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Published in The National on July 28, 2000

Free online presence

By Daniel Lam
You may now have an e-mail account with one of the many free account providers like Hotmail, Yahoo!Mail, Ivillage, etc. But the Internet offers more than just e-mail accounts for free.

The Internet is also a valuable publishing medium, available at a very low cost to anyone who has Internet access.

If you want to create and manage your own space on the web and use it to publicise your work or business, or show off pictures of your newborn or family, you can!

You can, of course, pay someone to do it for you (design the webpage, post it online and host it), but there is an alternative ... free web-hosting!

Before you search for some benevolent patron willing to help you with your dream webpage, check with your Internet Service Provider. Some ISPs provide one or two megabytes' worth of free space for their customers.

In PNG for example, Online South Pacific offers its dial-up Internet access subscribers a total of 500kb space free. Daltron on the other hand does not offer any free web space, but its rates are relatively reasonable at K40 per month for 5MB of space and three e-mail accounts, with the option of increasing the real estate for K10 for each additional 5MB.

If your ISP does not provide free web space, or the space is too limited (as may well be the case), try the Internet.

You may have to do some research, but worry not ... the Internet is full of helpful people.

With many free web-hosting services like Yahoo/Geocities, Tripod, Xoom and NetTaxi, you can design your webpage even if you have no idea what HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), the main language of the web, is or how it works or how to use it. And you don't have to buy web design software like Microsoft's FrontPage or Macromedia's Dreamweaver either.

With the hosting services cited above, you have access to a user-friendly editing facility to help you create your webpage.

There are plenty of graphics and cartoons you can choose from to add colour to your webpage.

Xoom even offers resources such as counters, which keep track of the number of visits (called "hits") made to your webpage.

There is a downside, however.

With paid web-hosting services, you may get a chance to have your very own domain name (like, say,, for example). With free we-hosting services, we are looking at something like ... not a very catchy URL (a web address, or Uniform Resource Locator).

You also need to make sure whatever you put on your webpage does not breach the terms and conditions of the web-hosting service provider. In short, read the fine print.

What you can do is explore the Internet/World Wide Web and look for such services.

Here are a few:

  • Homestead ( - Offers 16MB of space and an easy-to-use page builder and cool stuff like counters and password protection (to limit who can access your webpage and who can't).
  • NetTaxi ( - NetTaxi has been around for quite a few years. It offers 25MB of free space.
  • Tripod ( - You get 50MB with Tripod. The Tripod Site Builder is user-friendly as well.
  • WebJump ( - Offers 25MB of free space. This site is better suited for people who have some basic knowledge of using HTML.
  • Xoom ( - Xoom offers unlimited (yes!) free space and its Easy Page Builder to help you build web pages. Other add-ons include counters and stats, and even adding a chat room to your site! The Xoom counter and stats can reveal the email addresses of the people visiting your site.
  • Yahoo! Geocities ( - One of the largest collections of personal webpages on the Internet. Very user-friendly, with Yahoo! PageWizards ready to help beginners. Includes File Manager and an Advanced HTML Editor for those who are eager to try something more advanced. You can build your webpages using Yahoo! PageBuilder. Yahoo! Geocities offers 15MB of free space.




Published in The National on August 11, 2000

Worldwide window to PNG

Last week the new, improved online edition of The National newspaper was launched. Tok IT examines the website that aims to be PNG's first real newspaper on the Internet.

By Daniel Lam
In today's world every organisation that aims to be "tuned in with the times", be it a private company, government body or even an educational institution, has an online presence.

In early 1997, The National launched its website. It was a first for Papua New Guinea, being the first daily newspaper to have an online presence.

It was simple even by the standards then ... minimal graphics, no pictures, no frames, mostly text, etc. But it was effective in getting across to the world the news from PNG.

The simplicity was necessary because of the limited infrastructure and resources available at the time.

Then, late last year the management of The National decided that the time and circumstances were right for The National Online to be upgraded.

Senior editor Sinclaire Solomon was appointed Online Editor-in-Chief. Web-design talent Rhandy Libiran was reeled in to redesign the website. Senior journalist Sanjay Bhosale was enlisted to coordinate between the print and online media.

The resulting effort was well worth it.

Last Friday, Aug 4, 2000, The National's refurbished website was launched. The URL remains the same (http:\\, but the website has changed - for the better.

Gone are the dull text links and still images. Now The National Online is in full colour, with plenty of pictures and graphics. The various sections (Nation, Opinion, Sports, etc) have been expanded, and additional sections added.

All the things visitors liked about the old website are still there ... great news stories, accessibility, user-friendliness, neat layout, etc.

The National Online is a "complete" newspaper. Practically everything from the print format is there, so people from around the world can have access to things PNG.

In addition to all the cool new features, an online poll has been added to give an element of interactivity to The National Online. Every week there will be a poll on a major issue involving the people.

So popular was the online poll that within the first few days of the launch, nearly 800 people have voted on an issue that affects everyone in PNG.

The website, designed using Microsoft's FrontPage software, was tailored in a way that blends a combination of flair and practicality.

The website has been designed so that it downloads reasonably fast in PNG, where connection speeds can be erratic. It is hosted locally with Global Technologies, and there is a mirror site with ZipWorld of Australia.




Published in The National on September 1, 2000

Proudly PNG

Tok IT gets into the Papua New Guinean message boards on PNG Online and PNG Net Search.

By Lena Liew
"DID Bill Skate do a good job as the prime minister of PNG? Yes; No; I don't know ... Vote".

Now who wouldn't click on that button? I certainly did. It was on the website PNG Online (

On July 12 - a week before the vote was supposed to close on July 18 - three people had voted. Two said yes, one said no. I concluded that the vote might have just started.

The next day, I checked again. There had been 81 voters already! Thirteen said "yes", 63 said "no" and four chose "I don't know".

Browsing through the messages posted on the website's "Wantok's Forum" two days later, I found a posting that made me laugh out loud.

"I have a confession ... I voted 'no' three times!" said the person.

Right under his posting, someone else had replied: "I have a confession too ... I voted 'no' 19 times!" I shan't elaborate on the reasons they presented.

The day after the vote was supposed to have closed, the tally had reached 126 votes - 34 "yes", 86 "no", and six "I don't know".

People were still voting a few days after the vote was to have closed.

The vote sparked vigorous debate in the Wantok Forum itself on the accuracy of the vote and the merits or demerits of Bill Skate's leadership. Other hot topics over the past month have been the existence of non-Christian religions in PNG, the assault on the two UPNG female hostelites, passport scams, West Papuan independence, the Bougainville issue, the coups in Fiji and Solomons Islands and the ever-present campaign by "Bill White" against Divine Word University.

I actually enjoy going through the various postings and the replies to them. Maybe not everyday, but at least once during the week. Although the contributors each remain anonymous because they use nicknames in their postings, some regulars really have a lot to say about so many things! And it is obvious that some people have become virtual friends through the message boards. Dates are given next to each posting, indicating when each message was posted. And reply-postings follow.

These messages certainly provide an idea of what so many of the country's ordinary people (although not quite the grassroots from the bush) think and feel about various social, economic and political issues in PNG. Leaders in both government and opposition should indeed harness this source of feedback.

PNG Online's Wantok Forum contains more serious stuff. It also provides interesting information on PNG which could be very helpful for potential travellers and expatriates coming to live and work here. Archives for the message board date back as far back as April 2000.

PNG Online appears more sophisticated since it offers also the "Garamut Forum" for finding friends/family and for exchanging fun and jokes; the "Wantok Lotu Forum'" for discussing religious issues (very interesting board, I say!) and the "Wantok Sports Forum" for sports. There were nevertheless people who did not follow instructions and simply posted whatever wherever they liked.

PNG Online also has a "Wantok Chat" which is, unfortunately, quite lifeless. The same goes for the chat site of PNG Net Search ( - "Hauswin Chat".

PNG Net Search's "Tok Save Board'" announces itself as a "teen zone" - so no wonder the messages are more frivolous and immature in nature. The language sometimes gets rude, though, although those messages are deleted once the administrator discovers them. One day, I posted a query on censorship of vulgarities on the Board and the very next day I got a reply from the Board's administrator and saw a warning on bad language posted on the Board itself.

Postings that extended into a discussion included the assault of the two UPNG female hostelites, non-Christian religions in PNG, smart Keremas, Morobeans producing like rabbits, and the "Bill White" campaign again. And archives go as far back as 1998 - when the website and message board was founded. It was heartening to note 12 items on archive so far this year, when there were only three items last year and the year before.

PNG Net Search also presents directories under the categories of business, education and career, news and media, art, environment, religion, travel and personal homepages. The latter was the most interesting indeed.

These two message boards are no doubt invaluable for Papua New Guineans overseas to keep abreast of developments at "home", as well as to find support and community spirit among wantoks. Wanem hao yu stap.

Also: The story of PNG Net Search