In 1969, Norm Abramson, a professor of engineering at stanford University, moved to Hawaii to surf. The following year he developed the first wireless packet-switched network, the ALOHAnet, connecting computers from the University of Hawaii with those on the other islands. In 1971, the ALOHAnet
was connected to the ARPAnet (what would eventually become the Internet) on the mainland. So it is no surprise that surfing lingo has entered the technology vernacular. But is it possible that there is another wave of words about to come crashing into Internet vocab?
The phrase "surfing the Web" in itself conveys the interactive nature of the Internet. An Internet surfer is not simply a person sitting in front of a computer, staring at a stagnant screen. No, no, no. As we all know, an Internet surfer is actually riding the waves, gliding from one page to
the next using the momentum of the Web to click through to desired destinations. This may seem far out, but bear with me here as we explore some other striking parallels between the Gidget surfing world and that of the Internet.
In the Water
A surfer has to be armed with the necessities before entering those sometimes dangerous and choppy waters. He needs a wetsuit, a surfboard and leash, some serious zinc to protect him from the sun's rays and an attitude. He's got to be physically prepared to reach the ultimate spot for catching the ultimate wave. He will paddle, but not so much that he develops jello arms. If this happens, he will have to bail out, rest and try again later.
Our brah should also be able to communicate with other surfers. A waverider who tries to enter the water without knowing the language will feel helpless and alone--a bogger, wondering how he ended up where he is and desperately trying to return to the spot he was before. An ill-informed dude could miss a warning from a co-surfer, get totally macked by a wave and be left in an acid drop with no help in sight.
On the Web
Before entering the world of the Internet, a Web surfer needs to be equipped with the proper tools:
an Internet connection, a browser, a computer and a trigger finger with an attitude. We all expect that it will take a little effort to reach our destination on the Web: some pointing and clicking, maybe a search or two. But this should not be an all-consuming effort. Something is wrong if a Web surfer develops jello arms. He should not be working this hard. Keep in mind that search engines were designed to help us get to where we want to be. It will take some finesse to manipulate those engines to get the desired results. But ultimately, our surfer will find the Web site he is looking for--the perfect wave.
Equally important to narrowing in on the macker of choice is the ability of our Web surfer to navigate that wave. Poor Web-site design can make a surfer feel like a bogger, wondering how he got to where he is and not sure how to get back. Worst case scenario, our Web surfer gets macked on the Web and is left in an acid drop, feeling alienated and abandoned. For example, a bad link that promises to take our surfer somewhere and never delivers is disastrous for CRM. A Web site needs to reach out to the surfer and offer assistance when necessary. (One can see how important it is, then, for a surfer to understand computer terminology. If our surfer needs to contact a help desk for support, he has to be able to explain his problem and understand the solution.)
The ultimate surfer is the informed and prepared one who will be able to maximize his experience on the waves. He is in control, capable of navigating himself by leaning left, leaning right, dragging and dropping, or pointing and clicking. One way or another, our surfer is charging the wave, steering his course and capable of making his own decisions and directing his own trip. In today's high-tech world, the businessperson is the surfer, and the Web the waves. Every surfer is always looking for the perfect ride--a Web site should be designed to provide the surfer with that perfect wave of information.
Perhaps the bridge Abramson built 30 years ago connecting the two worlds is not so far out, after all.