Diarrhea.Com and Internet Devolution

"Procter and Gamble has Diarrhea. Diarrhea.Com that is." So begins the Intermania Web page ("http://www.webcom.com/walsh/interman.html") out of Falls Church, Virginia. Even though the pages haven't been updated here since last September, it still boasts that it's "the only publication dedicated to tracking the hype related to the Internet." There's no explanation why Intermania threw in the towel around 9/95, but I can venture a guess. They couldn't keep up with the barrage.In recent times no single entity has had more publicity than the Internet. No ad campaign conducted by Hollywood has produced as much discussion as the Internet. No political scandal has used up as much ink. Neither Perestroika, Watergate, the Gulf War, nor Batman: The Movie filled newsstands with break-out publications, but they're tipping over from the weight of magazines about the Net. Endless amounts of communication surround this new tool of communication, and predictably, most of it is either half-true or outright wrong.Mainstream news stories invariably take two approaches to the Net. That it is decadent -- because of easy access to porn, provocateurs, and ideas best left on the margins. Or that it is the second coming -- that it will improve your sex life, your ability to shop, and enlighten you and your loved ones. Note IBM's ads, where the world maintains its simplicity and cultural diversity, reaps all the benefits of the information age, and yet remains oblivious to alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.urine.These days every newspaper and radio talk show has an Internet commentator, a good gig if you can get it. All you have to do is sit in front of your computer all day, occasionally lifting yourself out of the chair for nourishment, calls of nature or picking up a magazine at the 7-11 (Wired or the sundry Net surfer publications, of course). Once a day or so you tap out some notes on what's caught your attention, and e-mail it off to your editor. Surely, someday soon, all the above will be achieved without having to leave the comfy confines of your PC. Ask any computer programmer if you doubt it.Two years ago, I was well along in my interest in the Net. Even in early 1994 it felt like an exclusive club, though newbies like myself were regarded with a certain contempt by an old guard of programmers and other cyberpunks who had used the network for circulating games and information about TV shows. I dismissed as sour grapes what those hackers were saying then. First, that the network would inevitably bog down from the growth. The infrastructure of the Internet was not intended to support the amount of data that flows on it now, and indeed it is getting slower.Their second prediction was that the Net would become an exclusively commercial environment. This was sorry news for those who appreciated the wild frontiers the Internet offered -- the weird characters, outcasts and anarchists who had set up home pages. Then, in November 1994, came HotWired, the Web variation of the print success story Wired. By adding advertising to their pages they steered the Internet closer toward that commercial vision. HotWired's popularity (and profitability) gave the World Wide Web new respect, and woke the board rooms of the world to the Net's possibilities. The Internet turned away from being the funky concoction of a few thousand pixel pushers, to a sophisticated marketing tool used by all manner of companies and corporations.Like so many prospectors headed to the Yukon, the great rush of 1995 was to develop those vital trading posts that all interested netizens will be drawn to. It had been proven that brand names were critical tools in getting people to your web page. "MTV.Com" was a good example where people knew the letters, and had no difficulty finding the broadcaster on Internet. Many know the story of how McDonalds.Com was purposely registered by someone other than the burger chain, thus making it difficult for them to set up at the most obvious domain."Domain names" as they are known, are registered through one organization called InterNIC, based in Southern California. Throughout 1994 and 1995, InterNIC faced a crush of requests for thousands of domain names. Finally, in a move to dissuade the frivolous applications, InterNIC began charging US $50 annually for the ownership of domain names. Some objected, and accused InterNIC of trying to cash in on the Net. A "Refuse to Pay!" movement was attempted but quickly sputtered. Those familiar with InterNIC knew they were an understaffed resource that was overwhelmed by the demand. Most accepted that their domain name was worth the 50 bucks.For a few however, the $50 levy was a rude shock. Several Internet providers and individuals registered dozens of names in hopes they could sell them back for profit. The McDonalds.Com affair was intended to make a point, but many took it as an excuse to extort a little corporate capital. But companies usually found a way around the name dilemma, and the large companies just sued for copyright infringement.For the large companies who registered multiple domains, $50 per name was a nominal expense. Much has been made about Procter & Gamble's collection of domain names. Aside from the obvious product names -- Charmin.Com, Vaporub.Com -- Procter & Gamble made news because they have registered the names of a number of human afflictions, as in Badbreath.Com, Headache.Com and Pimples.Com. The real knee-slapper though was Diarrhea.Com.When bodily humors are the subject, there's fun to be had. Intermania's Web master "Walsh" speculated about P & G's next move for Diarrhea.Com: "P&G is mum about their plans for the new domains, but rumors are flying around Cincinnati. According to my sources, the company is working feverishly on the ultimate diarrhea Web site. The company hopes to have both the web site and mailbox up and running by the time they launch their new diarrhea remedy, TrotsAway 2000. Soon, netizens will be able to get cyber coupons for their first bottle by sending e-mail to oh-no@diarrhea.com."Not to be outdone by P & G, Kraft Foods Inc. registered dozens of their own names. They now own Cheezwiz.Com, Miraclewhip.Com, Grapenuts.Com, and in a move that will likely irk Australians far and wide, they registered Vegemite.Com after the Aussie national delicacy.Starting at $100 U.S. per name, the fine folks at Brokeragents.Com are offering several domain names to the highest bidder. They possess catchy names like Homebasedbusinesses.Com, Canadatrade.Com, Apparelservices.Com, and Czechoslovakia.Com, though someone ought to tell them that Czechoslovakia doesn't exist anymore.It's no secret that Internet has become a huge boon to the purveyors of naughty pictures. Champion Publishing are the proud owners of these attention-getting domains: Rawsex.Com, Rearaction.Com, Shaved.Com, Stacked.Com, Peep.Com, Uncensored.Com. Other registered domains that might upset your mom -- Bigones.Com, Busty.Com, Cheeks.Com, Dcup.Com, Nymphos.Com, Juggs.Com, Jockallstars.Com and Inches.Com, a site where I assume size will count.All the above names are grist for Justin Hall's mill. Hall has waged a campaign with InterNIC to register Fuck.Com. InterNIC refuses to register that word. Justin's reply from Jon Postel, one of InterNIC's directors was this: "Suppose some district attorney in Podunk, Georgia decided to haul us all into court for violating some obscenity law in his county?" Justin's beef is that while he can't register a bit of Olde Englishe, someone else can register Bigtits.Com no problem. Hall has ably pointed out the hypocrisy of InterNIC's decision-making process, but how can you feel sorry for a guy with an e-mail address like "justin@cyborgasmic.com"? It's said this is the year Internet needs to show it can earn people money. Netizens should expect to pay more, and more often, for access to on-line goodies. Though the Internet remains a source of novelty, humor and insights, it has unquestionably become the world's biggest shopping center. It only lacks (so far) the waterslides and food courts of genuine supermalls. Regrettably, in its rush to develop it appears too much of the Internet is going the route of Diarrhea.Com.SIDEBAR: Some commercial domains registered by Procter and Gamble:ANTIPERSPIRANT.COM BADBREATH.COM BRIGHTEN.COM BRIGHTENS.COM CLEANS.COM CONDITIONER.COM DANDRUFF.COM DENTURES.COM DIARRHEA.COM DISINFECT.COM FRESHNESS.COM GUMS.COM HEADACHE.COM NAILS.COM ROMANTIC.COM SENSITIVE.COM STAINS.COM TISSUES.COM UNDERARM.COM BACTERIA.COM BEAUTIFUL.COM BRIGHTENING.COM CAVITIES.COM COMPLEXION.COM COUGH.COM DENTALCARE.COM DEODERANT.COM (yes, it's misspelled) DISHES.COM DRY.COM GERMS.COM GUM-CARE.COM HYGIENE.COM PIMPLES.COM SCALP.COM SENSUAL2.COM THIRST.COM TOILETPAPER.COM UNDERARMS.COM

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