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September 13, 2010

The first Internet Week Cologne starts on Monday, and while the west German city is better known for carnival than connectivity, it does have a history with broadcast media.

Neon sign reading "Internet"
Internet Week Cologne runs from September 13-19Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Berlin is known as the home of Germany's emerging Internet startups and Hamburg has housed newspaper and magazine giants for decades, but none of that has stopped Cologne as billing itself as an Internet City - and at times even an Internet capital.

"Some people laugh and say it's a little bit crazy because Cologne stands for carnival, but I think there are a lot of companies in Cologne doing things on the Internet that haven't got out yet," Valentina Kerst, one of the organizers of Internet Week (IWC), told Deutsche Welle.

Cologne does, however, have a history as a media city, Kerst said, adding that the RTL and VOX television stations are based in the city and that it's also home to EMI Music's German offices.

"We have the old media and so for us in Cologne it’s the next natural step to get from the media to the Internet," she said.

Potential to grow online

Two women dressed as clowns kissing a man dressed as a sailor at Carnival
Online and off, Cologne is a social city - especially during Carnival festivitiesImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Vidar Andersen, who has been organizing social media lunches in Cologne for four months, said he sees potential for Cologne as an Internet city as traditional media's expansion to the social, online world continues.

"I don't know if Cologne is that special at the moment when it comes to social media, but maybe there is a future here," he said. "A lot of old media companies here will evolve and probably spin off new industries, new products and new projects."

Visitors to Internet Week Cologne can get a feeling for what's happening in the city at the more than 40 events and meeting with representatives from over 100 companies, Kerst said.

While Kerst emphasized the variety of events, which include informal get-togethers and conference room keynote speeches to sponsored parties and a flash mob on Sunday, Andersen said he was hoping to see how social and online media would become more accessible.

Live, local, easy to use

Cologne Cathedral
Organizers hope 300 people will hug the cathedral in a flash mobImage: DW

"Social media mobile applications and location-based services are still very complicated and you need devices - sometimes expensive devices - to use those services," he said, mentioning services like Foursquare and Gowalla, which let users broadcast their location online. "Even if you are an expert, using these services is a pain because it's not very intuitive."

He said he expected to see mobile devices become cheaper, easier to use, more ubiquitous and gain acceptance among more users.

"Today if you're sitting at a dinner table and you want to check in on a location-based service it's going to be pretty offensive to your loved one on the other side; they are not getting the same kick as you," he said. "I think we need to get past that point where it is actually obtrusive or insulting to other people not inclusive for other people."

It will take more than one week until online services get that far, but that doesn't have organizer Kerst worried. She said she's already started preliminary plans for next year's event.

"It's the first Internet Week Cologne and we're excited to see how many people will attend," she said. "But I think next year we will be a lot bigger."

Author: Sean Sinico

Editor: Cyrus Farivar