual Space

Recovered from – Mar 18, 1997

A few months back VRML made its debut in a hot flash of excitement which quickly dwindled to a dull florescent glow of light praise. The problem was that the only thing you could look at was a 3D view of a giant N. No one else was there, and it was quiet. Virtual Space wasn’t happening like people hoped. (Not quickly anyway). Avatars and shared whiteboards just weren’t available.

Recently there has been an resurgance of VRML and Virtual Worlds.Microsoft and Intel have agreed to support VRML on the internet in the form of better hardware and software specifically designed for the purpose of furthering Virtual Reality. I think the state of shared graphical environments deserves a blurb in Net Happenings at the very least.

One of the first entries into the virtual game is Alpha World. Boasting probably the smoothest navigation, Alpha Worlds sets a fairly high standard for what we can expect from Virtual Worlds. One of the most annoying things I found was that there was no global WHO command. If you moved more than a few virtual feet from another avatar…they werent chatable anymore. Learn from the muds: give emotes and commands and the users will make the illusion.

The Palace is a virtual environment with many rooms and toys. You get a happy face body with Mr. Potato Head-like appendages and accessories. Your name is Guest234 or something similar unless you pay $20 in which case you get a custom avatar and a name. There were some stock sounds you could make but no speech. You could chat with the people in the room or move around the palace. A glorified IRC, but very amusing and lots of fun. Not 3D but very graphical.

SONY throws its formidable weight into the arena with its Virtual Society Bureau. It’s a VRML chat room with some extra toys. Navigation is fairly straight-forward and chat is pretty simple. It is only in Beta 3 so its got some bugs. It gives your avatar two actions, smile and say hello. I know it’s only two, but assuming they add to that arsenal with many more actions it will quickly become more “life-like”. Definitely keep tabs on it.

Sierra Online has finally entered the online gaming industry with Realms. If you have ever played a Sierra game (Leisure Suit Larry, Kinds Quest…) then you know what you can expect from Realms. It’s a full featured game with attacking other players and adventuring. No speech but a lot of audio. A lot of fun but still buggy. Not 3D but still visually exciting. HUGE download. (Over 5 megs last version)

The latest entry into the Virtual Chat arena is none other than Intel. With their new Moondo they add a very important and exciting feature to the Virtual World. Audio, and not the stock garbage that comes with the others. You click on the speak icon and Yap away. I just spoke to a guy in Texas, as clear as Internet Phone (if that’s saying much). The navigation was very, very slow, very lagged, but the speech came through very well. There wasnt anywhere to go and there were no actions you could do but I was looking at an Avatar and hearing the guy in Texas. Its a step forward all right. 🙂

I meant for this article to be short. Whoops.

In conclusion…to be continued…

Alliance Week

Recovered from

This week has officially been dubbed: Alliance week.

America Online has allied itself with Netscape, then agreed to make Microsoft Internet Explorer the de facto browser for all AOL users come this spring. AT&T is talking with AOL as well as Compuserve who is also talking with Netscape and Microsoft. Microsoft allied itself withIntel to make Internet Audio phones a reality this year and IBM along with NEC agreed to make further use of Cyrix chips. Microsoft formed an alliance with Hallmark (No Hallmark URL??) and Intel is planning some Intel pentium pro machines.

Auuuuhhhhhhhh! (The sound of sucking in some much needed breath!) 

Remember when World War I broke out. Many historians believe it was because of too many alliances. One little country gets in a war with another little country and they call in backups. Those backups call in backups and pretty soon…The big one.

Right now it looks like this:

In the red corner weighing in at a jillion dollars, MicrosoftNBCAOL and AT&T.

In the white corner, the browser champion of the worrrrrrld, Netscape, and everyone who isn’t in the red corner.

Let’s get ready to ruuuummmmmmmbbblllee! (On pay per view of course.)

Microsoft / AOL deal

Recovered from

Well it seems final: Microsoft Internet Explorer will be the proprietary browser for the 5 million (and growing) America Online users and the next version of Windows 95 will include easy access to the online service via a desktop folder. The good news for Netscape is that this affiliation won’t hit desktops for a few months. The bad news is Microsoft is going to also release a souped up Explorer just in time for the new operating system and the new AOL software.

They say that everyone gets 15 minutes of fame. I can hear the clocks in Mountain View now. Tick Tock. Tick Tock.

In other interesting news, competing web search engines Yahoo and Excite have applied for an Initial Public offering of their prospective stocks. I don’t quite think that they will do a Netscape but they they will definitely be good market indicators. If they make money, it’s because the web is making money.

AOL Possibilities

Recovered from

America Online is kicking ass. I think we all remember not too long ago when AOL was in third place behind Compuserve and Prodigy. Now with 5 million members, AOL is wheelin’ and dealin’ with the big boys.

Both Microsoft and Netscape have sent out press releases claiming alliances with AOL. (See Netscape release & Microsoft release)

This is very strange since AOL plans (I assume) to have only one proprietary web browser. As I see it there are two possibilities:

  1. America Online and Microsoft partner giving AOL a much needed boost in their World Wide Web browser and a prime spot on the Windows 95  desktop. Microsoft  in turn would get 5 million new customers to their Internet Explorer browser. How this will affect the Microsoft Network  is still up for grabs. This possibilty will throw Netscape  off the top of the mountain before 1998.
  2. America Online goes with Netscape as their proprietary browser. This would  I’ve AOL a much needed boost in their World Wide Web Browser. (Am I being redundant?) The partnership would benefit Netscape by giving them 5 million new customers, but let’s face it, Netscape Navigator has 70% of the market already; 5 million isn’t going to make or break them. The real benefit is in the battle with Microsoft . Its image. Who has the best browser?

The truth is: Browsers aren’t profitable. They are loss leaders. Netscapeand Microsoft make their money selling internet and network software. The browser has been used to get attention for the internet software.Netscape has built itself into a internet behemoth by giving away great browsers. They want to make money however selling their other products.

Keep a close eye on this alliance. It will spell the beginning of the end for the Mountain View Men or a significant setback for the Redmond Riders.

Free Long Distance

Originally posted March 12, 1996

Microsoft and Intel announced Monday, March 11, 1996 that they are going to push for better hardware standards to make audio/video phones over the internet more available to the public. Forget about tax breaks. No Long Distance!

Here is the prediction for the Internet in for the Fall of 1996:

The killer app will be Internet Audio/Video Conferencing.

There will be millions of naysayers who finally get with the program once they hear that they can Phreak too. Online banking is great and the WWW is fabulous, but free long distance and video conferencing is the killer.

As we speak our long distance providers are trying to squelch this movement. Check out the VON Coalition and see what you can do to help.

Dont forget, you heard it here first: Killer App.