Issue #40
23 December 1996
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A weekly E-zine about the NZ internet industry
Aardvark

Edition #40

THE AARDVARK AWARDS
Well here we are... it's time for the inaugural Aardvark Industry Expert Awards and I'd like to take a moment to thank all those who took the time to register their votes.

SIMPLE MATH...
Firstly let me say that it's pretty obvious that the larger the ISP, the more votes they are likely to have received - it's simple math. Of course this puts the "small guys" at a disadvantage so just because a smaller organisation didn't win an award doesn't mean that they might not be the "best" after all.

THE BEST ISP AWARD GOES TO:
VOYAGER

Yes, Voyager picked up the most votes in this category, second place going to Xtra with IHUG just a whisker behind. Honourable mention goes to Actrix with most others NZ ISPs scoring at least a few votes.

THE MOST FAR LEAST BEST ISP AWARD GOES TO:
XTRA

The votes place Xtra as first(?) in this category with second place going to IHUG and the balance of votes spread amongst a handful of others.

THE BEST WEB-SITE AWARD GOES TO:
CLEARNET

Second place however was Xtra with NBR very close behind in third... that's the way the votes fell folks.

THE MOST FAR LEAST BEST WEB-SITE AWARD GOES TO:
NBR

Third place in the Best and first place in this category shows just how polarised people's opinions are on this site.

THE BEST WEB DESIGNER AWARD GOES TO:
WEBDESIGN

Although early counting indicated the race between Webdesign and WebMasters might be very close, Dave Blyth of Webdesign pulled out a healthy lead later in the week with WebMasters coming in second, mainly on the strength of their work on the ClearNet site.

THE BEST WEB BROWSER AWARD GOES TO:
NETSCAPE 3.0

Winning by a country-mile, it looks as if Netscape's dominance in the market is still strong. Second place (of course) went to Microsoft's Internet Explorer 3.0

THE BEST PRODUCT OF THE YEAR AWARD GOES TO:
MSIE 3.0

Yes... strange but true. Although NS3.0 won best browser, MSIE3.0 wins this category - possibly because the vote for best product was split over so many different nominations.

THE MOST FAR LEAST BEST PRODUCT OF THE YEAR GOES TO:
NOBODY

Few people voted in this category and those who did all nominated different products - so no award.

THE NETIZEN OF THE YEAR AWARD GOES TO:
CHRIS TYLER

I kid you not! Chris just nudged out Russell Brown of IDG by a smidgen. Again, the remainder of the vote was quite split with even "The big guy at Voyager... I forget his name" getting a vote.

Aardvark's Own Awards
Well the readers have had their say, now it's time for my own personal set of awards and recognitions - which I'm sure will shock and surprise some people.

THE BEST CONTRIBUTION TO THE INDUSTRY AWARD GOES TO:
CHRIS TYLER

Yes, I'm afraid I'm going to have to agree with the "Netizen of the Year" voters and give Chris this one. Through Xtra, Chris has significantly raised the profile of the Internet amongst the business and recreational markets - although perhaps not always in a positive way. I'm sure that even those whose own ventures have been adversely affected by Xtra's entry into the marketplace will have to acknowledge that the multi-million dollar advertising-spend undertaken by Xtra is something which, in the longer term, should be a benefit to all players.

Also, by romping off overseas just before Xtra encountered a significant crisis, Chris evened up the playing field by allowing other ISPs to pick up a whole heap of customers who weren't impressed by the way that the Telecom PR people treated them like mushrooms.

THE MOST NEWSWORTHY PLAYER AWARD GOES TO:
XTRA AND VOYAGER

This really had to be a tie. Early-on Xtra were the clear leaders but of late, Voyager have been a pretty good source of stories, what with the launch of some new products, the Commerce Commission action and threats of litigation with Xtra.

THE AWARD OF VALOUR GOES TO:
ALL THE "WORKERS" AT XTRA

Yes... I'm talking about those guys and gals at Xtra who are removed from the politics and high-level decision-making. These people have had to endure the scorn and mockery of the industry for many months. Despite the stupid executive-level decisions made with respect capacity planning (help-desk and equipment), and some very bad handling of security problems - these people have done their best to produce a product which scored a surprisingly high number of votes in the "Best" categories. I think it's important that we don't tar the workers with the same brush we use to tar the upper echelons of management and this award reflects that.

In particular, I think it's a shame that so many people have written off Xtra's web site on the basis of early impressions.

As a certain "award winning" web designer is quick to point out - "You only get one chance to make a first impression" and the original designers of the Xtra web-site (and those responsible for approving that design) really messed up - to the degree that much of the improvement achieved in recent months now goes unnoticed and unrecognised.

Don't get me wrong - the Xtra site still has some quite significant deficiencies (such as the way it uses frames and the difficulty associated with finding stuff), but there's also a hell of a lot of really good content hidden away in there. If you think my award is unreasonable - take half an hour and really poke around on Xtra, you might be surprised what you find. But you will have to look hard - too much of the good stuff seems to be hidden in nooks and crannies.

THE GREASED PIG AWARD GOES TO:
TELECOM P.R.

Yes, full kudos to anyone who can do such an amazing job of turning a sows ear into a silk purse on such a regular basis. These people are probably Telecom's biggest asset and if they were paid what they are truly worth I'm sure it would put a big dent in that $700m per year profit.

Single-handedly they turned urgent repairs to a gaping security hole into a "a planned system enhancement". Later they turned a huge lack of capacity and resultant attrocious levels of service and customer support into "unexpected success in the market".

What is more frightening than Telcom's P.R. power is the way the average NZer takes the press releases and statements which they issue forth as gospel. What does this say about the average NZer?

I'm sure that if a nuclear bomb was dropped on Auckland they'd tell us that we should just slap on some SPF15 and enjoy the extra sunshine - and what's worse, 98% of the country would believe them!

THE I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S TRUE AWARD GOES TO:
XTRA

For being reckless enough to drop their prices by more than 50% whilst knowing full well that they wouldn't have the capacity to handle the extra business - and at the same time unnecessarily devastating the profitability of the smaller players in the marketplace.

Xtra were claiming that they were already ahead of their projected sales figures at the time the pricing was dropped - so why was it done? Greed? A wish to unfairly dominate the market by squeezing out the little guys? The Commerce Commission will be attempting to answer this question early next year.

If Xtra were any other company, they'd have collapsed as a victim of "overtrading" - an effect which takes its toll of many otherwise successful startup ventures every year. However, when dad's got bottomless pockets, this isn't a problem is it?

THE YEAR IN SUMMARY
Well it's been a hectic year in the Internet Industry. When Aardvark launched back at the beginning of they year, I had no idea so many people would want to read my deranged scratchings - although I'm obviously pleased they do.

The most interesting aspect of the year has been the sheer amount of money that some players have pumped into creating a presence.

Xtra made a huge impact when they stumbled onto the scene, seemingly with their shoelaces tied together and drool running from their eager mouth. Despite this, and an ongoing series of disasters which would have killed-off any lesser operation, Xtra certainly do have a lot of subscribers - and (shock, horror, probe!), a fair few of them seem happy with what they're getting for their dollar.

NBR spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a content-rich site which has become a "love it or hate it" location. There's lots of stuff there - but it's so poorly indexed and designed that you've really got to fight your way past the site to get to the content. I think an extra $50K spent on redesigning the user-interface would pay huge dividends. Just take a look at the total dearth of activity in their "Chat Rooms" for an example of how nobody can be bothered battling the site to have their say. However - credit where credit's due, these guys reckon they're launching in profit-mode and there are few other sites on the Web which can claim the same. It must be said though that the revenues are possibly "in spite of" the web site rather than because of it.

Clear had enough savvy to look at Xtra's follies earlier in the year and "do it right" when they launched. No big noise, no ambitious sales targets, consultation with industry experts before the launch, and more than adequate support resources has meant that they are reportedly doing "very well thank you". BUT... the honey-moon's almost over and already people are starting to realise that the Clear site is merely a link-launch-pad, and despite its pretty escutcheon, the content is largely being "shuffled" rather than updated. Clear are going to have to pay more attention to NZ Web content if they expect to get ongoing support from within the local content-production industry.

MY THANKS TO...
I'd like to express my thanks to all of the people who have helped me over the past 12 months. It would take far to long to mention everyone but certainly Actrix must be thanked for their provision server and bandwidth resources used for the Aardvark site.

Thanks also to those who have advertised on Aardvark - I hope you've gotten value for your money.

But most of all, thanks to Aardvark readers. Without your regular visits to this site and your support of the advertisers, none of this would be any fun.

HOLIDAY HOURS
As is usual - I doubt I'll be taking any holidays this year so you can expect to see issues of Aardvark appearing - albeit maybe not as "on time" as usual, and maybe a little shorter than average.

Merry Christmas to all.

Bruce Simpson
Aardvark.

FROM THE "I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S TRUE" DEPARTMENT:

I can't believe it's only 2 days to Christmas!

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