21st Log: Yahoo buys GeoCities -- pop-up ads and all


Janelle Brown
January 26, 1999 1:00AM (UTC)

Yahoo buys GeoCities -- pop-up ads and all

In this week's boffo Internet acquisition, Yahoo has purchased GeoCitiesin a stock swap valued at $3.5 billion. The companies are proudly adding uptheir impressive combined traffic figures; the market analysts are debatingthe deal's financial pluses and minuses. But what about the rest of us users?

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Yahoo has long been the Web's most popular site (rivaled today only byAmerica Online), in good part because its design respects users: Pages are"light" and fast to download, the design is clean and advertising isreasonably unobtrusive. On the other hand, GeoCities -- the company thatgives away free Web pages and calls the result "community" -- is, asJanelle Brown's recent Salon feature documented, one of the Web's most heavily commercializedzones, full of inconsiderate "pop-up" ads that open in new browser windowswithout asking your permission.

Will Yahoo's low-key approach moderate the dollars-before-usersGeoCities approach? Or will GeoCities' pushiness infect Yahoo? In thecoming weeks and months, follow the "pop-up" windows.
-- Scott Rosenberg
SALON | Jan. 29, 1999

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Linux got game

It's getting monotonous -- the drumbeat of good news for Linux just keepsrolling on. The latest tidbit to send open source fans into an ecstaticfrenzy is a press release from astart-up company called Loki Entertainment Software. The company announced Wednesday that it will be creating a Linux version of the upcoming game Civilization: Call to Power. (Both versions are due for spring release.)

Call to Power is being touted as the third major release in the hugelypopular line of Civilization games (though it should be noted that the creator of Civilization, Sid Meier, has no involvement with it). The inability to play state-of-the-art games under Linux has long plagued Linux-lovers desperate to completely turn their backs on Microsoft.Sure, they can use Corel's WordPerfect for their word processing needs, or edit images with the open source GIMP instead of Photoshop. But if they want to playStarcraft or Unreal or any other brand new computer game (and, beinginveterate geeks, this is of course something that they dearly desire to do), they still need to boot up Windows every now and then.

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Scott Draeker, CEO of Loki, is billing the Linux version of Civilization:Call to Power as the first game marketed for the open-source platform. PeterKarpas, a product manager for Civilization at Activision, calls it the"first triple-A" game for Linux. Linux fans see theannouncement as a hopeful portent of more good game things to come.

Draeker concedes that keeping up with the latest developments in gamingtechnology will be "non-trivial" for Linux developers, but he is confidentthat in the long term, the gaming future belongs to Linux.

"In the future," says Draeker, "you will see that the same game will runfaster on Linux on the same hardware than it will run on Windows. Linuxeventually will become a superior gaming platform, on technical grounds ...It's not really a matter of keeping up. We're going to leave them in thedust."

Maybe so. In the meantime, though, the real winner is Activision. LokiEntertainment is taking on all the expenses of developing and publishing theLinux version of Civilization: Call to Power. From Activision's point ofview, just the buzz generated by the Linux announcement is a marketing coup for the game, regardless of what platform it will run on.

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"It's a no-lose deal for us," says Karpas. "It's all win."
-- Andrew Leonard

SALON | Jan. 28, 1999

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What is Netscape on?

America Online seems to cherish its image as a home for squeaky-clean family fun -- from those earnest ads featuring apple-cheeked kids to the company'soutspoken anti-porn stance. So we can't help wondering whatthe folks in Virginia think of the ad campaign for Netscape, their latestacquisition.

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The ad's caption reads "Go from the dance floor to the trading roomfloor in your pajamas." It intercuts two images: a melange of busy stockbrokersand a group of sweaty, half-naked kids in the midst of some dance-floorcontortions. The catch: The dancers appear to be in the throes of anecstatic drug high, complete with wildly dilated pupils.

When asked whether the choice of drugged-out ravers was intentional,and what the message therein might be, Netscape Netcenter director ofmarketing Lynn Carpenter said, "It's stock photography, so Ican't comment on whether they are on drugs. It certainly was not ourintent ... they're kids having fun at a dance club in Majorca." The picturewas chosen, she says, for its "stopping power."

The ad's copy promises that Netcenter is "where you get all the toolsyou need to do all the things you want online." The print ad is part of alarger TV campaign that will roll out this week using similarly contrasting images -- rugby players and ballet dancers, for example. The intent, saysCarpenter, is to remind consumers that Netscape's Netcenter is a differentkind of portal that empowers visitors to find their own kind of fun.

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We certainly hope that Netscape's tools will enable us to have as muchfun as those kids appear to be having.

-- Janelle Brown


Janelle Brown

Janelle Brown is a contributing writer for Salon.

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