It's Easier Than You Think (or: How I Learned to Stop Working and Love the Web)

Monday, November 2, 1998
From the archives: Resurrecting content from my first personal website, InterViews. Presented for historical reasons only. Not all links work.

By Charlie Meyerson

Out of work for the last couple of months, I’ve spent a great deal of time on the Internet, screwi—er, enhancing my skills for the next chapter of my career. And I’m pleased to report that during all my goofi—um, skills enhancement work—I actually learned a lot. And most of it is easier than I thought.

Forthwith, I share the bounty of my enlightenment.

Getting a better e-mail address is easy!

Free e-mail services have proliferated on the World Wide Web—sponsored by companies that want you to check your mail at their site and see their ads while you’re at it. Services like <> (part of NBC and C|Net’s Snap service),
Hotmail <> (owned by Microsoft),
iName <>,
Netscape <>, and
GeoCities <>
provide free e-mail addresses. Netscape and iName, to name two, have been giving away $10 Music Boulevard credits (at <>) to those who register with them.

In general, they work like this: surrender some general demographic information, and you get to register for a euphonious and mnemonically satisfying e-mail address—like, oh, say <>. And you then tell the service to (a) leave all your mail on its servers, for you to read from any web browser on any computer; or (b) automatically forward all mail to your real (not-for-free and probably not so euphonious) e-mail address. You can configure most e-mail software (not AOL’s) to display your free address in the outgoing mail, so that no one need know that—back when you were an Internet newbie—you meekly accepted the computer-generated account name <>. The other benefit to free services is that they promise to let you keep their addresses for life. You just give the free service a new forwarding address, and no one’s the wiser.
Another advantage: you can have as many free addresses as you like. I’ve registered all the kids for free addresses. The disadvantage here is that your e-mail now has to make it through two Internet gateways to reach you—your free service and your actual service provider. A breakdown at either could disrupt your e-mail delivery.

Those without web access can get free e-mail from Juno: <> or (800) 654-JUNO. It provides free Windows-only software—downloadable from its Web site or available on disk, by mail, for a token fee. The software dials a local number for you, sending and receiving all your mail. Your cost: you put up with the ads Juno displays in the upper quarter of your screen, and all your outgoing mail is tagged at the end with an ad for Juno.

Keeping up with your favorite comics is easy!

See a day’s worth or a week’s worth at once—in color every day, free! This groundbreaking service is available courtesy of the San Jose Mercury News, at <>. It’s another portent that today’s newspaper—printed on mammoth presses, delivered in huge trucks and tossed into your bushes or gutters—is an endangered species.

Building a Web page is easy!

It can even be free, once you have Internet access. Your Internet service probably even includes personal web-site space. I’d wager it’s among the most underused features in Internet service today.
Even if your Internet account doesn’t provide a web site, a number of organizations specialize in providing web sites for free. The most famous of those may be GeoCities at <>. The disadvantage there is that you get a fairly clunky web-site address, and you’re at the mercy of the banner ads GeoCities chooses to impose on your site.

Learning HTML—the universal language of the Web—is easy!

If you have any experience with first-generation word-processing software (like the old text-based WordPerfect or WordStar), you’ll grasp Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) in a wink. The fundamental principle is that every style change is preceded by a “start” code and followed by an “end” code. For instance, to make the word “Internet” appear in boldface, you write “<b>Internet</b>.” An excellent and simple guide to HTML is available for download or viewing online, courtesy of the University of Illinois National Center for Supercomputing Applications—birthplace of Mosaic, the modern web browser (from which Netscape Navigator is derived)—at <>.

Putting up a Web page without HTML is easy!

GeoCities, for instance, now provides templates into which you can simply pour your text. Chicago-based DKA (Digital Knowledge Assets) Web <> also offers free web sites with pre-designed templates or “’scenes,” into which you can dump your stuff—no software needed beyond a modern web browser. The designs are minimal, but they’re visually appealing and elegantly functional. Disadvantage: you have to accept DKA’s generic photo-illustrations in the upper left-hand corner of each page, and DKA reserves the right to insert banner ads at some point down the road. You can add your own graphics at will, but you have to store them in some other web site and reference them (using HTML) on your DKA site. DKA is where I’ve established a homestead: <>.

Tracking visits to your Web page is easy!

Visitor-counting services are prolific on the Internet. In general, they consist of a simple line of HTML code that you paste into your page. Most of them require your page to feature generally obnoxious ads; but one that doesn’t is WebTracker, available at <>. The only ads involved are those that you, the page creator, encounter when you check into WebTracker’s pages to view the demographic breakdown of your visits—things like number of visitors per hour, which browsers they’re using, and their domain names. WebTracker will even let you disable display of its logo and the counter, if you’d rather not let the public in on the fact that you’ve had only five visitors since you set up shop.

Sending me questions is easy!

Click here.
Copyright 1998 by Charles Meyerson. All rights reserved.

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