I love the internet. After all, I’ve made a very comfortable living by working on internet projects over the last 11 years, and I’ve met some wonderful friends and all the rest of it – all through the net.
Sometimes, though, I’m brought face to face with an undeniable and amazing fact: the web in Canada sucks. Badly. The infrastructure is there, the rate of high-speed adoption is second to none in the world, some of the great internet companies and services have come from Canada… but in terms of local, regional, or even national services, the situation is really lame.
What brings this on is a simple but telling tale. For curiosity’s sake, I was taking a look at take-out sushi restaurants in Montreal. I noted (and have noticed on the street) that there are the Sushi Shops and Soto/Soto Express. The Sushi Shop has a pretty good little site – no problem there. So I tried soto.ca andsotoexpress.ca. Nothing. No response, not even a squatter. OK, let’s check Google. The first result is from some Washington DC magazine, and it confirms that soto.ca is the right address… or seems to confirm it. Of course there’s still nothing there, though.
Hmmm, I thought, maybe Soto has gone out of business or something. So I cruise over to the Canada.com Montreal Gazette site to check. Surely there will be even an excerpt of a story in there if they’ve closed up in the last little while. Uh, no.
First of all, you can’t even search just the Montreal site, at all. Then, the only results (most of which are already guaranteed to be useless, as they come from across Canada) are from the last 7 days. Only. CyberPresse, the online arm of the La Presse group of papers, is worse: there is no search at all.
Then, I went back to the Canada.com site, this time to their Yellow Pages, and tried a search for sushi. I managed eventually (through the worst-designed search I’ve seen in years) to get a list of sushi places… but there was not a single link. They had links to maps, to directions… but no links to websites that I know for a fact exist. What’s the point!?! To add insult to injury, of course none of this stuff is touched by Google, so it’s completely hidden from view to locals or to the world.
Basically, according to the Web, a supposedly thriving restaurant chain in one of Canada’s major cities does not exist. And there are no local online news media through which you can confirm or deny this possibility in any way. What, is it 1992?
They’re gone Mikel.
Soto Express used to have a website, I’ve been there. Mind you, I’ve noticed that their mall outlets have vanished… anyone know if the main restaurant and original takeout counter are still around?
Michael Boyle says
Yeah, I finally found a search page I could use at the La Presse site and found 25 words or so of an article that confirmed that Soto closed at the end of March.
But the larger point remains – the fact that the resources have been so intentionally made crippled in Canada made it really tough to find out any information, even the most basic.
Yeah, I noticed all the Sotos vanished a couple of months ago. At least one has been converted to a Sushi Shop (the one at the south end of McGill-College).
Soto did indeed go out of business. I think the move to doing Soto Expresses was a bad one and it financially disrupted the core restaurants. Tri Du’s Treehouse operation has taken over the old locaiton on the Main – my wife’s ex-place of work designed both his restaurants by the way.
Of course, you forgot the biggie, Mikel: montrealplus.ca. Which I’ve found absolutely invaluable in finding restaurants, mostly because it gets all the Yellow Pages listings as content…in fact in terms of a ‘finding stuff in montreal’ general site, that’s my top pick. And it’s from Bell. Whodathunkit?
Online shopping is my biggest complaint. Other than, say, amazon.ca, tigerdirect.ca, and ebay.ca, what other Canadian shopping sites are there? Someone south of the border with a web browser and a credit card has countless great, established, easy-to-use online shopping choices. Unless we want to pay extra shipping charges and immensely inflated brokerage fees, we’re stuck with lame Canadian online shopping.
You’d think Canadian retailers, especially specialty retailers, would be scrambling to sell their stuff online.
Maybe Canada doesn’t have the critical mass online that retailers need to justify setting up online shopping. And shoppers won’t go online because retailers have crappy web sites. Catch-22.
Or maybe retailers need some competition to give’em a kick in the pants. Ever notice the difference in service between shopping at a store in Canada and the U.S.?
Michael Boyle says
I like the Chapters/Indigo site – they’ve always had good turnaround times on orders and have a pretty good selection online. But you’re right in general – there is an amazing lack of specialty retailers based in Canada selling in Canadian dollars on the web.