GUSWORLD
Rant Of The Day THIS RANT 23/09/96

Rant Of The Day is where I get to mouth off about whatever I feel like for however long I like. Theoretically, I'll update my whinge/opinion piece every weekday; in practice, maybe not so often.

URLs in the USA

In Australia, we're fond of opining that we live in a land of early technology adopters. Statistics suggest that, at least as far as making use of new technologies go, we're justified in that reputation. Commercial exploitation of technology, though, is another thing altogether. I had been in the United States for 24 hours when I first wrote this (and before technological circumstances intervened to slow the flow of updates). In that time, I encountered more URLs than I probably would in a day of ordinary work back at my desk. The blighters are everywhere. Television, magazines, billboards, it makes no difference. Nearly every advertisement I encountered had the magic sequence 'http://www.company.com' displayed prominently.

And this is not just technology magazines, or programs with an apparent interest in the cyber-future. My inflight magazine on American Airlines promoted its Web site prominently. Every counter in Virgin Records has shareware CDs of 'Quake' on sale. When I went to see the Broadway hit 'Victor/Victoria' this evening, my theatre program had as many advertisements featuring Web sites as not. A couple of them featured no 'further information' contact beyond a URL. The entire 'Business Opportunities' section in [USA Today] appears to be filled with Web advertising schemes. I don't know whether to be impressed or appalled. (The latter seems more likely.)

Explanations for this phenomenon are widespread, obvious, and not much help. Americans are marketing obsessed, so any medium will get taken up with a passion. But this is also a country where the minimum wage hovers somewhere under $4 an hour. How often can you afford access on that kind of pay?

Even as I assemble these thoughts, a voiceover on CNN is telling me that I can dial a number for free Net access software so I can get onto the CNN Interactive site, and it's about the fourth ad for that service in the past half-hour. There is no escape.

By far the most extreme example, though, is the huge billboard outside my hotel room in Times Square. giant poster promoting Joe Boxer underwear includes a scrolling electronic display. And, inevitably, in amongst the catchy slogans and special offers, there's an address for the company's own Web site.

Unfortunately, the Joe Boxer's strategy has backfired, at least as far as increasing virtual traffic (in the form of me) is concerned. I was so gobsmacked at the site of the world's tallest Web address, I didn't actually remember what the URL was.


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