INTERNAUT

Popularity numbers show NOAA is tops in August surfing

Shawn P. McCarthy

One advantage of writing a column is that you discover so much information while looking up other stuff. Here are a few of my recent discoveries.

NOAA leads. The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration's Web site was the most popular in government during the month of August, according to the Media Metrix Inc. traffic measurement service.

NOAA.gov had a reach of 2.8 percent, meaning about 2.8 percent of the tracked surfers went there at least once in August. They viewed an average of 4.9 pages and lingered at the site for 7.1 minutes.

Media Metrix of New York measures the traffic of a specific user base, so its numbers will never exactly match a site's own counts. But the numbers are a good indication of popularity. The rest of the top 10 government Web sites were California's www.Ca.gov, the Treasury Department's www.UStreas.gov, the National Institutes of Health's www.NIH.gov, www.NASA.gov, the Education Department's www.Ed.gov, www.Navy.mil, www.Army.mil, the Commerce Department's www.Fedworld.gov gateway and the National Park Service's www.NPS.gov.

Backbone free-for-all. Michael Kende, director of Internet policy analysis at the Federal Communications Commission, doesn't want to see the main backbone of the Internet regulated, except for subjecting it to the same antitrust laws that apply to all businesses.

His study, at www.fcc.gov/Bureaus/OPP/News_Releases/2000/nrop0002.html, said that although the interconnection and service agreements for the huge Internet backbone are complicated, there is enough competition to keep access open to all.

I've seen some press and online reports lately that backbone service providers might limit to their own customers such desirable offerings as dedicated broadband for streaming video. But, Kende said, 'Market forces, including consumer demands, are likely to ensure that Internet backbone providers continue to provide universal connectivity.'

What FirstGov isn't. FirstGov isn't the first thing you'll find. When the new FirstGov.gov Web site rolled out last month, some federal home pages put the FirstGov icon up front to help visitors learn about and locate the new service.

Good for them. But the effort should have been better coordinated.

FCC, Education and others highlighted the icon on their front pages, but many other federal sites did not, including those of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It would have been great to see the icon at Whitehouse.gov. But the White House, instigator and champion of FirstGov, didn't put the icon on its front page in August or on its Gateway to Government page.

Defying regulations. In Congress this year, everyone talked about the Internet, but no one wanted to actually do anything about it.

That's probably not bad. More than 400 bills were introduced this year that had something to say about the Internet or telecommunications. But few bills passed that dealt with Net regulation.

Electronic signatures were approved. Some research funding was directed to new communications technologies. Otherwise, little happened. Senators and representatives like to tell voters that they introduced an Internet bill'it makes them seem on top of technology.

But the fact is, since the Internet went commercial, little regulation has been needed, and Congress is not about to mess with anything that's become so big an economic engine for the country.

Meanwhile, things as simple as antispam regulation are held up in debate because of First Amendment issues. The only good Internet proposal I've seen in recent weeks didn't come out of Congress. It came from the Commission on Child Online Protection at www.copacommission.com.

The commission's idea? Rather than censor the Internet, why not create a new .kids domain that would have only wholesome content and sites? Companies that want to create kid-safe spaces could set up systems that allow access only to .kids sites. Reference, education and game sites with some kid-oriented content would have to apply for a .kids uniform resource locator and section off their kids' pages.

It's a simple, effective approach, and a lot more doable than some of the bills languishing in committees on Capitol Hill.

E-mail Shawn P. McCarthy at smccarthy@lycos-inc.com.

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