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Archive: April 1998 News Headlines
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   30-April-98 Thursday
   29-April-98 Wednesday
   28-April-98 Tuesday
   27-April-98 Monday
   24-April-98 Friday
[No updates - we install a new IT system]
   23-April-98 Thursday
[No updates - we install a new IT system]
   22-April-98 Wednesday
[No updates - we install a new IT system]
   21-April-98 Tuesday
[No updates - we install a new IT system]
   20-April-98 Monday
[No updates - we install a new IT system]
   17-April-98 Friday
   16-April-98 Thursday
   15-April-98 Wednesday
   14-April-98 Tuesday
[No update: Easter Break]
   13-April-98 Monday
[No update: Easter break]
   10-April-98 Friday
   09-April-98 Thursday
   08-April-98 Wednesday
   07-April-98 Tuesday
   06-April-98 Monday
   03-April-98 Friday
   02-April-98 Thursday
   01-April-98 Wednesday


Search Engine Stocks "Hyperinflated"

According to a study by influential financial magazine Forbes, the current US stock prices for most of the major listed search engines are hyperinflated and may take a nosedive if the market loses its passion for Internet-related shares. "The price-to-sales ratio of the Internet sector is between 7 and 10. The Standard & Poor 500 is just 1.7," said analyst Duncan Richardson. "But the average price-to-sales ratio for the four search engines (Lycos, Excite!, Infoseek and Yahoo) is a whopping 28 times". Most professional market observers polled by Forbes in the study feel that current prices all four stocks will take a sharp fall when the latest Internet bull run ends. "I think paying $125 for something like Yahoo!, which might earn 40 cents to 50 cents a share is a little over the top," said Glickenhaus' Jim Glickenhaus. "Yahoo! is probably the best-known brand and it's still only a marginally profitable operation. Frankly, this seems to be unsustainable."


Discount Stock Trading Accelerates

The future of Australian stockbroking may be in doubt following the launch of two new electronic share-trading ventures earlier this week, both of which hope to cash in on the boom in Internet-based financial trading. One of the new sites - Equityworld - hopes to act as a referral point for partner brokers, offering online buy/sell order messaging through its advertisers, a personal push mechanism for real-time company announcements and free Java-based performance charts. But the other - E*TRADE Australia - has elected to do without traditional brokers altogether, instead offering visitors a smorgasbord of real-time quotes, charts, ASX company announcements, AAP newsfeeds and a personalised market page. Recent domestic Internet surveys have disclosed that 25% of Australians have now visited an online financial service at least once, and several brokers who launched online ventures 24 months ago are now reaping substantial rewards from their investment at the expense of others who adopted a "wait and see" approach. Significantly, both new sites substantially undercut the fees being asked by existing online trading sites such as the popular Fairfax Trading Room site, further driving down margins in a vicious spiral that may eventually reduce real-world-only brokers to an industry rump.


Amazon Books Expands

Amazon Books - the Internet's best-known booksellers - have embarked on an ambitious expansion program in an attempt to make the struggling operation profitable. Amazon announced today that it plans to acquire Bookpages (the UK's largest online bookseller) and Telebook (Germany's largest online bookseller) to facilitate its entry into the European online market. The company has also intimated that it hopes to enter the online music business by asking visitors to nominate features they'd like to see in "the music store of your dreams" and has said that it will acquire the Internet Movie Database in an attempt to enter the online video market as well. Announcing its latest quarterly loss ($US9.26 million for the March quarter, down from a loss of $9.33 million in the December quarter), Amazon said that it hoped to turn a profit "at some time in the future". Despite world-wide publicity and a stock that has traded as high as $US100 per share, Amazon has yet to turn a profit.


We Install A New IT System

Australian Cybermalls installed a new computer system over the last week, increasing our computing capacity and updating several core processes. However, the upgrade - which was supposed to have been effected over a 24 to 48 hour period - spun out several days longer than originally anticipated, preventing daily updates to our site for the entire week. This affected our daily Australian Cybermalls news service, the daily Dr Fun cartoon and the prompt processing of emails. We're now fully back online and will be resuming normal services from today. Our apologies to any visitor who was inconvenienced by this unexpected and unannounced down-time.


Navigation, Findability Beat Design - Study

According to a small-scale study by user interface analyst Jared Spool, presented yesterday at San Francisco's Web Builder conference. Jared found that in a test of 10 3000-page web sites last year, study participants rated the most expensive site (reputed to have cost $300 million) the worst and a $10,000 site the best. The study found that users wanted to find information quickly and easily - but poor site navigation systems and inadequately descriptive links made this unnecessarily difficult on large sites. Surprisingly, the study also found that designers aiming for clarity with lots of white space and sparse text were defeating their purposes. Users reported that more white space caused sites to be too complicated, over-detailed, visually confusing, unclear, and "not enticing." Mistrustful of the results, the researchers tested the effects of white space five different ways, only to come up with similar results. Another surprise to come out of the study was that users find that the less "readable" a page is, the more authoritative, clear, and useful it is - and that users found animation and movement irritating on a site, though they were attracted to animation on strip ads.


Magaziner Proposes Net Tax

Although US President Clinton promised "no new taxes" for the Internet last year, it appears he did not rule out Net taxes altogether. Clinton's Internet advisor Ira Magaziner today unveiled a plan to introduce a global consumption tax to the Internet by the year 2000. Under the Magaziner plan, all credit card purchases made over the Net would automatically attract the tax, which would be added to the sales total, deducted from the consumer's credit card and remitted to the local taxing authority direct from the credit card company. If implemented, the burden of collecting and paying tax would pass from businesses to consumers and the world's credit card companies would become defacto tax collectors. Magaziner said that he hopes to obtain global agreement on the idea as early as October this year, and to have a planet-wide treaty in place by 2000.


Ozemail Moves To Satellite

Australia's largest ISP OzEmail, fed up with the high bandwidth charges levied by Telstra and Optus for trans-Pacific Internet access, yesterday unveiled a new deal it's struck with AAPT to send and receive overseas Internet access via satellite, effectively bypassing both telcos and removing OzEmail's vast traffic flows from the international cable networks that connect the Australian Internet to the rest of the world. OzEmail took the wraps off a new satellite dish at their St Leonards' head office in Sydney to mark the occasion, announcing that they'd invested several million dollars to purchase the necessary hardware to run the T3 trans-Pacific connection via AAPT's PanAmSat2 satellite. OzEmail also said that they'd had the system under testing for a month and were happy with it. Additional dishes will now be unfurled at the company's other offices in Melbourne, Brisbane and Auckland over the next two months. OzEmail currently provides dial-up access services for 150,000 Australians.


We Turn 2 Years Old!

Australian Cybermalls will turn two years old over the coming Easter weekend. Our site began operations on 29th March 1996 but we were unable to get our first counters operating until a few weeks later on April 12th. As a result, we've regarded the 12th as our "official" birthday ever since. During the last 24 months we've been visited by close to 800,000 people; have steadily expanded from three sites to over twenty, and increased our bandwidth from 64K ISDN to T3 to handle the increasing traffic across our doors. We've also been delighted (and often surprised) by the many awards that have been kindly bestowed on us and the extremely positive comments that have come to us via email from our friends all across the planet. Over the coming year Australian Cybermalls will continue to expand and many of our sites will be fully refurbished to bring them into line with contemporary browser capabilities. We'll be having a slight break (to celebrate, and to accommodate the Easter holiday) and will return on Wednesday, April 15th. Thankyou everyone - and have a happy Easter too!


Yahoo: 32.4 Million Visits A Month

According to Internet research agency Relevant Knowledge, Yahoo/Four11 was the world's busiest Internet site in March 1998, drawing an estimated 32.4 million visitors over the age of 12 during the 27-day survey period. Next busiest were Netscape (23.4 million), Excite/Webcrawler (19.3 million), Microsoft (18 million) and AOL (17.7 million). Relevant Knowledge were announcing their list of the "Top 25 Web Properties". A comparative list of the Top 25 .COM domains prepared for the same survey, however, discloses that Yahoo leads Netscape, Microsoft, AOL and Excite. The fastest-moving sites during February/March 1998? Relevant Knowledge ascribe the biggest growth to Kelly Blue Book (400,000 to 909,000 visitors over the survey period), followed by United Media (495,000 to 932,000) and the University of Washington (411,000 to 721,000).


We Rate In US Top 100!

Australian Cybermalls was the 83rd most popular Australian site for US audiences in August 1997, according to 100HOT, who released their .AU survey findings today. To our great surprise we came in immediately below the excellent OzEmail-Inktomi ANZWERS Search Engine and a few points below the world-famous QANTAS site. According to 100HOT, the most popular Australian destination for US visitors was OzEmail's home page, along with the home pages of more than 22 other Australian ISPs. Australian academic sites also polled strongly, with over 20 university and government sites in the list. Purely commercial sites (excluding ISPs) accounted for only 44 of the top 100, with miscellaneous sites the remainder. According to the caches 100hot analyses, the busiest commercial site from a US perspective was the Australian Stock Exchange (at #3), with the Sydney Morning Herald (#4) and The Age (#8) both polling strongly.


Net "Most Important Media" To Users

According to an online survey conducted by Yahoo!, most Australian Internet users would give up magazines, newspapers, TV and radio before they'd sacrifice online access. When asked to select the media they'd dispense with if they had to give one up, 33% said they'd forgo magazines; 24% said newspapers; 20% opted for TV; 17% for radio; and only 6% said that turning off the Internet would be their first choice. The survey also found that 44% of respondents spend 10 hours or more online each week (with 19% logging more than 20 hours online each week) and that 33% of respondents were female. Further, the survey disclosed that more than 40% of respondents were between 30 and 49 years old and that a "significant proportion" of users had already used the Internet to purchase products, reflecting a broadening of the user base towards general population demographics and the increasingly mainstream penetration the Net is assuming in Australian households.


Antispammers Go On Strike

In what may prove a seminal point in the ongoing war against spam, the 30 voluntary antispammers who block spam messages appearing on usenet newsgroups declared an indefinite strike today with the idea of encouraging small and medium-sized ISPs to get "very, very serious" about installing anti-spam mechanisms on their systems. Although most large ISPs now do this as a matter of course, many smaller and medium-sized ISPs have ignored the issue according to Chris Lewis, one of the strike's organisers, relying on the unpaid work of the antispammers to keep most newsgroup services under control. As a result, they've never had to grapple with the reality of how spam will cripple their systems if the antispammers weren't cancelling spam messages before they were posted. "They'll start seeing the results tomorrow," Lewis said. "There will be at least some ISPs who were relying on us to control spam who will roll over and explode. Others will have a meltdown as the week progresses. We don't like doing this and we know it will inconvenience a lot of people - but ideally, the strike will force ISPs to see the extent of the problem and start taking measures to prevent it." In other news: Australian Cybermalls' News has been delayed the last few days due to illness. We apologise to all our regular visitors. Normal transmission resumes today.


Intel May Open Australian Chip Plant

Intel may open a chip fabrication plant in Australia if the Federal Government will meet the tax deduction and investment incentives offered by competing Asian countries who want Intel to site its planned new Asia-Pacific plant on their home soil. The news was unveiled today following a visit to Australia by Intel president and CEO-elect Mr Craig Barrett, who was visiting Sydney to firm up a joint-venture deal with the Channel 7 network (which wants to broadcast a rival site to the Microsoft-Channel9 NineMSN) and to meet with senior Government Ministers and officials. Intel, the world's largest semi-conductor manufacturer, have a world-wide chain of chip fabrication plants - and the company's investment in Ireland has been widely seen as a seminal point in the rapid evolution of the Irish economy during the 1990s. During the meeting, Mr Barret also said that he would be prepared to look favourably on using some of Intel's massive venture-capital funds for Australian projects.


Insurers Back Away From Y2K Losses

Australian insurance companies are taking the first steps towards preventing losses from the Y2K bug - by telling customers that unless they take steps to ensure all their systems are Y2K compliant the Australian insurance industry will wash its hands of Y2K liability claims. Insurance Council of Australia chairman Alan Mason, speaking at an industry conference, said it was "unreasonable to expect insurers to meet the consequences of companies not modifying their systems to take account of the known consequences of a known event. Insurance is designed to protect against the consequences of unpredictable and unforeseeable events ". He blamed the failure of a significant number of companies to come to grips with the Y2K issue as "a failure of management generally and a failure of IT management in particular". Mason was also highly critical of hardware and chip manufacturers who have been producing non-Y2K compliant chip sets until relatively recently. "Y2K was known about before the first computer was invented. Why then were computer systems developed that clearly would not be capable of working at the millennium?"


Australian Net Backslides 10%

The Australian Internet took another sudden nosedive over the last month according to our monthly Australian Internet Growth Index (which has been measuring the approximate number of Australian sites on the Internet since January 1996). The search engines we regularly poll to construct the AIGI all showed a decline of approximately 10% in the number of Australian sites listed for the month - a turnaround that may be partly attributable to the collapse of several Australian ISP's during March and the culling of "dead" sites by ISPs reviewing annual hosting contracts. The April 1st figures (with March 1st figures in brackets) are as follows:

  Australian Internet Growth Index March 1998
  (Figures Show Estimated Live Sites)
  • Brisbane - 2,046 (2,275)
  • Sydney - 8,108 (8,829)
  • Melbourne - 6,156 (6,732)
  • Adelaide - 2,515 (2,984)
  • Perth - 2,046 (2,435)
  • Hobart - 1,027 (1,155)
  • Canberra - 2,348 (2,606)
  • Darwin - 2,046 (2,435)

During March Australian Cybermalls' traffic declined slightly to 49,274 from February's 53,535 visitors. At least part of this was attributable to a site slowdown which occurred when a planned one-day changeover to a new, fast Sun UltraSparc server took a week.


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