Topic internet

Usenet and the origins of social exchange on the Internet

in internet on (#2RXW)
story imageSlate is running an interesting piece called "The First Gay Space on the Internet". But it's only marginally about homosexuality; it's really a look at how people use the Internet to meet, exchange opinions, and discuss things of interest. And that makes it relevant even today.
Many newsgroups were purely informational, useful for technical discussions or sharing of news or jokes or porn. But soc.motss was genuinely a new kind of community, a diverse set of people who felt at home and most like themselves on the Net, and who had discussions there that they couldn't have anywhere else. Before Facebook preferred status updates to long posts and Twitter reduced the size of a rebuttal to 140 characters, soc.motss proved that online discourse was indeed compatible with open-mindedness, subtlety, and civility.
The article goes back to a time when bandwidth was limited and expensive, and people took a long time to compose and write down their thoughts before posting. It points out early newsreaders were unthreaded, so any newsgroup was bound to have more readers than contributors. The Internet has come a long way from then, but the long, written form is in decline, and quick, heat-of-the-moment posts or diatribes are more the norm.

If you agree, click the "like" button and then move on.

Google "picture" tag now in Google Chrome/HTML 5.1

in internet on (#2RXA)
What's wrong with the good old "img" tag in HTML code for images? In a word, it's a tag that links to a graphic image of specific size and proportions.
[The folks at Google think the new picture tag] could usher in a new era of responsive design. The basic idea behind the concept of responsive design is that a given web site will scale and render appropriately for a specific screen size, whether that screen is attached to a desktop PC or a smartphone.

We'll find out soon enough. Google has proposed it for the new HTML 5.1 spec, and built it into a beta version of Chrome. More comments on Slashdot here.

Mozilla rolls out sponsored link tiles

in internet on (#2RAB)
story imageYou'd think that Mozilla, whose Firefox browser is dropping in popularity alongside the now ubiquitous Google Chrome, would be desperate to incorporate new features that allow Firefox to regain its leadership marketshare. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the approach they're taking.

Instead, they've added a feature where new pages show sponsored advertisements. From TheNextWeb:
Mozilla has rolled out directory tiles, the company's advertising experiment for its browser's new tab page, to the Firefox Nightly channel. ... News of the non-profit organization's plan to sell ads in Firefox first broke back in February 2014. The Directory Tiles program is designed to "improve the first-time-with-Firefox experience," the company says. Instead of seeing blank tiles when a new Firefox user opens a new tab, Mozilla thought it would be best that they see "content." ... As you use Firefox, the rectangle tiles on the new tab page are populated with the most frequent and recent websites you visit. Since they start as empty (because new users naturally have no browser history), however, Mozilla sees the new tab page as both an opportunity to provide "inherent value" to the user, as well as an opportunity to generate revenue.
[Ed. note: this article posted using Chrome.]

4chan post screenshot sells for $90K

in internet on (#3Y2)
story imageWhat is art? Depends on who you ask. But according to anonymous over 4chan, "Art used to something you cherish. Now literally anything is art. This post is art." Precient! Because a screenshot - flash glare and all - of that post has just been sold on an ebay art market for over ninety thousand dollars.
An eBay auction for "Artwork by Anonymous," which is a 4chan screenshot printed out on regular printer paper (pictured above), sold this weekend for $90,900 after 45 bids. The piece, if we're really going to take this seriously, asks you to consider whether or not society has an eroded definition of what we cherish as art. Looking at this auction, we're thinking it does.

This is the entire product description:

"This auction is for a One of a Kind work of art by Anonymous. This work is untitled. This item will be shipped in a frame for convenience.
If you think about it, it's a pretty great deal, since that convenient frame was thrown in for free. A+++, would buy again.

Verizon Forcing and Tricking Customers Off Copper

Anonymous Coward
in internet on (#3XY)
story imageThis just in: Verizon is still as evil as any taxpayer-subsidized monopoly can be. Which is to say, very.

That endlessly reliable copper telephone network that stretches across the country, carries its own power, and serves as a literal lifeline for millions of people even in the event of catastrophes? The one that's incredibly subsidized right down to the "Universal Service Fund" intended to protect poor and rural citizens? Yeah, that one. Ars Technica's got a nice write-up of how Verizon is doing everything it can, legally and illegally, to let the network fall into disrepair and to literally trick customers into switching into its "now! with a whole 8 hour battery life!" replacement over fiber.

It doesn't help that POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) over fiber is very different from the FiOS Internet+TV over fiber offering, and that Verizon has done everything possible to hide that distinction in order to get people paying for their FiOS Internet and TV service (which, in turn have moved quickly from "hey, cheaper than cable and sweet fast Internet" to "WTF who pays that kind of money for this stuff" in just a few years as they put the hook in). They can switch your regular telephone line from copper to fiber without any change in service at all. (Except for the whole "now you have 8 hours to live" thing.)

That, and getting rid of copper maintenance saves them a lot of cash internally. Oh yeah, it also means that once your copper is ripped out you can NEVER get DSL from Verizon or ANYONE else -- giving VZ and your cableco a de facto duopoly over you ever getting wired Internet access. Ever compared the cost Verizon's own $20/month DSL to its FiOS Internet-only service that STARTS at $75/month ?

This is all quite old news to anyone paying attention, but Ars lays out the sad story pretty well.

As a tiny aside I found it amusing that Verizon doesn't own the domain.

The cable guys have now become the internet guys

in internet on (#3WY)
story imageIt's official, folks: cable companies now have more subscribers for broadband internet than they have for video. Not by much, but still ... it's a landmark, and an important one. Ever wonder why the broadband companies are fighting so hard to do away with net neutrality? It's because they see the same writing on the wall that you do: the days of cable video are over, and they're desperate to turn the new business into their old business.
The top cable guys now have 49,915,000 Internet subscribers, compared to 49,910,000 TV subscribers. And to be sure, most cable customers are getting both services. Still, this is directionally important. The future for the pay TV guys isn't selling you pay TV - it's selling you access to data pipes, and pay TV will be one of the things you use those pipes for. ... Some smart people suggest that the cable guys would not be unhappy if most of their business moved over to broadband instead of video, since there are much better margins - and almost no competition - for broadband. is reporting the same thing, with some added information:
Cord cutting? Not entirely. Many likely switched to AT&T's U-verse or Verizon FiOS, which together added 290,000 video customers. ... Adjusting for household growth it appears that cord cutting slowed to an annualized rate of less than 400K homes, a meaningful deceleration and well below the peak (but still modest) rates of cord cutting seen in 2012. ... Cable companies had 59% of the wired broadband market. The bottom line: The 'dying dinosaur' Pay TV industry is growing revenue more than twice as fast as the wireless industry.

Twitter under fire for failing to deal with horrific trolls

in internet on (#3VP)
Maybe humans are just intrinsically jerks. Or some of them. Or maybe jerks are attracted to the Internet to do their dirty work. Who knows. What's indisputable is that a lot of unpleasant people have wound up on Twitter and Twitter has roundly failed to effectively control them. This has made headlines again in the shadow of actor Robin Williams' suicide, as his daughter Zelda has announced she is leaving Twitter due to the extraordinary abuse she endured there.

The Atlantic has posted a good piece on the subject, declaring "As it considers revising its rules on abuse, the company must decide which users it really values." And quick, too. Twitter's market value is stagnant and the platform's founders are struggling to figure out ways to make Twitter a newly dynamic, vital site to which advertisers will flock. Letting the world think participating on its site exposes you to this kind of unchecked abuse isn't going to help. From the Atlantic:
Twitter, though, has structured its architecture for reporting abuse particularly poorly: It effectively rewards abusers while discouraging support, solidarity, and intervention for their victims. ... Every platform has values and regulation built into its very structure, built by human designers who make choices about which values to promote and which to inhibit. ... Mass abuse happens fast, and targeted users can drown in a sea of abuse within minutes: The journalist Caroline Criado-Perez received one rape threat per minute after daring to suggest that a woman be featured on British currency.
Your move, Twitter.

John McAfee starts Brownlist, the complaint engine

in internet on (#3T2)
John McAfee, eccentric security pioneer turned Belize wanted criminal, made an appearance at Defcon22 to unveil his latest creation, The Brown List.

Tech Times writes:
John McAfee announced The Brown List in a surprise appearance in Las Vegas at the Defcon, the largest gathering of computer hackers in the world. While the site sounds like it's just a magnet for rants, McAfee looks at it differently. "This taps into anger in a positive way. Instead of getting angry and shooting at somebody on the highway, or yelling at your wife, you can log onto the site. Instead of just lashing out, give us your positive solutions

Facebook pivots on privacy again: for the better

in internet on (#3RX)
story imageFacebook is revamping its stance on privacy again. Slate writes:
Remember when Mark Zuckerberg didn't believe in privacy? When he argued that it was "no longer a social norm"? When Facebook employees wouldn't even use the word "privacy" at a forum about the future of privacy? That was then. Now, it seems, privacy is back-not just as a social norm, but as a business model.
A good read, by Will Orison. He reviews a number of serious changes over the past six months and identifies a trend. This is good for the consumer, so let's hope the shift is industry-wide.

[Ed. note: I conclude that Zuckerberg's occasional "declaration" sounds like uncontrovertable fact but is usually a desperate attempt to make what's good for his greedy little company sound like what the consumer wants or deserves. This step back shows he is sometimes obliged to eat some crow pie. Bon appetite, Zuck.]

Fog Creek Software's Trello has spun-off into a $10M Company

in internet on (#3RS)
story imageIf you're never used Trello before, I'd highly encourage you to do so. It's the equivalent of a digital whiteboard that allows teams to organize, collaborate, and collectively manage tasks. I discovered it in about 2011, set up a free Trello board for the team and project I manage, and have had no regrets at all: people love it, it's easy to use, and makes it easy to stay organized via tablet, phone, or desktop.

And now, it's an independent company. The Wall Street Journal reports:
For the second time, Fog Creek Software Inc. has spun out a company-Trello Inc., an internal project management tool that became so popular, according to the founders, it needed to exist on its own. ... Trello takes with it $10.3 million in funding and follows a familiar path of companies that grew up around tools created somewhere else. Twitter Inc. started out as twttr, a short message service used internally by the podcasting company Odeo, while Yammer, acquired by Microsoft Corp. in 2012 for $1.2 billion, was an internal communications tool for the geneology website ...

"It reminds us of the early traction that Dropbox"and other apps up there had that have grabbed individuals and caused them to start using it and bring it to work and convince teams and colleagues to use it and it's gradually taken over organizations," said Index Partner Neil Rimer, whose brother Danny, also an Index partner, invested in Dropbox for that firm. "It turns out to be a better solution than the stuff at the top that's driven into the organization by policy."
That last comment is a not-very-veiled swipe at SharePoint, and it fits my experience perfectly: management requires it, even though it's almost totally useless for our purposes.

Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Fog Creek Software, tells the story beautifully over at the company blog. Clearly, there's still tons of money to be made simply by creating things that help people accomplish things more efficiently. As an avid Trello advocate, I'm raising a glass to these guys [and hoping under the new arrangement corporate ownership doesn't screw the pooch or raise prices, etc.]