Internet Story: 16 Mar 1999
Beenz Nice idea, poor implementation. I'm one of the skeptics on the idea of creating a new type of "currency" for the Net. The Beenz operation, launched yesterday (15th March 1999), works on the principal of visitors to web sites earning "Beenz" which they can deposit in their free Beenz bank account and trade for items from other web sites when they have collected enough. It's a bit like the old Green (Blue for the US) Shield Stamps and frequent flier miles. I went along and signed up a "customer" account today to earn my "free" 500 points for joining, only to learn, when visiting the only site that seems to be subscribed at the moment, that I couldn't have any points because I have Java turned off on my browser (it crashes with WinNT and the screen resolution I run at). Naff user interface #2! (#1 is that they didn't tell me this on signing up!). Naff point #3 is that when trying to see what it's like to sign up as a merchant, the instructions say to fill in a non-existent form (maybe because Java is turned off) so that a customer representative can get in contact. (Actually that's naff point #3 and #4 - no form and the fact that someone has to get in contact with me). I hope Charles Cohen (the brains behind the scheme) is better at this than he was at writing Paddy Ashdown's speeches :-)
E-Tax Returns Finally there are signs of the UK government catching up with the US when it comes to filing tax returns via the Net. Not only that but Customs & Excise are already even further down the line in letting traders submit VAT returns via the Net, with a live pilot during 1999-2000 and an expansion of the service in 2000-01. Of course, for all this to be practical we need to have substantial and robust encryption protocols in place - ones that are not compromised by practices like key escrow. See BBC article for more details.
Web on a Pager Check out the new devices that Research in Motion are producing to enable the busy traveler to be in contact all the time. They have two new products soon to go on sale in the US, the BlackBerry Mobile Email Solution and RIM Inter@ctive Pager 950. The RIM can send and receive pages and e-mail and will soon be able to act as a wireless PDA. It has an Intel 386 processor inside, 1MB of memory, a little black-and-white backlit screen, a clever curved keyboard (for typing with two thumbs), and a roller wheel that acts like your computers mouse (roll to a command and press to start running it). The 950 runs on a single AA alkaline battery. It can back up information to a PC via an optional serial cable. Don't hold your breath for these being available in the UK soon.
Another Free ISP Barclays bank is the latest free ISP (as we mentioned on 01Feb1999). The only snag (if it is one) is that you have to be a customer of Barclays to use it. Watch out for it coming online soon at www.barclays.net.
Andrew Stringer, © Pendle.Net Ltd, 1999
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