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© 1999 Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D.

Should you join a general-purpose Internet mall (called 'I-malls') or go independent? The correct answer depends on your budget, your goals, and the amount of time you want to spend working on your site.

Internet-Mall Sites

Sites within general-purpose I-malls go up quickly. They are usually inexpensive and usually not as successful as well-marketed independent sites. Here are a few reasons:

  1. Surfers seldom go to I-malls just to see what's there (the way we go to real-world malls.)
  2. Even if someone goes to an online mall, it could take him/her a long time to find the mall store carrying Swiss Army Knives, for example.
  3. The easiest way to get information about something, or to find a place to buy it online, is to use one or more search engines. You can type in "Swiss Army Knife" and get an astounding amount of information. You can certainly find a place to purchase the knives.
  4. If you join an I-mall as a sub-site without your own domain name, you probably cannot get your site listed in the search engines separately. The engines are starting to freeze registrations of sub-sites under large general sites.
  5. I have seen malls advertising breathlessly that they get 1 million hits per year. Well, that's the entire mall, not just a single site. Good marketing can pull in 1 million hits per year on an independent site.

There are some higher quality I-malls where the mall is dedicated to a general topic, and their sub-sites include e-commerce capability. You have to sort the wheat from the chaff, so be sure to evaluate the complete package of services offered by any I-mall.

Independent Sites

You really need a domain name if you want to do business on the Web. A domain name helps you to make a professional appearance, and it is crucial in getting listed in every search engine.

If you decide to set up an independent site, your first consideration is your domain name. Go to and search on the domain name you like to find out whether your preferred domain name is still unclaimed. If no one has yet registered the domain name, you can use it.

Your Web designer will usually recommend a Web hosting service and register your domain name for you. If you prefer to create your own site, you'll choose a Web hosting service and specify your domain name when you sign up.

Companies offering Web hosting services are actually renting space on their computers to you for your Web site. They are also providing technical services to keep the computers running, along with fast connections so that your pages will download reasonably quickly. Their geographical location does not matter too much, since you will be sending your files over the Internet by FTP.

How can we choose a Web hosting service? We will discuss that in future columns.

~ Virginia Lawrence is a technical writer, editor, and professional webmaster who publishes both in print and online. She can be reached at or at her Web site,



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