August 28, 2005

Something Dave Clark’s Been Talking About For A While [9:44 pm]

Early Look at Research Project to Re-engineer the Internet

The project, which has not yet received financing and may cost more than $300 million, is intended to include both a test facility and a research program. As described in documents circulated by National Science Foundation officials, the network will focus on security, “pervasive computing” environments populated by mobile, wireless and sensor networks, control of critical infrastructure and the ability to handle new services that can be used by millions of people.

Peter A. Freeman, assistant director of the science foundation for computer and information science and engineering, said that “simply to provide the kind of security everyone needs and carry the huge volumes of data necessary in the future, there was strong thinking that new architectures beyond the Internet were going to be needed.”

[...] “If you look at the Internet today, it does what it does really well,” said David Clark, a senior research scientist at the Laboratory for Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It’s profound, but we can look at it and see some things that aren’t right. The most obvious is that there is no framework for security.”

[...] “What we need to envision the future,” Mr. Clark said, is to “stop thinking about the present and saying, ‘Let’s put a Band-Aid here.’ ”

Also see the Wired News article (NSF Preps New, Improved Internet), and the Slashdot discussion (NSF Ponders New And Improved Internet).

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Ahh, Godcasting [9:39 pm]

Missed Church? No Worries. Download It to Your IPod.

“Having an iPod is a guaranteed way to get the sermon if you’re going to be out of town,” Mr. Lewis said, adding that he listens to the pastor’s podcast at least once more during the week, usually while driving to work, even during weeks he makes it to services.

Mr. Lewis’s pastor, the Rev. Mark Batterson, started podcasting, or “godcasting” as he prefers to call it, last month to spread the word about his congregation. The hourlong recordings of his weekly service, available on theaterchurch.com, have already brought new parishioners to his church, he said.

“I can’t possibly have a conversation with everyone each Sunday. But this builds toward a digital discipleship,” he said. “We’re orthodox in belief but unorthodox in practice.”

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Another Step Toward GoogleZon? [7:27 pm]

What do you think? (earlier links) Free Wi-Fi? Get Ready for GoogleNet. [via Slashdot]

What if Google (GOOG) wanted to give Wi-Fi access to everyone in America? And what if it had technology capable of targeting advertising to a user’s precise location? The gatekeeper of the world’s information could become one of the globe’s biggest Internet providers and one of its most powerful ad sellers, basically supplanting telecoms in one fell swoop. Sounds crazy, but how might Google go about it?

First it would build a national broadband network — let’s call it the GoogleNet — massive enough to rival even the country’s biggest Internet service providers. Business 2.0 has learned from telecom insiders that Google is already building such a network, though ostensibly for many reasons. For the past year, it has quietly been shopping for miles and miles of “dark,” or unused, fiber-optic cable across the country from wholesalers such as New York’s AboveNet. It’s also acquiring superfast connections from Cogent Communications and WilTel, among others, between East Coast cities including Atlanta, Miami, and New York. Such large-scale purchases are unprecedented for an Internet company, but Google’s timing is impeccable. The rash of telecom bankruptcies has freed up a ton of bargain-priced capacity, which Google needs as it prepares to unleash a flood of new, bandwidth-hungry applications. These offerings could include everything from a digital-video database to on-demand television programming.

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Continuing Google Privacy Fallout [6:37 pm]

With a tie to the book publishers concerns about the Googling of libraries: Google Anything, so Long as It’s Not Google

Last month, Elinor Mills, a writer for CNET News, a technology news Web site, set out to explore the power of search engines to penetrate the personal realm: she gave herself 30 minutes to see how much she could unearth about Mr. Schmidt by using his company’s own service. The resulting article, published online at CNET’s News.com under the sedate headline “Google Balances Privacy, Reach,” was anything but sensationalist. It mentioned the types of information about Mr. Schmidt that she found, providing some examples and links, and then moved on to a discussion of the larger issues. She even credited Google with sensitivity to privacy concerns.

When Ms. Mills’s article appeared, however, the company reacted in a way better suited to a 16th-century monarchy than a 21st-century democracy with an independent press. David Krane, Google’s director of public relations, called CNET.com’s editor in chief to complain about the disclosure of Mr. Schmidt’s private information, and then Mr. Krane called back to announce that the company would not speak to any reporter from CNET for a year.

CNET’s transgression is unspeakable - literally so. When I contacted Mr. Krane last week, he said he was not authorized to speak about the incident.

[...] One of the personal items revealed when CNET Googled Mr. Schmidt was a speaker’s biography that he had apparently provided the Computer History Museum for a talk he gave four years ago. He described himself then as a “political junkie who never tires of debating the great issues of our day.” Very well, Mr. Schmidt. When CNET next calls, please pick up the phone and let this debate begin.

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Scaremongering? One View of Movie Piracy [6:19 pm]

At least, this one gets to some of the counter-points to increased control: King Kong vs. the Pirates of the Multiplex

But even the mighty Kong may not be safe from the clutches of a nebulous, tech-savvy network of film pirates who specialize in stealing copies of first-run movies and distributing them globally on the Internet or on bootleg DVD’s. While Hollywood has battled various forms of film looting for decades, this time seems different. Piracy in the digital era is more lucrative, sophisticated and elusive than ever - and poses a far bigger financial threat.

“Piracy has the very real potential of tipping movies into becoming an unprofitable industry, especially big-event films. If that happens, they will stop being made,” said Mr. Jackson in an e-mail message from New Zealand, where he is putting the final touches on his version of “King Kong.” “No studio is going to finance a film if the point is reached where their possible profit margin goes straight into criminals’ pockets.”

[...] Universal, aiming to protect filmdom’s mightiest gorilla, is watermarking and encrypting copies of “King Kong.” It is also supervising access to the film during all phases of its production, monitoring online any machinations involving the movie and planning to guard advance screenings. Other Hollywood studios, including Warner Brothers, whose fourth installment of the “Harry Potter” film series is due this fall, are taking similar steps to combat piracy. For the time being, however, the bootleggers remain a moving target.

“This is not just about the film industry: whether you’re talking about the pharmaceutical industry, the information technology industry or filmed entertainment, the protection of intellectual property is crucial,” said Darcy Antonellis, who helps oversee antipiracy efforts for Warner Brothers, a unit of Time Warner. “If we can’t build businesses around ideas, and feel comfortable that we have the right to those ideas, then our entire business is threatened.”

[...] “I don’t believe piracy can be easily beaten; fighting fire with fire by releasing movies on DVD at the same time as cinemas is probably where the industry is heading in the next few years,” said Mr. Jackson, the director. “Electronic delivery directly into both cinemas and people’s homes will not necessarily beat pirates, but it will mean studios are at least on a similar playing field.”

[...] Others watching the wrangling between Hollywood and film pirates say the online world offers an alternate distribution system - free from the confines and control of movie studios and television networks - that will allow independent filmmakers to reach a broader audience. Their concern is that antipiracy efforts will stymie innovation.

“The physical part of the Internet might get stifled because these things are being demonized,” said Mr. Smith, whose Morpheus software was in dispute in the Grokster case. “That’s what I’m worried about when people begin to talk about the darknet and the need to protect content.”

Later: Slashdot’s King Kong vs Movie Pirates

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“Multi-plat-fornication” [6:13 pm]

MTV’s evolving strategy: Every Network That Rises Must Converge

[MTV's Van] Toffler has a plan in motion to upgrade the network for the age of digital convergence, a strategy he has been known to refer to as “multi-plat-fornication”: an all-out effort to deliver MTV content to every form of technology imaginable, from mobile phones to digital cable to a Web-based on-demand channel called MTV Overdrive. “The people who tap into the rhythm of how this audience uses media, those are the ones who are going to win,” he said. “Our audience is full of multitaskers. They’re IM-ing and talking on the phone and doing their homework and watching TV all at the same time.”

The first big test of this new era takes place tonight, with the broadcast of the Video Music Awards, the network’s signature event. In addition to the traditional celebrity-studded ceremony (broadcast live from Miami at 8 Eastern time, and rebroadcast at 8 p.m. Pacific), viewers will also be offered backstage shots and bonus content simultaneously on the MTV Overdrive broadband channel: while watching an acceptance speech from, say, Coldplay on live television, a viewer can also be logged onto Overdrive and see Kanye West in his dressing room or the Killers performing outside American Airlines Arena. “It’s all about circulating people back and forth between the different screens,” Mr. Toffler explained.

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The IP Lawsuit Strategy - LATimes-style [6:01 pm]

The Web and the law [pdf]

As an educational tool, this type of lawsuit leaves something to be desired. Only a fraction of the people sharing songs and movies online illegally are sued, dulling the deterrent effect. At the same time, because so many claims have been filed (more than 13,000 by the movie and music industries since September 2003), they no longer attract much attention. Another problem is that studios and labels do not know the identity of a defendant when they start pressing a claim; the lawsuit eventually lands on the person whose Internet account was linked to pirated files. As a result, defendants have included such crowd-pleasers as a 12-year-old girl, several grandparents and at least one dead person.

The resulting publicity hasn’t garnered much sympathy for the labels or their cause. And critics of the lawsuits are right to argue that such actions aren’t a long-term solution to the rampant piracy that the Internet enables. (Their argument that content providers are abusing copyright law to prevent fair use is a harder case to make, but worth hearing.) Entertainment companies need to find more effective ways to boost respect for copyrights while embracing the new technology to satisfy demand.

[...] Clearly, these lawsuits inflict some collateral damage, not just on the industry but on notions of fair play and the law. When huge media conglomerates sue thousands of individual Internet users, they fuel the argument that copyright law is just a tool for the powerful, not a means to improve society by encouraging creativity and innovation. But like anyone else, the studios are entitled to defend their rights. You can lament how blunt the instrument is, but you can’t fault Hollywood for using it.

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