Websites: openDemocracy; InterPlaNet

An ambitious new venue for current affairs discussion
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The Independent Online

openDemocracy
www.opendemocracy.net

This is an ambitious new venue for current affairs discussion that will be kick-started by pundits and policy-makers arguing around themes such as Europa, City and Country and Media Ownership. Asserting independence from other, compromised, media with an editorial spectrum that ranges from Roger Scruton to the cartoonist Steve Bell and all points between, this pilot version is serious stuff, with "governing standards" and a "learning curve" for participants and, later in the year, a planned £25 subscription to keep the non-profit site afloat and ad free. Editor/CEO is Anthony Barnett, founder of the Charter 88 democracy reform group. Will the quality and engagement of the lead items transfer to the message boards?

InterPlaNet
www.ipnsig.org

The surfing astronauts in the cult film Dark Star may soon become a reality ­ well, sort of ­ but the right protocols have to be in place before the World Wide Web becomes the Universe Wide Web. Extending the internet spacewards has long been the obsession of the web pioneer Vint Cerf, and the project was on the agenda at the recent meeting in Stockholm of the Internet Society, a global group of scientists and engineers that is co-ordinating the development of technical standards for the Net. It's a case of creating a "stable interplanetary backbone", taking into account connectivity problems and long transmission delays, even at light speeds. Live testing will take place during a Nasa Mars mission in 2003: meanwhile, this site provides background and discussion.

websites@dircon.co.uk

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