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TBTF for 1996-08-18: Like Wildfire

Keith Dawson (dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com)
Sun, 18 Aug 1996 18:45:55 -0400

Search from your browser's URL window

It's not been widely reported that Netscape shook up its developer community and sent shockwaves through the Internet search industry when it released an unannounced "browser search" feature in beta 5 of Navigator 3.0. If you have this beta software, type a quoted phrase into the URL window and a CGI script running on a Netscape server will invoke one of its five primary search engines to process the search. The five search companies (Lycos, Excite, Yahoo!, Infoseek, and Magellan) were reportedly greatly upset by the appearance of this unheralded feature that could reduce the number of hits delivered to their main pages by Netscape's Net Search page [1]. Each company paid Netscape $5M for prime placement on this page. The browser search feature has been pulled from Beta 6, according to some reports because the search companies generated so much heat. Netscape denies this and says that browser search was intended only for focus-group testing -- which is why it was not documented -- and was dropped because testers found it confusing.

Microsoft, which labors under no revenue constraints from partner search companies, has included a browser-search feature in the final release of Internet Explorer. It's called AutoSearch, and it launches a Yahoo! search that comes up including an Internet Explorer logo.

I read of this development in an exclusive story carried by Interactive Age Daily in its 1996-08-08 edition.

[1] <http://home.netscape.com/home/internet-search.html>


A newsletter on Net security

Seven Locks Software has premiered SecurityDigest, a newsletter covering the computer-security front in six issues a year. It is an

> ...electronic advisory service providing a summary of security news:
> new viruses, vulnerabilities in various applications and systems,
> hacking attempts (successful and otherwise), information on patches
> and procedures to increase security, conferences and seminars of in-
> terest to the security community, and more.

Visit the newsletter's Web home [2] to read it online or to subscribe to the free email version. If Seven Locks can keep the quality up to the standard set by the first number [3], SecurityDigest will be a welcome service.

[2] <http://www.sevenlocks.com/SecurityDigest.htm>
[3] <http://www.sevenlocks.com/SecurityDigestv1n01.htm>


Classifying Internet payment systems

Holger Reif <Holger.Reif at prakinf dot tu-ilmenau dot de> sees a hole in the available literature of Internet payment systems and intends to fill it: he is working on an overview of payment systems with summaries of their features, advantages, and risks. Reif requested feedback from the Cypherpunks list on a categorization [4] of the extant payment systems. I find even this outline useful in keeping track of the players and the landscape, and I anxiously await the full overview.

[4] <http://www.tbtf.com/resource/payment-sys.html>


What are consumers doing online?

Trying to figure out what your Web visitors are up to by analyzing server log data has inherent limitations -- for a discussion see TBTF for 1995-09-10 [5]. This fact has not noticeably retarded the growth of a fast-moving industry devoted to measuring Web traffic by scrutinizing server logs. Another approach [6] to the problem -- recording actual user behavior -- is described by Tod Johnson, CEO of PC-Meter L.P., a Web measurement service of the NPD Group [7]. "Getting A True Picture Of What Consumers Are Doing Online" is a presentation Johnson made at the Advertising Research Foundation's Interactive Media Research Summit II last month in New York.

[5] <http://www.tbtf.com/archive/1995-09-10.html>
[6] <http://www.npd.com/todsp2.htm>
[7] <http://www.npd.com/>


Followup: Ultraseek public beta

TBTF for 1996-05-12 [8]

On August 14 InfoSeek announced the availability of its Ultraseek technology in an open public beta test [9]. The search engine that Sun Microsystems hopes will be an Alta Vista [10] killer is late -- when I first wrote about it in May [8] Infoseek was expecting to release it publicly the following month. The database is well populated now with over 50 million Web pages and the speed remains impressive. You can add a URL to the Ultraseek database and its indexed contents become available immediately. Only one quibble: InfoSeek should adopt the device pioneered by Alta Vista for acessing multiple pages of search results; it's just better.

[8] <http://www.tbtf.com/archive/1996-05-12.html>
[9] <http://ultra.infoseek.com/>
[10] <http://www.altavista.digital.com/>


Jargon Scout: a short quote as a nickname

Jargon Scout [11] is an irregular TBTF feature that aims to give you advance warning -- preferably before Wired Magazine picks it up -- of jargon that is just about ready to hatch into the Net's language. Jargon Scout also invites your collusion in inventing the jargon du jour, in those cases in which the concept emerges before its concensus denomination.

Aaron Hinkhouse <Taji at cris dot com> supplies us with the poser of the week.

> What do you call -- or what should we call -- the practice of, the
> instance of, putting a witty and/or ironic statement in between one's
> name at the end of a message? I.e....

> John "what do you call THIS" Doe

> I see this on the newsgroups a lot (alt.folklore.urban specifically).
> I can't think of what to call it myself, except to note it's in the
> position that nicknames go, and maybe something can be coined from
> that -- hey, maybe just "nick" or "nicking." I don't know.

> Aaron "feeling the pressure to be witty here" Hinkhouse

[11] <http://www.tbtf.com/jargon-scout.html>


Essential Tools: tips and tricks from one of the best

David Siegel was one of the original students in Donald Knuth Digital Typography department at Stanford in 1982. He went on to design the ubiquitous Tekton font, among others. His Web Wonk page [12] is exemplary of some of the best advice, and the best design, you're likely to see on the Web today. Bookmark it.

Note added 1996-08-19: Gerald Oskoboiny <gerald.oskoboiny at ualberta dot ca> of the HTML Writers Guild begs to differ. Spiegel's advice is at the far design-centric end of a continuum of opinion on how best to communicate online. At the other extreme are those who favor highly structured and standardized HTML markup and have little patience with the design-obsessed. Oskoboiny writes:
Siegel is a talented designer, but his Web Wank page has some of the worst advice on HTML that I have ever seen. I cringe every time I think of someone actually taking his advice seriously. I once made a series of screen shots of some of Siegel's sites (alliteration unintentional) with various browsers and window sizes, intending to put them up on a Web page one day to show how bogus his advice really is, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. For links to some good advice on HTML, see [12a]. If this was a troll, I apologize.

[12] <http://www.dsiegel.com/tips/index.html>
[12a] <http://www.hwg.org/resources/html/style.html>


Like Wildfire

Wildfire [13] makes a stunningly capable electronic assistant: its interface is the telephone; it recognizes your voice and does what you say. From time to time the company puts out a call for help in gathering "utterances" for the next release of the voice-recognition software. If you're in the U.S. call 1-800-430-9453 and spend an enjoyable 5 minutes helping these good folks make their good product better.

[13] <http://www.wildfire.com/>


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Keith Dawson dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com dawson@atria.com
Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.


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