We review four teenage-friendly websites -- Where to get your fix of ''Animal House'' and ''Dawson's Creek'' online

We review four teenage-friendly websites

Who knows what lurks in the hearts of teenagers — or, scarier still, in their Web bookmark files? Sony’s Columbia TriStar would like to believe it’s Dawson’s Creek. On Oct. 7, 1998, following the show’s season premiere, the studio’s interactive division is launching a massive and stylistically ambitious fan site. But that’s just the response from the media oligarchy: A host of less-hyped sites are also vying to capture the high (school) life online, each in its own way. Here’s a crib sheet to four disparate approaches:

DAWSON’S DESKTOP (www.dawsonscreek.com) Postmodern McLuhanism at its zenith; instead of another half-baked ”official” site, you get to hack into Dawson’s virtual computer, snooping through files and even his recycle bin. And you don’t have to feel guilty because, hey, the dude doesn’t exist! After each episode ends, the saga continues online in real time, with e-mails and chat from other characters streaming on screen. You can also read Dawson’s Spielbergian screenplays, surf his bookmarked websites, or get an earful of his CDs. Sure, Dawson only listens to Sony music, but in general Desktop is good enough to make you forget that it’s advertising. A-

BOLT (www.bolt.com) This high school-lifestyle e-zine has the smart idea to let teens provide their own content. The result is a hip interactive spin on Sassy, created by Concrete Media, a Silicon Alley company run by one of the former brains behind the e-zine Word. In sections like Mall, Sex & Advice, and College, kids use bulletin boards and articles to mouth off on everything from virginity to the Beastie Boys. Bolt’s editors keep the rants in tow with a minty-fresh, easily navigable interface. Best of all is Bolt Reporter, a section that includes stories too controversial to publish in high school newspapers — such as a recent one about two pregnant Kentucky girls who were denied membership in an honor society. A

ANIMALHOUSE.COM (www.animalhouse.com) What would John Belushi think about someone copping his domain? The California-based Animal House has little to do with the classic frat farce; instead, it’s an e-zine for the young collegiate. Good plan, but, unlike Bolt, Animal House provides little original content from teens or otherwise; instead it relies on thinly veiled links to mainstays like Rough Guide and CBS SportsLine. There are helpful articles on money matters and health — and a not-so-helpful laundry list of drinking games like the enigmatic One Big Chicken. All in all, it’s little to write home to Flounder about. C-

ICQ (www.icq.com) Online chat is a teen’s next best thing to the telephone. Unlike such gab havens as Yahoo! or AOL, though, ICQ — the 17 million-member Internet freeware gizmo — has a huge website that gives space to a mind-boggling assortment of cliques, of which the entertainment areas alone run from the Saved by the Bell support group to the Christina Ricci Is the Most Beautiful Girl in the World bulletin board to devotees of the heavy-metal stylings of Tool. All of which is primarily a front for what teenagers do best: gripe, boast, flirt, and hang out. And, yes, the site’s home-page design is an ungodly mess — but, in time-honored fashion, maybe that’s just to keep Mom and Dad out of the room. B

Animal House
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