Hot on the Web
Lost in Cyberspace
Online San Diego
Feature Articles
Book Reviews and Reading Diary
Music Reviews
Favorite quotates
Contact Me

Hot on the Web

Trying to cash in

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on September 14, 2007
(Issue 2537, Libraries on the Internet)

The success of MySpace as an online social networking environment has led many others to try to devise the next great online hit and get rich. Considering that MySpac's founders sold the company to Rupert Murdoch for $580 million, you can see why folks figure it's worth a try.

One of the latest attempts is, a supposed online "bar" where you can scope out new people, buy them a drink, or (for the happily married among us) just hang out like at a neighborhood watering hole.

It is – like MySpace, FaceBook and the much less successful – free to sign up and use.

And it claims to have 1.1 million registered users as this is written. When we visited, there were some 50,000 folks online.

But the user interface is clunky and non-intuitive. While the heart of the site seems to be its virtual "lounges" where users of a like mind can hang out and converse, finding a lounge is no easy matter. You can create your own and invite others, but the lounge menu is just a text list of each loung's name (some so descriptive we can't really print their names in a family magazine), total number of members and number of members in them at the time.

Once you're in a "louge," it's rather underwhelming – think chat room. You see the profile photos of the other members, bold-faced if they're in the lounge at the time, and a window where you can type messages to other people.

I can get that kind of interaction at Yahoo Games while also playing a hand of cribbage.

And while virtual drinks are just fine for the underage set, those in recovery and those whose religious/personal beliefs weigh in against imbibing, I'm not sure how much interest virtual beer is going to generate in ESPN nation.

I mean, if you have to choose between heading over to the local sports bar and visiting Fubar, I'm thinking Fred's House of Beer is going to win every time with most guys.

Maybe as a singles site it will work, although one wonders whether even an online bar is the place to go when you have more legitimate places like eHarmony and Match on the scene.

Maybe Fubar will take off – but if so, the operators are going to have to re-do the environment so it feels like a bar, and not like a pre-Internet dial-up bulletin board system or Usenet group.

An overlooked feature

When we visited the new Netscape 9 a few weeks back, and looked at its features, one escaped us that has proven an absolute delight: Built-in typo correction in the URL bar.

The other day, I was heading over to Amazon, but instead of typing in "," in my haste I typed in "amazon.cmo." Navigator 9 then prompted me with a pop-up menu asking, "Did you mean" By clicking on the Yes button, I saved myself from having to re-type.

Not a cure for a disease, I'll grant you – but a darn handy feature and one that ought to become as ubiquitous in browsers as multi-tab browsing.

Filling in for missing features

In going over Netscape Navigator 9.x (yes, it's again called Navigator!), I bemoaned the lack of the easy to use automatic password storage utility in Netscape 8. I loved that little tool.

But a savvy reader sent off an e-mail to me with a link to RoboForm, a stand-alone browser utility that works with Firefox and IE as a menu toolbar. It is a well-designed little widget that easily stores login and password entries for a variety of sites, all safely guarded behind a master password.

The free download is apparently limited to just a few sites, but that should take care of your favorites anyway. The pro version is $30, and allows you to store logins and passwords for an unlimited number of sites.

It doesn't seem to work with Navigator 9.x, but Firefox 2.x is close enough. And if, like me, you switch between browsers, the good news is that passwords and logins stores under Firefox show up when you use IE, and vice versa.