Tag: internet

The innocent internet, safe from prying eyes

Sunday, 4 March, 2018 0 Comments

In 1995, A Crooked Man by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt was published by Warner Books. Blurb: “Part political thriller, part murder mystery, A Crooked Man is a gripping and superbly constructed novel which takes us into the dark heart of American society.”

Those who cannot imagine life without the internet, and many who regard the year 1995 as the Stone Age, might be surprised to learn that the World Wide Web was part of the communications mix two decades ago. The scene: Washington D.C. The players: Senator Nick Schlafer and the Secretary of the Department of Drug Control, Emery Frankfurt.

“Incidentally, we’re getting a surprising amount of support around the country. In the boondocks, even.”
“What makes you think so?”
“We’ve taken polls.”
Emery laughed. “I’d like to see them.”
“You can. I’ll have Segal fax you a printout.”
“Have him send it by modem over Internet. Saves paper and it’ll stay on the computer, out of the way of prying eyes.”
“Fine. I’ll see to it.”

It would stay on the computer and would be safe from prying eyes there. How quaint. And then along came the thieves, chief among them, Edward Snowden, and nothing would be safe on the computer again.

WWW circa 1995


Europe sans platforms

Wednesday, 15 November, 2017 0 Comments

Internet platforms are eating the world and the value of the top US platforms now exceeds $1.8 trillion. Europe, meanwhile, has no internet platform and neither does it have a single tech company in the list of the global top 50 firms. Martin Wolf of the FT examines this sad and humiliating state of affairs.

The platforms


Post from Kathmandu

Wednesday, 10 May, 2017 0 Comments

One in two Nepalis now use the internet, according to the latest report by the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA). There are 14.18 million internet subscribers in the landlocked Himalayan country, or nearly 56 percent of the national population of 26.49 million, writes The Kathmandu Post. “The report shows that internet penetration has increased by a whopping 18.22 percent over the year ending mid-February,” says the Post, adding: “Almost all the growth in web connectivity has come from mobiles as more and more people are using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.”

Mr. Digambar Jha  Chairman of the NTA The Malaysian company Ncell has 6.21 million subscribers, representing 42.05 percent of the market. It posted a 2.4 percent growth in revenue in 2016, “driven by a significant rise in its data receipts.”

This news will be welcomed by Mr. Digambar Jha, the Chairman of the NTA. His rivals for the job challenged his appointment on the that he did not possess the required qualifications for the post. They pointed out that while he did hold a BA in mechanical engineering, he had no expertise in the telecom sector. The court, however, sided with Chairman Jha.

Meanwhile in Nepal, “A cholera epidemic since the past few days in Musahar settlement in Kachanari of Bariyarpatti Village Council of Siraha has claimed a girl,” reports The Post.


Yahoo and the end of Web 1.0

Thursday, 28 July, 2016 1 Comment

More than a billion people now check Facebook on their phones every single day. The social network revealed this new milestone last night when it released its impressive second-quarter earnings. What’s that got to do with Yahoo and the headline on this post? Well, context is important. Consider these stats:

Facebook now owns a $17-billion-a-year mobile ad business. In the second quarter, mobile sales made up 84 percent of its $6.24 billion in advertising revenue. Overall, the social network reported $2.05 billion in profit, up 186 percent year-over-year, on $6.43 billion in total revenue, which rose 59 percent compared to the same period last year. And Facebook ended the second quarter with 1.71 billion monthly active users.

Which brings us to Yahoo, which was was acquired on Monday by an American telephone company, Verizon, which paid $4.8 billion for the brand and its internet properties. The cause of this ignominious end was simple: Yahoo became irrelevant for adults quite some time ago, and young people don’t use it at all. They spend their time now on Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Spotify and Facebook.

Yahoo’s major missed opportunity was the rise of the mobile web. That failure had a lot to do with the short stint as CEO of Scott Thompson, who departed in a cloud of controversy. Distracted by its internal troubles, the company took its eye off the ball, as it were, at a critical moment. Thompson was replaced in July 2012 by Marissa Mayer, who bought Tumblr for a billion dollars in an attempt to attract younger internet users. A blogging platform is not what the yoof wanted, though.

Note: Yahoo had the chance to buy Google for $1 million and Facebook for $1 billion.

The new benchmark is that more than a billion people check Facebook on their phones every day. The old benchmark was Yahoo’s directory of websites and this week began with the purchase of the gravestone. Yahoo belongs, with the rotary phone, to another era, and its departure marks the end of Web 1.0. Those riding high on the Web 2.0 wave now should remember, however, that “the bubble fame” does burst and voice-based interfaces on devices such as Amazon’s Alexa are moving the web beyond browsers and smartphones. Blink, and you miss it. Yahoo fell asleep and its legacy includes happy memories of the “Site of the Day” feature. The web was young then. It’s mobile now.


#IoTDay today and the glass is filling

Saturday, 9 April, 2016 0 Comments

It’s the fifth annual Internet of Things Day today. In a much-quoted report about the IoT issued in November last year, the Gartner research firm predicted that “6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. In 2016, 5.5 million new things will get connected every day.”

These are astonishing numbers and they reinforce the notion that the internet is ubiquitous. Blake Snow considers the implications of this in The Atlantic in a piece titled What Would a World Without Internet Look Like? He quotes the academic Clay Shirky, who thinks that it’s futile now to separate the net from everyday life: “the Internet has become our civilization,” says Shirky.

This is a philosophy that would be endorsed by Kevin Kelly, the founding executive editor of Wired magazine. Two years ago, in a post on Medium, he looked at innovation from the viewpoints of 1984 and 2044, and concluded: “Can you imagine how awesome it would have been to be an entrepreneur in 2014? It was a wide-open frontier! You could pick almost any category X and add some AI to it, put it on the cloud.”

Glass There is, however, a different take on the IoT and it was expressed, also in 2014, by Bruce Sterling, the science fiction author, in “The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things.” This long-form composition was in the style of his 2005 book Shaping Things. For Sterling, the IoT is an ominous social transformation: omnipresent automation via digital surveillance enabled by wireless broadband. Snippet:

“So, let’s imagine that the reader has a smartphone in one hand, as most people in the Twenty-Teens most definitely tend to. In the other hand, the reader has some ‘Thing’. Let’s say it’s the handle of his old-fashioned domestic vacuum cleaner, which is a relic of yesterday’s standard consumer economy.

As he cheerfully vacuums his home carpet while also checking his Facebook prompts, because the chore of vacuuming is really boring, the reader naturally thinks: ‘Why are these two objects in my two hands living in such separate worlds? In my left hand I have my wonderfully advanced phone with Facebook — that’s the ‘internet’. But in my right hand I have this noisy, old-fashioned, ineffective, analogue ‘thing’! For my own convenience as a customer and consumer, why can’t the ‘internet’ and this ‘thing’ be combined?”

And then it turns pessimistic. Meanwhile, here’s wishing you a Happy #IoTDay! 🙂


Subject: [email protected]

Monday, 7 March, 2016 0 Comments

It was Ray Tomlinson who implemented the first email system on the ARPANET, the precursor of the internet, and it was Ray Tomlinson who decided on the @ symbol for use in email addresses. He died on Saturday aged 74. This snippet from the “Official Biography of Raymond Tomlinson” at the Internet Hall of Fame puts his ingenuity in context:

“Tomlinson’s email program brought about a complete revolution, fundamentally changing the way people communicate, including the way businesses, from huge corporations to tiny mom-and-pop shops, operate and the way millions of people shop, bank, and keep in touch with friends and family, whether they are across town or across oceans. Today, tens of millions of email-enabled devices are in use every day. Email remains the most popular application, with over a billion and a half users spanning the globe and communicating across the traditional barriers of time and space.”

Ray Tomlinson was a hero of the Digital Age.


The digital dividends and divides of 2016

Friday, 15 January, 2016 0 Comments

The internet. What’s it good for? Lots. It can help boost trade, improve economies, distribute knowledge and create jobs for the marginalized. Who says? The World Bank says. That’s why it called the document it released yesterday “World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends.” The key word there is “dividends”. But we don’t live in a perfect world so the report notes that “better educated, well connected, and more capable have received most of the benefits — circumscribing the gains from the digital revolution.” Not everyone has collected those digital dividends, in other words.

Still, it’s quite a leap to portray the the report as an indictment of the internet, but that’s exactly what the Guardian did in a story hilariously titled “Silicon Valley tech firms exacerbating income inequality, World Bank warns.” This is so comical that one can imagine Evgeny Morozov writing it. Instead, Danny Yadron “in San Francisco” is responsible. Anyway, back to the World Bank report. It presents a picture of a divided world in which 60 percent of people are still offline, four billion don’t have internet access, some two billion do not use a mobile phone and and almost half a billion live outside areas with a mobile signal. And what happens when the internet impacts?

“Many advanced economies face increasingly polarized labor markets and rising inequality — in part because technology augments higher skills while replacing routine jobs, forcing many workers to compete for low-paying jobs. Public sector investments in digital technologies, in the absence of accountable institutions, amplify the voice of elites, which can result in policy capture and greater state control. And because the economics of the internet favor natural monopolies, the absence of a competitive business environment can result in more concentrated markets, benefiting incumbent firms.”

To counter this, the World Bank recommends that governments lower barriers to internet adoption with rules that encourage competition and innovation, and investing in “analog complements,” such as basic education. Quote: “Many poor lack the basic literacy and numeracy skills needed to use the internet. In Mali and Uganda, about three-quarters of third-grade children cannot read. In Afghanistan and Niger, 7 of 10 adults are illiterate.” Those divides need to be closed before those dividends become real.

Note: Those tech companies castigated by the Guardian are committed to bringing internet access to the four corners of the world. Google’s Project Loon is set to float over Indonesia and Facebook’s Internet.org will offer mobile web access to people in India and Egypt. And both are experimenting with providing internet access using solar-powered, high-altitude drones. Yes, we need to ensure that these companies don’t become synonymous with the internet, but neither should we resort to paranoia about their innovations. Those digital dividends depend on closing those divides.


Mahabir Pun

Friday, 11 December, 2015 1 Comment

This just in: “Helping out in Barpak is Nepal’s internet maverick, Mahabir Pun, who is replicating his work in establishing wireless connectivity in Kaski and Myagdi in the earthquake affected districts of Gorkha and Lamjung. Eight schools and three health posts will be connected with up to six hotspots allowing classes to have e-learning and providing health posts access to tele-medicine.” The Nepali Times

Born in a remote village in the Myagdi District of western Nepal, Mahabir Pun spent his childhood herding yaks in the shadow of the Himalayas, and intermittently attending the local school, which had neither chalk, textbooks, pens or certified teachers. Today, Mahabir Pun is the team leader of the Nepal Wireless Networking Project, which uses a mix of solar power, tree-based relay systems and wireless technology to help families communicate, yak farmers sell their products, trekking businesses find customers and children get an education via distance learning.

It’s an inspiring story and Mahabir Pun has been deservedly inducted in to the Internet Hall of Fame and awarded the Jonathan B. Postel Service Award by the Internet Society. Hiking for Emails was made by Clemens Purner, an Austrian director based in Berlin.


The magical words of Mary Meeker

Thursday, 28 May, 2015 0 Comments

The famous Mary Meeker, formerly an internet stock analyst at Morgan Stanley and now a partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, yesterday delivered her 20th annual “State of the Internet” presentation. The venue was the Code Conference in California. Seven highlights:

  • Population usage of mobile phones grew from 1 percent globally in 1995 to 73 percent in 2014.
  • Consumer drone shipments jumped 167 percent in 2014, to 4.3 million units.
  • Smartphone adoption is slowing: 23 percent growth in 2014 compared to 27 percent in 2013.
  • Twitch has 100 million monthly active users for its live streaming, up 122 percent.
  • Video constituted 64 percent of internet traffic and 55 percent of mobile traffic in 2014.
  • India was the top country in internet user additions last year: up 63 million.
  • WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, Kakao and Snapchat will evolve into multipurpose content hubs.

Approaching the end of her presentation, Meeker said that the most magical words you can hear are: “That’s really interesting, I had never thought of it that way before.”


BlackBerry vs. iPhone: beauty matters

Monday, 25 May, 2015 0 Comments

When the iPhone first appeared in 2007, senior management at RIM were convinced that their customers valued the iconic BlackBerry keyboard far more than the innovative Apple touchscreen. The mobile business was about security and efficiency instead of novelty and entertainment, they believed. In the Wall Street Journal, Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff examine this fatal shortsightedness in The Inside Story of How the iPhone Crippled BlackBerry. Snippet:

‘By all rights the product should have failed, but it did not,’ said David Yach, RIM’s chief technology officer. To Mr. Yach and other senior RIM executives, Apple changed the competitive landscape by shifting the raison d’être of smartphones from something that was functional to a product that was beautiful.

‘I learned that beauty matters… RIM was caught incredulous that people wanted to buy this thing,’ Mr. Yach says.”

Did video really kill the radio star? Tech historians still debate that question, but they are less divided by this fact: The inability of RIM to combine seamless internet access with an aesthetically pleasing experience mortally wounded the BlackBerry.

BlackBerry


Marc Andreessen, with footnotes

Monday, 20 October, 2014 0 Comments

There’s a nice bit of footnote CSS behind this New York interview with Marc Andreessen, “The tall, bald, spring-loaded venture capitalist, who invented the first mainstream internet browser, co-founded Netscape, then made a fortune as an early investor in Twitter and Facebook…”

Mouse over “Foxconn 15” and out at the side pops “In January, Foxconn was reportedly in talks with several states about building a plant in the United States.” Behind the scenes, the magic is created by the following:

CSS NY

And the result is:

CSS

Andreessen comes across as a hard-headed libertarian, very much in synch with the Valley ethos, but critical enough and informed enough to know how the world works. Typical of the Q&A exchanges with Kevin Roose:

And yet we have more internal inequality in San Francisco than we do in Rwanda.

So then move to Rwanda and see how that works out for you. I think you just answered your own question.