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July 5, 2004

Internet Revolutionaries [7:31 pm]

A profile of the KazaA/Skype business model (and the founders) in The Economist: Face value [via BusinessPundit]

On the face of it, file-swapping and telephony have little in common. But both, it turns out, can be implemented using “peer-to-peer” technology, in which PCs connected to the internet via broadband connections organise themselves into a network. It is then possible to send data, whether media files or phone calls, from one PC to another efficiently. Many of the lessons that Mr Zennstrom and Mr Friis learned from building the file-sharing system behind KaZaA–in particular, the idea that some computers should act as “supernodes” to speed the transfer of data–could thus be applied to internet telephony through Skype. The supernodes, for instance, help to eliminate the delays and drop-outs that can plague internet telephony.

[...] Mr Zennstrom thinks that merely linking traditional and internet-based phone systems is an inelegant halfway house. He is more radical, believing that all calls will migrate to the internet and be provided via software alone, with no need for any dedicated infrastructure. Telephony will be another free internet service, like e-mail and web browsing are today. (Skype plans to make money by charging for extras such as voice-mail, call waiting, multiple lines and calls to the few die-hards who stick with pre-internet phones.) If he is right, the traditional fixed-line voice business will shrivel and die, and telecoms incumbents will be reduced to selling broadband access, and little else.

[...] As with KaZaA, it may be that Mr Zennstrom has correctly identified an important trend, but that the software he has written to exploit it will not ultimately prevail. If so, he and Mr Friis will have to find another industry that is ripe for disruption using peer-to-peer technology. If you are a chief executive in a stodgy, old-fashioned industry, watch out.

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Here We Go…. [3:41 pm]

The PR push is on for wireless entertainment networks, with careful removal of the DRM features from the promo: Home WiFi setups handle music and movies, too

The most commonly used technology for wirelessly networking home computers, WiFi, is quickly being adopted for another, less work-related use: home entertainment.

Traditional computer component and networking companies like Microsoft and Linksys are tweaking their product lines to include devices that beam music files and pictures all around the house.

And electronics makers are increasingly including WiFi receivers in standard home appliances like televisions and stereos, giving consumers the ability to listen to any song or view any photo stored on the home computer from any room in the house.

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Email Receipts Backlash [3:30 pm]

Today’s Boston Globe profiles Alastair Rampell, the founder of DidTheyReadIt: Software has some seeing red

DidTheyReadIt allows users to track the e-mails they send, alerting them when a message is opened by its recipient — and even reporting on how long the recipient looked at it, and offering a rough geographical guess about where he is located. The service is either subtle or surreptitious, depending on your point of view. It’s nearly impossible to tell that an e-mail you’ve received is being tracked by DidTheyReadIt.

[...] In writing about the May launch of DidTheyReadIt, most of the news media opted to play up the fear factor, neglecting to observe that there were other companies, like ReadNotify, that had been offering a similar service, and Microsoft’s Outlook includes a receipt function. Few stories pointed out that most spammers already use a technique similar to DidTheyReadIt to know whether you’ve received their e-mail.

(DidTheyReadIt embeds an invisible image in the e-mail. When your e-mail program requests that image from Rampell’s server, that’s how they know you’ve read it, and how many times. To confound DidTheyReadIt, you can set your e-mail program not to display any images as part of incoming e-mails.)

I’m not wild about getting e-mails that are being secretly monitored, but there’s nothing illegal about it. (Rampell compares it to Caller ID and certified mail.) And I can always choose to read my e-ma

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A Couple of Copyfight Posts [3:23 pm]

  • Backblog: The Induce Act - a good “links central” on Orren Hatch’s latest — the IICA, neé INDUCE Act

  • Culture of Hope

    Siva Vaidyanathan does a lot of excellent work evangelizing the importance of keeping our culture free. So I’m delighted to see his proposal for an academic counterpart to the free culture movement gain traction.

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eTailing and Music Sales Stats [2:55 pm]

Digital downloads to go gold

The Recording Industry Association of America said Thursday that it will add sales of digitally downloaded singles to its longstanding gold and platinum sales certification program.

Under the program, artists who sell 100,000 downloads of a song will receive a gold award; songs that sell 200,000 downloads will be certified as platinum; and multi-platinum awards will be given out for increments of 200,000 sales thereafter. The program will launch with an awards ceremony in August, the group said.

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Declan Looks at VoIP Regulation [2:54 pm]

Can VoIP survive Congress?

The danger is that either through ignorance or malice, politicians will impose 20th century regulations on a 21st century technology. A debate expected in the next year over revising the Telecommunications Act offers a convenient opportunity to do just that. Some of the leading candidates for regulatory shoehorning are wiretapping requirements, 911 emergency service, disability access, universal service, and “access fee” taxes.

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Democrat==F/OSS; Republican==Microsoft? [2:47 pm]

A peculiar equation to make, IMHO, particularly given the libertarian bent of so many members of the F/OSS movement: Knowing Their Politics by the Software They Use

The two sides are defined largely by their approach to intellectual property. Fans of open-source computing regard its software as a model for the future of business, saying that its underlying principle of collaboration will eventually be used in pharmaceuticals, entertainment and other industries whose products are tightly protected by patents or copyrights.

Many of them propose rewriting intellectual property laws worldwide to limit their scope and duration. The open-source path, they insist, should accelerate the pace of innovation and promote long-term economic growth. Theirs is an argument of efficiency, but also of a reshuffling of corporate wealth.

Microsoft and other American companies, by contrast, have long argued that intellectual property is responsible for any edge the United States has in an increasingly competitive global economy. Craig Mundie, chief technical officer and a senior strategist at Microsoft, observed, “Whether copyrights, patents or trade secrets, it was this foundation in law that made it possible for companies to raise capital, take risks, focus on the long term and create sustainable business models.”

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Jason Schultz in the NYTimes [2:43 pm]

Claiming a Threat to Innovation, Group Seeks to Overturn 10 Patents

A coalition of lawyers, researchers and software experts formed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation will try to overturn 10 Internet and software-related patents that the group says are so sweeping they threaten innovation.

[...] “Traditionally, the Patent and Trademark Office has not been able to give these kinds of patents as tough a look as ones in chemistry, for example,” said Jason Schultz, a lawyer with the group.

The list of targets was drawn from 200 submissions solicited through the Web site of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, based in San Francisco. It includes patents covering telephone calls over the Internet, streaming audio and video, and online testing.

See also Patent Busting’s Most Wanted; and BoingBoing’s writeup - EFF patent-busting in the NYT

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