2018/12/07: Because we live in the Stupidest Timeline, Mozilla find themselves needing to point out that MICROS~1 leaving the web browser market is bad for the web.
Stupidest. Stupidest, stupidest, stupidest timeline.
Mozilla Blog: Goodbye, EdgeHTML:
Microsoft is officially giving up on an independent shared platform for the internet. By adopting Chromium, Microsoft hands over control of even more of online life to Google. [...]
From a business point of view Microsoft's decision may well make sense. Google is so close to almost complete control of the infrastructure of our online lives that it may not be profitable to continue to fight this. [...] From a social, civic and individual empowerment perspective ceding control of fundamental online infrastructure to a single company is terrible. This is why Mozilla exists. We compete with Google not because it's a good business opportunity. We compete with Google because the health of the internet and online life depend on competition and choice. They depend on consumers being able to decide we want something better and to take action.
So that "this is why Mozilla exists" sentiment is great and all, but....
Remember back in the 90s when Gates was claiming that Internet Explorer was an inseparable part of the Windows operating system, and then someone asked him a question he couldn't answer: "Which part of Windows is Internet Explorer for Mac"?
Well, what part of "the health of the internet and online life depend on competition and choice" is served by Mozilla's partnership with vertically integrated, predatory multinational monopolists like Live Nation? Or by implementing DRM?
2018/11/29: Il rapporto dell'area Ricerche e studi di Mediobanca evidenzia però che la riforma fiscale varata dagli Stati Uniti nel dicembre 2017 ha generato un gettito più ampio rispetto ai risparmi, per effetto della "transition tax" pagata per rimpatriare gli utili cumulati all’estero. Alphabet (Google) dovrà versare al fisco statunitense 8,5 miliardi, Oracle 6,5 miliardi e Facebook 2,1 miliardi
2018/11/23: Data breaches at Facebook and Google—and along with Amazon, those firms' online dominance—crest a growing wave of anxiety around the internet's evolving structure and its impact on humanity. Three keys to the decades-long global expansion of the internet and the World Wide Web are breaking down.
The first key is the “procrastination principle,” a propensity to “set it and forget it” without attempting to predict and avert every imaginable problem. The networks' framers established a set of simple and freely available protocols for communicating over the internet, then stepped back to let competitive markets and cooperative pursuits work their magic.
The second key is the networks' layered architecture. For the internet, this meant that people could concern themselves with, say, writing applications to read and send email without having to know anything about what happens “below,” such as how bits find their way from sender to recipient. By the same token, those rolling out physical infrastructure didn't need to know or predict anything about how it would be used by the applications “above.”
The third key flows from the first two: decentralization. The internet and the web were designed not to create new gatekeepers, in part because regulatory bodies had little awareness of these protocols, let alone a hand in structuring them. A website hosted in Romania would still be just a click away for a user in Canada, without authorization by some centralized party.
Today, the principles of layers and decentralization are badly fraying, which risks transforming the principle of procrastination into one of abdication.
First, the issue of centralization. Surfing the web can now mean simply jumping among Amazon Web Services' hosting servers. If such a major network of servers—or one of the top domain name resolution providers—were to stop working, whole swaths of the internet would go down with it.
Second, formerly separate layers of the internet's architecture are blurring. The runaway success of a few startups has created new, proprietized one-stop platforms. Many people are not really using the web at all, but rather flitting among a small handful of totalizing apps like Facebook and Google. And those application-layer providers have dabbled in providing physical-layer internet access. Facebook's Free Basics program has been one of several experiments that use broadband data cap exceptions to promote some sites and services over others.
What to do? Columbia University law professor Tim Wu has called upon regulators to break up giants like Facebook, but more subtle interventions should be tried first. Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee's Contract for the Web offers a set of principles for governments, companies, and individuals, focusing on internet accessibility, user privacy, and a form of “re-decentralization” to revitalize one key to the network's success. On the technical side, he has launched Solid, a “relayerizing” separation of data from application: Users can maintain their own data (whether in a server in their living room or in the hands of a trusted proxy), and application providers would have to negotiate access rather than hoard the data themselves. And as Yale University law professor Jack Balkin and I have argued, those firms that do leverage users' data should be “information fiduciaries,” obliged to use what they learn in ways that reflect a loyalty to users' interests. These interventions represent meaningful action, while procrastinating a bit longer on the stronger medicine of forced corporate breakup.
The internet was designed to be resilient and flexible, without need for drastic intervention. But its trends toward centralization, and exploitation of its users, call for action.
2017/10/22: Parent company Alphabet would provide services in response to data harvested. a city “where buildings have no static use”. Like biomass
Alphabet’s long-term goal is to remove barriers to the accumulation and circulation of capital in urban settings – mostly by replacing formal rules and restrictions with softer, feedback-based floating targets. It claims that in the past “prescriptive measures were necessary to protect human health, ensure safe buildings, and manage negative externalities”. Today, however, everything has changed and “cities can achieve those same goals without the inefficiency that comes with inflexible zoning and static building codes”.
This is a remarkable statement. Even neoliberal luminaries such as Friedrich Hayek and Wilhelm Röpke allowed for some non-market forms of social organisation in the urban domain. They saw planning – as opposed to market signals – as a practical necessity imposed by the physical limitations of urban spaces: there was no other cheap way of operating infrastructure, building streets, avoiding congestion.
For Alphabet, these constraints are no more: ubiquitous and continuous data flows can finally replace government rules with market signals. Now, everything is permitted – unless somebody complains.
Google Urbanism means the end of politics, as it assumes the impossibility of wider systemic transformations, such as limits on capital mobility and foreign ownership of land and housing. Instead it wants to mobilise the power of technology to help residents “adjust” to seemingly immutable global trends such as rising inequality and constantly rising housing costs (Alphabet wants us to believe that they are driven by costs of production, not by the seemingly endless supply of cheap credit).
2018/10/02: Traditionally, geothermal systems are custom made for homes. But Dandelion wanted to automate the manufacturing process and make the system work with every home.
"One thing we looked for at X was adding technology to an industry that hasn't benefited [from tech]," Hannun said. "I started working on it part-time. About two-thirds of the year in [we realized], 'There's something here. Let's focus on it.'"
The startup claims Dandelion Air is four times more efficient than furnaces, and almost twice as efficient as traditional air conditioning systems. It also comes with a Nest learning thermostat and a monitoring system to track its performance.
2018/09/25: During the first days of September, many Venezuelan Internet users reported having difficulties accessing Google services through the state-run Internet service provider, CANTV, the largest telecommunications company in Venezuela. The service seemed to be working again by mid September, but the conversation revealed the many ways online users are deprived of information and communication online.
Blogspot, Hangouts, Google Drive, and image services, including Gmail attachments were among the services affected.
A Venezuelan civil society group, said that Facebook and Twitter had also been affected by the outage.
2017/04/24: At its peak, Google had a massive and loyal user-base across a staggering number of products, but advertising revenue was the glue that held everything together. As the numbers waned, Google’s core began to buckle under the weight of its vast empire.
Google was a driving force in the technology industry ever since its disruptive entry in 1998. But in a world where people despised ads, Google’s business model was not innovation-friendly, and they missed several opportunities to pivot, ultimately rendering their numerous grand and ambitious projects unsustainable. Innovation costs money, and Google’s main stream of revenue had started to dry up.
In a few short years, Google had gone from a fun, commonplace verb to a reminder of how quickly a giant can fall.
2018/09/24: Snippets are being edited to improve/damage reputation or send certain signals to different audiences.
While the changes in the Bipartisan Report panel illustrate the possible use of the Wikipedia snippets to either damage or salvage the reputation of a publisher, there are other changes that are puzzling in their nature. Here is one, concerning the magazine American Renaissance, a white supremacist publication.
Figure 5: Knowledge Panels for American Renaissance on Jan and Sep 2018. The change of the text snippets makes one wonder which audiences are being targeted.
Both text snippets shown in Figure 5 acknowledge that American Renaissance is a white supremacist publication, but the provenance of the categorization differs. In January, the snippet lists third-party, well-known organizations as sources for the “white supremacist” label, however, in the September snippet, we read that the publisher self-describes as a “white-advocacy organization”. This shift of perspective (who does the labeling?) needs to be a matter of debate. Should these information panels tell us what the organizations think about themselves (how is this different from “About Us” pages which literacy experts suggest to avoid) or how other (especially watchdog) organizations regard them?
I don’t know how we can solve these issues without increasing the burden on Wikipedia editors. However, I think it’s important to raise awareness about these issues, so that we continue to actively address them. Furthermore, Google and Facebook need to better acknowledge the limitations of their initiatives and increase their support for Wikipedia and other knowledge production organizations.
2018/09/23: Changes at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and in US courts’ outcomes may have already meant that patent trolls rather than software patents in general are a growing threat, including those that Microsoft is backing, funding and arming to put legal pressure on GNU/Linux (and compel people/companies to host GNU/Linux instances on Azure for patent ‘protection’ from these trolls).
HE situation at the USPTO has changed in recent years. AIA introduced the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and inter partes reviews (IPRs) — together with 35 U.S.C. § 101 as relevant law — helped eliminate a lot of software patents which had been granted for a couple of decades.
These changes posed a problem not just for patent trolls and bullies but also law firms and bodies whose sole purpose was to ‘protect’ from these patent trolls and bullies. Some were rendered moot or redundant. See the demise of RPX for example. Well, what about Open Invention Network (OIN)? The terrain is changing and OIN is totally failing to adapt. It’s still stuck in the past.
OIN’s Jaime Siegel and Mirko Boehm reappeared several days ago. Usually it is their CEO who appears in the media.
OIN has such a misguided and pointless strategy these days that even the patent trolls’ proponents can support these people. Watchtroll entertains Jaime Siegel, OIN’s Global Director of Licensing (yes, licensing!). It’s a large “cross-license agreement” — one that Oracle did not even seem to obey when it sued Google over Android/Java. Abolish software patents instead
2012/10/02: However inevitable, Diaspora's demise arrives at a time when Moglen's darkest fears have come to bear and the need for a secure, privacy conscious way to connect with others has never been greater. In a post-Facebook world, many of the brands we've come to trust as the linchpins of a new era of democratic communication have turned their backs on such ideals in search of profits. And when the government increasingly beckons, firms like Google and Twitter are having a harder time saying no.
Google's latest transparency report revealed that the U.S. is now a leader in Web censorship, submitting 6,192 items to be removed across 187 requests, more than any other country and up 103 percent over the prior year. It's no different for Twitter whose frequent reluctance to cooperate with law enforcement didn't stop it from complying with most government requests: last year, it supplied some or all of the information requested 75 percent of the time. Earlier this year, the site acknowledged that it would begin censoring Tweets when governments asked it to do so.
2018/09/13: Racist bridges aren’t the only inanimate objects that have had quiet, clandestine control over people.
the residents of Scunthorpe, in the north of England, who were blocked from opening AOL accounts after the internet giant created a new profanity filter that objected to the name of their town.
an automatic hand-soap dispenser that perfectly released soap whenever white hands where placed under it did not recognize as hands those of a Nigerian man.
they discovered that home cooks were less likely to make claims on their home insurance and were therefore more profitable. The most significant item that gives you away as a responsible, house-proud person more than any other was fresh fennel.
there are concerns about this kind of data profiling being used in an exclusionary way: motorbike enthusiasts being deemed to have a risky hobby or people who eat sugar-free sweets being flagged as diabetic and turned down for insurance as a result. A study from 2015 demonstrated that Google was serving far fewer ads for high-paying executive jobs to women who were surfing the web than to men.
searches for “black-sounding names” were disproportionately likely to be linked to ads containing the word “arrest” (for example, “Have you been arrested?”) than those with “white-sounding names.”
2018/05/08: Apple has dominated the education market for a generation. However, in recent years, Google seems to be challenging Apple for domination of the education sector. Google is an excellent option for cash-strapped districts.
Chromebooks are substantially less expensive than Apple's laptops.
schools can begin and remain within the Google ecosystem and not face an awkward transition at the beginning of third grade.
Google products show a high degree of compatibility with each other, which makes things much easier for teachers and students.
data increasingly shows that these days, even tech workers feel squeezed by the Bay Area's scorching prices. Fifty-eight percent of tech workers surveyed recently said they have delayed starting a family due to the rising cost of living, according to a poll that included employees from Apple, Uber, Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Lyft, and other Bay Area companies.
The average base salary for a software engineer at Apple is $121,083 a year, the article notes, yet the company also had the largest percentage of surveyed tech employees who said they'd been force to delay starting their families -- 69%.
Anywhere else in the country, we'd be successful people who owned a home and didn't worry about anything. Not HERE.
2018/09/13: A list that names seven employees who say they quit their jobs at Google over a lack of corporate transparency is circulating within the company’s ranks. The departures follow the controversial revelation of Google’s work on Project Dragonfly, a censored search app for the China market. Employees shared the list of names on an email list dedicated to discussions of ethics and transparency issues at Google.
While current employees declined to provide the list itself or to specify most of the names on it, three sources familiar with the matter confirmed the existence of the list, which is made up largely of software engineers whose experience at Google ranges between one and 11 years.
2018/09/14: Google built a prototype of a censored search engine for China that links users’ searches to their personal phone numbers, thus making it easier for the Chinese government to monitor people’s queries, The Intercept can reveal.
The search engine, codenamed Dragonfly, was designed for Android devices, and would remove content deemed sensitive by China’s ruling Communist Party regime, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest.
Sources familiar with Dragonfly said the search platform also appeared to have been tailored to replace weather and air pollution data with information provided directly by an unnamed source in Beijing.
2018/01/20: AMP makes even easier for Google to monitor what everybody is doing online. It also means more of the web will be shaped by Google.
AMP may also make sharing more difficult, and sometimes censorship easier
2018/01/17: DuckDuckGo gives as first result the most, if not the only correct answer to whoever would be interested in that post today: the current link to the original version, on the (current) website of its author. DuckDuckGo gets things right. Google does not (not at the time of writing, of course).
In India, American companies dominate the internet. Facebook's WhatsApp is the most popular app on phones. Virtually every smartphone runs on Google's Android system. YouTube is the favorite video platform and Amazon is the No. 2 online retailer. For some Indian political leaders, it is as being conquered by colonial powers all over again.
"As a country, we have to all grow up and say that, you know, enough of this,"
India is currently the most important country in term of defining the future of Internet policy. It sits at the fulcrum between the United States and China. As it goes, so goes the world."