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 What the world really needs is another magazine column advising its readers of hot (or is it cool?) places to go on the World Wide Web.

Yeah, right.

Most Web users have bookmarked numerous sites they wish to return to again and again. Places they’re comfortable. Places they find visually and intellectually engaging. Places that don’t take eons to load. But the Web is not a scattering of electronic information is-lands. It is a way of moving our minds, of creatively shifting our attention. The experience can be encapsulated not so much in where we’ve been but in the twisting, turning, backtracking, non-intuitive route we’ve followed.

That’s the idea behind Web Crawl-I will provide you with the electronic footprints of one journey I’ve made on the Web, telling you which sites I’ve visited and how I got there. I hope that as I click, scroll, and mutter my way through the Web, the trail I leave behind will reveal something about this embryonic medium.

Every Web session begins with a single click. This being a magazine devoted to innovation, I set off on my inaugural Web Crawl with a simple search on the words “innovation”and “technology,”using Alta Vista (www.altavista.digital.com). This request reaps a modest haul: “About 507,328 documents match your query,”Alta Vista tells me. Other Web users and critics have become jaded, kvetching about information overload. Not me. A half-million hits suits me fine.

Number two on the list looks promising: the “Office of Information Technology-Innovation.” But my attempt to access this site yields only the rebuff that is no less aggravating for its familiarity:  “Not Found: The link you followed is either outdated, inaccurate, or the server has been instructed not to let you have it.” I can’t count how many times I’ve encountered screens like this, but every time it’s like a fresh insult.

Backtracking to my list of hits (in the kind of eddying current that typifies my time on the Web), I scan past corporate brochure sites and earnest academic pages, trolling for the how-about-that nuggets that make the Web such a kick. I settle on the Irish Council for Science, Technology, and Innovation, partly for its oxymoronic ring.

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