Is the concept of the global village simply a myth? Looking at certain US based web sites one might think so; do the designers of these sites not realise that more potential internet users exist outside the US than within?
A little while ago I was catching up on one of my Flickr photo feeds when I came across a reference to a competition with a Leica M7 as first prize. I’d love to earn one of those so of course I visited the link. Turns out it is a promo for uber.com, a new photography site, apparently started by Chris Weeks, a photographer whose work I am familiar with from Flickr.
Having been through this kind of thing once or twice I immediately checked the rules to see if I was eligible and found that I wasn’t, as they say “Leica M7 Sweepstakes (the “Sweepstakes”) is open only to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia who are at least sixteen (16) years old at the time of entry.” I don’t really have a problem with this as there are physical prizes involved, and with the cost of foreign shipping and other, possibly legal factors to consider, it is not unusual for web sites to restrict competition eligibility to the country of origin. Being a sucker for photographic web sites I decided to join anyway so clicked the link and got the registration form, which has a Zip Code field. Most of the world outside the US has postal codes, not zip codes, but web sites typically accept them along with US zip codes. Not this site though; when I submitted I got back a message saying “Please enter a valid US zip code”, and this is why I’m writing this post.
What is the deal with sites like this? Are the owners or designers ignorant and not realise they are excluding most of the world’s population? Do they deliberately exclude those outside the US for some reason? In which case why not go that little bit further and analyse visitor’s IP addresses so that they can block us from accessing the site completely, perhaps with a nice polite(?) “FOREIGNERS NOT WELCOME” message. I prefer to think that it is not malicious and in the case of uber.com, I still want to join, so thanks to Aaron Spelling for giving us Beverley Hills 90210, which not only provided us with entertainment but also provides foreigners with easy access to a US zip code that can be used to circumvent silly blocks like these.
Chris, if you should happen to read this post, I don’t really live in Beverley Hills, but in Cape Town, South Africa, where foreigners are welcome.