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Online dramas hope to entice Web surfers, advertisers

July 21, 1996


In a path of development that so far parallels soap opera's emergence in radio and television, episodic Web sites -- virtual soap operas, if you will -- are increasing in popularity and number of the Internet's World-Wide Web.

On-line dramas try to involve the viewer, giving greater opportunity for interaction -- some even accept e-mailed suggestions and comments.

THE SPOT. The first to catch the eyes -- and Web browsers -- of Net surfing America was The Spot.

The Spot debuted about a year ago, and is accurately described as a cross between ``Melrose Place,'' ``Beverly Hills 90210,'' and the ``Real World'' series on MTV.

Throw eight twentysomethings into a historic beach house in California, and via the Web, you can read entries into each ``Spotmate's'' personal diary. The site is updated daily, and though the site has lots of very nicely done graphics, it doesn't seem to take as long to load as you might think.

It has been and remains the top on-line soap.

SPIKE WEBB. If there's a need in your online life for a private detective, then you should go no further than Spike Webb, Net Detective.

Spike is a computer expert-turned cybergumshoe. He and his pals are involved in an attempt to solve a murder, and the action unfolds in front of you, much like a comic book.

The Spike Webb site uses the FutureSplash plug-in for Netscape to animate the site's illustrations. The animated graphics that don't take a lot of time to download, kind of like a hypertext comic book.

If you become a real fan of Spike, you can join Club Webb, a club for Spike Webb junkies, that offers free stuff if you fill in the all-important demographic info, and your address of course.

Point your browser to http://www.spikewebb.com/

THE SQUAT. This send-up of The Spot Web site is actually nicely done. It features the lives of several inhabitants of a trailer park in rural America.

My main complaint about the Squat was the text -- its written to illustrate how the characters talk. While I appreciate the work that goes into this Web site, I find their way of handling text difficult to read.

But all in all, its a nice tongue-in-cheek look at the more serious soaps on the Web.

AS THE WEB TURNS. This site is a text-only Web site that unfolds weekly. Currently in a summer hiatus, you can read through the last ``season,'' and get a taste of the fiction-based mystery they have put together.

It isn't exciting visually, but if you're someone who, like me, enjoys reading a mystery, you'll enjoy it.

EAST VILLAGE. The term ``graphically intense'' is an understatement with this site.

This site chronicles the adventures of Eve Ramsey, a twentyish editor and her friends in New York.

What sort of adventures? Well, I never found out -- the images took so long to download to each page I quickly decided that for entertainment value, this for me, site was at least equal to reading a book, since that's what I was doing while the pages loaded.

The pages I DID see were well executed, and are worth a look -- provided you've got the time.

Point your browser to http://www.theeastvillage.com/

FERNDALE. Ferndale is a sanitarium dedicated to ``net therapy,'' and part of the site's interaction is with the hospitalized ``clients.''

Patients enter what happens to them in an electronic journal that is, conveniently, open to public inspection. The site seems so authentic, you may wonder if its all really fiction.

Residents at Ferndale live their lives over the Internet. Cameras and microphones record everything. Journals are open to the public. To live in Ferndale is to live in a digital glass house.

If you enjoy visiting Ferndale, there's even an e-mail update you can sign up for -- and you'll be alerted to new content at their Web site.

Point your browser to http://www.ferndale.com/

LAKE SHORE DRIVE. Lake Shore Drive follows the antics of a group of twentysomethings who mostly live in the Chicago area.

The last update to the site was April, and I'm not sure of its future for new material. Though believe me, there's plenty there that's archived at the Web site, you could spend a good deal of time just finding out what happened during the last ``season.''

The site provides a peek at the e-mail of 13 college-age folks who discuss their future and fun and life in general.

For a peek, surf to http://www.chiweb.com/chicago/lsd/

MADELINE'S MIND. This site by Digital Planet is more than an online soap, its billed as an interactive high-tech thriller.

Participants become players in Madeline's mind, in a site that more resembles a CD-ROM adventure than a Web site.

The site uses Shockwave, so be sure you've downloaded and installed this plug-in program for Netscape Navigator for full effect when visiting the Web site.

Visit the site at http://www.madeline.com/

EON-4. My favorite of all is a newcomer to the world of interactive Web sites, a sci-fi adventure called EON-4.

EON-4 involves an expedition from Earth on an intergalactic exploration. Visitors get to read the message dispatches from the explorers. Its a complete sci-fi world of its own.

FROM THE OFF THE WALL DEPT. There's lots that's useful on the Internet; but some things you stumble across just make you wonder: ``In-ay e-thay eginning-bay Od-gay eated-cray e-thay eaven-hay and-ay e-thay earth-ay.''

That passage wasn't some text scrambled by a computer on the fritz, it's verse 1:1 of the Book of Genesis -- in Pig Latin.

Now available on the Internet, is what is believed to be the first complete translation of the King James Bible into Pig Latin.

Definitely the product of someone with too much time on their hands, the translator includes notes that this is apparently the ``319th translation of the entire Bible; the New Testament has now been translated into 845 languages, and parts of the Bible have been rendered into 1629 tongues.''

And indeed, the entire King James Bible in Pig Latin can be downloaded at http://ftp.netcom/pub/ea/earl/ible-bay/

Most of the books are in a compressed ZIP format. The books of Genesis and John are both uncompressed and available for your viewing at the ftp site. Reading it can be a test of your visual skills, since Pig Latin is usually easier to speak than translate in written form.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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