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Author Topic: Internet and related technology  (Read 90631 times)
Power User
Posts: 33837

« Reply #200 on: November 02, 2014, 01:05:41 AM »
Power User
Posts: 33837

« Reply #201 on: November 17, 2014, 03:13:09 PM »

The Web Is Dying; Apps Are Killing It
Tech’s Open Range Is Losing Out to Walled Gardens
By Christopher Mims
Updated Nov. 17, 2014 2:53 p.m. ET

The Web—that thin veneer of human-readable design on top of the machine babble that constitutes the Internet—is dying. And the way it’s dying has farther-reaching implications than almost anything else in technology today.

Think about your mobile phone. All those little chiclets on your screen are apps, not websites, and they work in ways that are fundamentally different from the way the Web does.

Mountains of data tell us that, in aggregate, we are spending time in apps that we once spent surfing the Web. We’re in love with apps, and they’ve taken over. On phones, 86% of our time is spent in apps, and just 14% is spent on the Web, according to mobile-analytics company Flurry.

This might seem like a trivial change. In the old days, we printed out directions from the website MapQuest that were often wrong or confusing. Today we call up Waze on our phones and are routed around traffic in real time. For those who remember the old way, this is a miracle.

Everything about apps feels like a win for users—they are faster and easier to use than what came before. But underneath all that convenience is something sinister: the end of the very openness that allowed Internet companies to grow into some of the most powerful or important companies of the 21st century.

Take that most essential of activities for e-commerce: accepting credit cards. When made its debut on the Web, it had to pay a few percentage points in transaction fees. But Apple takes 30% of every transaction conducted within an app sold through its app store, and “very few businesses in the world can withstand that haircut,” says Chris Dixon, a venture capitalist at Andreessen Horowitz.

App stores, which are shackled to particular operating systems and devices, are walled gardens where Apple, Google , Microsoft and Amazon get to set the rules. For a while, that meant Apple banned Bitcoin, an alternative currency that many technologists believe is the most revolutionary development on the Internet since the hyperlink. Apple regularly bans apps that offend its politics, taste, or compete with its own software and services.

But the problem with apps runs much deeper than the ways they can be controlled by centralized gatekeepers. The Web was invented by academics whose goal was sharing information. Tim Berners-Lee was just trying to make it easy for scientists to publish data they were putting together during construction of CERN, the world’s biggest particle accelerator.

No one involved knew they were giving birth to the biggest creator and destroyer of wealth anyone had ever seen. So, unlike with app stores, there was no drive to control the early Web. Standards bodies arose—like the United Nations, but for programming languages. Companies that would have liked to wipe each other off the map were forced, by the very nature of the Web, to come together and agree on revisions to the common language for Web pages.

The result: Anyone could put up a Web page or launch a new service, and anyone could access it. Google was born in a garage. Facebook was born in Mark Zuckerberg ’s dorm room.

But app stores don’t work like that. The lists of most-downloaded apps now drive consumer adoption of those apps. Search on app stores is broken.
On phones, 86% of our time is spent in apps, and just 14% is spent on the Web, according to mobile-analytics company Flurry. ENLARGE
On phones, 86% of our time is spent in apps, and just 14% is spent on the Web, according to mobile-analytics company Flurry. Bloomberg News

The Web is built of links, but apps don’t have a functional equivalent. Facebook and Google are trying to fix this by creating a standard called “deep linking,” but there are fundamental technical barriers to making apps behave like websites.

The Web was intended to expose information. It was so devoted to sharing above all else that it didn’t include any way to pay for things—something some of its early architects regret to this day, since it forced the Web to survive on advertising.

The Web wasn’t perfect, but it created a commons where people could exchange information and goods. It forced companies to build technology that was explicitly designed to be compatible with competitors’ technology. Microsoft’s Web browser had to faithfully render Apple’s website. If it didn’t, consumers would use another one, such as Firefox or Google’s Chrome, which has since taken over.

Today, as apps take over, the Web’s architects are abandoning it. Google’s newest experiment in email nirvana, called Inbox, is available for both Android and Apple’s iOS, but on the Web it doesn’t work in any browser except Chrome. The process of creating new Web standards has slowed to a crawl. Meanwhile, companies with app stores are devoted to making those stores better than—and entirely incompatible with—app stores built by competitors.

“In a lot of tech processes, as things decline a little bit, the way the world reacts is that it tends to accelerate that decline,” says Mr. Dixon. “If you go to any Internet startup or large company, they have large teams focused on creating very high quality native apps, and they tend to de-prioritize the mobile Web by comparison.”

Many industry watchers think this is just fine. Ben Thompson, an independent tech and mobile analyst, told me he sees the dominance of apps as the “natural state” for software.

Ruefully, I have to agree. The history of computing is companies trying to use their market power to shut out rivals, even when it’s bad for innovation and the consumer.

That doesn’t mean the Web will disappear. Facebook and Google still rely on it to furnish a stream of content that can be accessed from within their apps. But even the Web of documents and news items could go away. Facebook has announced plans to host publishers’ work within Facebook itself, leaving the Web nothing but a curiosity, a relic haunted by hobbyists.

I think the Web was a historical accident, an anomalous instance of a powerful new technology going almost directly from a publicly funded research lab to the public. It caught existing juggernauts like Microsoft flat-footed, and it led to the kind of disruption today’s most powerful tech companies would prefer to avoid.

It isn’t that today’s kings of the app world want to quash innovation, per se. It is that in the transition to a world in which services are delivered through apps, rather than the Web, we are graduating to a system that makes innovation, serendipity and experimentation that much harder for those who build things that rely on the Internet. And today, that is pretty much everyone.

—Follow Christopher Mims on Twitter @Mims; write to him at
Power User
Posts: 33837

« Reply #202 on: February 08, 2015, 09:03:15 AM »
With Internet freedom safe for now, let’s embrace the values that make the Web work so well.
L. Gordon Crovitz
Feb. 1, 2015 6:08 p.m. ET

Congress did the world’s three billion Internet users a favor by blocking President Obama’s plan to end U.S. protection of the open Internet. Now it is time to embrace the American exceptionalism that made today’s Internet possible.

In March 2014, the Obama administration said it would give up the U.S. contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann, when the current term expires in September. The plan ran into a buzz saw of criticism, including from Bill Clinton, whose administration built American protection of freedom into the core workings of the Internet when it opened for commercial use in the 1990s.

American oversight protects the engineers and network operators who manage the Internet from political interference. China, Russia and Iran can block access only in their own countries. The Obama plan would have enabled them to get control over root-zone names and addresses so they could censor or remove websites in other countries.

The Commerce Department official charged with carrying out the plan to give up U.S. stewardship, Lawrence Strickling, last week gave the administration’s first reaction to the omnibus budget bill, which Mr. Obama signed into law late last year. It effectively vetoed the Obama plan by prohibiting any expenditures by the Commerce Department to end the U.S. contract overseeing Icann.

Mr. Strickling acknowledged that the law bars the administration from giving up control over the Internet as it had planned. He told last week’s annual meeting of the Congressional Internet Caucus: “The act does restrict [Commerce] from using appropriated dollars to relinquish our stewardship during fiscal year 2015 with respect to Internet domain name system functions. We take that seriously. Accordingly, we will not use appropriated funds to terminate the . . . contract with Icann prior to the contract’s current expiration date of Sept. 30, 2015.”
Photo: Getty Images

What he didn’t make explicit is that under the clear terms of the Icann contract, U.S. control over the Internet must be renewed for a further two years, through September 2017—past the end of the Obama presidency. That means it will be up to the next president whether to pursue the Obama plan, which seems unlikely. Why would any candidate from either party run on a platform of giving up U.S. protection for the open Internet?

Instead of making clear that there will be no change during the Obama presidency, Mr. Strickling encouraged other governments and Icann to act as if U.S. oversight will still end soon. He asked them to keep trying to overcome the key stumbling block of keeping Icann accountable in the absence of a U.S. contract. Even before Congress made the point moot, Icann said it wouldn’t have found any alternative to continued U.S. oversight by the deadline set under the Obama plan.

The Obama administration needs to roll back expectations it set but won’t meet for changing Internet governance. Washington should instead embrace the American exceptionalism that created the Internet as a haven for free speech and permissionless innovation. People everywhere benefit from the absence of Internet censorship and international regulation of websites or apps.

If Mr. Obama believed that, he wouldn’t have proposed giving up American protection in the first place. So it is up to Congress to make the case for not fixing what ain’t broke. The new chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, South Dakota’s John Thune, last week announced hearings on Internet governance. He said that without an effective alternative to U.S. oversight, the U.S. should renew its oversight of Icann indefinitely.

As the Obama administration was trying to give up protection for the open Internet, authoritarian regimes were redoubling their efforts to assert control. China recently cut off the virtual private networks that Chinese citizens relied on to gain access to the world’s websites and evade the Great Firewall. One Chinese historian said that without access to Google Scholar, which links to scholarly research around the world, “it’s like we’re living in the Middle Ages.” The world’s autocrats prefer the top-down Middle Ages to Internet-driven democratization of information and communication.

The U.S. oversees an Internet built in its own image, with the result that people around the world increasingly expect free speech and open innovation. All presidential candidates should embrace this enormous accomplishment and pledge never to abandon the open Internet.
Popular on WSJ
Power User
Posts: 33837

« Reply #203 on: February 24, 2015, 01:04:26 AM »

Also worth noting is that the FCC chairman is refusing to post the 150 pages of regulations that he is proposing (a four page summary only) for comment. When I was an attorney in Washington DC I had occasion to become familiarized with the Administrative Procedure Act. This would sure seem to me a violation; the APA was designed to meet the Constitutional questions that came with the development of bureaucracy, a fourth branch of government with both quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial qualities.

In other words, the requirement of Due Process is what is at stake here, This most recent manifestation of a certain type of lawlessness from Team Obama carries heavy consequences: It may well be that the aspiring omnipotent state is about to take yet another big step towards the reification of its dream of total control.
Power User
Posts: 33837

« Reply #204 on: February 24, 2015, 09:05:33 PM »
Power User
Posts: 33837

« Reply #205 on: March 09, 2015, 03:07:44 PM »

    Netflix Recants on Obamanet
    Proponents of net neutrality appear to be experiencing lobbyists’ remorse.
    by L. Gordon Crovitz March 8, 2015 7:49 p.m. ET WSJ

    Corporate executives choose their words carefully at investor conferences hosted by the large investment banks, and analysts listen closely to decide whether to drive share prices up or down. Presentations are preceded by required securities-law disclosures, heightening the pressure to speak only carefully considered thoughts.
    With that in mind, consider what David Wells, chief financial officer of Netflix said last week at the annual Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference. He disclosed that Netflix, one of the few companies that advocated the most extreme form of Internet regulation, had lobbyist’s remorse only a week after the Federal Communications Commission voted to replace the open Internet with Obamanet.

    “Were we pleased it pushed to Title II?” Mr. Wells said to investors. “Probably not. We were hoping there might be a nonregulated solution.”

    Title II is the part of the Communications Act of 1934 that bureaucrats used to exert near-total control over the AT&T telephone monopoly. The FCC recently did President Obama’s bidding by voting to impose that micromanagement on the Internet. The FCC will decide what prices and other terms online are “just and reasonable.” The agency added a new “general conduct” catchall provision giving itself oversight of Internet content and business models.

    Netflix PR handlers claimed that Mr. Wells was just “trying to convey how our position had evolved.” But the company’s actions support Mr. Wells’s words. Last week, Netflix violated a core tenet of net neutrality when it launched its service in Australia as part of a “zero rating” offering by broadband providers, which excludes its video from data caps. Net neutrality advocates want to outlaw such deals. Netflix shrugged off this objection: “We won’t put our service or our members at a disadvantage.”

    Last year National Journal reported that Netflix was “relishing” its role as the lead lobbyist for net neutrality, “not only advocating a position that would protect its profits,” but “also earning goodwill from web activists and liberals.”

    Today Netflix is a poster child for crony capitalism. When CEO Reed Hastings lobbied for Internet regulations, all he apparently really wanted was for regulators to tilt the scales in his direction with service providers. Or as Geoffrey Manne of the International Center for Law and Economics put it in Wired: “Did we really just enact 300 pages of legally questionable, enormously costly, transformative rules just to help Netflix in a trivial commercial spat?”

    Ironically, Netflix could end up the biggest loser with a regulated Internet. The FCC did not stop at claiming power to regulate broadband providers. It will also review the interconnection agreements and network tools that allow the smooth functioning of the Internet—including delivery of Netflix videos, which take up one-third of broadband nationwide at peak times.

    Net-neutrality advocates oppose “fast lanes” on the Internet, arguing they put startups at a disadvantage. Netflix could not operate without fast lanes and even built its own content-delivery network to reduce costs and improve quality. This approach will now be subject to the “just and reasonable” test. The FCC could force Netflix to open its proprietary delivery network to competitors and pay broadband providers a “fair” price for its share of usage.

    There’s no need for the FCC to override the free-market agreements that make the Internet work so well. Fast lanes like Netflix’s saved the Internet from being overwhelmed, and there is nothing wrong with the “zero cap” approach Netflix is using in Australia. Consumers benefit from lower-priced services.

    The FCC still hasn’t made public its 300-plus pages of new regulations, but there is increasing opposition against changing the Internet as we know it. Last week John Perry Barlow, the Grateful Dead lyricist-turned-Internet-evangelist, participated in a conference call of Internet pioneers opposed to the FCC treating the Internet as a utility. He called the regulatory step “singular arrogance.”

    In 1996 Mr. Barlow’s “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” helped inspire a bipartisan consensus for the open Internet: “Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.”

    The permissionless Internet succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations, becoming an unmatched outlet for creativity and innovation. Mr. Obama has defied the bipartisan consensus that made this possible. Unless Congress or the courts intervene, the future of the Internet will look like the past, when bureaucrats and lawyers, not visionaries and entrepreneurs, were in charge.

Power User
Posts: 33837

« Reply #206 on: May 19, 2015, 08:18:50 PM »

Obama’s Bungled Internet Surrender
The group the White House favors for online oversight is turning into an abusive monopolist.
By L. Gordon Crovitz
May 17, 2015 5:39 p.m. ET

President Obama’s plan to give up protection of the open Internet is wreaking havoc even though it will probably never be carried out. In anticipation of the end of U.S. stewardship, the organization the White House wants to give more power has become an abusive monopolist, refusing to be held accountable by the Internet’s stakeholders.

The administration last year announced its intention to abandon the contract the Commerce Department has held since the beginning of the Web with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann. Congress used its power of the purse to block the move, which had been set for September this year.

But the prospect of escaping U.S. oversight led Icann to deny accountability even for its core duty of keeping its monopoly over Web addresses working smoothly. The House Judiciary Committee last week held a hearing titled “Stakeholder Perspectives on Icann: The .Sucks Domain and Essential Steps to Guarantee Trust and Accountability in the Internet’s Operation.”

The .sucks domain was one of hundreds of new top-level domains Icann added beyond the original .com, .org and .gov. Icann, organized as a nonprofit, collects a fee each time it approves a new top-level domain and gets a cut of the registration charge for individual domain names. The corporation’s total take so far from the new domains is more than $300 million.

The Intellectual Property Constituency, an Icann stakeholder group, calls the .sucks domain “predatory, exploitative and coercive.” Judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte says trademark holders are “being shaken down”—compelled to buy new addresses defensively to prevent their use.

Apple bought Gmail, Sam’s Club, Uber and Yahoo registered .sucks addresses, as did celebrities including Taylor Swift and Kevin Spacey. The standard price: $2,499, versus $10 for unclaimed .com addresses.

Mr. Goodlatte says the approval of .sucks “demonstrates the absurdity and futility of Icann’s own enforcement processes.” Instead of policing itself, Icann asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into whether the .sucks domain is abusive. Philip Corwin, a lawyer for the Internet Commerce Association, wrote on the CircleID website: “This is the equivalent of sending a message stating: ‘Dear Regulator: We have lit a fuse. Can you please tell us whether it is connected to a bomb?’ ”

Mr. Corwin told lawmakers the U.S. has been a “useful and corrective restraint on Icann” and a “first line of defense against any attempt at multilateral takeover and conversion to a government-dominated organization,” so “should exercise strong oversight in support of Icann’s stakeholders” in any transition of the contract.

The Internet ain’t broke, and Mr. Obama shouldn’t have tried to fix it. Icann and its stakeholders have spent the past year exhausting themselves on the impossible mission the White House set for them. They were tasked with finding some way to keep Icann operating with accountability but without U.S. oversight. Unsurprisingly, no one found a viable alternative.

Mr. Obama may be uncomfortable with American exceptionalism, but the Internet since its launch has reflected U.S. values of free speech and open innovation. That is why China, Russia and other authoritarian regimes lust for the power to control it.

Some stakeholders proposed a new institution to oversee Icann, while others wanted to build more accountability within Icann.

Last week Icann chief Fadi Chehade told the French news agency AFP that China and Brazil agreed with Icann’s proposals to end U.S. oversight and let Icann oversee itself: “It is now up to the community to wrap them up, put them in a nice little box with a bow and ship them to Washington.”

Even the Obama administration knows Mr. Chehade’s nonaccountability approach is a nonstarter. The .sucks saga shows that Icann won’t protect the Internet from unscrupulous business practices, never mind authoritarian regimes.

The Commerce Department recently asked several stakeholder groups how far past the original September date it would take to propose and implement alternatives to U.S. protection. The Obama administration still acts as if it can give up the contract overseeing Icann, but it can’t. Congress banned any steps by Commerce to give up the contract before the date in September, when the agreement must be renewed for two more years. This means Mr. Obama’s successor will decide.

The administration should tell Icann and the stakeholders to use the next two years to focus on creating accountability for Icann. If the White House persists in its wrongheaded idea to give up U.S. protection for the Internet, it should take the precaution of buying up
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