Guinness World Records online

November 2000

I wasn't sure what to expect when I ventured to the Guinness World Records site. I wondered whether it might be boring. But I came away from it convinced that it's one of those dangerous sites--the kind that holds onto your attention for hours on end.

As you might expect, you can find every imaginable world record here. But what you might not expect is how fun they make it. The site uses Flash animation and streaming video to give you a delightful experience.

Go right to the Daily Wow section and view the top five "Wows." When I visited, the top Wow was two brothers doing an act that's hard to describe. Each one has a sword in his mouth and one balances the other above him, with the points of their swords being the only point of contact. They do this for a record 29 seconds.

For each of the Wows, there's a Flash introduction. Flash is a free plugin that you can download for your browser that lets you view animations on your screen. The Flash intro uses animation, text, and sound effects to introduce the segment. Then after the intro you have the option of watching a streaming video of the actual thing. These are fun too, with a breathless narrator hyping the danger and exotic music in the background.

Another of the Wows showed a guy walk across a 19-foot beam the width of a matchbox that was suspended between two hot air balloons 18,000 feet in the air. (He wasn't wearing a parachute.) And there was the man who balances an automobile on his head.

Also on the home page you'll find "Today's Top Stories," which offers each day a selection of amazing achievements, such as the guy who earned a place in the record books by dragging a 22-ton truck for 150 feet.

In addition to these featured sections, the site also has a directory so that you can access information about world records that interest you. Categories in the directory include Big & Small Things, Transport & Engineering, Earth & Space, Human Achievements, Living World, Science & High Tech, and Sports. Among the human achievements included is the man who has collected 2,112 airline sickness bags.

Because multimedia makes this site fun, you will want to downlaod both Flash and RealPlayer on your computer if you don't already have them. You can download RealPlayer for free at <http://www.real.com>. Note that because they also sell a commercial version, they kind of hide their free version. But if you're persistent, you'll find it. The Flash player can be downloaded at <http://www.flash.com>.

© 2000 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D


E-mail Jim Karpen