Your local funeral home may soon have a new amenity besides flowers and expensive caskets: services broadcast over the Internet. A South Dakota startup called Chapelview Online wants to allow mourners "to experience the funeral service from anywhere in the world, when they cannot attend in person." Whether it's tacky, tasteless, or both, the streaming funeral is merely another extension of our already digitized culture. Cheap Net access and webcams make it possible to broadcast virtually anything online.
Chapelview sells its services to funeral homes, which then offer them to customers. The company provides Web services, a digital camera, and archival videotapes. The proceedings are kept online for two months. Services aren't open to the public, however. Mourners are assigned special passwords that let them access the video stream.
One problem with the online funeral is it loses a key part of the mourning process: getting together with friends and family to grieve and reminisce. Paying one's respects isn't the same when watching a jerky image on a screen. Plus the presence of a voyeuristic webcam may distract from the solemnity of the moment.