Issue #31
21 October 1996
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Edition #31

Just four months ago StatTrax moved from being a popular "free" web-page tracking service to operating as a fully commercial system. Created by ZMI, a joint venture with ZM Productions, a producer of film, TV and electronic press kits, StatTrax appeared to be doing good business with thousands of clients each paying for the service.

Unfortunately StatTrax was seen to grow slower and slower as time went on - possibly being a victim of its own commercial success, until about two weeks ago the site at simply stopped responding altogether.

There's been no indication as to why StatTrax has apparently simply vanished off the face of the net. It seems unlikely that ZM Productions themselves have disappeared - research indicates that they were involved in the production of 'The Cape', the new TV series which started here last week.

To date the internet has been pretty much a user-driven interactive medium with users having to actively seek out information, products and services.

Perhaps the only exceptions to this has been email mailing lists and the excellent PointCast system.

Well that's changing and now internet content is increasingly coming to the user automatically.

An excellent example of this is the Oil Change service from cybermedia and the latest piece of Java magic - Castanet from Marimba.

Oil Change is a great concept - a web site which sees to it that you applications and operating system are always up to date. Whenever a new patch or fix is released, Oil Change will deliver the relevant files to your computer through the net and install them for you.

Castanet (Cast - a - net, get it?) allows the creation of data channels over the net to provide automatically mirrored directories and files between multiple computers. Any organisation which relies on having the same data on multiple computer systems at various locations will find this piece of software to be of immense value.

Another "we'll come to you" component of the net is Netscape's In-a-box-direct system, a mechanism which allows web sites to deliver their content as web-pages but by email.

With a growing number of net-sites all fighting for the attention of net-users I think we can expect to see even more of a move towards the use of the net as a broadcast medium in the years to come.

Microsoft's first faltering steps into the internet-based publishing arena have hit another snag.

Slate, the Microsoft-backed EZine, was to start charging for on-line subscriptions as of next month however these plans have been deferred - supposedly due to problems with their billing system.

Although Rogers Weed, Slate's publisher has denied suggestions that the delay is more likely due to a fear that the market isn't ready for subscriber-based content at this level, some observers feel that Microsoft may be deferring this option for fear of scaring off the current readership.

Perhaps MS are just being smart and waiting for other "free" services such as the Dow Jones Investment News to switch to subscription mode first - so as to test the waters.

Slate are claiming 60,000 "hits" per day - but at least have the honesty to admit that they don't have a clue just how many actual readers this represents.

As most internet users are aware, it appears that governments world-wide are beginning to feel a little disempowered by the freedom that the net offers to individuals. The fact that all the major parties in our recent elections invested money and effort in creating a web presence is confirmation of their awareness that the net is becoming a powerful medium.

In the USA - land of the free (and endless bureacracy), it appears that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) have voiced their desire to become official regulators of the internet.

Believe it or not, their rationale is that drugs, food and controlled substances are being discussed on web pages, IRC channels and newsgroups, therefore they should be regulating them.

Of course the FDA will be standing in line behind the FBI, NSA and CIA for the title of "Internet Regulator" - let's thank our lucky stars that we only have Trevor Rogers and the IAD to worry about!

In last week's Aardvark Weekly I carried a piece on how a US company was offering a 45Mbps feed to net-users by satellite. Well the old saying that goes "if it sounds too good to be true - it probably is" appears to be ringing true here.

An interested reader emailed the company to enquire about the service and received an email advising that the service had been canned with a claim that Huges had "screwed" them. Attempts to connect to the site last night proved fruitless.

Watch out for Voyager, it seems that they're going to be doing something interesting with internet telephony over the Labour Weekend, perhaps trying to give Telecom a bit of a stir? :-)

I seem to recall Chris Tyler saying that he was keen for Xtra to embrace Internet telephony - funny that they haven't yet created a system to provide their own subscribers with an Internet-phone registry - perhaps Voyager will beat them to it.

If you feel like a good entertaining read - visit IDG's Friday Fry-up where Russell Brown asks Chris Tyler of Xtra a few pointed questions regarding Xtra's recent woes.

Anyone mentioned by Aardvark who feels that they have been misrepresented or who wish a "right of reply" are invited to send email to me at and the contents of that email will be printed verbatim for all to read.

Nothing this week


This from a recent Voyager customer newsletter:

"We are currently working on a revolutionary online weather site that will be launched before the end of October. The site will feature all the usual weather information plus regularly updated satellite maps. As proof of Voyager's commitment to its customers, we are currently having a satellite moved to point at New Zealand so that it can beam weather pictures to you!"

This would explain recent reports of Voyager staff standing atop a step ladder on the roof of their building and reaching skywards with a broom-handle :-)

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