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Autumn 1997

Reviews in this issue:

Wrambling on

Microsoft GIF editor

see also: reviews index

Is all the media attention on internet content out of all proportion, or is there some substance to it.

A list of the top 200 keywords searched for under Yahoo in a month leaked out and was published on the web (big surprise).

60% of the top 20 keywords requested on Yahoo in one month were sexual in nature, with a ridiculous 1,500,000+ requests for the word "sex". Netscape waded in at number 5 (after "Playboy") but "Microsoft" didn't even make the top 20, coming in at 22 well after Pamela Anderson, Playboy and Penthouse (if you'll excuse the expression).

So much for the information superhighway, if the searches are any indication, the web is attracting users who want a dank, smelly alley with Divine Brown.

The internet, like any other communication medium, has an enormous capacity for provide massively useful and up-to-date information quickly, and the top two keywords for real reference-type information were "weather" at 10 and "maps" at 16.

Now, let's look at things squarely for a minute. When I went on a training course for computer resellers we were told men buy computers as toys, women buy them as tools. So you sell a PC to a man with an encyclopedia on CD, they said, and he tells his wife it's for the kid's education. And he buys Doom to play on it. Seriously. This is absolutely no exaggeration. This is how we were told CD drives were best sold.

So, who is looking up the "questionable" keywords on the web? Strange old men with coke-bottle glasses? Do they have PCs? Computer geeks in stale T-shirts with no personal skills (well, "chat" was 2, and "chat rooms" was 20, but together they still added up to less than one third of the queries for "sex")? Or Dads and brothers and boyfriends and husbands. With such a high incidence of sexual references in the top 200, we should expect that playboy and penthouse, popular magazines dedicated to, as Douglas Adams so delicately put it, "gynecology".

I'm not excluding female interest in sexual subjects, it's just that women tend to be so much less hormone-driven that their priorities are often radically different from men's. Quite a number of female internet users conceal their gender behind asexual nom de keyboards.

So, the big question is, just where is the problem: with the content providers, or the users? What disturbs me about these figures is not the proliferation of sexual materials, but the prevalence of the kind of interest (need?) that seeks portrayals of sexual congress, not as a natural act, but as a means of ego-gratification and power-mongering. Pamela Anderson is the first name in the list. I think Jackie O., Sally Ride and Oprah Winfrey are more valuable women to find on the superhighway.

I deliberately avoided either using certain terms or stating to location of this list on the net. You can find it easily enough, by searching for information about promoting your web site and similar subjects. Suffice to say that the choice of keywords did not suggest that individuals were seeking information about safe sex, improved interpersonal relationships, or even increasing stamina and new techniques - any of which might show that the internet could be a discreet source of personal information.

Remember that old saying, "charity begins at home", well, so does "pornograp-y".

Ali Kayn, April, 1997
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ISSN 1328-8008
Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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