By Stephen McKinley
Continued confirmation of Internet turbulence came on Tuesday when the Dublin web publishing and consulting group Nua announced the laying off of a third of its workforce.
Also, another Irish web site, Irishabroad.com, one of several sites aimed at the Irish diaspora, has also undergone what has been termed as rationalization in recent weeks, with the closure of its San Francisco office and drop-in center for J-1ers.
Founder and sales and marketing director Frank Hannigan said that consolidation of staff and resources was at the root of the change.
"We’ve actually increased staffing levels," Hannigan, said from Dublin, although a former employee told the Echo that staff in San Francisco had been let go.
Irishabroad’s operations have been transferred to Dublin in what Hannigan called "rationalizing the departments." Calls to the Irishabroad New York office went unanswered. Hannigan said that it made more sense to consolidate staff in one office and said that Irishabroad still commands a strong presence in the Irish-American market.
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The layoffs at Nua were as a result of the slowdown in the U.S. economy, founder Jerry McGovern told the Irish Times on Tuesday. He struck an optimistic note, however, by adding that in the meantime, Nua’s U.S. office would remain open, in the hope of further orders coming in the spring. He also indicated that none of the layoffs would come from Nua’s Irish community site, Local.ie.
The year 2000 opened with a strong showing by content and community sites aimed at the Irish diaspora but by year’s end, continuing turbulence on the Nasdaq and lack of confidence on the part of investors led to several failures. Virtual Ireland closed its doors in November when its parent company, Virtual Communities, shut down operations.
One unforeseen consequence of the dot.com shakedown has been that some web sites have been left in limbo — still accessible through the Internet, but no longer updated with fresh content. This has left ardent users in the Irish market concerned that their contact to a wider "virtual" Irish community could be severed if sites were to be taken off Internet servers and shut down. Users have indicated that such sites have been a valuable resource on everything from making friends (in one case, even love and marriage) to finding out about Irish culture, language and history.
Writing on the still-active Virtual Ireland message boards, users expressed this concern: "Where I live in central Pennsylvania, there is no ethnic Irish organization, so this is a great site to hear about current events," wrote one user, who called himself "Pook."
Another member wrote, "Sites like this bolster an Irish ‘ethnic’ identity among the Diaspora," and others were fearful of the loss of contact they would suffer if the decline of such sites continues.
It seems as if the luck of the Irish may now be eluding what was once called ‘the greening of the Internet.’