Global Web Explorer

This Guernsey-based page takes a simple, rather gung-ho delight in its huge catalogue of links to every single country connected to the Net. Anyone visiting the full list of 192 hotspots from Afghanistan (af) to Zimbabwe (zw) - not forgetting "miscellaneous entities" like Antarctica, Palestine, the Spratly Islands and Western Sahara - earns the title of "fully qualified global Web explorer". However, many of the more obscure destinations offer only a token snapshot. Try the South Sandwich Islands, for instance: no cybercafes here, just a bunch of disconsolate penguins and a quote from Captain Cook, who in 1775 thought it "the most awful place in the world".

Intergov Online World Headquarters

This newborn but already rather rather grandiose site wants to be a sort of United Nations for cyberspace, a forum for "netizens" - the worldwide online community - to campaign against various governmental attempts to restrict freedom of expression. Obviously influenced by such groups as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the site is aware of the inherent contradictions in claiming to speak for Net users, and stresses: "We do not make policy, procedure or laws - only you can do that." There's a useful one-stop voting booth to approve (or otherwise) Net-related legislation - such as an ongoing US Senate move to restrict e-mail spams - and if the idea of the Web Police (for reporting crimes over the Net) is a little chilling, the Scamwatch section sounds the alarm against Internet fraud of various kinds. Anyone who registers can vote, but "active" membership costs $12 and "Honorable members" pay a suggested donation of $2,500.

The Strowger Telecoms Page

Antique communications technology finds a happy resting place on the Web, which seems always to be in a desperate search for its roots. One founding father might be the 19th-century Kansan undertaker Almon B Strowger, whose electromechanical phone exchanges are celebrated here with the enthusiasm others reserve for old steam engines or vintage Bentleys. Strowger developed his exchange when he discovered that his local phone operator was diverting all his business calls to her husband - a rival mortician. The overall mood is technically rigorous, with nostalgic undertones: there's a page of sound samples for the various clicking noises made by the machine, as well as old-style number unobtainable and busy signals. "Old Strowger exchanges were something to see, touch and hear - nowadays, they are just anonymous silent blue cabinets," laments the site. A glossary is provided: before ISDN, it is explained, there was (and still is) POTS - Plain Old- Fashioned Telephone System.

Slap a Spice Girl

"Who do you want to smack today?', asks this hugely popular fixture at the dissident Urban75 site. The Girls emerge at random to receive punishment, faces contorting gruesomely, and are joined at intervals by an acid smiley- face and by Margaret Thatcher - the group's Tory sympathies seem to have prompted this inspired abuse of Shockwave technology in the first place. The idea may have come from the kind of customised arcade games enjoyed by Japanese salarymen wanting to thwack pop-up effigies of their employers.

The John Templeton Foundation

The Gospel According to Sir John is a high-level academic crusade to unite science and religion. The Tennessee-born millionaire, knighted in 1987, has channelled his Wall Street winnings into a foundation which backs the application of scientific method to spiritual subjects, and funds research into chaos theory as well as the power of prayer. A Progress in Religion prize, a sort of theological Nobel, has been won by a convincingly diverse crowd - Solzhenitsyn and Billy Graham, for instance - but heavily promoted here is Templeton's own brand of "humility theology" as expressed in spiritual guidebooks like The Worldwide Laws of Life, consisting of 200 "eternal principles".

Bill Pannifer