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April 17, 2007

There Will Always Be An England [8:06 am]

Even with this new-fangled Interweb thingie: Paint Drying? Sorry, Wrong Link. This Is Cheddarvision.

Cheddarvision is only the latest boring Internet Webcam to randomly seize the public’s imagination, here in a country with an apparently unparalleled ability to produce them.

The ur-site was probably the one that showed a coffee pot in a Cambridge University computer lab in 1991. First displayed on the internal network as a way to show lab workers when the coffee was ready so they would not have to make fruitless journeys to the coffee machine, the site went global in 1993. It had more than two million visitors before being switched off in 2001.

Other dull British sites, helpfully compiled by Oliver Burkeman in a recent article (pdf) in The Guardian, include one that shows nothing happening on a side street of Neilston, a suburban village near Glasgow. Another one (now defunct) showed a pile of compost in Sussex.

[...] In fact, a time-release film of the cheese shows the effects of age on its person, as it progresses inexorably from young and smooth to old, veiny and mottled. Seeing the film is a poignant reminder of the ravages of time, similar in effect to watching, say, all the movies of Robert Redford or Nick Nolte in quick chronological succession.

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Industry Consolidation and Privacy [7:48 am]

Google plan raises privacy issue - pdf

Google Inc.’s purchase of DoubleClick Inc. would create the world’s single largest repository of details about people’s behavior online, an unnerving prospect for some privacy experts.

The $3.1-billion acquisition would combine two companies with massive troves of information about most people who use the Internet.

“This is something that is concerning,” said Kurt Opsahl, an attorney with the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Google’s associate general counsel, Nicole Wong, said Monday that Google did in fact hope to integrate the two companies’ “non-personally identifiable data,” and that mixing them would be of “great benefit” to both consumers and advertisers.

[...] “Provided consumers don’t feel snooped on, hyper-targeting makes everyone better off,” said Harvard Business School professor John Deighton. “Consumers don’t see irrelevant ads and advertisers spend less to get better results.”

“Provided…,” indeed! How would you know, exactly? The LATimes also has an editorial, but it’s a relatively mixed message: Microsoft the trust-buster? - pdf

YOU KNOW THE politics of antitrust enforcement have come full circle when Microsoft and AT&T are weighing in on behalf of the little guy. The two companies, along with media giant Time Warner Inc., are urging federal antitrust officials to scrutinize Google’s pending purchase of the ad agency DoubleClick, arguing that it would diminish competition in online advertising.

[...] The pair argue that a combined Google and DoubleClick would have unsurpassed economies of scale and a vast amount of information about Web users’ behavior — assets that would help Google target ads more precisely, making it more attractive to advertisers and websites alike.

[...] The market for advertising online is still in its infancy. Advertisers continue to experiment with ways to reach Web surfers, and they’re not yet sure how much to spend online instead of on television and other venues. And neither Google, DoubleClick nor anyone else dominate the emerging market for video advertising, which in the broadband era may emerge as the most effective and lucrative sector yet.

Later: EPIC files a complaint before the FTC - local copy (Washington Post article: Privacy Group Objects To DoubleClick Deal - pdf). (an earlier one In the Matter of Google Inc. and DoubleClick Inc. - local copy)

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