GIS Monitor Jan 4, 2001


-The Geography of Returns:
-WAP Gets Poor Review, WAP Forum Questions Findings
-Points of Interest

This issue sponsored by:


Mail Boxes Etc. (MBE) runs neighborhood or mall-based store where you can mail packages, ship via UPS or FedEx and perform other postal related tasks. It is, for all intents and purposes, an extension of the US Post Office – but run privately for profit. They have been quite successful. In fact, in Red Lion, Pennsylvania, in 1995, the person who ran the local MBE also managed the town’s post office, which was very conveniently in the same building.

Last year MBE partnered with Innotrac, a provider of customized, technology-based marketing support and fulfillment services. Their offspring was Currently with 11 employees, is one of the great ideas of online/catalog commerce. Their mission is to provide a service for the return of Web and catalog purchased merchandise. Remember the California gold rush of 1849? The people who made a fortune were not those who found gold, but those who sold the picks, shovels and blue jeans to the seekers. And, so it is today: it won’t matter if the next goes makes a million or goes belly-up after a month, so long as can send back the unwanted merchandise. is playing the click and mortar game quite well. With 3,400 MBE stores already handling shipping, could provide additional traffic as well as a basis for additional stores.

To date, four merchants are using the service. The beta version went online with Coca-Cola and Haggar in May 2000.

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A recent study of the viability of WAP (wireless application protocol) concludes there is still much room for improvement. A Nielson Norman Consulting report points out that 70% of participants, after a weeklong trial, said they’d not be using WAP within a year. The study found that after that week it still took users a full minute to check weather, headlines or TV listings. The report goes on to note the challenges users found: poor site design, specialized language, illogical organization for tasks (TV programs arranged by channel, not time), and poor differentiation between sites.

The WAP standard -- a way to move Web information to handheld devices -- was developed by the three biggest mobile phone suppliers, Ericsson, Nokia, and Motorola, along with ( has since merged with to become Openwave.)

The WAP Forum, an industry group, is questioning the study. They respond by noting that only 20 participants tried WAP phones, a very small sample. Further, they ask why the company did not speak to existing users in London (where the study was held) or Japan, where EZWeb has millions of subscribers.

WAP has had some success, but many analysts see it as a type of stopgap measure until more bandwidth, larger screens, and better connectivity is available. This report is not the first to question the long-term viability of WAP.


-Need a free GIS Viewer for Linux? Try running ESRI’s ArcExplorer on Linux. Peter N. Schweitzer of the USGS gives the recipe, and notes that “ArcExplorer 3.0 runs well under Linux” and is “a very handy program.” Thanks to Peter for sharing his experience.

-DotComGuy left his year-long hibernation living in a house with no access to the outside world, save that provided by his laptop to the Internet. He bought food, chatted, played all via the Web as curious onlookers watched him via Webcams. Paid some $90K for the stunt, he’ll soon reclaim his real name, Mitch, and marry a lady he met in a chat room during his isolation. The take of onlookers is not too positive: some suggest he highlighted all that’s bad about the Net (shopping for example) while others say that they already live just as he did, so what’s the big deal? Here’s one guy who did not need location-based services!

-Yahoo!, recently in trouble for selling Nazi artifacts on the Net in France, has simply decided not to sell such things over the Net ANYWHERE. The newly banned items at Yahoo! will include medals, weapons, uniforms and other items that carry swastikas or other symbols associated with hate groups. Currently banned items include tobacco, live animals and used underwear. The decision, says Yahoo!, has nothing to do with the case it lost in a French court, but rather reflects its users interest. Perhaps related, Yahoo! also announced it will now charge for individuals to put items up for auction.

-Back in December the GIS Monitor noted the problems of free Internet providers and pointed out that Juno and NetZero were the two left standing. NetZero announced Dec 21 that users of more than 40 hours per month will be charged $9.95. That fee will provide for unlimited. Anyone using less than 40 hours will continue to receive free service. In unrelated news, NetZero has filed suit against Juno asserting that Juno is inappropriately using NetZero’s patented technology for advertising.


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Adena Schutzberg
GIS Monitor Editor
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