Moe has a new quip up wherein she complains about the confusion over the word “download”. I.e., customer calls in and says “I downloaded the Internet off your site” or “It won’t download” when they can’t send email. While I try to make this site something other than a retort site to other people’s ramblings, I’m going to make an exception in this case. Here are some more postulations on the word “download”

For starters, while the phrase “I downloaded the Internet” is daunting beyond imagination, I can’t really tell you what the word “download” really means, because it has such a broad definition that technically its usage isn’t wrong per se, but its overuse has run into misuse. For example, the game developer Volition has released a game demo for the upcoming title Red Faction. The demo is over 100MB in size. I go to a webpage that allows me to download it and I click on it. Since it’s not a web page (.html) I’ve clicked on, and is instead an executable file (.exe) it does not “open” the file automatically, it asks me if I want to open it from the current location or save it to a disk. Of course I save it to my hard drive – it’s 100MB and I may want to install it later, or install it a second time. In fact, because I know this already, I don’t even bother to let the web browser ask me the question – I right-click on the file and tell the web browser to save it to begin with. That is downloading.

Right now I’m listening to KTSR, a local College Station radio station. I open up Windows Media Player and tell it to open a particular URL. However, I am not saving the audio of the radio station to my hard drive – it’s streaming off of the Internet. It’s buffered to a memory and then played through the player, then it’s purged from memory. This is not downloading.

However, these definitions of downloading are my own personal ones. I guess the real difference is that you keep the first kind of activity, whereas the second one you don’t. However, past web browsers and email and e-commerce and whatever, there really are only two things you can do on the Internet – send and recieve. Some call these upload and download, but all it is is sending and recieving. When you type in, your web browser sends a request to the Internet, and then it recieves the information that constitutes Blue’s News – the text, the links, the annoying “shock the monkey” ad, everything. So, you recieve Blue’s News, but by the “upload/download” definition, you’re downloading Blue’s News.

Now here’s the fun part – Blue’s News doesn’t know whether you are in fact viewing their web page or saving it to your hard drive. Why you would want to save it is anyone’s guess, but the Blue’s News server doesn’t know the difference one way or another. This becomes important in a minute.

There is a woman named Cindy Margolis. She is a very attractive blonde with breast implants who currently holds the Guinness World Record for “most downloaded woman” on the Internet. Of course, Guinness draws the line right there and never defines what “downloading” is. According to my definition, this would mean that she’s the woman whose picture is saved to people’s hard drives most often, which I seriously doubt is the case (since like I mentioned earlier the web server can’t tell the difference). No, the definition of downloading that they’re using is the one where any downstream traffic (anything you’ve recieved) is a “download”. By that logic, if you go to her site and hit “refresh” five times, you’ve “downloaded” her five times.

But it gets better. There’s another woman named Danni Ashe (three guesses on what her site is called) who has taken issue with Cindy Margolis’ claim and counter-claims that she is the most downloaded woman on the web. She even started her own site to extoll the virtues of her own numbers and placing Cindy Margolis much further down the list. So why did Guinness not give her the title instead? Well, Danni Ashe’s site which has given her all the popularity in the first place is a porn site. (that’s not a porn link, BTW).

Not to get on a tangent here but the hell of it is, while many (including Guinness) will shun Ashe for being a porn queen, the difference between her and Margolis is that Ashe actually did something to achieve her fame, granted that something was pornography. Margolis is pretty and that’s about it. She has had professional photography done of her and she places said pics on her website and that’s it. She has her own web-based talk show and it’s expanding to a televised one in syndication soon, and she’s had guest spots on Ally McBeal and other shows. Her past jobs include a stint as a fembot and brief appearance on The Price is Right. However, while she calls herself a model, she doesn’t do anything. She’s not on the cover of Cosmopolitan, she doesn’t pimp makeup, she isn’t in music videos or walking down runways, she just looks pretty. The sad part is, that appears to be enough.

The problem with both of these notions, however, is not that they’re fighting over who has downloaded more, but rather two other things. First, the aforementioned problems of the term “download”, and the fact that the numbers are frivolous at best. For starters, these two women attempt to lay claim to the title of “most downloaded woman on the Internet”, but that’s assuming that every time someone “downloads” them from the web it’s from their site. I’d be willing to bet that Britney Spears is probably not only viewed over the Internet more often, but saved to hard drives more often – in various states of Photoshop-induced undress.

Blue’s News used to have a web hit counter on their site. They still have it – if you go to the bottom of the page and highlight it you can see it. A short while back it hit 100,000,000 hits, and they decided to mention it. However, the counter has been broken several times through server moves and CGI difficulties, so 100,000,000 hits were probably hit some time before that, but it was still significant, mainly because it was the next base ten round number. Web statistics do not have a central agency – they are not like a fishing competition where there’s a judge who weighs them at the end and disqualifies those who use little BB pellets – so these numbers are probably not accurate and could very well have been made up. Danni Ashe is not the only woman getting nekkid at her site, but she’s probably counting every photo on her page as a “download”. For that matter, web pages are not merely text and photographs – web pages have hundreds of graphics on them. Perhaps each individual picture is getting counted.

If I look at your webpage, I have downloaded nothing. Period. If I save you picture to a hard drive I have downloaded it. Period. Don’t go telling me I downloaded your picture when in 20 days it won’t even be in my cache anymore.

Next week, I’ll tackle the concept of “logging on” to a website with no actual content to “log on” to (i.e., “Log on to!”).