03/06/2000 at 01:00 AM EST
The Internet? "Think of a television you can talk back to, with unlimited channels and countless new programs being added every day," says PEOPLE staff writer Kyle Smith. "That's what you're dealing with." Which is why, on Jan. 17, we started our weekly Online column (page 25), edited by Smith and written by Samantha Miller. With an estimated 100 million Americans—half of them women—now wired to the Web, says Smith, a Yale grad and Gulf War vet, "everyone can use help sifting through the clutter, and that's what we're trying to do."
Online scours the dot.community for click-worthy Web pages, polls stars about their favorite sites, profiles Internet innovators and previews what's hot on the auction block (the now-famous Pets.com sock puppet recently sold for an astounding $20,100).
Our Online page can also help if you haven't been to charm school. Staff writer Miller, who majored in molecular biology at Princeton, answers questions about computer etiquette in the weekly Internet Manners section (e-mail your queries to email@example.com). "Asking someone out on a date via e-mail is fine," says Miller. Sending a formal thank-you that way, however, is not. Nor should you use the Web to avoid difficult emotional encounters. "Breaking up with somebody via e-mail," says Miller, "is tacky and unwise." As for sneaking a peek at your partner's electronic mail—even if she or he has left the room and her or his computer is turned on and just sitting there—sorry, says Samantha, it's not polite.
The only Online kink so far has been the queries Miller gets about place settings, gift giving and bridal bouquets. "I'm as clueless in those areas as they are," she admits. "I just focus on computer etiquette. I don't know a finger bowl from the Rose Bowl."
In other words, Miller's area of expertise and the Online column's subject are one and the same: nothing but Net.