"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 16 July 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Search and Destroy



No official record exists to tell

us how many moments passed

between the posting of the

ur-home page and the creation of

the primal hotlist, but an

educated guess might suggest

timing in sync with the

call-and-response of a standard

2nd-grade issue knock-knock

joke. Like any bad pun, the

hotlist overextended its welcome

by the entire duration of its

existence, and even the most

accommodating Internet grazers

started to question the utility

of the form. With either the

same 30 sites crowding the real

estate, or massive directories

defying decipherability, each

new iteration looks less like

information evolution and more

like the Casual Friday gangbang

of Multiplicity ads.



But redundancy and fecklessness

alone didn't sink the hotlist -

sometime between Yahoo's

migration from

akebono.stanford.edu to

netscape.com servers, and

sometime after the day that

popularity wore down NCSA's

What's New page, home page

auteurs ceased to be the

librarian-arbiters of Web

traversability. Responsibility

fell snugly into the adult

undergarments of those who could

afford massive parallelism - a

group brewed by Lycos and

curdled by Hotbot, all promising

to serve up a sample of

everything, everywhere, in

ten-location increments. And if

one ignored their escalatingly

dubious, and questionably

implemented, claims, well - for

clue-surfers everywhere, it was

an agreeable, if grossly

overcrowded, walk in the park.



If you're a small-time Web

publisher whose idea of

marketing is to load 30k of

euphemisms for oral sex onto the

bottom of your home page, the

glut and gluttony of the search

engine industry is ideal. But if

the only thing going down on

your leased line is quote.com's

report on your Excite shares,

you might have a different

perspective. The former have

reacted predictably to

Open Text's recent announcement

of intent to sell preferred

placement of well-heeled URLs on

its Open Text index, calling for

a boycott of the service.

Short-sellers aside, the latter

will be wishing Excite had

jumped on the idea first.


[Open Text]

When Internet traditionalists

call for a boycott of the

Open Text index - always one of

the lesser-known members of the

vast search engine crowd - they

ignore the fact that they

were already being boycotted,

simply for always being one of

the lesser-known members of the

vast search engine crowd. Some

are frightened that Open Text's

pay-to-play move could bring a

Reaganesque split in Web traffic,

where the rich get richer and

the poor cheat on welfare. After

all, it's a principal truth of

the media economy that freedom

of speech is superseded by the

priorities of the free market,

which assume anything worth

saying is worth paying to say.

And, with any luck, worth paying

to hear.



But then, freedom of speech is a

distinct creature from equal

access, a term classically

employed in discussions of

available and affordable service

(as in access to the Playboy

Channel). But just as the net

elegantly solves production cost

and bottleneck issues, familiar

questions of distribution

networks and mechanisms linger -

not related to distribution of

the document, but to the notice

of its existence. At play is the

same promotional clout that

guarantees thousands of screens

for the latest Disney rehash,

builds Baked Lays displays at

the heads of supermarket aisles,

and grabs full-page real estate

for pink-chip Escort Services in

the A-M book of the Yellow



Protesting this inevitable fact

of life is understandable - and

those who recall the days before

Usenet was smothered by spam,

when commerce was anathema to

the Internet, may be inclined to

offer a sympathetic nod. But

busting one's head out the

window and playing the angry

prophet, railing against the

transformation from information

to infomercial, will meet with

as much success as Alan Keyes

outside of Atlanta's WSBTV.


As sure as a level playing field

suggests a nice site for an

office building, the Web will be

derevolutionized. Those who see

the new world media order as a

system of representation more

conspicuously taxing than

anything since the Stamp Act of

1765 will likely go

unvindicated. But when

Independence Day 2 rolls out,

those who were patiently waiting

for a real revolution can be

sure that they've already heard

its call to armchairs. Unless,

of course, they're hiding in

some digital cave. Building a

hotlist, perhaps.

courtesy of The Duke of URL