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
Dan O’Brien is a new-media consultant. E-mail: email@example.com./