Sex and gambling. These pastimes account for more activity on the Net than all the other stuff put together. Go to any "best of" listing and chances are it's man's (mostly) desire for smut and money that's driving up hit counters, rather than the noble quest for knowledge. But we ain't seen nothing yet.
Much more sex and gambling is coming to a Web site near you - ignore it if you can. All this activity will also usher in a new age of Net sex and gambling scandals. First off the block is a California Web porn site that lures visitors with promises of free pictures, but insists that users (abusers?) download special viewing software first. All well and good, but this "viewing software" also secretly turns off the modem speaker, disconnects the visitor's Internet service provider (ISP), and redials a provider in the Third World.
What results are huge long-distance bills racked up by the rogue ISP which often remains connected long after the visitor has left the porn site. While complaints have been lodged about the site it is thought that plenty more innocent surfers seeking no more than a glance at a wondrous nubile are keeping schtum.
On the gambling front, I was recently travelling back from visiting the outer reaches of my business empire in Moscow when I was joined in conversation with a businessman from the tiny island of Sakhalin, better known for its Klondike-style oil industry and proximity to Siberia than anything else. The burly Russian, who we'll call Boris, said he was excited about his latest idea to put a lottery on the Net with its potential worldwide audience. Boris' plan is to offer services that are currently banned in the US (and probably will be in the UK too), allowing people to bank credit and play for winnings of millions of dollars on the site itself. "They're hardly going to stop me doing it in Sakhalin," he said. "It will be good for the economy and there's plenty of crime to worry about before they even begin to look into something like this." I am feeling a bit marketing weary this month. Two days at Lotusphere in Nice, France is where the problems began. Lotus it seems has been hanging out with some New Age marketeers. Lotus' presentation in a giant auditorium was more like a visit to the Natural History museum. "Think of cool water and heat and what do you get?" the speaker intoned. "You get steam, the steam that is the energy that drives Lotus applications ..." At least one journalist was fast asleep. The faithful clapped.
Don't let anyone tell you that IT is not a new religion. Back in the UK, and it transpires that Microsoft's marketing jibberish is filtering virus-like into other areas. Take Ford Motors. Ford is promoting Explorer. No, it's not a browser, it's a four-wheel drive jalopy - and if Ford is reading this, I look forward to my review vehicle. But how is said vehicle promoted? With the words: "Make ROOM in your life for your life" - a variation on: "Where do you want to go today" if ever there was one. To make matters worse the only other text on the page is: "Ford ... Explorer ... Find Yourself." Is the marcoms team at Microsoft moonlighting or what? We demand to know.
Back on the subject of sex. TV rablerousers MTV got a lot of press coverage for its survey about sex, drugs, racial attitudes and anything else that might make for an eye-catching headline. It had nothing to do with the Internet but MTV was kind enough to send the info to Internet World. Netragnome notes that in some areas the Brits are way ahead of their European counterparts. "While the average European doesn't lose their virginity until they're almost 17, Brits are bonking by 15 and a half, and the average Brit is sleeping with 12 people by the time they're 24." Sooner or later someone will link these findings to the high levels of Internet usage in the UK and put two and two together. Yeah right.
Finally, a word of caution for anyone seeking to follow those Netreprenuers who create and run cybercafes. Watch out for the sushi invasion. That most fashionable of locations, Soho, now has a sushi bar where food is supplied on a never-ending conveyer belt that dangles the food in front of diners, while a robot trolley wheels drinks from punter to punter. This new eatery, Yo! Sushi, is the talk of the town, always packed, and more like being part of performance art than being a paying punter. Yo! Sushi proves that in catering the future is about providing an "experience" as much as knowing how to slice the sushi/pizza/burger. The cybercafe is not dead, but the sushi attack is well under way.
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