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Internetworld Spring 2002

Internetworld Spring 2002

Thousands of small business webmasters briefly lose their domain names at expiration, due to a simple lack of understanding about the roles of three key players in the drama: domain name registrars, web hosts and internet service providers. Fortunately for most, they learn quickly how to save their web site from oblivion by using the 30 day redemption period for expired domain names enforced by ICANN. One simple solution is to extend domain registration for the maximum ten years. The other solution is to treat domain registrar data as the critical business element it is.

Search the WHOIS database to see who your Registrar is on your business domain! Transfer your domain name to take advantage of our lower prices.

I Can't Remember Where I Purchased My Domain Name!

It wasn't until my third client had called asking how to regain control of her domain name that I realized that it was a common problem for small business webmasters to forget where they had registered their domains. WHOIS my registrar? Why didn't I get an email about renewal? Why did my site stop working today?

People rarely realize how important it is to keep their domain registrar notified of changes to their email address and and other contact information. The registrar will send renewal notifications to the email address last on file. For most domain owners, the only time they think about contacting a registrar is the day they reserve their domain name. If they move to a new city and get a new internet service provider, it doesn't occur to them that the old email address will change and that meeans that the registrar can no longer contact them through the previous address, or phone or fax as each of them change and we rarely notify the controller of our domain of those changes.

Sometimes the first indication a business owner will have that there is a problem is the day their web site stops working. If they failed to notify their domain registrar of changed email address, they may never have received their domain renewal notice. Since many registrars honor a 30 day "redemption period" allowing expired domains to be redeemed, it may be possible to save the registration within 30 days following expiration by contacting registrars during 30 day domain redemption periods.

The following URL leads to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (AKA ICANN) discussing the grace period and redemption period rules it enforces.


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Internetworld Spring 2002
by Mike Banks Valentine

Internetworld Spring 2002 in Los Angeles is Sponsored by AOL, a company that markets it's service with the slogan, "It's so easy! No wonder it's number one!" One wonders what that company would get out of the crowd that is clearly not interested in the easy stuff. These are all high tech geeks who work with more odd acronyms than any one person needs to know. The companies represented by the drones who toil away inside them see software solutions NOT as AOL easy, but . . . a gateway to network infrastructure to implement cross enterprise knowledge management within the structure of their data center while tying applications through XML data feeds into legacy applications in the backend.

But AOL is for my mom and your grandmother. People who both need to be told, "You've got mail!" before they'll check it. But here is AOL anyway, with a eighteen foot high bulging balloon that looks like a computer monitor bouncing around in front of the convention center doors like a giant Billy- Bounce-kid's-diversion found at a state fair. Maybe they believe that busy mommies will be driving by on busy Pico and Figueroa Streets with a carful of kiddies that will see their Billy-Bounce out front of the convention center.

It's possible that those who work with ECRM applications during the day, go home to AOL connections each evening. I suppose it could be that call center and salesforce automation software implementation might drive one to prefer AOL. Managers struggle every day to get their employees to USE that multi-million dollar CRM software application in their work until they can no longer stand the appearance of that customized GUI at which they stare endlessly. So, it's home to AOL! Naaaahhhhh!

Where are those everyday folks who are the target of the mainstream TV Commercials at internet shows? Where's that guy from the Circuit City commercial who runs from the house in his slippers and bathrobe yelling excitedly, "BROADBAAAND!" His family stares in disbelief at his excited plans for high speed internet? Where is that likeable guy who searches the web using his default browser, set with default settings, doing things that can't be faulted when his wife asks him, "I thought you were surfing the web?" He responds, dumb- founded with, "I finished it." (a rather implausible promotion for DSL).

It sometimes seems that the internet is made for enterprise- level IT drones who say to their co-Dilbert, "Six million dollars worth of pure strategic thinking . . . but given our current technology, is it implementable?, No?" Who are those advertisements aimed at? Network television seems almost as foolish a vehicle for IBM eBusiness enterprise software as InternetWorld seems a strange vehicle for promotion of AOL.

Unless you think the web is for mommies who don't know if they have email until their computer tells them, "You've got mail!," you've also got to believe that there are worthwhile tools for the rest of us available. The great middle ground is not made up of those IT geeks OR the busy mommy. It is made up of a vast sea of entrepreneurs, consultants, writers, freelancers, professionals running online businesses and other small business people who use the web extensively. Nobody from venture capital funded start-ups purposely seeks out this hard to reach audience unless they can do it through office super- stores or giant warehouse outlets. They don't use TV either.

I've made a couple of interesting discoveries. 1) Privately funded companies who are themselves small businesses are more likely to create applications for small business use, NOT applications that may promise to make them millionaires in a rapid initial public offering of vastly over-rated stock. The start-ups often bloom from existing businesses as a further development of existing privately held companies. 2) Privately funded small businesses are often run by Apple Mac owners!

This second discovery sort of slowly dawned on me while wandering show floors over the course of the last year searching for valuable tools for the little guy. I find a worthwhile small business solution and there's a Mac on the booth demo display! I quickly learned to reverse that 2nd phenomenon in my favor to make it easier to find valuable small business stuff on vast convention center show floors.

I probably noticed those Macs because I own a couple of them myself. I'd like to make the corollary that Mac users are successful business operators who run reasonably profitable businesses. The Mac test proved effective at InternetWorld as well when all but a couple of the most valuable discoveries made were being demonstrated on Macs. ALL of the Mac's I discovered prominently displayed were demonstrating worthwhile small business tools, and each of those Mac users provided software that would run on a Mac. I may have discovered a way to avoid the frustration of finding unusable or overpriced tools at internet trade shows!

Are there any folks out there (other than Mac users) who just have a middle level interest, run a small business online and don't sound like they are spelling everything when discussing business applications? CRM, ROI, ERP, J2EE , XML and even SOAP are on the tongues of corporate suits. Are the rest of us lost and wandering aimlessly through InternetWorld, sponsored by AOL?

Is the internet made up of either web services of interest only to corporate CTO's OR pointless chatter sent from prepubescent girls to their best friend via AOL Instant Messenger?

The mainstream is missing here. That is clearly part of the odd atmosphere at web conferences as vendors hawk their wares from fancy show booths . . . and to whom? To the enterprise, stupid! (Someone should tell AOL that there are no prepubescent girls attending this show.) While occassional software gems and valuable tools for small business make rare appearances at internet trade shows, it is the exception rather than the rule. When one of those unusual small business treasures is unearthed, it should be trumpeted to the world via mainstream press and popular online publications since neither small business owners or AOL mommies make it to trade shows.

Individual sales for those companies offering small business solutions means income of less than $100 monthly, or licensing fees of between $500 and $2000 for those vendors and not multimillion dollar deals that you read about in the Wall Street Journal. This means that those vendors that do offer small business solutions most often don't attend trade shows because they can't reach their audience there. Unless they can also sell their tools to enterprise level Dilbert-like drones, there is little reason to hawk their wares at trade shows.

Trade shows will naturally draw those with high end interest and the technical knowledge that leads to that jargon spewed by keynote speakers. Enterprise-speak vendors display their wares and attendees at break-out sessions are full of techno-geeks seeking the latest knowledge enhancement for their narrow interest area. But I'm stunned at the techno-babble being directed at the attendee's of conference Keynote speeches. What should they say?

I'd like to offer my highest compliments to Craig Conway, one of dozens of keynote speakers at InternetWorld. He is President and CEO of business processes software company, PeopleSoft. Conway made a compelling case for EVERYONE to care about what is going on behind the scenes at large businesses. Because it will directly touch us all in ways we haven't taken the time to understand.

In fact, taking time to understand is much easier when you have Conway doing the talking. Clearly his company is aptly named when most would call it ERP-CRM-XML-EDI-Soft. Maybe that's why he can proudly proclaim that his company is profitable and has $2 Billion in the bank - In Cash! He makes it apparent that business needs to communicate it's benefits to people, not the software features to IT geeks in the IS department, staffed by the HR department and fed by the HS (Hunger Solutions) department.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology," Conway quoted, "is virtually indistinguishable from magic." This 1972 statement by science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke has subsequently become known as Clarke's Law. I'd like to suggest Clarke's law is true of the inner workings of advanced technology, but not in the RESULT of those advanced technologies on our lives. I can't tell you anything about the technology behind my magical one-inch-thick notebook computer but I can tell you it has a profound effect on my life and allows me to work from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. That's magic! Nobody will believe in that magic when the technology advances further. Do you think your phone magic?

Mr. Conway spoke in terms that everyone can comprehend about his company and the changes resulting from virtually all commerce moving online to operate in real-time. He spoke of going through a fundamental shift in the way business is conducted. He referred repeatedly to "companies moving their business online" and the major cost savings, and immediacy of the resulting human experience. He pointed to the example of banking and the finance industry move to universal use of ATM machines and how that has since changed our expectations about how the banking world operates and how it touches all of us. We want real-time access to our money and instant, always-accessible information about our transactions through those machines.

This, he says, is how the web affects ALL businesses. No longer do you need to call for verification of funds at a bank (it's online or ATM) and no longer does it matter that the bank is closed or that you are not at your own branch. The central server for any and all businesses, large and small, will be open 24/7 and always accessible to any customer to track their orders, check inventory for availability of any product they wish to buy and make instant buying decisions at 3am.

Even the "Digital Divide" will (eventually) be overcome by publicly accessible kiosk web terminals or web enabled automobiles, web-connected televisions and the web encompassing every aspect of our lives. I believe that there will come a time in the near future when business can no longer afford to ignore those who don't own computers. Although the necessary public access computers will inevitably come in the form of limited access to specific sites at first, I am certain that you'll be able to buy stuff online from anywhere, and that we can find ways to make that service pay handsomely for those businesses making web sales via those public web terminals.

I spoke with exhibitor KDS Pixeltouch, a manufacturer of on- site touch screen kiosk solutions. Both the Canadian marketing rep Barry Baker and the CEO were rather negative about the idea that publicly accessible web terminals were coming anytime soon. Although they valiantly struggled to brainstorm as we spoke on how such a scenario might play out, but even folks acting as a driving force behind touch screen kiosk use failed to offer any significant ideas for using his own product for web access in public places. I'd suggest he hire someone to develop a public web access kiosk of some type if he is one of those hoping for overnight riches, because when it takes off, riches are inevitable. He readily sites more mundane uses such as the standard trade show display, store product locators and giant discount warehouse product mapping.

I heard Larry Irving speak recently on the "Digital Divide," a term he coined while working in the Clinton Administration. Irving makes a compelling case for the inaccessibility of the web to the poor. He emphatically demonstrates that business is ignoring a huge market when they ignore those without access to the web. That means that anyone without a computer right now and those numbers can reach up to 85% of the poor. That is not just those who can't afford computers, because many work where there is no online access. This would include employers of food service workers and blue-collar employees of all kinds on factory floors and in warehouse operations.

There are few cases where public web access can be provided free without significant filtering of content or absolute control of web destinations on that type of public web kiosk. One can imagine good reasons for limiting access and limiting user time on kiosk computers, but I'm still convinced that it's the first way that those without web access will gain a view of this world that has been entirely denied to them before now. The first use of public web kiosk computers that does become popular enough to succeed will be dramatic for any organization, including government in public places. I don't know how soon, but I predict that it will arrive in some dramatic form, somewhere within the next five years.

This sweeping change is coming in banking and commerce, in government, philanthropy, academia and even many personal interactions. While I commend Mr. Conway for his speaking ability, I still see a place for helping the world to understand how this change affects the broad majority of the public, small business and the vast middle ground -- the rest of us. Conway talks about how BIG business, BIG finance and BIG government is moving toward total web adoption, but this affects the rest of the world too. Because business, government and finance is "moving online" it means that instant access to every aspect of our lives will be available to ALL of us via the web.

It hasn't happened yet, but I believe the web will soon make it possible to do previously unimaginable (even mundane) things like lock your front door via the web from your car or office if you forgot to do it when you left home. I think we'll be able to do a long list of things undreamt currently within a very short time. But my question is . . . must it always be top down? Does BIG business, BIG money and BIG eGovernment need to make sweeping, worldwide changes before John Doe learns about those changes or is it possible that something simple John Doe does will soon affect BIG business just as profoundly? I submit that the web-enabling of our world will have a reverse profound effect on BIG business. They will know instantly how the public perceives their company, it's products and it's business philosophy because that feedback will be available in real-time via the web. If start-ups had that power, they might fail less often than they do now.

I now routinely check the web for weather information, maps for upcoming travel destinations and local public transportation routes in cities I'll soon be visiting. I make hotel and car reservations, book airline tickets and I even found free parking and airport shuttle online for my most recent flight. Admittedly, this stuff is all travel related, but you can look up recipes online and find lawn care tips just as easily and instantly. Our expectations are moving this direction for every human activity. The web is pervasive, always on and mostly accessible for most people.

This is bound to become even more true and soon even those using AOL will be able to accomplish all this stuff without their browser telling them, "You've got mail!" Maybe they'll want a colorful graphic to click on, but AOL users may not have to be told, "Here's your latest bank statement!" or "You've got to pay your insurance premium!" or "It's time for Spot to get his rabies shots!" Even most AOL users understand that the world is available online, even if that knowledge comes through their sign-on screen and clicking on the flashing blue "Yes" button on their sign-on screens rather visiting those web sites themselves to take care of business or look up things that directly touch their own lives. I think it may be the immediacy that works best for AOL, that you know you have an email because AOL 7.0 tells you that you do. The immediacy of AOL instant messenger (dubbed AIM) is what makes it so compelling for their users.

To AOL users that may take offense at my comments, I must first ask them if they know that most of the rest of the world uses a local cable company or independent service provider to access the web through something called a browser (software) and not through the "New! AOL version 7.0" junkmail CD they receive weekly in their mailbox. But regardless of how you access the web now, it will soon become increasingly apparent that this universal interconnection is growing in importance by the second, no nanosecond. Maybe AOL is sponsoring InternetWorld because they will soon make Clarke's law apply to their subscribers and make AOL "indistinguishable from magic?"

Well, I've unearthed some "magic" gems at InternetWorld that are not only useful for small business, but affordable for even tiny business and so stunningly useful for those businesses that it may well be UNDERPRICED! That doesn't happen often, even though it is my central objective in attending internet trade shows to find those gems, I most often come away from those conferences and shows with an empty treasure chest.

Holding the honored center spot in my InternetWorld treasure chest is a wonderfully powerful software tool that can either be purchased directly, installed on a co-located server for management by someone elses IT staff, hosted by the vendor in an Application Service Provider model or any combination of the above, depending on your current size, plans for growth or need for scalability. It also runs on Windows, Linux, OS2 Warp, Sun Solaris, other Java platforms, Mac OS9 (Classic) and Mac OS X! Did I hear you say, that would work for anyone? So rule number one for small business use is affordability and flexibility -- those overpraised and under delivered qualities listed on every news release ever written for software solutions.

Stay tuned for product reviews in an upcoming article or visit http://website101.com article archives.


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