Weekly Wire
Nashville Scene Web Wonder

Youth starts world-wide business.

By James Hanback Jr.

MARCH 30, 1998:  They've programmed the VCR. They've signed on to the Internet and visited places they're not really supposed to go. They even created a page on the World Wide Web long before most people even knew what the Web really was.

Every day parents are amazed by what their children have learned and what they can do when they set their minds to it.

So what's next for computer/Internet-savvy youngsters?

For at least one 19-year-old Nashvillian, the next step has nothing to do with hacking into government computer archives or battling make-believe monsters in the latest add-on level to Doom or Quake. Instead, Raj Viradia is building NetPromote, a worldwide Web site promotion business on the Internet.

For the past 10 months, Viradia has been building his Web site promotion business from his home, where he lives with his parents and commutes to Belmont University. He's been marketing his business on the Internet as one of only a few Web promotion businesses that "guarantee top-20 placement on the major Internet search engines."

He's hired several programmers to handle an increasingly demanding work load. He's even hired a public-relations firm out of New York to handle the more traditional means of publicity.

Even so, he still betrays some "typical" 19-year-old characteristics. "I'm undecided about a major right now," Viradia says. "It's probably going to be something to do with business, and it will probably be computer related."

What's more, Viradia says NetPromote actually started out as the electronic equivalent of mowing lawns for extra spending money.

"I started doing this as a way to make some extra money," he says. "I picked up HTML [the programming language used to create Web pages] after I started using the Web in 1995, just by going to other people's sites and looking at their codes. Then I figured out how to use different tags and keywords to make sure my sites were listed in the top results in the search engines.

"Everybody's building Web sites now," he adds. "Anybody can do that. But most companies just build one and put it out there. They don't even think about promoting it. Instead, they sell banner advertising or try other ways of paying for it.

"To increase traffic to your Web site, you've got to promote it."

While promoting other Web sites, Viradia has promoted himself by Internet word-of-mouth. "It's been pretty amazing, actually," he says. "Our submission numbers are going up. And we're adding new features to the Web site every week. We're getting a lot of good ideas about where to take things."

NetPromote's Web site-- http://www.netpromote.com. --offers both free and commercial services for promoting Web sites. The free services include links to information about Web site promotion and how to make it happen on your own. Viradia offers several paid service plans, along with a list of frequently asked questions about the company and how the Web promotion business works.

"We also have a cool Java-based HTML editor called Black Widow," Viradia says. "You don't really need any programming experience or a Web server to have a Web page anymore. But you still need to make sure people see it."

One might expect a Web promoter and programmer like Viradia to have his own super-fast Web server with all the trimmings. Not so.

"I go through a service provider, just like a lot of people," he explains. "The only places that really need their own Web servers are larger businesses."

Most of Viradia's customers probably have no idea they're working with a 19-year-old. And those who do are coming around to acceptance.

"My dad just thought it was a phase I was going through," Viradia says. "He didn't think it was really anything serious.

"But now I think he's starting to see the power of it."


Help! I just bought a computer!

As more Nashvillians begin using computers, more users groups are bound to begin surfacing. Maybe that's a blessing to all those who spend frustrated hours in front of their keyboards, craving interaction with some human who can help them solve their problems.

Nashville already has a PC users group, a Macintosh users group, and a Linux users group, to name just a few. Now there's a new group calling itself the Cumberland Computer Club.

According to club publicity coordinator Janice Holt, Cumberland Computer Club meets every third Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the lower level of Tusculum Church of Christ, 4916 Nolensville Rd.The club's first meeting was held March 19.

There is no fee for attending, and Holt says that users from beginner to advanced levels are welcome. For more information, call 833-8787.

Don't tread on me

European countries are apparently miffed at an attempt by the United States to hand over to the private sector Internet domain name control. According to a Reuters report last week, the crux of the debate is that the Europeans feel the U.S. isn't communicating its intentions to other countries. A global coalition of companies, calling itself CORE, apparently met in Geneva and decided to add seven new domains to the Internet database. The new domains would include: .shop, .firm, .web, .arts, .rec, .info and .nom, in addition to exisiting domains such as .com, .net, and .gov.

Domain names are currently registered solely by Network Solutions Inc., a U.S. company under contract with the National Science Foundation. The U.S. hopes to break up the NSI monopoly and add five new domains, along with a not-for-profit corporation to manage the numerical addresses used to locate Internet sites.

Candy porn

It was bound to happen.

Just as predicted by anyone who advocates freedom of expression, a Hong Kong government attempt to control Internet content resulted last week in the branding of a Smarties candy Web site as "unfit for children."

A list of "objectionable" sites compiled by Hong Kong's Television and Licensing Authority is routinely sent to Internet service providers who wish to block such sites.

The site, http://www.smarties.com., currently contains information about candies produced by the company. An introduction reads: "Thank you for visiting the Ce De Candy Web site! This site is currently under construction. Please excuse us while we build a fun, interactive, and informative Web site for kids and adults alike!"

Perhaps they shouldn't have placed the words "fun" and "adult" together in the same sentence together.

Once again, evidence that government should stay out of the Internet content control business.

TLA authorities said they are investigating the incident.

James Hanback Jr. is systems administrator for the Scene. Feel free to e-mail him at james@nashscene.com.

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