On The Net

April 2, 2002 at 9:52 AM
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Site offers challenge to Google

A new search engine site is promoting itself as a legitimate challenger to Google, which many regard as the best search engine available. Teoma.com, a subsidiary of Ask Jeeves Inc., went live Monday night with the slogan "Search With Authority" and a no-frills homepage much like Google's. Teoma.com's search method differs from Google, however, by augmenting search results with broader categories. Searching for "Afghanistan," for instance, produces a Google-like list of Web sites, but the results page also includes "Refine" and "Resources" lists that allow a user to make the search more specific or more broad. Google returns its results by noting what other users clicked on when making similar inquiries -- the goal is to provide what might be most relevant to the search. Danny Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineWatch.com, told Computerworld that Teoma's categorization features, by contrast, "might be very nice or might be very confusing depending on the person doing the searching."

Internet prank sinks Canadian dollar

An April Fool's Day gag weighed heavily on the Canadian dollar Monday as financial markets reacted to reports Finance Minister Paul Martin was quitting politics to breed cattle and ducks. Author Pierre Bourque posted the prank story on his political gossip site bourque.org, and word quickly reached the markets, where the Canadian dollar dropped to 62.52 cents U.S. from its previous close of 62.73 cents. Once the story was revealed as a gag, Canada's dollar only recovered to 62.55 cents U.S. by the end of the day. Bourque shrugged off the effects of the prank, according to the National Post newspaper. "It is April 1, after all," he said. "The ducks were the tell-tale sign."

Ad company hid software in Kazaa program

A California advertising-technology company says it has used the Kazaa file-trading community to distribute software that will allow it to create a network of millions of computers. ZDNet reports that Brilliant Digital Entertainment has quietly employed Kazaa -- which allows people to trade music files -- to install the network software, and the company expects to "wake up" the network in as soon as four weeks. BDE says the network, which could distribute advertising or music content, for instance, will only run through computers whose owners have given permission. BDE Chief Executive Officer Kevin Bermeister told ZDNet: "Everybody will get turned on in more or less a simultaneous fashion. This will be an opt-in program. ... We're trying to create a secure network based on end-user relationships."

Sept. 11 stifles Bangalore's tech boom

India's version of Silicon Valley, the bustling city of Bangalore, has seen its tech industry deflate since Sept. 11, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The city of 5.2 million people has more than 900 software firms and 80,000 software engineers, and it accounts for one quarter of India's $6.2 billion in software exports. But the business climate after the Sept. 11 attacks has hurt Bangalore's industry more than similar tech centers in the United States. Analysts said American companies panicked after the attacks, reducing their investments in overseas projects. Abdul Saywed, a network services specialist for Wipro, one of India's largest information technology service vendors, told the Chronicle: "There have been lots of layoffs in smaller companies. Nobody wants to invest anymore. We lost all our U.S.-based projects after Sept. 11. And most of the small IT companies have totally vanished."

'Found object' fans find a forum

The Internet has proven to be the perfect medium for "found object" collectors, who "are mining the world's gutters for intriguing scraps of paper and strange discarded photographs," according to Wired News. Old love letters, lost-pet posters and weird pictures are among the prized "artifacts" that the collectors display online. Davy Rothbart, the founder of FoundMagazine.com and its print version, told Wired News: "I love these found notes, especially. It's amazing how powerfully you can connect with someone just reading a half-page love letter." The trend is not new -- some art galleries and publishers have been singing the praises of "outsider art" for years. But the Internet allows society's detritus to go on display without taking up much space, the collectors say.

E-business insurance is bright spot for industry

The Sept. 11 attacks were tough on the insurance industry, which paid out tens of billions of dollars in related claims. But according to BusinessWeek.com, the past six months have seen a boom in a small part of the industry: Insurance against e-business problems such as virus attacks, denial-of-service assaults, breaches of company systems and Web site defacements. The experts say the repercussions could be sweeping, because the industry will become a major force in shaping the computer- and network-security business. As they have done in the auto industry, for instance, insurers will mandate what types of security practices, providers, and products are acceptable. Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer of Counterpane Internet Security, told BusinessWeek.com: "Things like CodeRed (a computer worm that appeared in July, 2001) are happening so often now that cyber-insurance will become ubiquitous. Then (insurance) price differentials will appear for different types of software."

Satellite radio firm ahead of expectations

The first satellite radio service, XM Radio, said Monday that it had reached 76,000 subscribers nationwide, including 48,000 new ones in the most recent quarter. A statement on the Washington, D.C., company's Web site, xmradio.com, said that figure was about 15 percent ahead of what XM officials were expecting. XM President and CEO Hugh Panero said the radio service expects to have 350,000 subscribers by the end of the year. Major auto manufacturers, including General Motors, Isuzu and Nissan, have signed deals to put XM receivers in certain models.

(Compiled by Joe Warminsky in Washington.)

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