On my annual holiday, as I was wandering through the Hennessy distillery in Cognac, I was impressed by how handsome and modern their facilities are and how bang-up-to-date their marketing seems to be. Now here was a brand leader, a successful firm with an eye firmly fixed on the future. After imbibing their generously donated free sample, I wondered if their web site might tell me where I could find more of the same. But no. They do not have one. At first I found this surprising, but then I remembered that, despite the Irish name and antecedents, Hennessy is today very much a French affair. And the French do not think internet, although that is about to change.
the french have several problems with the internet. The most obvious is that it isn’t French. Worse still, it’s mainly American, which has the added disadvantage of meaning that much of its business is conducted in English. Despite all their self-proclaimed love of 21st century technology, the French seem to be stuck in their proprietary, home-grown Minitel cul-de-sac. As a result, they are cut off from the mainstream of telecommunication development worldwide. Minitel was breathtakingly exciting when it was first launched, but the rest of the world has moved on since then and it hasn’t. Moreover, under French law, internet service providers (ISPs) are legally responsible for all items appearing on their servers. L’inspecteur Knacker has already paid unfriendly visits to the Paris offices of the fledgling French ISPs and removed various items. This law is anachronistic and must be changed or else the French will never get a large domestic industry going.
Still, Hennessy has been around as a company since 1765, and the crucial job of principal taster has been in one single family since 1770: seven generations, and an eighth is waiting in the wings. I wonder which of today’s computer or internet businesses will still be around in the year 2227? Will there still be a 23rd century Gates nerd dominating the intergalactic traffic? Perhaps Hennessy are going to give the internet 100 years or so, to see if it catches on, before they make their move. After all, 100 years is well within the life cycle of some of their finer pro-duct development initiatives. Hennessy, the Catholic church and China. You can’t rush them.
some of you may remember a controversy which briefly erupted into the media earlier this year about an academic from Edinburgh University whose publisher had withdrawn (de-published) a book of his called The g factor. It addressed the issue of race and intelligence: commended by Hans Eysenck. Got the picture? Well the author, Chris Brand, has taken to the internet to carry on the argument and sell the book. He is obviously a real charmer as he rails against the Stalinists of his university and the whole liberal and “PeeCee” (sic) establishment. Kind of makes you think you really don’t need to read the book.
leafing through Time Out, my eye was drawn to the advertisement for the latest Hollywood blockbuster Independence Day. It had a web address integrated into the poster display (www.fox.com). Now there is ubiquity for you. The site is 20th Century Fox’s main web site so in addition to material about Independence Day there is a raft of information about the X-Files, and some other films I had never heard of. The site certainly is pretty and well put together and, astonishingly, Independence Day has now broken all the records previously set by Jurassic Park in terms of cash take and bums on seats. However, I really do wonder about the sort of person who wants to read about what went on behind the scenes when they were making it. That being said, I must confess that I did go and see the film. Someone is taking the mickey. The US president personally leading a squadron of fighter planes (victoriously of course) against the alien hordes?
net meeting is a freebie which is tailor-made to work with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. I tried it out the other day. Courtesy of Net Meeting, I had a brief conversation with a gentleman in Connecticut and an even briefer one with a chap in Tokyo, all for the cost of a local call. I was also called by someone in New South Wales. Now I must admit these conversations were pointless because none of us knew each other and we were all, or so we claimed, just trying out the same software, experimentally, for the first time. But I have a pal in Sri Lanka and I am planning to fax him and tell him to log on to his local internet service so I can connect directly to him, again for the price of a local call. If the call quality remains the same, it certainly will be a reasonable alternative to paying 40 times the rate of a local call. BT will have to watch out. n