a curious Yankee in Europe's court

blog about living in Europe, and Italy

Evan Williams explains “the whole web is dead thing” (pretty well)

Posted on the January 5th, 2011

If there’s anyone who isn’t feeling a bit steamrollered by a Web of Infinite Info, as GigaOM terms it, they must still be pounding away only on a typewriter and reading only at their local library.

As a help to the rest of us, last week Om Malik posted a Q&A interview on GigaOm with Internet entrepreneur and Twitter co-founder Evan Williams (“Ev Williams: The Challenges of a Web of Infinite Info”  Dec. 29, 2010).

The questions are wide-ranging. One I especially like was about the often seen quip by some these days that “the web is dead.”

Excerpt from Williams’ response:

What’s “dead” is the original model of the web, which was completely distributed and decentralized. In the beginning, it was like a million little islands, some of them were bigger islands. If you create something on the web, you’re your own island and you try to get people to visit your island.

Websites realized they couldn’t create everything themselves so they started to import things…

Read full post here.

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Will “the war to end all wars” be in cyberspace?

Posted on the December 8th, 2010

Not a bad thing to hope for but, nonetheless, an act of naiveté to think that humanity’s favorite activity of warfare would not sooner or later march onto the Internet. Has the true battle been launched with the case of Wikileaks as the catalyst?

You only have to let your imagination run free for a few minutes to realize how great the ramifications would be for a global society if war breaks out in cyberspace. Can’t think of many people, places or things throughout the world who are not Internet or Web dependent or vulnerable, can you?

Some glimmerings of the beginning shots fired in this article in the New York Times earlier this week (“Hundreds of WikiLeaks Mirror Sites Appear” by Ravi Somaiya, Dec 5, 2010).

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Prosperity, liberty, democracy and the Web: Tim Berners-Lee

Posted on the November 24th, 2010

Reading Tim Berners-Lee’s new article online in Scientific American, my memory was jogged to remember some things I already know but keep slipping away — the difference between the Web and the Internet, for example. And I learned other things I didn’t know — why social media such as Facebook, and proprietary sites such as iTunes may be harming the development of the Web itself.

The British-born Berners-Lee is credited with inventing the World Wide Web (www), and he is arguably its most passionate protector.

His article “Long Live the Web: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality” (Nov 22, 2010) is a plea for everyone to become guardians of the Web. Berners-Lee writes that the Web as we now know it is being threatened in different ways. He lays out in detail what we need to do to protect it and keep it healthy and growing.


Why should you care? Because the Web is yours. It is a public resource on which you, your business, your community and your government depend. The Web is also vital to democracy, a communications channel that makes possible a continuous worldwide conversation. The Web is now more critical to free speech than any other medium. It brings principles established in the U.S. Constitution, the British Magna Carta and other important documents into the network age: freedom from being snooped on, filtered, censored and disconnected.

Yet people seem to think the Web is some sort of piece of nature, and if it starts to wither, well, that’s just one of those unfortunate things we can’t help…

Read the full piece here.

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Assolutamente incredibile! RomaEuropa FakeFactory

Posted on the November 20th, 2010

The phrase you have to see it to believe it truly earns its meaning with the project, RomaEuropa FakeFactory: the book! If you want to put that statement to the test, watch the video above (Italian). (Excerpts below from REFF press releases)

Where did FakeFactory come from?

The story begins with the opening of the Romaeuropa WebFactory, a digital art competition launched in 2008 by the Romaeuropa Foundation (Fondazione Romaeuropa) and Telecom Italia….

What is its purpose?

FakeFactory (www.romaeuropa.org) was an act of artivism, in favor of free culture and non-proprietary rights for authors. This network confronted the themes of art and hacking, political activism and technology, copyright and intellectual property and extended to access, cultural politics, crowdsourcing, open source models, peer-to-peer economic governance and the reinvention of the real…

How does it work?

The REFF experiment is more than its content, designing a new possibility for publishing: the book comes  fully integrated with a digital dimension through the use of Augmented Reality in the form of QRCodes and Fiducial Markers. These devices transform the experience of reading, enhancing it with an interactive dimension through the REFF network and global social networks, in a way that is completely uncensored.

The software is deposited on paper as hypertext, making it clickable, expandable, commentable and reactive, opening a virtually unlimited space for comparison between authors and readers on issues and debates on the book, dissolving the traditional boundaries that separate them. This book develops a new prototype of infinite potential for the intersection between digital and paper dimensions…

Who participates and why?

Supporters of the REFF are found all over the world: over 80 partners among universities, artists, academies, associations, hackers, researchers, designers, journalists, politicians, magazines, networks, activitst, art critics, architects, musicians and entrepreneurs together with all the people who share a belief that art, design and new technologies can unite towards a critical, yet positive vision of a world that can create new opportunities and new ways of being, collaborating and communicating.

To learn more about the REFF project, see here. And you may want to see this.

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Italian journalists are moving online

Posted on the November 18th, 2010

Italy has a reputation for lagging behind in its citizenry’s embrace of the Internet (see here, for an example). It’s true that things could certainly be better online-wise, but still the country does rank in the top 15 countries worldwide in Internet users, according to a recent European Travel Commission report. And it shows online usage steadily rising.

Nonetheless, as the report also shows, the percentage of the Italian population online is only 51.7 percent (30,026 million). That compares to 68.9 percent in France, 79.1 percent in Germany, and 77.3 percent in the USA.

In Italy, one online sector where some promising new developments are underway is journalism, according to an article by Federica Cocco today at OWNI.eu (“Italian journos search for escape route in oppressive job market” Nov 17, 2010).

Cocco reports on some of the current hardships many Italian journalists are facing in traditional media. As a solution, she writes, some of them are “trying to find refuge in the web.”

According to a 2010 survey by Human Highway and Liquida, Italy now counts 1.7 million bloggers – half a million more than last year. The study also concluded that 23.1% of the 24 million Italian netizens read blogs regularly, and the majority of them focus on current affairs.

Cocco also reports on the recent launch of two notable online news reporting websites.

Read the full article here.

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Times online no longer a newspaper, says Clay Shirky

Posted on the November 13th, 2010

Earlier this week an authoritative, much listened to voice on the impact of the Internet on our social and economic structures, Clay Shirky, definitively dissected the recent user statistics of the UK Times and its experiment with locking its news content away behind a paywall.

In a post on his blog, Shirky, writer and New York University professor, offers no optimism about paywalls as saviors of newspapers (“The Times’ Paywall and Newsletter Economics” Nov 8, 2010).


The advantage of paywalls is that they raise revenue from users. The disadvantages are that they reduce readership, increase customer acquisition and retention costs, and eliminate ad revenue from user-forwarded content. In most cases, the disadvantages have outweighed the advantages.

So what’s different about News paywall? Nothing. It’s no different from other pay-for-access plans, whether the NY Times’ TimesSelect* or the Harligen Texas Valley Morning Star.* News Corp has produced no innovation in content, delivery, or payment, and the idea of 90%+ loss of audience was already a rule of thumb over a decade ago. Yet something clearly feels different…

Read full post here.

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Why I may never use the phrase “new media” again

Posted on the October 25th, 2010

What I don’t know is almost everything, I admit, and that everything is mushrooming in size daily. But today I did add a fascinatingly useful new term to my vocabulary by learning the meaning of the word grok. (Hint — it’s a verb and it’s actually been around since 1961).

I came across the word in a post on GigaOM last Friday by the site’s founder Om Malik. Titled “There is No New Media: It’s All New Consumption,” the post is a bit of a two-by-four aimed at the thickish, oldish heads running most of traditional media.


“For the media industry  (which is video, music and print), there has been one more, and perhaps the farthest-reaching, failure: the inability of the folks to grok that today’s audience is not tomorrow’s audience. It goes without saying there’s a whole generation of folk that has either grown up, or are growing up, on the Internet. Their consumption and online behavior is going to be predicated on a distribution medium whose basic premise is abundance. They will find, curate and consume on their own terms, on their own choice of screens and on their own time.”

Clarifying phrase, isn’t it — online behavior is going to be predicated on a distribution medium whose basic premise is abundance.

Highly recommended reading if you want some insight into a big picture perspective of media consumption trends. And if you aren’t familiar with another phrase — Generation D — it’s a chance to remedy that also.  See the full post here.

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Hoping for a future, magazines summon a ghost from the past

Posted on the October 14th, 2010

In their urgent push to find a business model — in this case, embracing digital “apps” as the way to induce readers (or somebody) to pay for their content — magazine publishers are hoping their subscribers will forget something rather important, according to Mathew Ingram.

Writing last week for GigaOM, Ingram said (“Too Many Magazine Apps Are Still Walled Gardens” by Matthew Ingram, Oct. 9, 2010):

…one thing is becoming clear: publishers mostly just want you to look at their content, and are hoping that you will forget all about the Internet and social media and all of those irritating things that get in between you and the consumption of their wonderful content.

Ingram reviews in particular the new app for Esquire magazine that has just been introduced, pointing out some glitches in functioning that he dislikes (he also discusses Wired magazine’s digital app, introduced earlier this year).

And since a picture is worth a thousand… etc, in order to see what exactly Ingram is talking about, here are the intro videos the two magazines produced for their apps.

First Esquire:

And Wired:

Technologically speaking, this is exciting stuff for Internet users, seems to me.  But Ingram objects strongly that these apps at present signal their publishers’ desire to turn back the clock to a “walled garden” world. Meaning that not so long ago old place and time where providers were in control of everything and users were passive and powerless and paying.

Ingram writes:

Wired’s app provides a slick interface to the magazine, but no way of actually sharing it, or of linking it to related content somewhere else — not even to Wired’s own website. It’s like an interactive CD-ROM from the 1990s.

The new Esquire app also has plenty of “interactivity,” if by that you mean the ability to click and watch an ad for a new Lexus, or listen to cover boy Javier Bardem recite a Spanish poem, or swipe your finger and watch a timeline of the construction of the new World Trade Center. All of those are very cool — but if you are looking for the kind of interactivity that allows you to post a comment on a story, or to share a link via Twitter, or to post anything to a blog and then link back to the magazine, you are out of luck. In fact, if you like the app or any of the stories within it, your only option is to close the app completely and then email someone to tell them that you liked it…

Earning praise, in contrast, from Ingram is the app for Flipboard.  As you can see in the video below, Flipboard stresses interactivity and all the social media aspects (Facebook and Twitter, as examples) of the Internet that are so hugely popular. You can read Ingram’s full article here.

Here’s Flipboard‘s video introducing its app:

For now, though, according to Peter Kafka writing in his column MediaMemo at All Things Digital (WSJ), the new magazine apps may be paying off for their publishers (“Magazine Publishers Turn Back From the Abyss” Oct 11, 2010). Alluding to the “brutal beating” magazines have experienced in recent years, Kafka reports that in recent months ad sales for magazines in general have begun to climb. Wired, he reports, is leading the pack:

Worth noting that Condé Nast’s Wired, which may have the most successful iPad magazine app, saw ad pages jump 32.8 percent.

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What China has to say for itself: Premier Wen Jiabao

Posted on the October 8th, 2010

At the end of a short interview early this week on a CNN news show, the anchor Charles Hodson asked Jamil Anderlini, the Beijing correspondent for the Financial Times, what was the point, the purpose of this week’s “enormous offensive, this diplomatic offensive by the Chinese in Europe?”

Hodson was referring to the official visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to Europe this week. The premier won headlines with his favorable remarks about the Eurozone. They included a pledge to support the Euro, and an announcement during a visit to Greece that China will buy government bonds to try and aid the struggling country (see here and here).

Anderlini, after offering his analysis of the reasons for China’s proposed largesse to Europe, summed up with this:

“Well I think what you’re seeing is, China is obviously now the world’s second largest economy, it’s the biggest energy user, it’s the biggest emitter of carbon and greenhouse gases in the world, and it really is – China is really rising very rapidly on the world stage, both economically, militarily, politically.

And I think, you know there’s a re-evaluation going on of the traditional foreign policy in China which is — it was laid out a couple of decades ago by former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping — and that policy was that China should hide its brilliance, hide its light, and bide its time. But I think China has really reached the point where it’s re-evaluating that policy and that strategy.”

But Europe wasn’t the only target audience of what amounted to a media blitz this week of the European, Anglo-American world by the Chinese premier. Wen Jiabao also sat for an hour-long CNN interview for U.S. television with superstar journalist Fareed Zakaria.

Pointing out that the Chinese premier rarely gives interviews to Western journalists, Zakaria introduced the session by also listing some of China’s recent power moves in international relations.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

In his opening questions, Zakaria asked Wen Jiabao about the worldwide financial crisis, about China itself, and whether Chinese leadership has lost faith in the U.S.  The premier responded with a diplomatically amiable comment about President Obama and then spoke about his own country:

In the face of the financial crisis, any person who has a sense of responsibility towards the country and towards the entire human race, should learn lessons from the financial crisis. As far as I am concerned, the biggest lesson that I have drawn from the financial crisis is that in managing the affairs of a country, it is important to pay close attention to addressing the structural problems in the economy.

China has achieved enormous progress in its development, winning acclaim around the world. Yet I was one of the first ones to argue that our economic development still lacks balance, coordination and sustainability. This financial crisis has reinforced my view on this point. On the one hand we must tackle the financial crisis, on the other we must continue to address our own problems. And we must do these two tasks well at the same time and this is a very difficult one…

Later Zakaria asked Wen Jiabao about the much reported, and widely criticized censorship of the Internet by Chinese officials. Somewhat surprisingly, the premier praised the freedom of expression and freedom to criticize the government allowed on the Internet in China.  Zakaria challenged this appraisal, citing his own experience of the many restrictions he has encountered when he himself has visited China.

Wen Jiabao didn’t refute Zakaria’s assessment but responded:

“I believe I and all the Chinese people have such a conviction that China will make continuous progress and the people’s wishes for and needs for democracy and freedom are irresistible. I hope that you will be able to gradually see the continuous progress of China.”

In the last segment of the interview Zakaria mentioned a series of speeches that Wen has given in the last few months. He mentioned one in particular in which the premier said that along with economic reform, China must keep doing political reform. Zakaria then said that a lot of people he knows in China have told him that there has been a lot of economic reform but not much political reform: “What do you say to people who listen to your speeches and they say we love everything Wen Jiabao says but we don’t see the actions of political reform?”

After a preliminary comment on the importance of the ruling governing party being faithful to the constitution and its laws, Wen Jiabao ended with this:

I have summed up my political ideals into the following four sentences. To let everyone lead a happy life with dignity, to let everyone feel safe and secure, to let the society be one with equity and justice, and to let everyone have confidence in the future. In spite of the various discussions and views within society, and in spite of some resistance, I will act in accordance with these ideals unswervingly and advance within the realm of my capabilities political restructuring.

“I would like to tell you the following two sentences to reinforce my case on this or my view on this point. That is, I will not fall in spite of the strong wind and harsh rain, and I will not yield til the last day of my life.

To see the full interview, go here.

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New York Times and Newsweek each lose a star

Posted on the September 23rd, 2010

In news that startled a bit this week, two major names in journalism in the US announced their departure from their star posts in traditional media to sign on to new media.

The New York Times lost economic reporter Peter Goodman. The struggling Newsweek lost political columnist Howard Fineman. Both of these prominent journalists have just joined the staff of one of new media’s most visible success stories, The Huffington Post.

Goodman was interviewed by the Washington Post about his big jump (“Huffington snags N.Y. Times star” Howard Kurtz, Sept 21, 2010). Goodman told Kurtz, “For me it’s a chance to write with a point of view… It’s sort of the age of the columnist. With the dysfunctional political system, old conventional notions of fairness make it hard to tell readers directly what’s going on. This is a chance for me to explore solutions in my economic reporting.”

Goodman went to to express dissatisfaction about a confining aspect of the process of reporting imposed on him by the gray lady Times.

Writing yesterday in reaction to Goodman’s statements, news media expert and journalism instructor Dan Gillmor commented  (“The second great migration to new media” Salon, Sept 22, 2010):

I’m also convinced that a big part of what’s happening is a sound one from a journalistic sense: That is, reporters want to be liberated from the lazy-journalism tyranny of the idiotic notion that there are two equal sides to everything — do a story on the Holocaust, get a quote from a neo-Nazi — and they grasp better than their old-media editors do that human voice is the heart of story-telling.

Gillmor linked to a related post on Goodman and Fineman by Salon co-founder and author Scott Rosenberg. In his post, Rosenberg voiced sympathy with some of the huge, older news organizations (“Journalists follow their voices, vote with their feet” Sept 22, 2010).

Rosenberg particularly noted the “phenomenal-sized audience” of Yahoo News, and the “blue-chip” reputation” of the NY Times.  This constrains them to be more cautious in their ways, he wrote.


The challenge for their [Times and Yahoo] managers is a subtle one: How to infuse their coverage with the distinctive human voices of journalistic observers who no longer wish to suppress their personal perspectives, while also insuring that the big megaphones they own do not turn into amplifiers of treacherous rumors, personal vendettas, or partisan lies. (Fox News provides a handy negative exemplar here.)

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Wikipedia’s not just any old encyclopedia: James Bridle

Posted on the September 10th, 2010

In a blog post this week, James Bridle lays bare his optimism about humans and our doings. And this gutsy enthusiasm is a good and intelligent thing.

It’s not some pie-in-the-sky, be happy type of simpleton perspective. Bridle grounds his hope in close scrutiny of the systems we create, in particular publishing.

Bridle, a publisher and writer, is founder of the website booktwo.org. He describes the site’s focus as “the future of literature and the publishing industry”

Writing the recent post titled “On Wikipedia, Cultural Patrimony and Historiography” (Sept 6, 2010), Bridle reflects on a public talk he gave recently:

I talked about the Library of Alexandria, and the Yo La Long Dia, and the National Libraries of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iraq—all examples of cultural destruction caused in part by neglect and willful disregard for our shared patrimony.

These losses, despite their horror, will always happen: but what can we do to mitigate and understand them? In a world obsessed with “facts”, a more nuanced comprehension of historical process would enable us to better weigh truth…

…I do believe that we’re building systems that allow us to do this better, and one of our responsibilities should be to design and architect those systems to make this explicit, and to educate.

The particular system that Bridle goes on to discuss is Wikipedia.

…for me, Wikipedia is a useful subset of the entire internet, and as such a subset of all human culture. It’s not only a resource for collating all human knowledge, but a framework for understanding how that knowledge came to be and to be understood; what was allowed to stand and what was not; what we agree on, and what we cannot.

Read the full entry here.

(Found my way to Bridle’s post via the blog Bits at the New York Times)

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Wikipedia hits a new high

Posted on the August 18th, 2009

The free, online encyclopedia Wikipedia has just posted  its three millionth article. Yesterday’s Christian Science Monitor had an article citing the details, plus a little commentary on how things are going (“Wikipedia blows past 3 million English articles” by Chris Gaylord, Aug 17, 2009).

Of course, there are far more posts, if you count the site’s 270 other languages. Eleven languages have collected more than 100,000 articles, with German nearing 1 million.

Thank you, grazie and danke Wikipedia!

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Chasing cyberspace — and losing

Posted on the January 27th, 2009

Even though the Internet and all the evergrowing, new technology related to it fascinate me endlessly,  I’m also left feeling intellectually and emotionally flabbergasted much of the time. While brooding about this a few days ago, a comic image of my besieged state of mind spontaneously popped up — it was of a tiny, wildly excited, yapping Chihuahua chasing cars zooming by on the street. The poor thing doesn’t stand a chance.

But after reading Mathew Honan’s Wired article last week about some of the new, Location-Aware software, I realized in a flash of hyperventilating, cognitive collapse that my racing Chihuahua self-image is simply wrong — in fact that Chihuahua has been flat out run over. Squashed!

An excerpt from Honan’s piece: (“I Am Here: One Man’s Experiment With the Location-Aware Lifestyle” Wired, Jan 19, 2009)

I wanted to know more about this new frontier, so I became a geo-guinea pig. My plan: Load every cool and interesting location-aware program I could find onto my iPhone and use them as often as possible. For a few weeks, whenever I arrived at a new place, I would announce it through multiple social geoapps. When going for a run, bike ride, or drive, I would record my trajectory and publish it online. I would let digital applications help me decide where to work, play, and eat. And I would seek out new people based on nothing but their proximity to me at any given moment. I would be totally open, exposing my location to the world just to see where it took me. I even added an Eye-Fi Wi-Fi card to my PowerShot digital camera so that all my photos could be geotagged and uploaded to the Web. I would become the most location-aware person on the Internets!

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Online traffic growing for newspapers

Posted on the August 1st, 2008

Finally, some promising numbers for U.S. newspapers, according to Nielsen Online, as reported this week in Editor & Publisher. The online audience rose more than 12 percent in the most recent quarter, compared to the same period last year, E&P reports (“Newspaper Sites Gain Audience in Q2” by Jennifer Saba, July 29, 2008).

More here.

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May I see some (cyber) ID, please

Posted on the May 15th, 2008

The inventor of the Internet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, wants to help its users protect themselves from the lowlifes online who are trying to hide who they really are and what they’re really up to.

To fund this project, he plans to use the money coming to him as one of 16 winners named yesterday of the Knight News Challenge award, according to an article in InformationWeek (“Sir Tim Berners-Lee To Track Origins Of Digital Content” by K.C. Jones, May 14, 2008).

Jones’ intro:

Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee has received a grant to create a technology that will give users more information about the origins and sources of digital content.

As Jones notes, this is one of the biggest challenges of the moment in relation to the Internet. Read more here.

Last month, in an article in the Telegraph on the same subject, Berners-Lee discussed various aspects of the problem of “cyber imposters,” and his hope to find a solution (“Technology could be used to protect youngsters from internet predators,” by Tom Peterkin, April 30, 2008).

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Lifestyles of Europe’s digital families

Posted on the April 29th, 2008

EIAA (European Interactive Advertising Association) reported this month that adults living with children spend more time online than adults in households without minors. The findings about online trends in Europe are from EIAA‘s first ever “Digital Families” report, according to the media trade organization.

“Almost three-quarters (73%) of people living with children are logging on to the internet each week, compared with only half (52%) of those without,” the EIAA report reveals.

Overall, digital parents are ramping up their web time, spending 11.6 hours online each week (up 36% since 2004) and over a quarter are heavy users of the internet (27%). Digital families are also more likely than those households without children to use the internet at the weekends (58% vs. 40%).

This online activity has meant that digital families are consuming other media less as a result of the internet – 44% of digital parents are watching less TV, almost a third read fewer magazines and newspapers (31% and 30% respectively) and almost a quarter (24%) listen to the radio less.

Read more about the study here.

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It’s our Internet to lose

Posted on the March 6th, 2008

Yesterday’s Seattle Times has an editorial warning that the Internet is in jeopardy (“Internet in jeopardy as neutrality erodes” The Democracy Papers series, March 5, 2008). I liked this piece in particular because it outlines this complex issue simply and briefly.

A key sentence:

The Internet has developed into a clean canvas for all to play on and create. The cable and telecommunication companies that dominate broadband in the United States are fighting any network-neutrality law that would ensure the Internet stays this way.

See here for more discussion of this important battle now underway.

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Should content providers pay more for access to the Internet’s “fast” lane?

Posted on the February 15th, 2008

No way! says U.S. Congressman Edward Markey. This week he proposed new legislation to bar exactly this from happening in the U.S., according to an AP story on the Wired website (“Bill Bars Web Traffic Discrimination” AP, Feb 13, 2008).

Markey is trying to head off a coalition of major telephone and cable companies, including AT&T and Qwest, who reportedly want to be able to charge whatever the market will bear, in effect, for Internet access.

From the AP article:

Markey, who introduced similar legislation in 2006, said the bill doesn’t regulate the Internet, only makes sure the rules of online engagement are fair. His spokeswoman said he wanted to defuse critics’ arguments that the bill amounts to regulation, which she called inaccurate.

“It does, however, suggest that the principles which have guided the Internet’s development and expansion are highly worthy of retention, and it seeks to enshrine such principles in the law as guide stars for U.S. broadband policy,” Markey said of The Internet Freedom Preservation Act.

The hot issue at the heart of Rep. Markey’s legislative fight is what is known as “Net Neutrality.” Its supporters have their own website, SAVETHEINTERNET.com. Members include Google, most prominently, plus hundreds of websites, small businesses, educators, and public interest groups such as the ACLU, Consumers Union, MoveOn.org, and Common Cause (see list here).

For anyone wanting to learn the basics of this battle, the website offers a Net Neutrality 101 page.

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Yahoo as aspirin for Microsoft’s “zero dollar” migraine

Posted on the February 9th, 2008

Writing today in The New York Times about Microsoft’s proposed takeover of Yahoo, tech reporter Matt Richtel explains that “zero dollar” is the insider’s phrase for the burgeoning trend of software wants to be free (“Facing Free Software, Microsoft Looks to Yahoo” Feb 9, 2008).

“A growing number of consumers are paying just that — nothing. This is the Internet’s latest phase: people using freely distributed applications, from e-mail and word processing programs to spreadsheets, games and financial management tools. They run on distant, massive and shared data centers, and users of the services pay with their attention to ads, not cash,”Richtel writes.

How much this free software preference is motivating Microsoft in its yearning for Yahoo is the subject of Richtel’s article. He quotes various technology experts and corporate spokespeople on the subject. A conversation he recounts with a college student whose software of choice is the free stuff is particularly interesting.

Financial Times also has a brief article today discussing this aspect of Microsoft’s interest in Yahoo here (“Microsoft’s motivation” Feb 9, 2008, subscriber only).

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What’s shrinking the digital divide the fastest?

Posted on the January 3rd, 2008

The mobile phone is the electronic device most often in the hands of those in developing countries, according to Katrin Verclas, of MobileActive.org. As of the end of 2007, three billion mobile phones were expected to be in use across the globe, Verclas says.

As a point of comparison, an estimated one billion people in the world reportedly had Internet access by the end of 2007 (see more on digital statistics here).

Verclas is the founder of MobileActive.org. It is a worldwide network for people interested in using mobile phones, and their potential for communication, in civil society and for social activism, according to the website.

Examples of innovative campaigns and projects abound. Democracy organizations have used mobile phones to swing elections through innovative get-out-the-vote activities, ensured impartial voting through poll monitoring via SMS, developed ground-breaking new information services with vital civic or health information, documented abuses of political prisoners, and lobbied legislators to pass environmental laws. (From the About section of MobileActive.org).

For more information about Verclas and the work she is doing, check out this webpage on Changents.com, where I first read about her.

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