NetAction Notes

Published by NetAction Issue No. 41 September 9, 1998
Repost where appropriate. See copyright information at end of message.

IN THIS ISSUE:

Let's "Optimize" Access, Not Profits
Noteworthy
About NetAction Notes

Let's "Optimize" Access, Not Profits

Internet activists who are committed to promoting universal access to technology should take note of Intel's "Optimized Content" campaign. As NetAction discusses in our Virtual Activist training, the way to "optimize" web sites is to keep the graphics to a minimum so the sites are accessible to people using older, less powerful computers. The point is to "optimize" access to the content.

But at Intel, the point of the "Optimized Content" campaign is to "optimize" the company's profits. Intel is subsidizing some of the advertising costs for companies that create complicated web sites, because as web sites become more complex, the demand increases for more powerful computers.

Companies participating in the Intel campaign put an "Optimized Content" logo on their sites, which links to a message telling users that the site would work better if they were using a Pentium II. According to a recent report in the San Francisco Examiner, participating sites include Wired Digital, C/Net, Ziff-Davis, and CMP Media.

"Intel's 'Optimized Content' campaign makes a mockery of the word 'optimized,'" explains NetAction Advisory Board member Jeff Johnson. "The term usually refers to software that has been tuned to run quickly. Intel is using 'optimized' to mean web-software that runs annoyingly slowly, to encourage users to buy faster computers."

What Intel is encouraging web-designers to do runs counter to what they know: web users have no patience with web sites that download or execute slowly.

"If your web site doesn't give users the information they want in a few seconds, they hit the Stop or Back button and are out of there," Jeff explained. "There are so many web sites that there is no reason why anyone needs to hang around yours if it makes them wait. So Intel's advice is bad advice: web developers who follow it will lose many potential visitors."

This is especially important for Internet activists using the web for outreach, organizing, and advocacy, since widespread accessibility is the best way to get information to the people you want it to reach. And widespread accessibility is best achieved by keeping web sites simple. Easy access is also important in promoting universal access, because there are a lot of people who can only afford access by using older, less powerful computers connecting to the Internet with older, slower modems.

While the Intel "Optimized Content" program may be in Intel's short-term interest, Jeff believes it is strategically bad for the computer industry. "Maybe technology freaks like to keep up with the latest technology and constantly upgrade their computers, but most people hesitate to buy a computer they know will be obsolete within two years," he explained. "A much larger market awaits the computer company that can develop information appliances that retain their value over a period of five to ten years, like TVs, microwave ovens, and stereos."

Again, this is even more important in terms of promoting universal access.

Jeff noted that Microsoft Executive Nathan Myhrvold once said "Software is a gas. It expands to fill the size of its container."

As Jeff sees it, "This is already an annoyance, but Intel is taking it one step further: They are using software as an explosive to blow up our computers so we'll have to buy new ones, which they happen to make."


Noteworthy

The Billion Byte March makes creative use of technology to promote changes to the Social Security system intended to ensure its continued viability. Sponsored by Third Millennium and Economic Security 2000 Action, the nonpartisan project is described as the first-ever Internet march on Washington.

Reprorights is a new list aimed at educating and informing pro-choice groups and individuals concerned about threats to women's reproductive rights. Because the list is not a forum for debate on the abortion issue, participation is limited to subscribers who support a woman's right to choose. Subscribe at: http://www.onelist.com/subscribe.cgi/reprorights.

If you're writing to the entire House of Representatives, you can download mailing labels at: http://clerkweb.house.gov/mbrcmtee/mbrcmtee.htm. The labels can be downloaded in WordPerfect or Word formats for the PC, or as ascii text.


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