As recriminations and ideological differences split the international Webgrrls organisation, the Hong Kong chapter has re-emerged under a new, independent identity. The international non-profit women's group recently reworked its charter to become a commercial organisation. Now the SAR club, renamed HK Webgirls, has stayed on the non-profit path - dropping its affiliation and the extra 'r' in its name. 'We just decided to go our own way,' said 'co-point girl' Sarah Kochling. 'We wanted to be independent and we wanted to maintain non-profitability status.' The group's choice, to be neutral and provide low-cost technology workshops and discussions to help Web neophytes of both genders, was sparked in part by a debate over direction between two bigger organisations. The original Webgrrls, which now aims to become more professional and corporate, and a newer group called DigitalEve, created in part by unhappy ex-Webgrrls, have been interested in the same types of people. Webgrrls had partly prompted the decision by HK Webgirls ( www.hkwebgirls.com ) by locking them out of its Web site and shutting down the mailing list. About the same time, DigitalEve pursued a connection, the point girls said. Webgrrls was the 1995 brainchild of New York entrepreneur Aliza Sherman. In the Internet's early days, 'grrl' was a way for women to identify themselves. Ms Sherman believed women, marginalised when the Internet first appeared, needed to meet and share enthusiasm for the Web. After she stepped down as director in 1997, her business partner Kevin Kennedy eventually took over last year. According to various reports, Webgrrls became a for-profit organisation, asking affiliates to charge a membership fee of about US$55 a year. Webgrrls also wanted far-flung groups to send in cash, centralising funds in New York. And, it requested that the volunteers - most of whom have full-time jobs or businesses - become unpaid employees. About the time of Mr Kennedy's takeover, some Webgrrls re-assessed their own goals and ties to the parent organisation. Thus was born DigitalEve. The new group persuaded some Webgrrls chapters in North America to join and last year approached HK Webgirls. Once Ms Kochling and co-point girl Margaret Yeung were nominated to their new posts last autumn, they e-mailed the former parent organisation. Webgrrls took serious measures to protect itself. The decision to stay neutral by HK Webgirls was, in part, a reaction to those actions, Ms Kochling said. 'They helped us make it because they locked us out of our Web site and they shut down our list serve,' she said. Then, the former parent sent HK Webgirls a non-compete, non-disclosure legal agreement to sign before it provided any informative materials for chapter members. Ms Yeung said: 'I think that the only thing we were disappointed in was the lack of communication that was being given out to the international grrls.' HK Webgirls organisers decided neither Webgrrls nor DigitalEve were going to provide the experience of being part of a truly international network, because DigitalEve was still developing. The offers to join the different groups may have been partly born out of the potential to pitch products to members. Ms Kochling said women controlled 85 per cent of household spending offline. 'Everyone recognises the power of a mailing list, particularly the power of a mailing list full of women, who do most of the purchasing on the Web.' After HK Webgirls changed its affiliation and name, the point girls set a membership fee at HK$300 a year. The debate over whether a group generally aimed at helping women should be run by a man was a side issue, although the point girls agreed it was odd. As a professional marketer, Ms Kochling said it was slightly harder for a man to put himself into a woman's shoes. HK Webgirls plans to stay local, to continue its agenda of workshops and discussions open to women and men, until a large organisation offered a compelling reason to join. 'We will try to continue what the original mission was,' Ms Kochling said.