Net Gains: The Last Crusade
Saturday 16 January 1999
The Internet may be good at gathering information but that means it's also good at spreading false information. Take the Indiana Jones saga, for example. For years, film buffs have lurked in dark corners of the Internet, swapping stories about the "imminent announcement" of a new Indiana Jones film. And yet it has never happened. If you've been following the saga, which ranks alongside any of the archaeologist's fictional escapades for plot twists, you'll have heard all the stories that an ageing Indy was ready to don his hat and bullwhip and stagger out for one last race against the Nazis. A couple of years ago, a story was doing the rounds that the adventurer was preparing to set out in pursuit of Noah's Ark. This rumour eventually turned out to have started with a spoof script which appeared briefly on the Internet (until film producer George Lucas "requested" its removal). Other stories have suggested brushes with Atlantis. With the arrival next year of the new Star Wars films, the rumours have started afresh. If you want to keep up with these stories, the best place to start is the Indiana Jones webring. The infamous Ain't it Cool site (www.aint-it-cool-news.com) is also an excellent source for movie news and gossip. And just for the record, the general consensus of opinion is that there will be a new Indiana Jones film some time in the next two years.
Book buying on the Internet is one of the great pleasures of the medium but tracking down rare and out-of-print items has always been difficult. Predictably, Websites have sprung up to fill this need. Welcome to the world of on-line second-hand shops, where people can buy and sell everything from books to antiques to digital watches. The most successful of these has been e-bay, which was launched in 1993 and is now valued at several billion dollars. It is an excellent service, although it does have its own idiosyncratic rules. Once you've registered, you can browse the site to see what's on offer. If you want something, you then have to bid for it. Each auction has a deadline and the highest bid at that point wins the auction. Once you've bought something, you send a money and the vendor sends back your booty. It works entirely on trust, and although that may sound risky, the site runs a system whereby after a deal each person writes a report on the other party. This appears on file, so it's easy to establish if somebody has a good track record before getting involved. On-line auctions may seem like an odd concept, but they're a valid way of obtaining rare or unusual items.
Amazingly, the increasingly trendy left-wing New Statesman magazine was beaten on-line by its crabby right-wing counterpart, The Spectator. This isn't unusual in publishing for some reason. The Daily Telegraph, that notorious home for retired colonels, was the first national UK newspaper to offer on-line coverage. Perhaps publications with older readerships feel more pressure to court techno savvy audiences. The Statesman's website carries everything that its print counterpart does, and although the design is a little unimaginative it's an excellent addition to the heavier end of what the Internet has to offer.
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