What follows was my perspectives on our networked existence of 1998; written ("a small eternity" ago by web time) with an odd mixture of humour, simile, romance, fact, and awe. I've included what quotes and images seemed relevant, with past correspondence and concepts I first mulled over when this place was small indeed...

The internet, at last head-count, contained somewhere between 50 and 80 million pages of webspace. I am responsible for a mere thousand of these, a sparkling drop in a bucket of unbelievable capacity. As president of the tiny but tough Second Flux Information Services, my life is dedicated to website construction and the pleasant rigours of computer consulting. Every day I add people to the net, and every day they ask the strangest questions...

Is the internet a great ocean? Yes, I replied, a great shallow ocean. <grin> With unexpected abysses and breathtaking treasures to make up for overall lack of depth. And no shortage of sharks, but no shortage either of truly amazing creatures. We sail across this surface every day, plundering exotic files from distant shores, listening to whispers of people we'll never meet, gathering information, always more information. And mostly we don't even think of distance at all. We just press a button.

"If nothing else, try sitting
   still for a moment, closing
     your eyes, and imagine where
       all those bits and bytes, like
         so many notes stuffed in bottles,
           are actually going..." 
               -  Scott Taschler

Is the internet shrinking the planet? Absolutely not -- it's expanding it. My horizons have never known such infinity since the first days of realtime discussions with people half the world away. Borders blur, races become meaningless, and possibilities slide effortlessly across the ether at 9/10ths the speed of light. You cannot use the internet without becoming involved, cannot count yourself a netizen without painting your part of the tapestry. And cannot explain this to anyone who hasn't been.

Web Growth Summary
Date # of servers % .com Hosts* per server
06/93 130 1.513,000 (3,846)
12/93 623 4.63,475 (963)
06/94 2,738 13.51,095 (255)
12/94 10,022 18.3451 (99)
06/95 23,500 31.3270 (46)
01/96 100,000 50.094 (17)
06/96 230,000 (est) 68.041
01/97 650,000 (est) 62.6Unknown, < 25
Based on research by Matthew Gray at MIT, 1993 - 1997
# of servers is the number of physical web servers in existence. One web server often "hosts" any number of domains -- for example, the islandnet.com web server hosts our www.windspirit.com domain and 25 others.
% .com is the percentage of hosts ending in ".com" -- the commercial sites.
Hosts Per Server is the number of domains hosted on each server. This figure plummets as each year brings us more web servers and makes it cheaper to host your own. *The number of hosts responding to ping (those actively online at the moment of the survey, as opposed to simply registered as a valid host) is shown in parentheses.

something magical...

Many of you don't know what I look like, so here's a recent picture of me hiking in the woods behind my cottage. I am always so excited when I go on walks, you can see the adventure in my eyes! Okay, so it's really Fargo Phrauge during his vacation in Nepal... but that doesn't matter, because on the internet the truth is what you make it. This at least is genuine Joseph, though the intention may be questionable... and there's always my corporate photo to sum things up. Identity on the internet is a transient, ethereal thing, that by its very ghostliness compels me to be myself (all frogs aside) just as others are reinventing themselves anew. Does the internet obscure my identity? Not at all; it gives me the time, space and freedom to express myself more completely then is readily possible elsewhere.

"In the renissance, what was your identity? It was an outer limit of skin, a head that processed information, a dumb universe shown as a spectacle. Identity became a point of view. Today, identity is a point of being. We add the new possibilities of mixed identities, collective identities, just-in-time identities, imagined identities. There's great flexibility, but the core business of self remains -- just extended over the planet by electronic extensions."
- Derrick de Kerckhove, Wired 4.10

Not that I really use the internet to socialise. Usenet isn't compelling any more, and I abhor IRC like the plague it is. An occasional trace of me can be found at WorldMOO II, the only MOO, MUD, MUCK, MUSH or otherwise you'll ever spot me at.

And beyond lies the world wide web...

Gay Vella writes:
>     I am willing to bet my bottom dollar
>     that you are out there somewhere 
>     gloriously cruising the web at this
>     very moment.  
I'm afraid your bottom dollar wouldn't get very far, my dear. See, I never gloriously cruise the web, I slink quietly out with grim determination, leap (with all the dignity of a tomcat caught in a spring shower) from site to site, amass crucial information, and log off in a flurry of file transfers... -JMcL

Browsing is too passive. I need to learn or to create, otherwise I start fidgeting and act quite deplorable. Funny how we use the words cruising and surfing to describe our behavior on the Web. How often do we invoke the words learning or engaging when we browse? Mind you, there are exceptions, and these are beautiful by their rarity alone.



Five Sites Joseph Recently Wandered

The verb "browse" is derived from the behavior of hungry animals who, in winter when pasture is barren, forage for tender shoots and the buds of trees and bushes. - Nicholas Negropnte
Where you to break my webbing down, you'd find:

10% Bonda Fide Browsing
45% Pages referenced in messages, mailing lists & articles
45% Direct Searches

It is the searches that fascinate me most, the way information is so vibrantly available.

Is it hard to find information on the internet? No, it's hard to filter the information down into bite-sized pieces, as it is tricky to sip from a fire hydrant. Information Overload is a common phrase, but this belies the truth that information is by nature limitless, and many of us still don't know what we're looking for... those that do know might enjoy JotBot, a rapid-fire search tool born out of my frustration that, as close as the Big Search Engines were to "insanely great", they fell just short -- tripped up by advertisements, mammoth interfaces, and entirely too much code. JotBot uses a JavaScripted floating input window to leverage immediate searches from six major search engines (HotBot, AltaVista, Yahoo...) in the fastest manner possible. JotBot's design facilitates both instant and marathon searching at speeds ranging from 2 to 10 times regular -- all by avoiding those large front pages and skipping directly to the data. The internet has spoiled me, when I want to find something I want it now...


To your right is -- but you know what that is. The streamlined N is instantly recognised by every single user on the internet, our first genuine cultural icon. For the majority of websurfers, Netscape is an integral part of the experience, the ship that carries us safely wherever the wind may blow. To me it represents the defining qualities of the web; hope, innovation, and high technology strapped together with a final coat of idealism.
Lighthouse Netscape's logo used to be a ship's helm, with the advent of version four it's now a lighthouse. I think the change is notable; from a simple means of navigation to a warning beacon, shining over a danger we might not otherwise see. Netscape the company has had some questionable practises in the past, and Netscape the browser is by no means a perfect product -- but compared to the competition, it is our greatest hero.

Microsoft Internet ExploiterThis is Microsoft Internet Explorer. It represents a beautifully initiated, ruthless attempt to exploit the internet as we know it, with all the sincerity of a new-world explorer handing beads to the natives. It is hip, it is fast, it has better support and it is entirely free. And once 90% of the internet uses it, innovation will sink beneath the monopolised waves and our great ocean will become nothing better then a marketing swamp.
"We have a two year window. If the web doesn't reach ubiquity in the next two years, Microsoft will own it. And that will be the end of it."

- Steve Jobs, then CEO of Next, one and a half years ago. More recently board member of Apple Computer, where he agreed to support IE4 as Apple's default web browser during the latest round of Microsoft negotiations.



Is the web a new paradigm of virtual commerce? Perhaps; it depends on what you mean by "new". With its millions of commercial pages, the web eerily reminds us of the traditional open-market bazaar, with a plethora of individual business crammed into tiny stalls, each loudly hawking their wares. Unfortunately, a business' typical reaction to this cacophony is to "yell" louder, to try and arrest attention with massive graphics, flashing banners, and other gimmicks. The result is virtual chaos. Ever noticed how there are no names left at all? All lost... and often to such silly commercial cause. I mean, www.criscokitchen.com? What sort of misguided...? There are a few precious gems, like www.electrolite.com and www.weird.com -- rare places actually worthy of their names -- but for the most part domains seem ill-used. Guess, my friends, who got www.web.com...

"The Internet is, um, a good tool to use to get on the Net."
-Bob Dole, quoted in Yahoo's Internet Life


When I create a website, I use a strategy of facts and silence, information and vivid artwork. I hope visitors feel more like patrons of an art gallery then shoppers at a used car lot -- no matter what the product, its promotion can be an art. I guess there are some products that are inherently artless, but this has not yet happened to me. Wal-Mart is not a client.

The corporations have not yet adapted to the 'net, do not yet understand. Until they do, we have reason for optimism; before they do, we are duty-bound to change the rules again -- to keep them at bay. It's funny, all my assorted www inspiration comes from individual people, never business. Even in this fast-paced, $100/hour market, big commercial webdesign firms just aren't innovational... they work close to the edge, but rarely beyond. I have never seen a commercial site that measures up to any of the best personal pages, and for some reason the fact comforts me greatly. They may have acquired 90% of the domain names, 50% of the bandwidth, and the fastest servers money can buy, but the web is still ours...

"What is the internet?" - Me, 1987

The answer (the understatement) as I see it now; "everything".

And we've really just begun.

Wind Spirit Art

website of the world's weirdest mail list

Histortical Note: Joseph McLean was (at the time) a twenty year old person in charge of several companies with a unified purpose: to expand/enhance the realm of the internet, and to provide Joseph with lots of money. He has so far been successful on at least one of these terms.
(c) second flux information services 1997