Say It On The Web

Home pages: More and more people are carving out personal pieces of cyberspace to tell the world about their lives, loves, occupations and avocations.

August 01, 2002|By Kevin Washington | Kevin Washington,SUN STAFF

Do you have something to tell the world?

Well, if you haven't put your ideas on the World Wide Web, you're missing a revolution in personal communication that has changed the way we share our lives and dreams.

Since the general public became interested in the Internet in the mid-1990s, millions of average Joes and Janes without technical backgrounds have taken the plunge into personal Web page creation. They post family photos, resumes, wares for sale and just about anything else that might interest neighbors next door or people half-way around the world.

Many of these Web pages cost their creators nothing thanks to Web-service companies that provide no-frills, step-by-step wizards and tools to help users organize and upload text, photos and graphics.

The biggest players, Yahoo! GeoCities and Lycos Networks' Tripod and Angelfire, offer Web space in exchange for advertisements that appear on members' home pages. America Online and many other Internet service providers offer Web space and design tools to their paying subscribers.

Nicholas Graham, an AOL spokesman, said that users with 11 million "screen names" have created 18 million home pages on the company's servers. The Web space that comes with AOL's regular service is generous. A subscriber can have up to seven screen names (often used as separate sign-ons by family members) and get 12 megabytes of space per name for a total of 84 megabytes of space.

Those with a more serious interest in Web expression can buy their own Web domain names and rent space from Web hosting companies. They typically use dedicated, third-party Web design programs or write Web code to build more sophisticated sites.

While no accurate figure exists for the number of home pages created by nonprofessionals, search engines such as Google have catalogued some 2 billion Web pages across the Internet globally.

What draws non-geeks to Web page creation? Katie Rae, vice president of publishing and community for the Lycos Network, says it's all about passion.

"The real simple answer is that someone has a passion for something and they want to show someone else that passion," she said. Her company's Web services, Tripod (www.tripod.lycos.com) and Angelfire (www.angelfire.lycos .com), claim some 23 million members who have built Web sites of sizes varying from one to 30 pages.

"It could be about their family, it could be about their business, it could be about their hobby," Rae said of the members' pages.

Cheri Smith, 39, of Veneta, Oregon, set up her GeoCities home page in 1997 so friends and family on the other side of the country could keep up with what was going on in her life. Her old computer didn't have enough horsepower to run the sophisticated page-buildng software attached to the free Web space, so she coded her own pages in HTML, the markup language that underlies all Web pages.

"Soon after I started my site, I discovered I had uterine fibroids," she recalled. "That's when I decided to add the page, `Welcome Fibroid Survivors.' "

That page, which can be found through her main home page at www.geocities.com/ Vienna/3533/, describes her experiences and offers links to sites about fibroid tumors and other women's health issues.

Since Rae posted her first pages, with photographs of pets, her father, and a dedication to a nephew who died of cancer, she said she's tried to learn more about design to make her Web site look more professionally done. But like a lot of personal home page creators, she would never hire a professional to do the work.

"My Web site is a personal statement of me," Smith said. "I enjoy updating and creating new portions of my Web site and that's why I wouldn't let anyone else do it for me."

Making a basic personal statement doesn't take much expertise with hosts that provide step-by-step tools.

For example, AOL's Hometown (http://hometown.aol .com) uses a system called 1, 2, 3 Publish. Its page builder asks you to select a background color, a graphic to appear at the top of the page, a title for the page and a photograph (a small JPEG image file from your hard drive that you want to upload to the Internet).

Users who want multiple pages with multiple images can graduate to Easy Designer, a more sophisticated step-by-step wizard.

These tools don't require users to figure out how to transfer photographs and the text of Web pages to the Internet because all the work is done on the Web itself.

Comcast High Speed Internet Service, which has a million customers nationwide, offers its customers 25 megabytes of Web space. It won't help users build home pages, but does offer a program that allows users to "drag and drop" elements of a Web site from their hard drives to the company's servers.

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