How to fix your AOL problems
Demographics of the browser wars here at
What does it mean to maintain a web archive

Quote of the week:

"This is about going town to town putting more modems in."

-- Bob Pittman, CEO of AOL Networks in a NY Times article on AOL's problems this past Friday.

Yes, the AOL meltdown continues, and rather than add my voice to the growing number of complainers, I come here today with a solution for all your AOLers. Don't bother waiting for them to install enough modems in your neighborhood -- get another dial-up account!

Bear with me a moment: the idea is to separate your connectivity provider with your cyber- identity. So pick IBM, AT&T, CompuServe, or even your local ISP as your dial-up access provider. Sign up with them for their unlimited $20/month rate, and configure your dial-up networking application to deal with this new provider. Keep your AOL software and your -- why not? You've probably, as one person quoted in the above Times article, gone ahead and put this ID on your business card, so there is some legacy worth protecting here. Of course, this means your Internet access costs have now doubled but the price of protection is relatively cheap.

You see, you can connect to AOL via any Internet connection, provided you are running a more recent vintage of their software. I tried this on my Mac and it was simple: I used my CompuServe account and PPP dialer, and made one change to my AOL software (from SprintNet to TCPack) on the setup page. Do this, and now you don't have to bother with busy signals on AOL. Of course, if everyone picks the same strategy in your town, you'll now have busy signals on the new provider. But let's hope the diversity of providers will save us from that fate.

Demographics of the browser wars here at

I spend a few minutes each month looking at my web server log files, and I hope those of you that run web sites do the same. Why? I like to know where you all are coming from, and which pages are popular and which aren't. I am continually surprised that I get emails on an obscure review I did for Infoworld many years ago about the CoActive Connector (the company is out of business, and I have no subsequent contact info, sorry). It is also nice to see so many people coming in the door from Lycos, Altavista, and Yahoo.

So I'd like to share what I found in looking at my logs from overall hits from November and December, collected using e.g.Software's WebTrends. All numbers are expressed as a percentage of total hits during that month. Realize that there was an increase in hits of about 20 % from November to December. (That by the way has been fairly consistent throughout the year -- but I can't tell if more robots are combing my site or if it is real humans. I suspect it is a bit of both.) And there is no way I can assume that even the same people visited the site consistently from one month to the next. Still, with those caveats, take a look:

Browser used November December
Platform used
Win 955155
Win NT87
Win 3.11916

While two months doesn't mean much, this is one of the biggest changes I've seen on my site in a while: the migration to MS IE is quite strong. And a corresponding migration from Win 3.1 to 95 is finally beginning to happen as well. And if we look at the split between 2.x and 3.x, it is growing: the numbers show 65 % and 86 % running 3.x of Navigator and IE respectively in November, changing to 69 % and 94 % in December.

People are finally beginning to upgrade their browsers -- it might be because they are getting new computers, rather than out of any sense of trying to keep up with the browser vendors' releases.

What does it mean to maintain a web archive

Looking through my logs, I found that my essay on ISDN that I wrote a year ago is still a popular point of entry for my site. It took me some time to realize the reason -- because Dan Kegel continues to list it on his ISDN site. So then what should I do about this? Should I put all sorts of caveats around the thing, saying that I wrote it a year ago and leave it as a historical monument? Should I dress up the page and make it more inviting for folks to cruise around the rest of

Well, I took the middle ground: I updated the content, making it clear that I was writing in the present and that the original article was gone from cyberspace. At the time I did that, I had no remorse, and patted myself on the back for keeping things up to snuff on my web. Weeks later and I am now filled with some self-doubt: what about that precious archive? Shouldn't I want to maintain all those back issues of Web Informant, to make it easier when a hundred years from now the Franklin Mint Limited Editions Club wants to offer an engraved boxed set? (Just somewhat tongue-in- cheek.)

This raises a larger question: How many times have you done a search for something on Lycos or whatever and found that the article or page is no longer on the target site? What is the responsibility of a web publisher to maintain the past states of his or her site? And what constitutes a past state anyway? In my case, doing this missives more or less weekly, it is fairly simple to say -- yet I have many more questions than answers. And on sites that have mostly dynamic pages, what is a current state? You got me.

It gets back to whether the right information delivery model is a book, a movie, or a radio program (something I wrote about long ago). Notice that many movies have been re-issued on laser disks with several versions included -- the "director's cut" and so forth. I am sure that trend will continue once DVDs take off.

All of this is some food for thought. I don't have the answers. But for the time being, I'll continue to update my archives -- not a lot, but enough to be helpful.

David Strom
+1 (516) 944-3407
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entire contents copyright 1997 by David Strom, Inc.