INTERACTIVE: NEW-MEDIA CLINIC; British Websites can face the world, with a more open outlook

About a month ago, a chunk of transatlantic link between Britain and the US Internet went down. It was kind of embarrassing, because I was just explaining to my newbie fodder - uh, clients - how the Net was designed to withstand a nuclear strike. As it turned out, six feet of water flooding some guy’s garage in New Hampshire just about did it. Wrong kind of disaster, I guess.

About a month ago, a chunk of transatlantic link between Britain and the

US Internet went down. It was kind of embarrassing, because I was just

explaining to my newbie fodder - uh, clients - how the Net was designed

to withstand a nuclear strike. As it turned out, six feet of water

flooding some guy’s garage in New Hampshire just about did it. Wrong

kind of disaster, I guess.



The upshot was that the British online community were stuck in the UK

for a day. They couldn’t reach Yahoo!, they couldn’t reach HotWired, or

Alta Vista, or Bianca’s Smut Shack. Instead, they could browse our

online newspapers, check out the groovy happenings at the Time Out site,

and sample the delights of the new G.O.D. index. It was fortunate indeed

that The Samaritans’ server in Finland wasn’t affected, or we would have

seen some fairly heavy casualties. We got net.claustrophobia. The

nation checked out its own presence, and, lo, it doth suck.



Actually, many UK sites aren’t that bad. Perhaps it’s only to our

tainted, chips-and-warm-beer-sodden stares that the UK domain lacks the

exotic appeal. That said, there’s still a tone of parochialism to

British Webvertising. The G.O.D site (one of the first British sites to

have the old media ads plugging it, rather than the other way around) is

a case in point. A British search engine? You mean, like the American

search engines that are instantly accessible and have been going for

years - only not as good?



When you design your Website, you’re playing to a world market. You can

be as quaint and Britpop as you want, but being insular is just dumb.

It’s just cutting your market from 15 billion zillion to the five people

who can get their Demon software to work.



There’s no reason why British Websites can’t compete on a world stage.

The centre of the US Web design industry is San Francisco - a place

where the next Peter Gabriel album is anticipated with relish. Remember:

Punks in Frisco organise soup kitchens and charity benefits. If the Web

was a dark alley, your creatives would win a fight with any American

design team.



Dan O’Brien is a new-media consultant. E-mail: danny@cityscape.co.uk./



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