sites: Know how to access British culture from the wider world? Andrew North does
Giant and Worthy Site: A new behemoth has arrived on the Web and is as impressive as it is massive. It is the newly established site of the British Council (, the organisation responsible for educating and promoting the delights of British culture to the outside world. One of its best features is locally produced pages from every one of the 109 countries in which the Council operates.

Some offices have yet to put up their own pages, but an A-to-Z search facility allows you to look up the country you require. The British Council service also works the other way round, in that it is encouraging home- based educational institutions and other organisations who want to promote themselves abroad to take space in the Britain Direct section. People can then drop into their local Council office to find out what is available back in Old Blighty.

What is also significant about this initiative is that it will bring the Web to areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa which have virtually no Internet connections. Unlike many government Web sites, the British Council has put a lot of effort into the design and look of their service.

Magpie Sites: An odd one to write about this. Because I'm not recommending, or even putting the boot into, a particular site. We're talking concepts here, or rather an ingenious new way of using the Web as a promotional tool. Levi's jeans are the company doing the promoting, using their so- called Magpie Pieces, but not their own site ( To check it out, log on to the MTV site ( and you should see an eye winking at you suggestively on the home page. The same applies with the Wired for Weird page in the Fortean Times site ( iss/ft088/wired/). When you click on the eye, you will be transported to one of four randomly chosen animations. A colourful DNA helix shape might appear first, twisting like a belly dancer, spelling out the words "Each Pair is Unique". Or you might see snowflakes with the slogan "No two pairs are the same". The flagship in the Magpie series is a nifty cowboy shooting game best played on a fast Internet connection.

Levis pay each site to carry the eye and they are hoping to spread it across a range of popular Web pages. So watch out for the winking eye. Peter English, the Levis man responsible for the project, says "it is a form of subliminal advertising. We are not directly promoting Levis jeans, but we hope that by doing cool things on the Web, we will boost our image." And I've fallen for it.

Le Tour Site: With everyone expecting the seemingly unbreakable Spanish cyclist Miguel Indurain to win a record sixth consecutive victory in this year's Tour de France, it was something of a surprise to discover that he pulled out of several Tours in the 1980s. I found this out when I pedalled into the official Tour Web site ( An attractively designed site, it has detailed biographies of all the riders, plus daily reports from each stage. There is a search facility on the site, allowing you to look up every last spoke and slope of the three-week race, plus a fascinating section on legendary Tours.

Pointless Site: It's not new and it's not clever, but if you are bored of surfing the Web and want to see something even more tedious, check out the Object of the Day (http://www.sys.uea Every few days, the university researchers responsible for this site, who obviously overworked, pick an object in their lab and give it a moment of fame on the World-Wide-Web. I didn't look at every selection, but after viewing the green Bic pen and the half-eaten shortbread, I felt I had the flavour.

Investors' Site: Web financial services are still in their infancy. But their number and sophistication is growing. In the long term, they threaten the lucrative middleman position of traditional financial institutions and offer the prospect of a far wider range of people dabbling in stocks and shares and other investments. One British set-up which has started to win a few followers is the Interactive Investor (http:// It offers advice and performance histories on things like unit trusts and PEPs. You have to register to get the full benefit of the site and they provide a guided tour for newcomers. But remember, just because it is the Internet, the value of your investments can still go down just as fast as they can go up.

Laughter Site: Comedy fans are an obsessive lot and there is an ever- growing number of lovingly compiled Web sites devoted to comedy programmes and humour-mongers. UK Laughter Links ( users/tucker/ comedy/link.html) is the best guide I have found to all this giggling in cyberspace.

It uses a sort of London tube map to point you towards everything from Blackadder sites to Men Behaving Badly. Most of the usual suspects are there and you can suggest new links by clicking a button on the home page. And this is one Web site that actually responds to unsolicited comments.