The growing popularity of video on the Net has driven a traffic increase thats putting strains on service providers, particularly cable companies. To deal with it, they have had to change the way they convey Internet data.
And they’ve done this in secret, raising concerns — by Web companies, consumer groups and the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission — that the nature of the Internet is being altered in ways that are difficult to divine.
But as traffic grows, there are signs that these subtle and secret controls are insufficient, and will give way to more overt measures. For instance, we could find ourselves paying not just for the speed of our connection, but for how much we download. Already, some ISPs are hindering file-sharing traffic, and AT&T Inc. is talking about blocking pirated content.
The issue is coming to a head this year, as the FCC is investigating complaints from consumer groups and legal scholars that Comcast Corp., the countrys largest cable ISP, secretly hampered file sharing by its subscribers. [...]
February 11, 2008
Do You Believe It? [7:54 am]
I don’t — at least, not yet. At least, not until the problem of “format aging” is solved — do you really think that “.GIF or .PDF is forever?” Pushing Paper Out the Door
“Paper is no longer the master copy; the digital version is,” says Brewster Kahle, the founder and director of the Internet Archive, a nonprofit digital library. “Paper has been dealt a complete deathblow. When was the last time you saw a telephone book?”
Some homes may no longer have phone books, but many have scanners — and, increasingly, more than one. Flatbed scanners, which most people use for photographs, offer high resolution but are cumbersome for scanning large volumes of paper. New, cheap document-feed scanners that can digitize a stack of papers, receipts or business cards in seconds are becoming popular. Add multiple computers, digital cameras and maybe an electronic book reader, and suddenly paper seems to be on the endangered-species list.
After rising steadily in the 1980s and ’90s, worldwide paper consumption per capita has plateaued in recent years. In the richest countries, consumption fell 6 percent from 2000 to 2005, from 531 to 502 pounds a person. The data bolsters the view of experts like Mr. Kahle who say paper is becoming passé.
*Shock* What Will They Think Of Next? [7:48 am]
Hey, at least they’ve finally come to it. Although I expect there still will be cries of “piracy” in the long run with this. HarperCollins Will Post Free Books on the Web
In an attempt to increase book sales, HarperCollins Publishers will begin offering free electronic editions of some of its books on its Web site, including a novel by Paulo Coelho and a cookbook by the Food Network star Robert Irvine.
The idea is to give readers the opportunity to sample the books online in the same way that prospective buyers can flip through books in a bookstore.
“It’s like taking the shrink wrap off a book,” said Jane Friedman, chief executive of HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide. “The best way to sell books is to have the consumer be able to read some of that content.”
[...] Neil Gaiman, the fantasy novelist, short story and comics writer, is asking readers of his blog to vote on the title they would most like to give as a gift. An electronic scan of the winning title will be offered free on the HarperCollins site later this month. Mr. Gaiman said the online effort was not so different from what has been going on for generations.
“I didn’t grow up buying every book I read,” said the English born Mr. Gaiman, 47. “I read books at libraries, I read books at friend’s houses, I read books that I found on people’s window sills.” Eventually, he said, he bought his own books and he believes other readers will, too.
User Innovation On The Rise? [7:33 am]
“People just feel so hemmed in . . . Customers and users prefer open, and what’s happening is that the barriers of expertise required are getting lower and lower,” said Eric von Hippel, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. “The reason you’re going to see more and more people doing it is because they’ve always wanted to be able to fiddle - but the technology was daunting.”
That’s changing, as do-it-yourself gadgetry becomes more accessible to people who have never even held a soldering iron.
[...] The Chumby, a squeezable WiFi-connected device that pipes Internet content onto a small screen, also makes its debut this year. But the company isn’t just selling the gadget, it’s also giving away the design - from circuits down to the pattern for the leather panels on the outside.
“You might as well share the plans so everyone can benefit from it, and we don’t believe that it hampers our ability to be competitive. To have it open - we think it helps,” said bunnie Huang, the company’s vice president of hardware engineering and a hacker who as an MIT student gained notoriety for hacking the Xbox. “When we share the plans, we invite the users to participate in the process of defining the product.”
Von Hippel, who has studied innovation in various industries, said much of the innovation people take for granted comes from users.
Surprise! [7:30 am]
Some users have discovered it is nearly impossible to remove themselves entirely from Facebook.com, setting off a fresh round of concern over the social network’s use of personal data.
While the website offers the option to deactivate an account, Facebook servers keep copies of the information indefinitely. Many users who have requested that their accounts be deleted have not succeeded in erasing their records.
“It’s like the Hotel California,” said Nipon Das, 34, a director at a biotechnology consulting firm in Manhattan. “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”