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Three fascinating French internet facts for Bastille Day


Three fascinating French internet facts for Bastille Day

Since today is Bastille Day, the national day of France, we’re going to look at our neighbours from across the Channel and what they have brought to the online world. From internet precursors through to post-Brexit regulations, here are three facts you probably didn’t know about France and the web.

1. France had its own “internet” nearly a decade before the World Wide Web

The World Wide Web – a term we rarely use anymore but that is the origin of the www. at the beginning of many website URLs – was invented by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, and not released to the general public until 1991. France, however, had a national online service that was introduced commercially nearly 10 years earlier.

Called Minitel, the service became available commercially in 1982 and could be used for simple processes we take for granted today, such as communicating via chat and messaging, booking train tickets and even online shopping.

Though the service would look primitive now, it was revolutionary at the time and was only discontinued by French Télécom nine years ago.

2. Google is paying French publishers for their content

The wrangle between Google and Australia overpaying publishers has been widely publicised, with both Google and Facebook fighting their corners fiercely. What is not as widely known is that Google’s parent company, Alphabet, agreed to pay a fee to French publishers earlier this year.

Search Engine Journal explains that the difference is that Australia is demanding renumeration for a site appearing in search results on Google, and wants to know about “deliberate algorithm changes” affecting news results – something Google has always kept closely guarded.

3. UK residents can no longer register a .fr domain

Since Brexit came into full effect at the beginning of 2021, it has not been possible to register a site with the top-level domain code .fr, which is assigned to France, although anyone in the UK who had one before this year has not been affected.

That might not sound like a big deal unless you’re operating in France, but there are examples of sites using unrelated national top-level domains simply to fit in with their branding. For example, .be is the top-level domain of Belgium, but youtu.be will take you to YouTube, while tcrn.ch will take you to TechCrunch.com, even though the tech news site has no connection with Switzerland (.ch).

If you’re a Francophile or have any connection with France, we wish you a happy Bastille Day, and invite you to speak to us at Engage Web for advice on making the most of your online presence.

John Murray

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