Terrorist attacks send people to the Web for answers


September 16, 2001



While a tool for students, homemakers, researchers and an avenue for business, the connectivity offered by the Internet took on new meaning in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Within hours of the attacks, major news Web sites like CNN.com, CBSNews.com and MSNBC.com were overloaded by millions of people searching for the latest information.

MSNBC.com reports that the average load time for its Web pages increased from about three seconds to more than 27 seconds, putting it past the time many browsers will wait for a page to load before timing out.

CNN.com also saw its load time for its pages go from an average of nine seconds to more than 30 seconds.

Both CNN.com and MSNBC.com wisely responded to the huge demand on their Web servers by stripping ads and graphics from much of their Web site, allowing pages to load much faster.

JIM'S NEWS RECOMMENDATION. I've received a number of questions about the best source for news and information in the days after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.

Like everyone else, I was glued to TV for more than a day, watching and listening to news reports. But for in-depth coverage, TV news just can't replace the written word. This is where the Internet comes in.

While everyone has their own personal choices, I've been using two Web sites as my primary news sources for several years now.

• The first is the Drudge Report. Matt Drudge's Web site has taken much criticism because he isn't a traditionally trained journalist -- despite his part in breaking a number of stories nationally.

But Drudge's own reporting (when he has as story) is only a very small portion of the site. The majority of the Drudge Report consists of links to news stories from news agencies, newspapers, wire services and media outlets around the globe.

Drudge highlights breaking news that's important and unusual. He also highlights links from international news sources about the U.S., giving you valuable insight as to how our country is viewed in countries around the globe.

And give Drudge credit -- the site loads quickly, and is not loaded down with blinking gizmos and gadgets and a bunch of ad banners. The site gets millions of hits, and it has been streamlined to load efficiently. Other news sites would do well to take a lesson from the Drudge Report.

Visit the site at www.drudgereport.com.

• My second favorite news source is a service of the Yahoo.com Web site called My Yahoo!

My Yahoo! allows users to custom build a Web page for news and information, using content from Yahoo's vast array of partners.

You can set up My Yahoo! to mirror your tastes. It doesn't matter what your interests are -- music, entertainment news, sports or just plain old national and international news -- you'll be able to easily customize a page (or pages) that will give you the information you need.

There are a lot of different ways you can configure My Yahoo!, and I doubt the serious news hound will find there's much left that the site can't offer.

For more information, visit www.yahoo.com and click on the link for My Yahoo!

ONLINE FUNDRAISING. Top Internet bookseller Amazon.com changed its Web site home page the day after the terrorist attacks to promote its drive to raise relief funds for the American Red Cross.

The message extends the sympathies of Amazon employees to those affected by the tragedy, and prompts users to contribute any amount -- from $1 to $100.

Amazon users were responding to the call for donations -- in four days, users had contributed more than $5 million to the Red Cross.

Amazon is allowing users to use its Amazon Honor System, which lets users register credit card information for purchases at the site to make donations.

EBAY BAN. Online auction Web site eBay.com banned the sale of any items related to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center of the Pentagon the day after the tragedies.

The ban came after listings for memorabilia -- from chunks of debris to videotapes -- appeared on the site within hours of the attacks.

The move was taken to show respect for the victims, their families and the survivors.

Several hundred items were removed from the site in the two days following the attack, a company spokesman said.

The ban also included legitimate memorabilia, such as postcards of the World Trade Center's twin towers.

EBay has banned items before, including memorabilia related to JFK Jr.'s 1999 plane crash and the death of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt. This is the first time the company has banned the sale of legitimate tourist memorabilia.

NAME CHANGE. Search engine GoTo.com, after winning a long legal battle last year with the Walt Disney Co.'s Go.com about trademark infringement, will be changing the name of its service.

The company cites confusion with other similar search engines, including Go.com and Got2Net.com.

The company will change its name to Overture Services early next month.

GoTo.com is unique in that it is a paid placement search engine. It doesn't rely much on advertising for income, but on selling spots in its results pages.

For example, a national auto parts supplier can pay a premium price to be the top listing when a user searches for the term "spark plug." Companies bid for prominent placement of their links in the search engines' results, and they pay a fee when a user clicks on their link.

The company has more than 45,000 customers, and it claims to reach 75 percent of Web users through its partnerships with AOL, AltaVista and Microsoft Corp.

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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