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go to contents of current issue Wrambling On

The Free Web: "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."

When people first start using the Internet, be it at work, through university or while travelling the world, there is a need to grab whatever you can. Especially if it's labelled "free." The unseen light of this is that as more and more people clamber for what is "theirs" by right of it being free, the more problems it creates.

Back in the dawn of the World Wide Web there where few places you could go to for free services on the net. There were servers in Holland and California that ran free BBSs for people to access, but that was about it.

Within a year of the creation of the W3C came free web pages. As a uni student with no web space, I used these to create and maintain my web pages. It was fun, mucking around up to my elbows in HTML code as there was no other alternative. I enjoyed discovering the mistakes I made and slowly watching it all come together. I still use that page as my home page.

Two separate free web page providers collapsed under the weight of their users in that time. Keeping my page on a disk became the only way I could assure it's existence and there were periods of up to two months when no one outside of my circle of friends could see it. When something says its free and is designed for 2000 users it finds itself overloaded very quickly. Geocities has the problem beat momentarily by being able to afford to expand itself at a very rapid rate.

Geocites also offers free e-mail.

And now we are at the stage of free-mail. If one family member has an account then the rest can have free-mail to use. If work is stingy, allowing net but no mail, then you can get mail. If you want a separate account that you want to keep anonymous for whatever reasons.... you can.

The problem once again is that everybody is doing it. One house with one computer but four users can take three spaces. At the Internet cafe where I work we average about 15-20 backpackers a day checking their Hotmail/Rocketmail/Backpacker/Yahoomail/Mailexcite accounts. Then there are those who you can see invading the newsgroups and the mailing lists.

There are some days people just can't access their mail. The traffic is too high. The java coding isn't compatible with certain machines. Thrown into the deep end of passwords and usernames they lose their details. But not to worry. There are other free-mail accounts that they can create. Just in case. As backup. To make sure. You know?

People are already fond of predicting the so called "fall of the 'net." The time when there will be so many users on line, at one time, that the phonelines will not be able to cope with the pace. With free-mail keeping people from buying new lines, but tying the old ones up, it seems that the fall of Hotmail will be the first sigh of the end of times.

As with all things on the Internet its a good idea to try before you buy.

Especially when it's free.

Simon Feeney is a worker in the Hub Internet Cafe in Brisbane, Queensland. A B.A Humanities (Media Studies) he "studies" the Internet and likes to think too much for his own good.

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ISSN 1328-8008
Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Filed: 16-Feb-1998 : Last tested: : Last updated: : Last compiled: 16-Aug-2014
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