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Staying Afloat
(June 1, 2001) We were surprised when the employment section of the Montana based "Great Falls Tribune" told us that we had our cookies turned off. It was an early morning and we hadn't had enough coffee to feel like an arrogant super-user. So, we tried again.

"Please turn your cookies on", the error message read.

"Jeez", we thought, "How is a simple job hunter in Montana going to cope with this? Our cookies are turned on."

The immediate troubleshooting solution? More coffee and a look at the Tools section of the browser menu.

It turns out that the latest version of Internet Explorer (6.0) lays certain requirements on websites that want to deliver cookies, in the name of privacy (which generally is a good thing). The only way we could get to the database in the Great Falls Tribune was by reducing the modest level of security afforded by IE 6.0. Fairly obviously, the newspaper's technical provider is a Netscape oriented shop that doesn't pay adequate attention to the evolution of the industry standard browser. In the old days (a couple of years ago), this was probably an acceptable approach. Any more, however, systems that are not designed to primarily support the Microsoft standard and its evolution leave customers in an eroding position.

Can you imagine what would happen if this security issue took place on a major system? Any website with meaningful traffic would have the phones ringing off the hook. It's the price you pay for using little subcontractors.

Fortunately for the Great Falls Tribune, their technical provider is a tiny player and the readership in Montana is not likely to be vexed with these sorts of problems.

This little experience (technical problems caused locally by a national provider) is a great segue for the most interesting acquisition of the year. TMP/Monster.com purchased FlipDog this week.

"FlipDog.com's technology advantage significantly enhances our suite of market-leading products and services and provides all of TMP with a powerful pipeline management tool," said Andrew J. McKelvey, chairman and CEO of TMP Worldwide. "The upside is incredible. FlipDog.com will serve to drive new business leads for Monster and across TMP's other businesses, while broadening and deepening the services we can provide to our clients."
With this move, the Monster/TMP juggernaut has positioned itself to deliver an extremely interesting array of services well beyond the current set. Although we're becoming convinced that "job scraping" (the technology behind Flip Dog) is a tool for somewhat limited markets (mostly small firms), the ability to reduce administrative burden inherent in the acquisition will take Monster a long way.

We hope they've read our little introductory anecdote. It takes a large operation to manage the myriad browser configurations effectively. Assuming that they do intend to focus on this aspect, they'll leave the rest of the job scraping competitors gasping for air.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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