Vancouver, BC—The Web has always been described with analogies of physical space—even the main browsers are named "Explorer" and "Navigator." But it's all been a metaphor...until now. A company called Antarcti.ca has launched the web site http://map.net , which offers Web surfers a way to navigate the Internet geographically.
The company ranks Web sites by their size, popularity and number of links, just as many search engines do. Then it overlays all that data onto a 3D map of Antarctica, dividing the continent into 16 color-coded zones, including: sports, regional, society, arts, business, games, computers, health, news, adult, reference, science, and shopping.
It looks like a drunken patchwork quilt, but this is only the top layer. Drill down into any of the regions, and you can see "towns," with larger Web sites represented as taller buildings, containing ever more specific categories. So users can "walk" around the Web reviewing sites in detail without having to actually visit them. Antarcti.ca can also arrange an instant Internet chat between any surfers who are viewing a web site at the same time.
But don't think Antarcti.ca is trying to replace Yahoo!, says founder and CEO Tim Bray, who is also a co-creator of XML (Extensible Markup Language).
"We're not trying to replace search engines," Bray says. "But we are trying to replace URLs. They're not human-friendly—you can't read them over the phone."
So how will the company make money? Antarcti.ca (www.antarcti.ca ) has an ASP business model in which it would charge a flat monthly fee to organize any company's intranet or extranet in the same way. And if a client has security concerns, Bray will site the server inside its own firewall.