I have just upgraded my internet access to an ISDN line, the fastest domestic connection you can get. This has two effects. The first is that the computer crashes every time the phone rings; the second is that I have realised (more than ever) that less is more on the internet. I have come to treasure web sites where everything is simple text, so it whizzes down as quickly as possible without pictures or plug-ins slowing things down. Among the best is Need To Know, a sarky little digest of industry news and comment laid out to look as if it came straight off a typewriter in Shoreditch. If you have to acknowledge the existence of the digital revolution, this is the way to do it. They are also among the few people to have seized on the possibilities of witty domain names. The address www.unfortu.net shows that Britain still leads the world in some things.
The other site worth a visit as an example of everything that is best and most pointless on the net is maintained by a group who call themselves “the people with no lives.” It is the Urban Legends Archive, containing discussions of things that don’t matter at all, such as whether anyone ever really placed a baby or even a cat in a microwave oven. It is an outgrowth of one of the few Usenet discussion groups to have remained both useless and interesting for six or seven years now, alt.folklore.urban (www.urbanlegends.com) and it hardly has any pictures at all. Though there are some glyphs suspiciously reminiscent of singed cats.
yet sometimes, early in the morning, after America has gone to sleep and before Britain has woken up, the internet runs fast enough to make Bob Dylan audible. His official web site at www.bobdylan.com is a model of its kind. It contains a complete, searchable database of every song Dylan has ever written, all the lyrics and the recordings on which each was published. Once you have found a song, you can listen to 45 seconds of it played through your speakers. Best of all, there is a growing library of complete live recordings-official bootlegs, so to speak-which can be listened to in their entirety. This is where ISDN really comes into its own. Since it is something between half and four times as fast as a conventional modem, the music has…