"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 23 October 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Screaming in a Vacuum


[The Dog]

IRC, at its best, is a chance to

trade obscenities and pirated

software in real time while

inflating one's own ego with

other losers in faraway dark

rooms with even less of a life

than you, if that's possible. At

its worst and in its most

commonplace form, it's nonstop

banter about where you're from

and if anyone would like to

pretend that they're female.

With such a wonderful

resumé, it was only a

matter of time before IRC left

its purgatory existence on port

6667 and entered the high-rent

district of ports 80 and 8080.



Like all forms of discourse, the

rush to the web by companies

wanting to provide chat has been

fast and furious. Some attacks

have been coolly calculated

attempts to bring political

discourse to the web. Others are

trying to bring the total IRC

experience to the web, as if

this would somehow be useful.

Others attempt to disguise chat

as a playful experience, as if

that would somehow cleanse its

essentially pedophilic nature.

Some attempts are absurd at

best, but even at worst, they

constitute a wonderful example

of how hours can be thrown away

looking for love or lust, even

as ancient push-pull techniques

tear your browser apart.



Net hobbyists are jumping all

over these things, rapidly

buying into attempts to give

everyone who goes to their

homepage a chance to talk to

everyone else who goes to their

homepage. This, of course, is

yet another case of Oversized

Net Ego, the assumption being

that anyone actually pays

attention to other people's

homepages. Curiously, when these

hobbyists check out the action

at their page to see the

wonderful source of discourse

they've created, they find that

somehow, their fan club's not

quite as big as John Tesh's.

Hell, it's not even as big as

David Hasselhoff's.



The IRC establishment is unsure

how to deal with all of this.

The rest of the net has built up

around it with high-rises of

plug-ins, Java, and Shockwave.

IRC seems to be the net's

equivalent of East Palo Alto, a

grimy evil place of belligerent

drug lords in the middle of a

land of gold. They like the idea

of more people becoming addicted

to their own private heroin, but

like Bob Dole they're a bit

upset at these masses who "never

worked, never fought, and never

did anything real," like

compiling an IRC server on an

old 486.



In the context of this hub-bub,

the chat shout-outs of the big

players are comically hushed,

though shrieks have been heard

from the backstage area. AOL and

Compuserve manage to serve the

addictions of most of the wired

world from their ivory towers,

but some are too occupied with

larger affairs to engage in a

mere war of words. HotWired

flaunts its schemes as free

and sassy, banking on a

fast-curdling Java revolution.

Quarterdeck took a shot at it,

but most people seemed to

realize that you can get a Unix

server for free. Of course, Tall

Dollar Bill hasn't neglected the

market, he's just exercising the

classic, opportunistic Microsoft

strategy: Wait for someone to

make a statement, generally a

big statement, preferably made

poorly. Copy. Embrace. Extend.


So, the legion of lonelyhearts

bids farewell to The Palace and

immigrates to Comic Chat. In

their new unnatural habitat, the

conversation continues -

strangers masquerading as aliens

in public. The image is perfect,

but the talk is still cheap.

courtesy of Beau Nose