November 15, 2006

Catching Up With Korea [8:52 am]

And not in a good way: Caught in the Web - pdf

Concern about excessive Internet use — variously termed problematic Internet use, Internet addiction, pathological Internet use, compulsive Internet use and computer addiction in some quarters, and vigorously dismissed as a fad illness in others — isn’t new. As far back as 1995, articles in medical journals and the establishment of a Pennsylvania treatment center for overusers generated interest in the subject. There’s still no consensus on how much time online constitutes too much or whether addiction is possible.

But as reliance on the Web grows — Internet users average about 3 1/2 hours online each day, according to a 2005 survey by Stanford University researchers — there are signs that the question is getting more serious attention: Last month, a study published in CNS Spectrums, an international neuropsychiatric medicine journal, claimed to be the first large-scale look at excessive Internet use. The American Psychiatric Association may consider listing Internet addiction in the next edition of its diagnostic manual. And scores of online discussion boards have popped up on which people discuss negative experiences tied to too much time on the Web.

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Trying To Make Up Their Minds About Google [8:18 am]

And Google is working hard to define their position before someone else does it for them. [An article with, if nothing else, a great graphic] A Struggle Over Dominance and Definition

What’s at stake is pretty much everything in the $400 billion global advertising honey pot. Google’s efficiency at putting text ads next to search results is what sets it apart from Yahoo, MSN and the other big boys online.

Even that astute observer of market dominance, Microsoft, has argued that until it or Yahoo or someone else can figure out how to compete with the Google advertising juggernaut, Google has too much power.

“The truth is, what Google is doing now is transferring the wealth out of the hands of rights holders into Google,” Microsoft’s chief executive, Steven A. Ballmer, told BusinessWeek recently. “So media companies around the world are all threatened by Google.”

Well, maybe. For now, Google seems to have far fewer detractors among big media companies than it has partners — including The New York Times Company, Viacom, the News Corporation through its MySpace unit, and Time Warner via AOL. But news organizations and book publishers have filed a handful of lawsuits over the way Google distributes and presents search results and other information against which it places advertising links. Last week, Google disclosed that its online video service had been sued and accused of copyright infringement.

[...] Now, before we take a shot at the aforementioned burning question — Is Google a friend of foe? — let’s ponder another oft-raised and pertinent query: Is Google a media company? The last time I checked, a media company was generally defined as a business that accumulates audiences and sells access to them to marketers.

[...] The point may be semantic, but it reminded me of the longstanding friction between cable companies and TV broadcasters over whether cable should pay for distributing the free over-the-air signals — or whether cable was doing the broadcasters a favor by putting their signals onto the system through which most people watch television.

Again, [Google VP David] Eun disagreed, noting that Google is not a distributor: it tries to push people to other Web sites and takes immense geek pride in how quickly it does so.

At least this NYTimes article elected not to go the Times’ usual route and get in line behind Microsoft’s position.

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Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics [8:05 am]

A study introduced in the ongoing fight over the Child Online Protection Act asserts that 1% of the WWW sites indexed by Google and MSN are “explicit.” The question: what does this mean, exactly, for either side of the fight? 1 percent of Web deemed pornographic - pdf

The American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the law on behalf of a broad range of Web publishers, said the study supports its argument that filters work well.

The study concludes that the strictest filter tested, AOL’s Mature Teen, blocked 91 percent of the sexually explicit Web sites in indexes maintained by Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp.’s MSN.

Filters with less restrictive settings blocked at least 40 percent of sexually explicit sites, according to the study of random Web sites by Philip B. Stark, a statistics professor at University of California, Berkeley.

“Filters are more than 90 percent effective, according to Stark,” ACLU attorney Chris Hansen said Tuesday during a break in the trial. “Also, with filters, it’s up to the parents how to use it, whereas COPA requires a one-solution-fits-all (approach).”

Seth has more links as well as the report.

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