Some things never happen the way that us pundits expect. Back on Independence Day in 1999 I wrote this about government taxing the purchase of goods over the Internet: "I fully believe in the ingenuity of the government when it comes to imposing taxes. We will be paying these taxes soon." Well, "soon" has not happened yet, but maybe it is getting closer.
It seems to be passe to be solid these days. The latest example of this is the just-announced OpenDaylight project, in which a bunch of the biggest names in computing and networking have gotten together to push an open source development effort to support software-defined (i.e., virtual) networking under the umbrella of the Linux Foundation.
I use Google Docs as part of my day job. On one recent morning I accessed a file and updated it but when I went back a short time later I got a "502" error page -- something had gone amok in Google land. Everything seemed to work when I tried a few hours later, but the incident was a forceful reminder of one of the important features of cloud services -- when they go down so do you.
One of the big problems standing in the way of getting anything that remotely resembles a concern among Internet companies for the privacy rights of their customers is that there has been no business reason for any such concern. That may be changing, but don't bet big on the possibility.
Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) retired in January after quite a colorful two-dozen years in the U.S. Senate. One of the major issues he pushed for during his last few years in office was protection of the U.S. critical infrastructure. Along with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lieberman put forth a series of bills aimed at requiring some level of protection for such infrastructure, the last of these being voted down in November.
It has now been just about a year since the Obama administration put forth its online privacy blueprint. In spite of a title on the announcement that insisted "We Can't Wait," not much has happened since the blueprint was published. Meanwhile, things are heating up on the online privacy front in Europe, and the contrast between the United States and European viewpoints is and is not stark.
I had already submitted my last column when I heard about Aaron Swartz's death. Some might say that it's too late to comment on this story since the crowd has moved on, but it's never too late to write about someone you knew.
Going into last month the future of the Internet, to borrow a phrase from the great film noir movie "A Touch of Evil," looked like it may have been all used up. The feeling of the traditional telephone folk and controlling governments was that the Internet had done just about enough of this changing the future stuff -- thanks very much -- now it was time for a bit of control. But the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai did not turn out quite the way that those who would control the Internet wanted. Nor, did the WCIT turn out quite the way that those of us who wanted a more hands-off future would have liked.
A good (or was it bad) chunk of 2012 in Internet-land was spent dreading and getting ready for the ITU World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai that will conclude about the time this column is published. (See "The Internet has escaped the ax, at least in the US, at least for now"; "When does free mean none?"; "The non-Internet that never was but might be"; "US Congress passes another resolution opposing UN Internet takeover.") But the year was not all focused on the spectre of a United Nations takeover of the Internet.
The Internet as we know it might never have happened if the Comite Consultatif International Telephonique et Telegraphique (CCITT) had not turned down the offer of TCP/IP from Vint Cerf and other Internet pioneers about 35 years ago.
Regular as clockwork -- just after an election which generated far too many stories of people waiting far too long to vote (and far too many local election officials saying that everything went fine and that there were no problems) -- come the calls for voting via the Internet. The press wonders if we are a third-world country, politicians posture and most security experts say "don't go there."
The Copyright Clause in the U.S. Constitution reads: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." The copyright part of this clause -- the part referring to authors -- has become a stick to bludgeon technology, not just to protect authors' rights.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the potential impact of the verdict in the Apple v. Samsung patent case. The reaction from many readers who took the time to comment was, let's say, not supportive of the position I took in the column. You should take the time to read the comments -- they are enlightening -- but more about a very long-running split in the technical community than about the actual content of the column.
The International Telecommunications Union is scheduled to meet in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for two weeks in early December to revise the international treaties that define the ITU's role in the world. Many organizations have submitted proposals for changes to the existing treaties, which were last revised in the mostly pre-Internet era of 1988. One particular proposal, if adopted, has the potential of redefining the term "free" on the Internet to mean "none."
There has been a lot of speculation as to how a jury could have come up with such a one-sided verdict in as complicated and long a case as Apple vs. Samsung. I doubt anyone directly involved in the case would have predicted an outcome that looked remotely like this. But, I will leave speculation on that to others; instead I'd like to look at whether the verdict is good for us, and I think it is.
It would be nice if Apple were going to implement the technology in U.S. Patent No. 8,205,265, which was issued to the company in June. There's no reason to think that it will, but I hope Apple at least won't block others from doing so.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, along with a few friends, Monday performed the annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference keynote. The show must go on, even without Steve Jobs, and it sure did go on -- two well-packed hours of Apple mantra and mania. They did not talk about what I was watching for, but it turned out OK anyway.
The National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) held its annual Cable Show in Boston at the end of May. The opening remarks by Michael Powell, ex-chairman of the FCC and current head of the NCTA, were quite good, but he glossed over a basic conflict of interest present in today's cable business. Julius Genachowski, the current FCC chairman, did an even better job of ignoring this issue.
The first SMS-capable mobile phones were approved for sale in Europe 20 years ago this month. By any measure, SMS has become a huge success, at least for the telephone companies, with more than 6 trillion SMS messages sent worldwide in 2010, generating more than $110 billion in revenue. But the future may not be anywhere near as bright because of increasing use of "free" Internet-based services such as Facebook, Apple's iMessage and WhatsApp.com.
I have been far from nice when it comes to my opinion of NBC's understanding of the power of the Internet when it comes to Olympic coverage. Six years ago I had the Pollyannaish view that NBC would stumble on the Internet when it next broadcast the Olympics. ("The last pre-Internet Olympics?") I was wrong and complained again the next time the Olympics came around ("NBC Olympic coverage: Is the Internet the enemy?").
When The Guardian recently interviewed Google co-founder Sergey Brin as a teaser for its weeklong series of articles about the "Battle for the Internet," the publication got a good headline out of it: "Google's Brin: threats to web freedom 'greater then ever.'"
The Associated Press in late March reported on the issue of employers asking job applicants for their Facebook passwords, citing new and old incidents. The story apparently hit a sore point because it was all over the press within a day or so and in short order politicians were posturing and reaching for the limelight by introducing legislation to ban the practice and sending letters to enforcement agencies demanding action.
Why is it that companies that should know better embark on programs of customer abuse when they should stop and think like a customer, at least for a few seconds? This is a small tale of a company getting it right, then making three all-too-common mistakes. These are not the only ways a company can abuse its customers, but is an example of the kind of non-thinking that should be avoided.