Sunday, 5 January 2014

The virtual desideratum.

1999 was the year when my parents gifted me and my brother with what was the most esoteric of things for us to grasp at that time. A Compaq presario mv 520 personal computer. My brother, having being exposed to modern technology before, was quickly able to devour the sumptuousness which that machine had to offer, but for me, it remained an edifice I was yet to get acquainted with. My brother helped me get the nuances of operating a ultra powerful machine at a paltry age of 9 and in just about 2 weeks from our introduction, I mastered the art of playing Minesweeper on Windows 98 SE. Soon enough, I witnessed another spectacle which included a barrage of sounds emanating from the posterior of the CPU, whose expansion I didn't know then, when my brother connected a landline telephone wire and clicked some logos on the screen. He introduced me to the evasive ritual as setting up a dialup connection. The sounds used to come in the beginning and it would culminate in some thing popping up at the bottom of the screen and an inscrutable contentment on my brother's face. When I asked what this cretinism was all about, he told me, "It's the Internet". 15 years back on that day, I had no idea that this term and the requisite medium will become the most prevalent things in our generation.

For about a decade subsequent to that day, I remained frugal in terms of how I allowed the Internet to influence my life. I used Google back in 2002 for a standard 8 English project wherein I had to present something on conservation of the woods. I witnessed a chat session going on Rediff back in 2000 when Hritik Roshan resorted to technology for interacting with a panoply of fans who were desperate to talk to him after his debut KNPH resulting in a pandemonium at the box office.I even surfed for a while on a murky which predicted the date of my departing this life. And last but not the least, I surfed on Orkut back in 2004 because I saw in some news bulletin on NDTV that some new social platform has emerged for interacting with your entire friends circle at once. I was occasionally amazed and befuddled with my ephemeral chronicles on the Internet but I never really believed in it becoming so ubiquitous that one day, I would belong to it. And then came 2009, when my tryst with the fabulous medium transcended all the mere bounds and realms and we got tied in a rather nuptial relationship.

My complete acquiescence and obsequiousness towards the Internet could be attributed to a combination of factors. One, I was made to use more and more of the Internet to find material prevalent in my courses and secondly, social networks were now really becoming behemoth in terms of coverage. By 2010, I was spending 5-6 hours everyday, just crawling around on the Internet, wandering across the plethora of URLs it had to offer and savoring all the luxuriance and bliss that it subjected me to. Internet suddenly became a way of life. The transformation wasn't conspicuous but gradual. Just like they promulgate in that Day of Love ad for some corundum commercial. It just happens. Complete subservience towards something and that too in such an unprecedented scale was something I never expected getting into. I not only became a myrmidon of the Internet and also a seasoned devotee. Suddenly, all the vexation for not finding enough information was gone and so was the deleterious soliloquy that I became so accustomed to. Our catharsis had officially arrived.

Having said so much of something as efficacious as an elixir, it's time to celebrate the most quintessential elements of what makes the Internet assume the conviviality. Content and presentation is the answer. We seek content of all sorts, be it professional or be it pertaining to the relationship status of a friend. Believe it or not, Internet has made all of us astute. We like to delve deeper and deeper into things because we simply have more easily accessible information at our disposal. A myriad of information regarding all and everything we are likely to seek is now available. In fact it's available in superfluous way with even redundancy creeping in at times. The most coveted and craved for sites are those which provide information in such a conspicuous and lucid manner that your quest for the information you sought on these sites never goes futile. The winning sites have always been the ones that have appeared somewhat variegated, exhibit structure and organization, and most importantly, they change with time and technology. On the other hand, we also had some repugnant sites which could never sense the changing times and hence faced a double whammy., thereby waning into history.

While sites like Google and Yahoo have lived long enough to become impregnable in their demeanor, there are certain sites which bring with them an element of delirium that makes the very unique. Every website serves a unique purpose thereby making Internet into a comprehensive network instead of making it a gargantuan labyrinth. All sites amalgamate into each other to produce utility all around. And although what's good for sites of one kind may not be good for others, we've already seen some traits of good sites. So, why not plunge into a good site and see what it does.

One website that literally carved the niche for the Indian webscape was Rediff. Rediffusion had been into media even before India opened its gates for the Internet. Rediff came into existence way before any other Indian corporate even thought of doing so and hence became the first commercial domain to be registered from India. Apart from the history, Rediff was able to bring Internet to the Indian, the Indian way, since its very genesis. The aforementioned Hritik Roshan chat was a classic example. They knew our avarice for getting to know more from our favorite actors. Rediff took all that in its realm. They also became the first ones to bring in additional services like mail and discussion portal. In fact the first two email ids I had belonged to Rediff and Yahoo. Above all, their discussion portal is a runaway success. Despite platforms like Quora and Disqus taking over the reins, Rediff continues to get a good response on what's posted by their editorial team. Rediff also categorizes and structures its content very adeptly. Rediff has in fact being the first ones to divide their homepage into apposite categories pertaining to entertainment, politics, cricket and others. What all others do today, is something Rediff conjured and started applying years ago. I still remember how I used to refer to Rediff as often as I did to cricinfo for cricket related news and scores. That's simply because of the ease with which information was always available on Rediff.

One of the first occasions wherein I got myself indulged in Internet discussions was also on Rediff itself. They used to keep posting stuff about new movies and their insights into sociopolitical developments in and around the country, and I often used to engage in discussions with some seasoned guys who just like me never got enough of Rediff and their stuff. We used to go hours and hours incessantly, discussing as waywardly as we can, until Rediff came up with another intriguing article. I still remember how I and a few others discussed for hours the prospects of the Hindi remake of the movie Ghajini on a thread which served as a recapitulation of a celebrity chat with Asin, which still had the same element as the one Rediff organized for Hritik back in 2000. In essence, Rediff never really changed itse offerings, it just became much more advanced and hence never went obsolete. Moreover, they worked hard to make sure it does not lose the necessary essence associated with their various services. Their interfaces and color themes always appeared right for a bonhomie and left billows once you left their site. I guess Rediff is perhaps the only site I always open once I get onto the Internet and now I've been doing that for 13 long years !

The Rediff Homepage. As vibrant today as it seemed 13 years ago.

Going forward, Rediff too is moving to new horizons just like others. They have come up with a e-commerce component and they've also made refinements to their mail service which I've always found austere and well suited for the normal surfer. They're also experimenting with their insights on politics wherein they are working hard to preset the users with enthralling statistics and descriptions of their predictions and analyses on various political scenarios. They've also given a more holistic look to their home page with a Windows 8 kind of interface. It has certainly added a little more tinge to their interface which I've always considered resplendent. I know of no other website which has been so successful in rescinding unnecessary changes and being so good in maintaining the original value at offer. 18 years since the domain was registered and even though it still serves the same things, it serves it the way we want it today. I guess that's what a good website is ought to do. Every website serves a unique purpose which only it can serve. No mater how much the times change as well as the technology, the originality of the site should never be lost as a substantial portion of the users still come looking for the same thing that they were looking for when they first visited you. I've been privileged to be a part of various consociations on Rediff for my journey on the Internet. So, who has been your entourage on the Internet for all this time ?

This post was written with the intent of submission towards The Elegant World Wide Web contest organized by WebRiti and The Blog Bowl.

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