- The Washington Times - Monday, September 22, 2008

Today, for those who are unaware, is “OneWebDay,” otherwise known as “Earth Day for the Internet.”

Conceived in 2006, the third-annual event is aimed at focusing on a “key value” of the Internet - this year, it’s online democracy - and advocating on its behalf since, according to organizers, the Web is “under enormous pressure.”

Among the threats outlined by founder Susan Crawford, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School: “Access providers want to track what everyone is doing online and use it for their commercial advantage. … They’re working closely with law enforcement and Hollywood in ways that will make Internet use unpredictable and heavily surveilled.”

Meanwhile, Web activists warn of the digital divide: “Senior citizens and minorities are often left out. Skills are inadequate, and there is a lot of fear of the Internet.”

Participants in OneWebDay include Tim Westergren, the founder of the online music site Pandora; Stanford Law School professor Larry Lessig; Craigslist founder Craig Newmark; and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, among others.

Festivities are being held in major U.S. cities as well as Melbourne, London, Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Singapore, Tunisia and elsewhere. Here in the District, Web advocates are burying an “e-democracy time capsule.”

Viewers on Microsoft ads

Microsoft Corp.’s wacky commercials featuring founder Bill Gates and comedian Jerry Seinfeld have stopped running on television, but clips online of “Shoe Circus” and “New Family” have catapulted the company’s Windows channel on YouTube to the seventh-most subscribed channel this month.

For those of you who haven’t caught a glimpse of the spots, they have nothing to do with the Redmond, Wash.-based company’s Windows operating system. Rather, the kooky ad campaign entailed the two men conversing at a shoe store in a mall and living with a suburban family.

Some speculated that the company pulled the spots because they were poorly received, but a marketing executive at Microsoft told Associated Press they were successful in grabbing people’s attention, paving the way for new ads that actually focus on Windows.

Regardless, I culled some amusing responses from viewers on YouTube.

Reactions on “Shoe Circus”:

“Very talky, and boring. This is NOT how you market a product,” one poster wrote.

Another chimed in: “LOL it was lame but it was funny at parts & I [“huh?” and “booooorrrrinnnggg.”

Reactions on “New Family”:

“Typical celebrity narcissism.”

“Worthless. And to think; the film was edited and rendered on Macs.”

“I don’t think you guys understand. They don’t have to talk about the product. It’s Microsoft; who doesn’t know their products? This type of thing is to generate conversation. Very well done.”

The disgruntled Apple Corp. fanatics probably won’t be any happier with the newest Microsoft ad, “Life Without Walls,” which premiered Thursday. The ad spoofs the popular Mac commercials that mock PCs.

E-mail Kara Rowland.

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