A virtual family feud across the oceans of cyberspace
If you’ve been following the comments on this blog, you may have noticed some off-topic remarks in response to my post on global warming. The comments, from a young lady named Jenny Perton, had to do with the fact that she and I, though (presumably) unrelated, happen to have the same last name — and I beat her to this domain by about a dozen years. Her comments reminded me of a similar exchange I had back in 1995, with Australian politician Victor Perton. He tracked me down, just as Jenny did, through the search engines — and asked me, quite bluntly, “Who are you, and how did you come to be named ‘Perton’?” A year later, I wrote about it for Media Central*:
I first learned about Cousin Victor about a year ago. At the time, I was the publisher of Asia, Inc. Online, a Web-based business magazine. I was also, I soon discovered, indexed on Webcrawler and Lycos. And that was how Cousin Victor found me.
One day, an e-mail appeared in my box, asking the bold question, “Who are you, and how did you come to be named ‘Perton’?” The question struck me as rather odd and forward – until I saw the .sig. The e-mail was from Victor Perton MP, Liberal Member for Doncaster in the Legislative Assembly of the State Parliament of Victoria in Australia. As it turned out, I wasn’t the first Perton on the Web. Cousin Victor had staked out his claim, and was eager to find out more about the interloper encroaching on his hegemony in the search engines.
Of course, the honorable MP is not my cousin, nor, as far as I know, any other kind of relative. But that’s how I began to think of him. After all, Perton isn’t a very common name, and both Victor and I had similar backgrounds: Of Eastern European extraction, our forbears had fled their native lands in search of freedom and prosperity, and had truncated lengthier names, coming up with what they believed was a suitable Anglo-Saxon alternative. Victor chose a career in politics; I chose journalism. Our paths crossed on the Web.
Having discovered my antipodean alter ego, I instantly became fiercely competitive. Not, mind you, in any public sense. Victor’s a liberal humanist, and I admire his stance on most political issues. If I were a Victorian, I’d vote for him. No, I started to compete in the only way I could: for search engine space.
When I first started, he was way out front. A Lycos search for “Perton” would easily come up with three times as many hits for Victor as it would for me. A search on Alta Vista, when it joined the fray, brought up a similar disparity in pages. Anyone searching for me by surname alone would be buried in a pile of Victor’s treatises on civil rights in Australia – unquestionably fascinating and important reading, but of little use to someone looking for me!
As prolific as I was, however, Victor maintained his lead. Even today, with this column appearing weekly, and with other items bearing my name scattered across the Net, an Alta Vista search for “Marc Perton” yields 49 hits to Victor’s 97. Reluctantly, I’ve thrown in the towel.
Except for one thing. A few months ago, I registered the domain “perton.com.” As far as the powers that be at InterNIC are concerned, I own the Perton name. Of course, Victor can register “perton.com.au,” or, being a Member of Parliament, “perton.gov.au,” but, somehow, that doesn’t seem quite as official as a genuine, InterNIC-certified, commercially minded “com” domain.
I am, however, not without mercy. I’ll gladly give Victor a mailbox at “perton.com,” or even – if “perton.com” ever gets its own server – host a mirror of his Web site. We Pertons, after all, have to stick together.
Go to Victor’s Website.
(Note: Thanks to my time at Engadget, I’ve finally beaten Victor. According to Googlefight, I’ve got over 100,000 links, to his 49,000. Sorry, cuz.)
This entry originally appeared on Media Central on April 18, 1996.
* At the time, that site was owned by Cowles Business Media, which was later acquired by Primedia. A bit after that, it was bought by Steve Brill, and renamed Inside.com. It is now, alas, owned by domain squatters.