The metropolis that provokes or at least hosts the passions of the publishers is New York - the magazine has a Broadway address - but much of its content is of interest not only to UK urbanites but backwoodsmen like me. What is particularly appealing for new visitors to the site is that the content of the 10 back issues produced over the past two years is still there - and still, largely, worth a look.
The archive is accessible issue by issue, or via subject sections, and these give a good guide to what you can expect from the magazine as a whole: Word (literature and related topics), Art, Tech toys (the Net etc), Music (popular), Sex/Health (noticeably more of the first than the second), Travel, Style (or stuff that won't fit in another section), Food, Performance.
What you get in all these sections is a wide-ranging mix of reviews, fiction, interviews, essays, test drives. It's not the New Yorker, and some of the fiction strikes me - it may strike you differently - as pretentious crap; but this is well above the level of the self-indulgent hobby 'zine that clogs up so much of the Web. It offers a genuinely useful way to keep in touch with some of what's going on in the world.
Even so, Urban Desires is prey to one of the central ailments of the Web: CSDS or Cryptic Site Design Syndrome. This has its roots in the notion that people using the Web actively like to spend their time clicking on links to see whether those links lead to something interesting. Sure, I liked to do just that the first few times I fired up a modem. Equally sure, I quickly learnt to perceive it as a complete waste of time. Gimme some clue, on the page I'm on, as to what I'll find on the page I'm being invited to travel to.
CSDS means that the excellent archive arrangement within the Urban Desires site has to be called The Tunnel - and then explained mystifyingly. The Tunnel "has to be seen to be believed. N-dimensional data space ... you betcha!" The organisation of the archive is an eminently sensible notion; why the impenetrable description? Similarly, the page giving access to past items on an issue-by-issue basis is "the page where you can get the latest and greatest with a 'seemple little click' ". Tedious.
The same syndrome means that reviews of 20 coffee-table art books in the current issue are accessed through tiny - impossibly tiny - images of their covers. And while we're in critical mode, serious webzines are going to have to come to terms with one of the overheads of the business - sub-editing. No proper print magazine would allow "restauranteurs" through, because there would be someone called a sub who would get bollocked the first time they did it and fired the second nReuse content