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Deja goes e-commerce?

By kmself in News
Wed Mar 01, 2000 at 09:50:54 AM EST
Tags: News (all tags)

Deja, one-time king of the Usenet archive/indexes, has apparently become a hardware reseller portal. Visiting the website currently redirects users to newforyou.epl -- a file type not supported by all browsers, though the content is straight HTML. Rendered, it reveals a flashy web table with very little content, and the six most feared words on the web today: "We've made our site even better!"

Checking the news wires, Yahoo posts this CNET offering explaining that Deja, a long-suffering Web champion, has entered into the e-Commerce fray:

Deja.com relaunched its Web site today, adding a new shopping guide to its discussion boards and product ratings. The new shopping guide will include a comparison shopping service and detailed product information, along with expert-written reviews--which the company expects to launch in the next couple of weeks.

Deja and its ilk -- particularly Remarq (which incidentally grew in part out of an old friends Marin County BBS) changed the face of Usenet from a current, living-in-the-moment conversation, to an institution with history and depth. They redefined tech support in the Open Source era when the first attack on any problem was "what does DejaNews say?".

I'd occasionally wondered "what if" a player like Deja suddenly weren't there one day. I guess I dismissed the thought as did a lot of people under the assumption that, hey, they provide a good service, they must be making money. Though I did have some serious reservations about the site's remake in May of last year, which IMVAO made searching much less convenient, much more confusing, and clouded the original purpose of the website with irrelevant distractions: polls, banners, and an interface that was hell to navigate in Lynx -- my browser of choice when I really need to fix a downed system. Shortly aftwards a number of sites appeared with cleaner search interfaces, one of which I install as a local page on my own systems, and Linux even produced a command line utility dejasearch. The Suits tried to impose their way on the Web; the Web responded by lifting a finger. As I test these utilities now, they appear to have been broken by the recent changes.

What happens to the online world without the indexes that we take for granted? Will another player step up to the plate, or will a distributed archive shared among many different individuals and institutions become the wave of the future? Are we wrong to trust single entities -- Yahoo, Google, Excite, Lycos, to provide these resources? As Kuro5hin is being formed in part as a response to failures in other parts of the Net, we find another institution failing us. What next?


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Related Links
o Kuro5hin
o Google
o Deja
o newforyou. epl
o this
o Remarq
o dejasearch
o Also by kmself

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Deja goes e-commerce? | 24 comments (24 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Thorough analysis of the changes ma... (2.00 / 1) (#3)
by aidoneus on Wed Mar 01, 2000 at 09:12:58 AM EST

aidoneus voted 1 on this story.

Thorough analysis of the changes make this quite worthwhile to read.

Fantastic post. Goodbye, Deja. Good... (3.50 / 2) (#2)
by xah on Wed Mar 01, 2000 at 09:15:33 AM EST

xah voted 1 on this story.

Fantastic post. Goodbye, Deja. Goodbye, Usenet. I salute you both.

I was a little surpirsed when I wen... (2.67 / 3) (#1)
by Emacs on Wed Mar 01, 2000 at 09:50:54 AM EST

Emacs voted 1 on this story.

I was a little surpirsed when I went to DEja a couple days ago and found that they changed. You had to see it coming though. When they went from dejanews to deja it was part of the phasing out with the old and getting ready to phase in the new. This all about the $$$$$. The early days of the hacker run internet are going away and the revenue driven internet run by *the man* is moving in. It's sad to see though, Dejanews was a great tool for finding info. I'll bet many of the web newbies have no idea about the wealth of information that's available there.

"Broken As Designed" (4.00 / 3) (#4)
by Demona on Wed Mar 01, 2000 at 10:31:31 AM EST

Even my latest-and-greatest-version of Lynx silently barfs and gives up. I am equally apalled to see that their changes have also broken the custom power search form a lot of folks have been passing around and encouraging people to load locally (to bypass all the crap). And I would be willing to bet that the changes have also broken DejaFilter, as well as severely impacting DejaSearch's functionality.

This constant fight against the Suit Mentality is getting to be a war of attrition that rivals the Great Spam Wars. Why else would we even have tools like the above in the first place? Why else would people keep sending each other tips like "Make sure you bookmark this Altavista and not their stupid home page!", or loading local forms like

<FORM ACTION="http://www.altavista.com/cgi-bin/query">




No-Bullshit Altavista: <INPUT NAME=q>



Why else would someone bother to write something like the BW Whois client?

Back when Altavista went "portal" and quietly dumped Usenet searches, "Figwig" noted on Slashdot:

It would be fairly easy to put your own front end and then go-between parser in front of these engines. Pretty much the "Run your search on other engines" that we see on Yahoo and Google, and the Metasearch type engines (Ask Jeeves etc.). I wonder when we will start seeing lawsuits like the ones that happened when another auction site was providing searches on E-Bay? Would it be illegal for me to slap my own front end on Dejanews? Technologically it seems really straight forward, just a few HTML forms and some Perl scripts to strip ads and useless links returned.

I actually think this also connects to the recent IM wars over buddy lists and what not. I guess these are the intellectual property issues that are only starting to be addressed.

Those with the Suit Mentality keep breaking things, out of evil, greed, incompetence and/or a mixture of all three. And hackers keep on quietly fixing them. And if the hackers should happen to attract too much attention, it is becoming increasingly, dismally likely that the suits will simply send lawyers after them.


the web is dead, and you killed it

Looking for UseNet Archives (2.50 / 2) (#5)
by Yardley on Wed Mar 01, 2000 at 10:38:20 AM EST

Well I'm under the impression we haven't reached critical mass around here yet, but I'll ask anyway. Does anyone know of other websites which archive and host UseNet? Can anyone think of how to do this and make money (to sustain it)?

Re: Looking for UseNet Archives (3.00 / 1) (#11)
by Emacs on Wed Mar 01, 2000 at 01:51:16 PM EST

I don't know the answer to your query, but I'm thinking this would be a great job for the Google folks.

I really like the Google (no ads, no muss no fuss) attitude. I would think adding a *Serach Usenet archives* section would be a perfect fit for them.

[ Parent ]
Google (3.00 / 1) (#15)
by kmself on Wed Mar 01, 2000 at 04:58:35 PM EST

In terms of a business fit, I think this would be excellent: Google's line is "we provide search services". Google, the online site, is simply their free demo. What they want to sell you is a private version of their engine for your intranet.

From a business model perspective, for an information company, this is golden. It's the same model used by publications such as the Economist and the Wall Street Journal. Both companies in this case generate significant revenues from their research arms -- the EIU for the Economist, and Dow Jones, for the WSJ. Consequently their "popular" publications are essentially an inexpensive (relative to the custom reports) advert for their specialty research.

Contrast this business model and the impacts on publication quality with the more common "we are an advertising vehicle" and the consequent mad rush to lowest common denominator content found in once-useful magazines such as Time and Newsweek. A focus on advertising revenues means growing market share, adding eyeballs, and diluting content. Web sites which see themselves as nothing more than banner portals eventually find themselves...nothing more than banner portals. Sorry, I don't need to find more banners on the Web.

In terms of a technological fit, I'm not sure it works as well. What Google does is to identify "linkedness" of any one site WRT the rest of the web, in a specific context. This works well in the WWW context of hyperlinks and pages. It isn't as appropriate a ranking model for Usenet, in which article association is largely serial. Usenet articles can reference one another, both by article reference (usually listed in headers), or by linking to an indexed, archived version of a post somewhere. Unfortunatly the first largely provides a temporal/thread association of articles, and the second JOOPS -- jumps out of the system -- referencing a WWW analog of Usenet, though with a completely different (and arbitrary) structure.

Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

Re: Deja goes e-commerce? (5.00 / 2) (#6)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Mar 01, 2000 at 10:55:05 AM EST

There's always this site. It's unbroken by the changes: Deja Power Search

Working form (5.00 / 1) (#10)
by Demona on Wed Mar 01, 2000 at 01:27:58 PM EST

It didn't work for me at first, so I saved it locally, loaded it and accepted the cookie Deja threw at me. Wala! Thanks, AH.

[ Parent ]
Re: Working form -- off topic question... (1.00 / 1) (#13)
by rongen on Wed Mar 01, 2000 at 03:57:58 PM EST

When you say "Wala!" do you mean "Voilà!"?

I am asking because I have seen this a lot on the web and was wondering if people are just phoentically spelling a word that is heard a lot but not normally written (outside email of course). "Voilà" is a French word which is used to mean "there it is"... Or if you are a magician it means "TA DA!", etc...

I am really curious about this and thought I would finally ask! :)

read/write http://www.prosebush.com
[ Parent ]

Tooshay. (1.00 / 1) (#14)
by Demona on Wed Mar 01, 2000 at 04:34:02 PM EST

Yes. I actually do know how to spell it the right way, but end up split about equally in practice between being correct and being cute. BTW, you get extra plus points for that accented character, since it renders properly in Lynx :)

[ Parent ]
Re: Tooshay. (1.00 / 1) (#16)
by rongen on Wed Mar 01, 2000 at 05:29:53 PM EST

Yes. I actually do know how to spell it the right way, but end up split about equally in practice between being correct and being cute.

Thanks! that was really making me wonder! BTW, when you say "Tooshay" do you really mean... Just kidding! :)
read/write http://www.prosebush.com
[ Parent ]

The problem isn't the filetype... (3.00 / 2) (#7)
by fluffy grue on Wed Mar 01, 2000 at 11:09:11 AM EST

The problem isn't the filetype, but the MIME type which the server is putting out. This is an obvious server misconfiguration, and only patholoigcally-standards-nonconforming browsers like MSIE could even hope to decide to render this document, which is returned as text/plain, as text/html instead. (No, Netscape doesn't supercede its MIME type.)

My suspicion is that it's some sort of script and they forgot to tack on a Content-type: header, or someone's asleep at the wheel. This certainly doesn't endear themselves to me. Then again, for me it's a mark against a website when they don't make sure it works if you don't put the www at the beginning of the hostname (hint, hint Rusty ;) and if they break other pedantic standards, such as having some machines or domains not properly MXed, or not setting all their MIME types properly.

Deja's been on a steady downward spiral ever since they dropped the 'news' from their name (which is a completely nonsensical change - 'DejaNews' is a cute pun on Déjà Vú, whereas Deja is just French for "already"). Then again, they're not the only USEnet search engine around anymore (CNet has one, for example), and they've cast that to the wayside to make room for their own crappy discussion forums and "consumer advocacy" fluff, where lots of misinformed home theater buffs can rate audiophile equipment. Joy.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

Never mind, Rusty (2.00 / 1) (#8)
by fluffy grue on Wed Mar 01, 2000 at 11:12:43 AM EST

The kuro5hin.org->www.kuro5hin.org forward must not have been working for me last night for some reason, and it's more likely my proxy's fault. Sorry for the unjust hint.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: Never mind, Rusty (2.00 / 1) (#12)
by rusty on Wed Mar 01, 2000 at 03:46:29 PM EST

The www fwd is a bad patch to a silly problem. The real problem will be fixed soon :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: The problem isn't the filetype... (none / 0) (#19)
by rusty on Thu Mar 02, 2000 at 02:37:18 AM EST

Deja's been on a steady downward spiral ever since they dropped the 'news' from their name (which is a completely nonsensical change - 'DejaNews' is a cute pun on Déjà Vú, whereas Deja is just French for "already").

I think the name's even more appropriate now than ever. Before, I'd go to Deja News for information I needed, hence information I hadn't seen before.

Now, when I look at it, the first thought that comes to mind is "Gee, this looks just like every other e-commerce site I've seen. Didn't this used to be a usenet gateway?" So I actually do get that feeling of Déjà Vú, that I never had before.

$ make -o lemonade lemons.c

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Deja-stupid. (3.00 / 1) (#9)
by Inoshiro on Wed Mar 01, 2000 at 11:15:03 AM EST

Great, another change away from the one thing they did well -- being a Usenet gateway/archiver.

I mean, really. They did that well, now they're just slowly nailing themselves in the coffin of "glitz" and trying to hide what made them successful. I hope they rot in silicon hell.

[ イノシロ ]
Re: Deja-stupid. (none / 0) (#22)
by ralsina on Thu Mar 02, 2000 at 03:12:23 PM EST

Aren't you overreacting a bit? They are not changing away from being a Usenet archive/gateway, since they are doing that exactly as well as they did before (a bit better actually).

Ok, so they had a service glitch. That happens, specially in such a complex site, and while doing radical changes and adding a whole new set of features.
KDE developer (MFCH)
[ Parent ]
Fixed, finally (none / 0) (#17)
by fluffy grue on Wed Mar 01, 2000 at 09:28:12 PM EST

Whatever admin was asleep at the wheel finally fixed the MIME type. Now you can see their over-glitzy site in its portalish glory. Yay.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

I don't get what's the news. (3.00 / 1) (#18)
by ralsina on Wed Mar 01, 2000 at 10:38:23 PM EST

http://www.deja.com/my/pr.xp still takes me to the exact same personalized page I have used for months, http://www.deja.com/my/pr/search_custom.xp takes me to the exact same customized search I have been using, the usenet archive is updated to post less than two hours old, and I can still post through them.

As far as I can see, the only thing that has changed on the usenet side of deja.com is some change in the article display's HTML (for the better, actually).

Deja.com seems to have redesigned the front pages, and added a bunch of stuff, but they, as far as I can see, have not removed any of their usenet archive/gateway functionality.

The rumours of deja's demise seem to be exaggerated.
KDE developer (MFCH)
What's news (none / 0) (#21)
by kmself on Thu Mar 02, 2000 at 02:18:23 PM EST

The news was that, in the process of changing their website, Deja broke it for several hours. Yes, it's been restored. I wigged out a bit more than I needed to because Deja has been so extremely valuable in the past.

The issue is whether or not a resource as valuable as Usenet indexing/archival should sit in a small number of hands. It's a tough row to hoe for the index -- the benefits of providing the service, and the revenue stream from it, are largely orthogonal.

Among my thoughts is that the companies which find themselves with more satisfied customers and/or lower support costs because of searchable online indexes might want to figure out some way to help keep the service afloat.

Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

Re: What's news (4.00 / 1) (#23)
by Demona on Thu Mar 02, 2000 at 03:20:03 PM EST

What was news to me was how quickly and cleanly this was resolved. Within 24 hours the story was posted here, we figured out that all it took was accepting a fresh cookie, Deja managed to fix the most egregious of their errors, the Dejasearch author issued a fix AND some new party released a new tool called Ija for doing command line Deja queries.

Given my rampant cynicism (which borders on paranoia when it comes to people "breaking" long-time Tools That Work like whois), it's good to see that this was incompetence rather than malevolent intent, and I'm glad I didn't jerk my knee any harder than I did.

Still, we are left with the open issue of intellectual property (Deja could conceivably say at some point in the future, "You can't use our tools that way, only this way"), as well as the problem of such valuable resources being centralized and "politicized". Something like Ompages or Freenet, a more distributed system, would go a long way toward solving this, as well as some of the more notable DNS issues (I disagree with Paul Vixie that there must be a centralized monopoly of root servers).

It seems that the crucial issue is bandwidth, since disk space is cheap enough that it doesn't matter anymore even for Ramen-slurping po' folk like myself (and obviously I can afford to keep a roof over my head and have a computer, so I really have nothing to complain about). Every participant in the distributed scheme needs a nice fat pipe to serve people, and there need to be enough participants to spread the workload out evenly enough that it doesn't place undue financial hardship on them.


"...by god, I KNOW what this network is for, and YOU can't have it."

[ Parent ]

Semi-related: Alexa sells out to Amazon (3.00 / 1) (#24)
by Demona on Thu Mar 02, 2000 at 03:57:17 PM EST

Anyone else remember Alexa? Anyone else think it was a good idea, and not a bad little tool to add on to Internet Explorer? Well, not only have they still not produced even an alpha version for any non-MS OS, according to their home page, the latest beta version includes "Amazon.com zBubbles, an exciting new shopping tool"... and if you don't want it, that's just too bad.

All the people who create inferior tools based on pure greed and politics, rather than providing the best possible tool, will hopefully spend their eternity of hell in the Interface Hall of Shame. It's all tied together: DVD's where you can't fast-forward through the FBI warnings; proprietary software and hardware that insists, "My way, or the highway." The old attitude of "Users? Screw the users!" may be appropriate for the BOFH, but it's a poor one to take if your goal is to have lots of happy clients/customers. Of course the Suits "know" that most people don't expect much and will swallow whatever you give them without a fuss.


"Children's television is like dog food. They don't care if it tastes like crap as long as the kids eat it." (Bob Camp of _Ren and Stimpy_)

[ Parent ]

The official deja email: (none / 0) (#20)
by ralsina on Thu Mar 02, 2000 at 11:32:26 AM EST

They moved the usenbet stuff into deja.com/usenet
KDE developer (MFCH)
Deja goes e-commerce? | 24 comments (24 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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