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Ousted Iraqi leader proves popular online

April 13, 2003


Operation Iraqi Freedom has dominated news sites on the Web since the war began a few weeks ago. The question "Where's Saddam?" has yet to be answered -- unless you visit the eBay.com auction site, where the deposed Iraqi leader has proven to be a hot item for memorabilia buyers and sellers.

A search on eBay for "Saddam" turned up nearly 3,600 auctions featuring items related to the former dictator.

Elsewhere on eBay, domain name speculators were trying to auction Iraq-related domains that in many cases had already lost their worth or relevance. An auction listing for the LetsAttackIraq.com domain name called it a "very timely website that could yield millions of hits world wide." The week-old auction had yet to attract a single bid.

Other Iraq-related domain names on the block included those on either side of the issue of the war, both for and against.

But one of the hottest Saddam-related items on eBay is the country's currency. Demand for Iraqi dinars skyrocketed the day the war started, vendors say. The hyperinflated Iraqi currency has little monetary value in the country, though the bills -- particularly ones bearing Saddam's likeness -- have zoomed in value as collector's items on eBay.

Uncirculated Iraqi 10,000 dinar banknotes that garnered bids of only $16 back in March were bringing bid as high as $400. The bill has a value of about $7. Notes of lower value were bringing prices in the $100-200 range.

There were lots of other items for sale on eBay, all related to Iraq or Saddam Hussein in some way. Entrepreneurs hoping to cash in while interest in Iraq and the war is high listed auctions for Saddam Hussein dart boards, T-shirts promoting war or peace, buttons, photos and more.

For more information, visit www.ebay.com.

YAHOO SEARCH MAKEOVER. With rising star Google nipping at its heels, the Yahoo Web directory has unveiled its most ambitious Web design overhaul in the popular Web site's nine-year history.

The Yahoo Web directory, which began as a simple list of two college students' favorite Web sites, has evolved into a huge business concern offering a wide array of online services. While its directory and search engine has remained its heart, its business partner-turned-competitor Google has grown fast in popularity.

The new Yahoo search interface is separate from the original Yahoo page, and is found at http://search.yahoo.com. The new site is clearly inspired by the ultra-simplicity offered by Google.

The new Yahoo search page features a simple window for a Web search term, along with five additional navigational tabs to allow a search focusing on narrow areas, including the Yahoo directory, a search for news, images, maps, and even the official Yellow Pages.

Yahoo's new search page is devoid of advertising and links -- by design. Yahoo is apparently following Google's lead by moving to a business model that includes the paid placement of links in its search-engine results. The value of ad banners and pop-up ads have fallen dramatically over the past couple of years, and paid search is seen as way for the company to increase revenues.

Yahoo isn't the first search site to redesign its Web page in the wake of Google's success. AltaVista revamped its Web site layout last November, moving to a site with no banners or pop-up advertising.

Yahoo sees plenty of growth potential in its new search site. Company officials point to the fact that half of its registered U.S. users don't use its search engine services, and a new media campaign is being launched to promote the new Yahoo search page with new and existing users.

Even users of the "old" Yahoo will notice a change in how search results are now displayed -- changes that haven't pleased all of the site's users.

On searches that appear to be commercial in nature, Yahoo's results first show related listings from its Yellow Pages partners. These links are followed by paid sponsored results and lastly come the unpaid search results. Some users critical of the changes say the new Yahoo results have pushed the useful search results down the page by excessive numbers of paid links.

To try the new Yahoo Search, visit http:search.yahoo.com.

NAME GAME. Consumer electronics giant Sony is one of several firms hoping to cash in on the war in Iraq by applying for a patent on the term "Shock and Awe."

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has 15 applications pending from those who wish to register the term for use with products or services.

Sony's application was submitted the day after the war started. The company's application states it wants to use the term for computer games, video games and online games.

Others who have applied to use the phrase included a Texas pesticide company, an Ohio fireworks company, a California T-shirt maker, and a New York firm that manufactures beer mugs and decorate plates. One Texas man seeks approval to use the term with a wide range of goods and services, a sample of which include toys, magic tricks, shampoo, jewelry, smoking jackets, alcoholic beverages and women's apparel.

NO MORE NANDO. One of the Web's pioneering news sites has decided to cease its operation within the next 90 days.

The Nando Times, www.nandotimes.com, was launched in 1994 by The Raleigh News & Observer as one of the Web's first online newspapers. In the newspaper industry, Nando was one of the first news operations designed expressly for the Web. The operation took its name from its parent company (News AND Observer), though it was a separate operation from the newspaper.

While news was Nando's early focus, its efforts were later eclipsed in popularity by sites from major news organizations like Gannett's USA Today and CNN.

Nando's emphasis shifted from news to providing content support for newspapers owned by its parent company, The McClatchy Co. Though Nando will disappear as a news operation, its support for McClatchy print publications' Web sites will continue.

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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