On The Net

Dec. 18, 2001 at 10:41 AM
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DrKoop.com flatlines

One of the first well-hyped health Web sites has bled itself dry. KrKoop.com, an Austin, Texas, company founded in 1997 by former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and other investors, said Monday that it hasn't found new funding and will have to declare bankruptcy. DrKoop.com entered the game when most for-profit medical Web sites were considered sketchy at best. It tried to operate under an advertising model, but that didn't bring in enough revenue. WebMd and Medscape, the two remaining major health sites, make some of their money by selling services to businesses.

Deal could clear up Web radio royalty issue

A tentative agreement between radio companies and the music industry would require radio firms to pay royalties for music they use in online broadcasts. Radio stations do not pay royalties for songs they broadcast over the traditional airwaves, but online content is covered differently under federal law. Federal arbitrators, overseen by the Copyright Office, will set a national webcast royalty rate that radio stations would have to pay when they put their broadcast feeds online. The deal was negotiated among representatives of radio giant Clear Channel Communications and other broadcasters, as well as attorneys from the Recording Industry Association of America and other music-industry groups.

Dot-com survivors kept their heads down

The survivors of the dot-com crash "are small, scrappy, able to live on the leanest diet and willing to do whatever it takes to survive," according to the New York Times. One example is eUniverse, which has become the 15th-biggest service on the Internet, with 18 million visitors in November, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. The network of sites is aimed at women ages 25 to 54, but the content is "cheap, corny, crass and profitable," and not geared toward high-end retailing, the Times says. The company's 28-year-old chief executive, Brad D. Greenspan, puts it this way: "We made it work in the mean streets without venture capital funding. We have had to build and grow at a fraction of the costs that other guys are spending. And we have not been afraid to stop and change where we were going. The companies that raised all that money had to stick to their business plans."

NetFlix DVD service thrives

NetFlix CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings said a $40 late fee for a month-late copy of "Apollo 13" inspired him to launch his company, which rents DVDs over the Web for a flat rate per month and sends most of them through the mail. "We were passe during the bubble because we weren't cutting-edge," Hastings told CNET News.com. "But like AOL, we've focused on the ease of use, flat fees and unlimited usage." NetFlix works like this: Customers visit the company's Web site, and list about 10 movies in the order they want to rent them. After paying the $19.95 monthly fee, the customers get about three movies at a time in the mail, with NetFlix picking up the postal charges. There are no late fees. NetFlix says it now has more than 300,000 subscribers, adding as many as 15,000 new subscribers a month since September.

eBay turns attention to regular retailing

Executives at eBay say they believe they can add billions of dollars to their revenue base by expanding from auctions into traditional retailing with fixed prices. The company has made steady profits by charging fees as low as 5 cents for its auction services, but eBay executives now say they can increase revenue 50 percent to about $3 billion annually by 2005 by partnering with big companies. Loyal eBay users, of course, are worried about getting left behind. Rajiv Dutta, EBay's chief financial officer, told the San Francisco Chronicle: "The vision is to build the world's online trading marketplace, to build a place where practically anyone can trade practically anything. Like democracy, it's noisy, it's raucous, there's lots of conflicting points of view." Analysts say eBay's wide range of offerings, from garage-sale junk to used luxury goods, makes the company virtually recession-proof.

Google sorts through mess of catalogs

Search engine Google has started a new service that allows users to search through the pages of more than 600 current traditional catalogs, as well as hundreds of back issues. The catalog search was made possible by scanning in each page of the catalogs and running the information through text-recognition software. David Krane, a spokesman for the site, told Wired News: "Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. This effort is consistent with our mission." The service is still being tested, and it cannot be reached from Google's home page. But it is available through Google's advanced search page, or by typing catalogs.google.com directly into a Web browser.

Routers offer Web hackers fresh targets

With denial-of-service attacks become unfashionable among mischievous hackers, vulnerabilities in Web routers are becoming the latest targets for abuse in the Internet infrastructure, according to Internet Week. Where denial-of-service attacks simply flood a Web site with too much redundant traffic, an attack on a router allows an interloper to control where an Internet service provider's traffic goes. Router attacks not only can allow a hacker to redirect Web site traffic to an online wasteland, but also allow access to traffic that is merely passing through a server to another site. Experts told Internet Week that router protection is both the responsibility of router manufacturers, who can add levels of security to their gear, and also ISPs, which must monitor their traffic for potential router attacks.

(Compiled by Joe Warminsky in Washington.)

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