EXAMINE THE NET WAY OF LIFE
by Paul C. Pinderski
In the first Macintosh realm, Mac users were considered rebellious outsiders. Even today, the Windows Worldbeaters still sneer at Macintosh machines. Some would say out of envy; other spite.
Apple had its corporate foot firmly planted in the internet community when it launched eWorld. It was the model graphic user interface for a internet portal. It was reasonably priced, easy to use, and a magnet for Macintosh users to interact. The Mac tribe needed a place to meet. eWorld was that cyberplace.
I still have the original eWorld packaging (right) that contained the two Version 1.0 800K floppy diskettes. It is a part of the massive amount of computer hardware and software archives that are (insert adjective here) around the homestead. Apple had the right idea in launching eWorld. It had a fanatical base of users. It beat the other OS players to the opportunity to brand loyality to a site and product line. It still has its true believers. They just were rudely made homeless.
The original eWorld Town Square (home page) consisted of icon links for the following areas:
Arts & Leisure Pavillion, Learning Center, Computer Center, Marketplace, Business & Finance Plaza, Newstand, Community Center, email Center and Info Booth.
One clicked on a building to enter its content. The Newstand and Business Plaza were excellent gateways to news and business stories. The Computer Center was an on-line support center for computer questions. The Community Center was the chat and discussion areas where users interacted at will. Email was a simple interface. Those were the areas I had used most as a subscriber.
There were tens of thousands subscribers at eWorld. It was an active bazaar where those displaced Mac users could find refuge from the corporate, Microserf world.
Everything should have been fine and dandy at eWorld until corporate management/bean counters decided that eWorld did not fit into the cash crunch of 1996. To this day, I cannot calculate how they figured on disposing 100,000 plus users would increase brand loyalty or improve the corporate bottom line. I recall part of the shutdown had to deal with selling stock, swapping customer lists with AOL, but that was like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
It was short lived. It began on June 20, 2994. It ended on March 31, 1996. In its press release, Apple cited four elements to the demise and pawning off eWorld citizens to AOL: First, the companies have joined together to offer AOL as the preferred online service on targeted Apple computers in North America. Second, the Companies plan to enhance the AOL service offerings with Apple interactive, online programming. Third, Apple announced that it intends to discontinue its eWorld online service on March 31, 1996 and both companies have agreed to provide easy access and incentive for eWorld citizens to begin using AOL over the next month. Lastly, America Online has renewed its commitment for development and innovation to the Macintosh platform with new refined client software and complete World Wide Web integration.
None of the four goals were truly met after eWorld's demise. Apple dumped the ship before the big internet frenzy of the late 1990s. Companies without a percentage of the old eWorld subscribers were suddenly companies with billion dollar market capitalizations.
Apple recently hit a home run with its iMac line of personal computers. If three million buyers had an eWorld. It would have been easy to fathom that even if 10 percent signed on, the service could have generated regularly $72 million in annual fees today. That's the big picture in hindsight; but Apple had had the foresight in the beginning but pulled the plug too soon.
Apple thought it was caught in an expensive technology crunch. It would have to invest millions in new servers to run its own community BBS with internet access. So it abandoned ship to AOL (as a preferred internet service).
The most galling part of the demise of the eWorld site was how Apple did away with the community. It revelled in its own demise. Apple celebrated the destruction of the site with daily updates. It was a giddy public suicide before the days of Dr. Jack. It really disturbed some of the hard core Apple users since it was a public signal that a total Macintosh community would not be supported by Apple. Some refuse to let go. There is actually an eWorld tribute site that contains memories and some jabs at Apple.
At least someone at corporate was smart enough to retain the domain name. If you plug it in, it pulls up the apple.com site. Now the current Apple site contains some of the support elements of the old eWorld, but none of the charm. It has the content feel of public relations marketing slaughterhouse.
Apple has never gotten back to its eWorld roots. Recently it had iTools, a small free internet tool site with email for Mac users. Until Macworld NY that is; iTools was abandoned for the .mac subscription site. Mac users were not happy with the change, let alone the $99 annual fee for the free iTools services. There were 2.2 million iTool users that Apple is trying to tap for $99 year. Apple, like other tech companies, are now scrambling for new revenue sources. Hindsight should have been that they should have never left eWorld community format; one can say that iTools users would have been eWorld users, Apple could have kept and grown a loyal 2 million eWorld base at $20/month (a la AOL). A hundred twenty million dollars a quarter in revenue for the past six years would have been a steady, loyal and bankable revenue stream. The Apple community is not happy.
The fear is that Apple will use .mac as a way to leverage loyal customers to pay for more Apple-site services in the future, like software upgrades. The lesson learned is that one should not kill the cow if you want to milk it long term. The long term lesson was that Apple had its platform and a ready, willing and able community with eWorld a long time ago but it let go.
Disclosure: Author is Apple Computer, Inc. shareholder.
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You can now get Real News, cyberbarf t-shirts, caps and more! SEE IT!
eVersary of Sites
by Paul C. Pinderski
It is about a year since cyberbarf.com launched as my monthly examination of the internet. It has been a good learning experience. With the ebb and flow of the real world workload, the idea of the monthly site is still working out well.
It was also around that time that my humor-satire-editorial cartoon-political site, skirealnews.com begin to shape up more with weekly updates of either commentary, cartoons or special page editions. It is still the most active site in terms of preparation and uploading of new material.
The last site launched fully in November, 2001 was pindermedia.com. Originally designed as a catch-basin of other interests, it was formulated on the early species of internet community development, Apple's eWorld (see article above.) It is graphic user interface site where you roam around with your mouse clicking on various images to access information, comics, commentary, stories, etc. as it is set in a rundown city street. I have a lot of overset items and archival material yet to be reformatted for the site. It will slowly begin to build the momentum that I predict can result from original content programming.
The idea of a web site was spurred by friends who wanted more updates and newsletters that I used to produce via desk top publishing, laser printing, massive photocopy outlays and tons of postage. The web is an excellent method of distributing the same content, quickly, efficiently, and more often. My friends seem to like the ability to access the sites at will, since they are spread across numerous timezones. The sites, plus a email address book, which has taken the place of the old washed, worn and semi-lost mailing list of the Real news, have kept communication between parties at a record level. For good or ill.
Having no idea what the response would be, the totals seem encouraging according to others with more experience. In less than a year of operating three distinct sites, more than 6,000 visitors have accessed them, with 422.8 MB of information crossing between the operator and the viewers. The long term average is more than 42 unique visitors per site per week. The long term access chart is still on the upslope with more unique visitors being added each month.
What is planned for year two of cyberbarf is simple. Continue to publish monthly. Add new features or writers when available and appropriate. And maintain a personal examination of the internet phenomenon from the front row.
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write to us at
by Paul C. Pinderski
As I said above, some of this digital publishing has been spurred on by friends demanding more contact, content and newsletters. It can also be said that a few have pushed me toward the e-commerce side of things. cyberbarf has been mentioned as a catchy site name, so the quest began to merchandise all things Ski.
I have had an interest in publishing weirdness on t-shirts for a long time; since college. In college, there were a few memorable self-produced t-shirts for friends, organizations and the like. But, today, it is hard to coordinate the designs, images, finding a printer, buying stock, maintaining an inventory, selling product, doing the paperwork, shipping and receiving. That was the reason to go digitial with my zines in the first place. Less workload, not more.
So over the past year, when I have had time (very little), I have spied on other internet sites to determine how they market themselves. Most are in the midst of a cruel net advertising meltdown. The small, special interest sites have gone to donations to keep going. Some have outsourced merchandising to third party turnkey vendors. In the end, the latter choice seemed appropriate.
So with little fanfare, the pindermedia.com eStore opened in mid July, 2002. Initially, it will be that catch-all for pindermedia.com (parent) site, The Real News (skirealnews.com) and cyberbarf.com. Initially, t-shirts, caps and mugs will be offered for sale. In a short time, it may progress to each site having its own eStore devoted to specialized products.
It started with a slow upload process, and short trial and error period in figuring what size, shape, placement and file format is best suited for the vendor and myself. The trial and error period only lasted a long weekend. I decided to start small with a few items just to get my feet wet. When I felt I was ready to let the world inside, I sent off a quick email to my address list, and placed house ads on the sites.
The plan is to allow the eStore(s) to grow organically from demand and creative thunderbolts. For example, from the iToon archives, some of those cartoons may be put on limited edition t-shirts or posters. New catchy phrases may wind up on a coffee mug. A new logo may find its way onto a jersey or cap. There are numerous characters in development at pindermedia.com ready to take the spotlight someday. Any comments would be appreciated.
For example, below is a sample Limited Edition cyberbarf Art Shirt:
Other iToons, artwork and items will be offered for sale in the future. Rotating stock like cattle barons at the turn of that other century of progress.
From the launch of the sites, part of the business plan was to be economically self-sufficient. That is still the goal. eStores will be part of the equation of sustaining the sites in the future at a small margin. That's fair, right?
Check it out. No obligation. For access to eStore, click here.
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