Confusion on the Net

An important consideration for Webmasters to avoid confusion on the net is to avoid being country-specific. Even though a Webmaster may target a particular country, the truth is the site they create will receive visitors from many countries and it is to those visitors we must give consideration to avoid confusion.

Where Are You From?

American-English may well be lingua franca on the net, but that doesn't stop confusion in some areas. Probably the most common problem is webmasters forgetting that there are others in the world who may not know that Springfield MO means a city called Springfield, in a state called Missouri, in a country called the USA.

I recently visited a site which said it was from 'Qld' (no country), and which gave a telephone number starting with (07). Should I have been interested in finding out more about that site I would have had to know that 'Qld' (Queensland) was a state in Australia and that the telephone number should have had a 061 affixed to it (and the first 0 in the area code removed). This is unacceptable when you are publishing international media - which is what the net is.

Of course, the answer is simple. Just make sure that you include the full international address (and telephone number if applicable) to your pages. Instead of just writing 'VA', write 'Virginia, USA' - those few extra characters can make the difference between confusion and comprehension, and isn't that what you're trying to achieve?

Would You Like A Date?

But what date would you like? If I said that today was 05/30/97 then there would be very few people in the world who couldn't work out that I meant May 30, 1997.

But what happens when I write 06/02/97? US citizens would automatically assume that I mean June 02, 1997, but people from countries which use UK-English (includes Australia which, per capita, is second only to the US in net use) would assume February 06, 1997 because in those countries they write the abbreviated version of the date as dd/mm/yy rather than mm/dd/yy. Confusion!

The simple answer is to not be lazy and write out the date in such a way that everybody can understand it - Mmm dd, yyyy (eg May 02, 1997) or similar. So little effort to remove the confusion.

If I Had A Dollar For Every...

What sort of dollar would you like? A US dollar, an Australian dollar, a Hong Kong dollar, or what? There are many countries in the world which use the monetary value they call a 'dollar' (and the $ sign), but every dollar is worth a different amount of money and most vary from day to day, even in relationship with each other.

Webmasters please, specify which dollar you are talking about. Specify $US, $AUD, $HK, etc, or at least put a rider on the page saying that the currency on this site is in, say, US dollars (certainly the most common). Then there is no confusion!


Most Webmasters who create country-specific sites do so from ignorance. When you draw their attention to the deficiency they are quick to amend their pages. Please, remove the confusion from your pages and don't be country-specific.

Should you have a question or a comment about country-specific text on your web-pages, please e-mail the author at the address below.

Author: Graham Pockett, e-mail