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Netscape navigates the dark side of the Web

It's been a hectic week around here, what with repeated trips to the shredder towing large opaque bags full of neckties and even a couple of stained dresses.

It's been a hectic week around here, what with repeated trips to the shredder towing large opaque bags full of neckties and even a couple of stained dresses. I do not recall where any of this clothing came from, but you can't be too careful these days. Once Kenneth Starr has your number, he will not hesitate to take you to the prosecutorial cleaners, where he will happily air your dirty laundry.

In between disposing of potentially incriminating evidence of dimly remembered indiscretions, I found time to download the new Netscape browser--the one with all the nifty new "smart browsing" features. My browsing experience was starting to feel a little, well, stupid.

Aiming high, I thought I'd start my smart browsing adventure at the New York Times. OK, the Gray Lady isn't smart enough to run CNET News.com stories, like the Post, but anyone who's spent any time in NYC knows that the citizenry is divided between those who read the Times and those who read the Post, and at least a measurable majority of the island's brain power derives from the former group.

Feeling extra brainy after reading up on the latest soiled clothing to come out of Washington, I turned to Netscape's "What's Related" button, courtesy of San Francisco's own Alexa Internet, for some smart suggestions on where to go next.

Imagine my surprise when Netscape/Alexa (Alexscape!) suggested, out of ten recommendations, nine Hollywood movie sites, including Hollydex and the HollywoodNetwork Inner Circle. Tinseltown and the Times--get the connection? Let me in on it if you do.

Alexscape appears to have a penchant for the flicks. Since the leader of the free tie-wearing world does too, maybe it makes sense that from the White House we are directed to the Internet Movie Database. But how do you intelligently navigate the road from Pennsylvania Avenue to the Ultimate Band List? Is it something to do with the sax?

The Clinton administration has brought no end of confusion to the Web, and I'm not talking about domain name policy. We all know about the smutty nature of the operations over at "whitehouse.com"--but does your browser? What's related to this den of Skin, according to the trusty tour guides at Alexscape, is the Social Security Administration, "www.whitehouse.gov," and--you guessed it--HomeFair.

But if all of this "whitehouse.com" material is making you too hot under the collar, Alexscape has the perfect pit stop to cool you down: Antarctica!

Suffice it to say that things were not going as I had expected on my smart-browsing excursion. Perhaps with the Times and the White House I had set my, er, sites too high. So I sought out the stupidest people on the Internet, who are located at "www.kkk.com." From there, Alexscape has some irresistible recommendations for related browsing: the American Automobile Association, for one, and, ironically enough, a number of sites of Korean origin or affiliation. How these folks might feel about being described as "similar or connected to" to the Klan is a topic for another day.

But wait, there's more! How about these Alexscape related links: button-down Bolt Reporter ("America's Online High School Newspaper") from hot-button Annoy.com? Behind the Boat magazine ("The Magazine of Boat-Towed Sports") from behind-the-curve HotWired? Warrior princess Xena from online playpen AOL? Vanity page Nedscape from my own Rumor Mill?

I suppose after all that surfing, you want rumors, too. Here's what I got, folks, and I don't want to hear any bellyaching about it. There was a rumor that Microsoft was going to pull the plug on newly acquired Firefly, but it turned out that Redmond was just shuffling servers and has no plans to swat down operations. There was a rumor that 3Com was spamming subscribers to a mailing list, and it turned out to true but an accident. The company promised never, never, never to do it again. Oh, and the rumor we ran a few weeks ago about NT sinking that Navy ship? It didn't happen. Win some, lose some. We're doing our best, just like Alexscape.

Alexscape PR assures me that its database is perpetually self-improving. So quick, surf around before it wises up and send me your weirdest results! You could also send me some rumors.