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Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
Putting the web on paper
Flickdot cover shot Flickdot
Something that looks like this might soon be dropping on your doormat
By BBC News Online technology correspondent Mark Ward

If you want to find something on the net you might soon be turning a page rather than scrutinising a webpage.


We're the armbands for the people who are trying to learn to swim before they start to surf

Elaine King, Flickdot creator
This week sees the launch of a UK paper directory for websites that claims to make it easier for people to find what they are looking for on the net.

The Flickdot directory is aimed at people unfamiliar with the web and intimidated by the vast list of results often produced by search engines.

In total, 14 million copies of the directory will be given away over the next few weeks.

Seeking and searching

The good thing about the internet is that all human life is there. But when you are searching for something specific online, you soon realise that the bad thing about the internet is that all human life is there.

A search for seemingly simple things, such as insurance quotes, can become a fruitless and frustrating trawl through a bewildering range of websites, all of which look vaguely relevant but none of which seem to be firms with which you are familiar.

Soon, many frustrated searchers could be turning to the slim 162-page Flickdot directory that is starting to be delivered this week. The book lists websites under categories, just like the Yellow Pages, but replaces phone numbers with domain names.

Elaine King, who came up with the idea for the Flickdot directory, said the directory was aimed more at people who used the web to deal with the companies they patronised offline, rather than experienced, web-savvy surfers.

The company claims that over eight million hours per week are wasted on fruitless web searches.

Reputable firms

Many people are foxed because some businesses such as B&Q and Exchange and Mart do not have domain names that match their company names, she said.

"We're the armbands for the people who are trying to learn to swim before they start to surf," she said

Search results BBC
Searching the net can be a mammoth task
Ms King said the web was very good a giving people all the resources and weblinks they needed to research such esoteric subjects as Etruscan pottery, but it did a bad job of providing summaries of straightforward categories such as car insurance, or giving a good guide to reputable firms.

"On the web, it can be hard to distinguish between something run out of a bedroom and a major company," said Ms King.

As a result, about 70% of the websites listed in the directory are those of "bricks and mortar" companies rather than dot.com darlings. Line entries in the directory are free but all the entries in the Flickdot directory have also been vetted by the Surf on the Safe Side organisation to be family-safe.

Over 14 million copies of the Flickdot directory will be given away free over the next few weeks. About 11 million copies will be distributed to the homes of web users and the remaining copies will be available in PC World stores.

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See also:

22 Jan 01 | dot life
The tricks that win clicks
15 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Half the internet is going nowhere
07 Jul 99 | Sci/Tech
Web engines could do better
26 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Unweaving the world wide web
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