Internet remote control

With the launch of a new consumer portal, datango gives (almost) all surfers the opportunity to take the tour guide through cyberspace

For a long time, the six founders of the berlin-based startup datango had been looking for an attention-grabbing hook for their in-house developed webride software. "Internet as easy as television" was the motto of the young entrepreneurs last year, which was supposed to make the pearls of the web accessible to users and the datango bosses millionaires. Prominent web jockeys like RTL talker sabrina were in the foreground and were supposed to attract the masses with their personal surfing tips. But now "users have the floor", the managing director of the 16-month-old company, alexander artope, repositions the company.

The fun time of trying things out is over: during the relaunch with the portal webride, which has just started, not only the company’s logo and the entire site have been made "nuchterner and more respectable", as artope explains, but also put the users and their tours through the net in the foreground: on the newly launched site, everyone can now get started with the "right" browser (internet explorer) and the "right" operating system (windows) to store his own annotated journey through the vast sea of data in numerous categories such as shopping or entertainment and make them available to other surfers.

C2C (consumer-to-consumer) is the buzzword that will make datango a magnet like so many other web platforms. Behind it is the old community business model that has been in use since hagel and armstrong’s bible "net gain" is celebrated as one of the golden hens of online marketing: the users themselves determine and deliver the content – the website operators only provide the necessary infrastructure. Auctioneers such as ebay and consumer portals such as epinions have been successful with this approach.Com in the USA and its offshoots dooyoo.En and ciao.Com in this country.

The new datango site also has rough similarities with meome.De, whose creators, together with around 250 web guides, not only categorize the web, but also give each individual surfer on their portal his or her "personal internet" create. In the area of web tour guiding, the net pilots matthias dentler and wolfgang macht from hamburg have been making their rounds through selected parts of the web together with surfers without any plug-ins for over a year now.

Convenience for the stupid user …

Artope sees the main advantage of its own application over all its competitors in the convenience it offers to net-potatoes. Once the 600-kilobyte plug-in has been installed in explorer, you can safely lean back, grab the chips and turn up the speakers on your computer: when you plug into one of the now 800 or so web rides, the "WJ" the direction. As if by magic, the thematic journey through the web starts, search queries are automatically started, links are activated by themselves, highlights of a site are colorfully highlighted.

Dazu erklart die – hoffentlich freundliche – stimme des produzenten, wo es was zu holen gibt. And since the player is now in version 1.2, not only is it possible to pause the ride at any time, but also to fast-forward and rewind, artope is pleased to say. Thanks to additional market research, the new slogan for datango was quickly found: the remote control for the internet.

Even creating a tour has become "child’s play", ares clifford fullerton, head of content at datango. With the company’s free recorder, headset and microphone equipped – "is available in electronics stores for as little as eight marks", knows artope – the producer of webride sits down in front of the device at home and comments on the possibilities of using his favorite sites. The effects for the show like the marking of single functions of the sites can be built in a second run. Fullerton now hopes that numerous surfers will take advantage of the opportunities to share their expert knowledge with others.

It would indeed be funny if, for example, the chaos computer club would offer webrides to the worst secured sites and provide detailed information via "highlighting" and pointing out potential break-in points in appropriate comments was. However, censorship takes place. "The tours are checked before they are posted on the site", says fullerton. The aim is to avoid pornographic or racist content.

… Attention and "warhol effects" for the power users

For the portal operators, the main motivation for creating the rides lies in the everyday urge for exhibitionism and in the users’ pleasure in producing them. Artope speaks of the "andy warhol factor" as a driving force: the desire of man to be a star for five minutes. "Lovingly" should be made above all, wishes fullerton. Besides, there is also a small share in the advertising lottery, which is one of the main sources of income for datango. 15 percent of which will be distributed among all web guides. The most diligent and best producers receive – depending on the click rate – the most money. However, a minimum payment of between three and 20 euros is intended to make life easier for all content suppliers.

With the C2C model of webrides, datango plans to gallop onto the stock market at the end of next year. But real sales can hardly be generated with it. In addition, a B2B component is planned to be launched in the fall, when software players and recorders for the mac and netscape will be ready. This will allow companies to license datango’s software and show their virtual visitors the benefits of their site. With this deal datango hopes to reel revenue into its coffers. Because the use of the recorder is free of charge only for non-commercial purposes.

In order to prevent the technology from falling into the hands of third parties and being copied by the competition, the company has also obtained "filed worldwide patents" on it, as artope explains. In 2002, the relevant writings are said to be available. In europe, however, the patenting of the software may have been more difficult than datango had planned, because in contrast to the USA, pure computer algorithms cannot be protected on the old continent. ()

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