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Internet Merchandising Takes Off

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We’ve all watched fads turn into trends and crumble under the withering heat of reality. Most of these fadlets (trendlets?) suffer because they don’t work, or perhaps no one’s willing to ante up even a small amount of money for the resulting products. An argument could be made that Web browsers fall into this category.

However, recent announcements from the leaders in the 1997 Internet Press Release Championships, Netscape Communications and Microsoft Corporation, hold promise for some truly successful new products.

As everyone knows, making money on the Internet is generally a losing proposition. Most of the money made so far has been in advertising, and if you look closely, you’ll realize that the same companies are both accepting ads and buying them on other sites. In other words, money is staying in the system. Researchers at Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management believe they’ve uncovered a relationship that implies that all money on the Internet will be conserved and recycled, much as water from the oceans evaporates, moves around in the atmosphere, returns to earth in the form of precipitation, and washes back down to the oceans.

Unwilling to accept this theory, the Internet economics engineers at Netscape Communications (well known for engineering Netscape’s 1996 IPO (initial public offering) that showed that money really does grow on trees hydroponically raised in the dark sewers of New York City under Wall Street) have come up with a new money-making idea that’s sure to succeed.


Netscape’s mascot, before the company became too stuffy to have a mascot, was the lovable Mozilla, a Godzilla-like creature born in the minds of the early Netscape programmers from watching too many bad science-fiction movies while writing NCSA Mosaic, Netscape Navigator’s predecessor. In an effort to capitalize on the Netscape name, Netscape plans a line of Mozilla action figures, including a plastic Mozilla that can melt AOL floppy disks with the addition of common household items such as matches and an aerosol can. Another Mozilla will be a large plush stuffed animal that can repeat several phrases, including “See you on alt.dinosaur.barney.die.die.die!” and “Bill Gates is a weenie.”

In response, industry juggernaut Microsoft announced that it has had a line of action figures in the works for some time, the first of which will of course be the Bill Gates action figure, available for free download on the Internet to anyone who can figure out how to download an action figure. A Steve Ballmer action figure that froths at the mouth while talking about the Macintosh is planned for the fifth quarter of this year.


Microsoft also announced the IAFS, or the Internet Action Figure Standard, and said that it would be turning the standard over to the IETF to show that it wasn’t really interested in controlling the world. A spokesman for the IETF sounded confused when asked about the IETF’s plans for the IAFS. “The what?” he asked.

The nascent IAFS has already come under fire from Internet security experts after a class of third graders at Benedict Arnold Elementary School near Burlington, Vermont, uncovered a security hole in the Bill Gates Action Figure using a networked pool of eMate 300s. Unfortunately, because TidBITS is a family publication (and was already cited once under the Communications Decency Act in 1996 – see TidBITS-321), we can’t provide additional details about the security hole. Microsoft promises a fix but has not yet given a date when it will be available.

Other computer industry companies refused to comment on their action figure strategies, although rumor has it that Apple plans to release a Steve Jobs action figure (based on the G.I. Joe action figure with the karate chop arm) once engineers can figure out how to miniaturize a PowerBook sufficiently to please Jobs, who reportedly said that any Steve Jobs action figure must include a fully functional, no-compromises PowerBook.

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