"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 15 April 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

And The Bandwidth Played On


[Jessica At The Helm]

The optimist looks at the Web and

sees, a few years down the road,

a great opening of sluice gates.

The pipes will grow fat and

there will be content to fill

them. The optimist believes this

combination of speed and content

will present us with the best

of all possible worlds. The

pessimist fears that the

optimist is correct.


[The Bandwidth Conservation Society]

Bandwidth is not the cure, it is

the enemy. Bandwidth will doom

us all. Bandwidth is going to

kill the Web - choke us with

QuickTime animation at 11.


You may think that what the Web

could use right about now is a

good, healthy dose of bandwidth,

especially since it took you

three minutes to download this

page. "Bandwidth," you're thinking

wistfully, "There's never enough."


[Rat Loaf's A-Z Screensavers]

Be careful what you wish for.

Just as freely-available RAM can

be seen as the chief culprit for

Windows 95, bloated, gout-prone

applications, and multi-megabyte

screen-savers, fer chrissake,

increased bandwidth is the Web's

Charybdis, luring it toward

where it will be impaled on the

jagged rocks of crashed

browsers. Or perhaps it will be

smothered - smothered underneath

acres and acres of fluff.



The other night I was watching TV

when I was assaulted by the

local news. KNBC anchor

woman/romance novelist Kelly

Lange thrust her way into my

living room, glaring seriously.

As the staccato news theme

blared in the background, she

spat pap about "a dream cut

short." Jessica Dubroff, the

seven-year-old girl attempting

to fly across the country, had

been killed in a crash.


[Yahoo Headlines]

I had read the Reuters story on

Yahoo eight hours earlier.


And oddly, The simplicity of the

brief, three-paragraph newswire

made it more affecting, more



[Jessica Banner]

After suffering through the

over-produced, force-fed,

pre-designed grief ejaculated

from the TV, I felt eerily empty

but for a sense of vague

irritation. I didn't "care" like

I knew I was supposed to, not

one bit. I had earlier, but the

messenger this time had managed

to become so offensive, so

tasteless, so utterly vacuous

that it swallowed the story -

and any reaction to it - whole.

This sputum of "news" had

defeated itself, pre-programming

a reaction so hard that it




The problem is bandwidth, the

amount of information that can

be stabbed into my brain in a

given period of time. KNBC has

it, Yahoo doesn't.


[Jessica Flowers]

Since the Dubroff story is small,

since there were no pictures at

the time, since there was

nothing to analyze and replay

and hash over, the lack of

bandwidth compressed the story.

There was no space to fill. No

music, no self-important

seriousness, no pompous

proclamations about "dreams" and

soft-focused euphemisms for



[NBA Basketball]

And while I wouldn't want to

follow a basketball game that

way, for this kind of story,

minimalist coverage worked,

and worked well.


And one would assume that this is

a victory for the Web, for those

that laud it as a new medium,

moving to take its place among

the pantheon of the greats.



But bandwidth is expanding, the

pipes are getting bigger. New

tricks, new technology, new

stuff - none of which actually

requires less space - is being

developed at an astonishing

rate. In a few years, they

promise, we'll have huge

fiber-optic data pipes plugged

into everything, allowing all

manner of miracles. Interactive

movies-on-demand! Full screen

video! Stereo sound!



When bandwidth was scarce, people

admired those who could make a

point and get on with it. You

didn't send a picture when a

thousand words would do. But as

the channels open wider, the

sewage just streams on

unhampered. The ideas are no

longer bigger than the

bandwidth, and garbage is being

packed in to fill the space.


The end result is inevitable: the

Web as TV, infinite capacity and

nothing to fill it. Nature's

abhorrence of a vacuum is

nothing compared to David



[Tennessee Williams]

But, as Tennessee Williams said,

"A vacuum is a hell of a lot

better than some of the stuff

nature replaces it with." Server

pushes? Animated GIFs?

Shockwave? RealAudio? Wrapper

upon wrapper, shell upon shell,

with nothing at the middle but -

if you're lucky - the single,

ten-word idea that used to be

flat text on a gray background.

It makes me think of Kelly

Lange, and it makes me cringe.


[Jessica Controls]

Here's a test: Visit your

favorite sites using Lynx, the

text-only browser. Like them as

much? Jump around for a while,

like in the old days. Explore.

Boring, isn't it? I haven't used

a graphics-, sound-, animation-,

plug-in-, Java-capable browser

for two months.


I spend a lot less time on the

Web than I used to.

courtesy of An Entirely Other Greg