Theatre Lover's Journal for August 1999

Yahoo's Cyber Highway Robbery

by John Kenrick

This thing we call the "world wide web" is an amazing frontier. Barely a decade old, it is going through all sorts of growing pains as it changes the way the world learns, communicates and does business.

Like all frontiers, the web has its share of good guys and bad guys. The good guys are constantly looking for new ways to make the web easier to use and more informative. The bad guys are out for out for a profit, no matter what the cost – particularly the cost to others. It was very sad to see Yahoo take over Geocities and then claim the right to reproduce the contents of all Geocities websites "both now and in perpetuity" in forms known and still unknown. One would have hoped that this was far too blatant and sloppy a maneuver for as respected a web presence as Yahoo. One would have been wrong.

In its attempts to clear this situation up, Yahoo only made matters worse. Within less than a week, it forced its websites to accept three different versions of its service agreement. Each one was a little less unreasonable than the last, but the atmosphere was one of confusion and indecision. On top of this, several requests to Yahoo for technical support (their server changes had wreaked havoc with this site’s pages) were either ignored or given template responses that did not even vaguely relate to my questions. And for this I was paying good money? While Yahoo/Geocities does offer free sites, was paying monthly fees to spare its users unwanted advertising. Nothing Yahoo was offering was worth the indifferent treatment they were subjecting their users to.

Yours truly had not labored for two years on this site so that some corporate cyber thief could claim the right to reproduce the contents without owing me a cent. Feeling that my intellectual property was genuinely threatened, I had no choice but to take down the site and relocate to a new server. I made a point of forwarding info to all those who sent in for help, and I am genuinely sorry if anyone else was inconvenienced during the transition period.

We are now on a reasonably priced hosting service with a remarkably polite and responsive support staff. While it will cost more to have here, the site will have the room and technology it needs to grow larger and better in the months ahead.

Pity about Yahoo – they bought Geocities, only to destroy it’s original intent within the space of a week. One wonders why they bothered at all. Now – back to the business of celebrating musicals!

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