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Internet Explorer 9 beta launches

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/15/10 05:49 PM

I think we need a new story category on this blog: Geek Chow. Stories that probably don’t matter a whole lot in the short term to the average person but might matter a lot in the long run. Often these stories are of tremendous immediate interest to the highly plugged in folks, the hard core tech audience, the geeks (I’m assured “geek” is no longer a pejorative).

Google Instant is Geek Chow. Movements toward a Chrome operating system are Geek Chow. Facebook’s search model is a big bowl of Geek Chow.

Internet Explorer 9 is Geek Chow. Microsoft’s new browser is available for you to download if you are running Vista or Windows 7. It’s supposedly faster, has a cleaner user interface with more screen space dedicated to the web site, less to navigation, and can do a lot more things. Take it away, Ina Fried at CNET.

Comments | Filed Under: internet explorer browsers microsoft search google facebook geek chow

Google to take baby steps toward social networking

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/15/10 05:49 PM

We’ve been waiting for the alleged “Google Me” project to surface for a while now. Supposedly it was going to be Google’s Facebook killer, a social networking site that took on Zuckerbergia.

This despite The Goog’s not so stellar track record of launching Big New Products like Google Wave and Google Buzz (maybe the problem was how much those names sounded like laundry detergents?).

But Google Me never seems to get here. Like killer bees and the widespread adoption of the metric system, it’s always about to arrive.

Now Google’s Eric Schmidt says social networking on Google will be subtle and incremental. You’ll be able to pull in stuff from Twitter or Flickr, find out when someone saw your YouTube video. And play Farmville. Always with the Farmville. We’ll never escape Farmville.

Comments | Filed Under: google facebook twitter flickr social media Web Culture games

Google engineer fired for snooping

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/15/10 11:12 AM

Google has fired engineer David Barksdale for accessing private information from users’ Google Voice, Gmail, and instant messaging accounts. The users were apparently teenagers. Barksdale was working as a site reliability engineer or SRE at the company’s Kirkland, Washington facility. SREs have access to some of the company users’ most private information. Barksdale was evidently bragging to an online group he belonged to about being able to do this kind of thing. He evidently took pride in his hacking skills. Gawker broke the story.
And it seems this isn’t the first time it’s happened, either.

Comments | Filed Under: google privacy

Google exec says Android not ready for tablets

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/10/10 12:14 PM

This is an under-the-radar story that seems to matter quite a bit. Hugo Barra, director of products for mobile at Google says that the Android operating system as it currently stands is built more for phones than the robust needs of a tablet computer. Essentially, any tablet running Froyo (the latest Android version) would display and run like a huge phone. While newer versions of Android are in the works, there is also a slew of Android tablets being rushed to market to compete with the iPad. So when they get here will they all be as ugly as the director of mobile at Google says they will be?

Comments | Filed Under: mobile google android

What will you do with the time you save on Google Instant?

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/09/10 12:14 PM

Google says that if you use the new Instant feature, you’ll save 2 to 5 seconds per search. We want to know what you’ll do with that time (we’re getting some ideas on Twitter but if you’re just on the blog you can comment). We’re trying to have some fun with this and would love to put some people on the radio to talk about it.

Meanwhile, here’s one idea:

If you can spare three seconds you can watch this.

Comments | Filed Under: google instant web culture search

Google Instant

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/08/10 06:06 PM

Because clicking something is a real pain. You’ll never get that 1/5th of a second back. You could have been using that time to volunteer in your community.

Google debuted a new thingie today: Google Instant. Go to Google.com and if you have a current browser and are logged in to your Google account, you can see instant results as you type. They appear below what you’re typing as you type it.

Xeni at Boing Boing suggests someone write a list for what each letter wants to point you to.

Here’s what I got:

A - Amazon

B - Best Buy

C - Craigslist

D - Dictionary

E - Ebay

F - Facebook

G - Gmail (not Google? Well, I suppose if they’re already there.)

H - Hotmail

I - Ikea

J - Jimmy John’s (seems a bit Minnesota-centric, that result)

K - Kare 11 (sure enough!)

L - Lowe’s

M - Mapquest

N - Netflix

O - Orbitz

P - Pandora

Q - Qwest

R - REI

S - Star Tribune (Minnesota again)

T - Target

U - USPS (really?)

V - Valleyfair (local amusement park)

W - Weather

X - Xcel Energy

Y - YouTube

Z - Zappos

Here’s Wired’s coverage.

Comments | Filed Under: google

Google tries to get peoples’ attention. It works.

Posted: 09/08/10 11:32 AM

Yesterday, the Google.com page was all these crazy bouncing balls. Today it’s white lettering that fills in color letter by letter when you type something in the search box. All this in advance of a 9:30 pacific time announcement centered around search. Speculation abounds as to what will be announced. Possibly search results displaying in real time so you don’t need to hit the Google Search button (or the archaic and dimly charming I Feel Lucky button).

Comments | Filed Under: google

The future, according to Eric Schmidt

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/07/10 05:03 PM

I keep wondering whether someone at Google will tell this guy to stop talking. A while back was Schmidt’s assertion that in the future it will be common for a person to change their name when they become an adult in order to shed the dumb things they said as a kid. Because identity is…disposable?

Now there’s Schmidt’s latest comments at a conference in Berlin. Here are the ones that stuck with me:

—“Your car should be able to drive itself! After all, your car knows where it is, knows where the other cars are and where it should be going.”

—“A near-term future in which you don’t forget anything, because the computer remembers. You’re never lost.”

—“Not only are you never lonely, you’re never bored! We’ll suggest what you should be watching, because we know what you care about.”

—“We can suggest what you should do next, what you care about. Imagine: We know where you are, we know what you like.”

So Google’s future is a cadre of Pleasure Spies. Good to know.

Comments | Filed Under: google

Google home page a big colorful mystery

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/07/10 11:03 AM

Have you been to Google today? Then you’ve noticed that they’re running another special logo. The word “Google” is formed by a bunch of colorful circles that scatter all over the place when you mouse over them. Unlike other special logos that commemorate holidays or historical events, this one doesn’t have an easy explanation. There’s been talk that it’s for the anniversary of Google or the rollout of HTML5 but the company denies that that’s what it is. And they won’t say why it’s there.

Comments | Filed Under: google

Aging Out of Employment

Posted: 09/03/10 06:00 AM

The nation’s unemployment rate is out today. And as serious as those numbers are, the situation in Silicon Valley is even worse. The unemployment in the America’s high tech heartland is hovering near 11.5 percent.  While there are bidding wars erupting between Facebook and Google for young programmers. The situation for many older engineers is grim.

by Doede Boomsma

Vivek Wadwha, a visiting scholar at the School of Information at UC Berkeley, joins us to talk about the secret of Silicon Valley’s job market: It’s all about age.

Comments | Filed Under: Google Facebook unemployment Silicon Valley Age

India's security services eye Google and Skype

Posted: 09/01/10 06:00 AM

Blackberry has cut a deal with security officials in India, allowing them access e-mail and data sent using BlackBerry’s network. But the Indian government isn’t done yet. It’s now applying pressure to some other high-tech players.

Indian officials say they’re exploring ways to track the contents of conversations on Google’s video chat service and on Skype.

This spat is just the latest international dispute over internet privacy.

We speak with Fred Cate, a law professor at Indiana University who specializes in privacy and security, to understand what - if anything - security services gain when they try to mine massive amounts of information in search of terrorists.

Comments | Filed Under: India Google Skype data mining privacy security

GooglePlex

Posted: 08/30/10 12:31 PM

By Steve Henn

Nirvana for film buffs.  Imagine an online movie rental store with every movie, ever made always in stock - an unlimited number screens and an infinite of show times.  Eric Schmidt might want you to call it GooglePlex. For months now Google’s been slowly expanding its pay-per-view service, streaming movies on YouTube into homes and mobile phones around the world. Today Financial Times reports that Google is one step closer to making this vision reality. Its reportedly negotiating with Hollywood Studio’s to radically expand its pay-per-view offerings. Hmmm… can’t you just see Schmidt thinking, “I bet this service would work a whole lot better if we could get a faster connection to our customers.”

Comments | Filed Under: Google Youtube Movies net neutrality

Google search feature no longer hard to find

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 08/26/10 05:01 PM

Google’s RealTime search got its own page today.  The service turns offers search results from news sites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and more in a constantly updated stream. Danny Sullivan breaks down all the new features, including a filter that helps sort results by location and an option to see an online conversation dating back to February.

Comments | Filed Under: Google search

What Gmail Voice will give Google

Posted: 08/26/10 01:00 PM

Everybody’s talking about the new service Google rolled out yesterday - making voice calls through Gmail.  Wired’s Ryan Single has an interesting piece suggesting this new feature is all about keeping you logged in, tracking what you do and being able to compete with Facebook as the most effective ad platform for marketers.
Another intriguing idea comes from Peter Nowak.  He suggests Gmail Voice is going to help Google develop something no one’s been able to do well yet: voice recognition search. Because soon, no one’s going to sit around their computers typing words into a web browser.

Comments | Filed Under: Google Gmail phone calls search

Gmail now makes phone calls

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 08/25/10 01:43 PM

Google announced today that Gmail accounts can now take phone calls. For the rest of the year, you can use your Gmail account to call people in the U.S. and Canada for free and pay $.02 per minute to call Germany, France, Japan and other countries. If you have a Google Voice number, calls you receive on that number show up in your inbox.

Comments | Filed Under: Google email phones Google Voice

No peeking at Facebook pages

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 08/23/10 06:30 PM

Imagine a world in which it’s illegal for an employer to get info about a job applicant on Facebook.  That’s the world Germany might live in.  On Wednesday, the German cabinet will consider a new law to keep bosses from sniffing around in prospective employees’ social media pages. The law, however, will still let them Google applicants.

Comments | Filed Under: privacy, Germany Facebook Google

Leading Thinkers on Net Neutrality

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 08/19/10 11:39 AM

Net Neutrality is a complicated issue. The recent Google/Verizon policy proposal has raised new questions about the open internet - the idea that all online content gets treated equally. To explore this issue, we’re featuring a series of guest blog posts.

Christian Sandvig is Associate Professor of Communication, Media and Cinema Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and a Faculty Associate of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. The Internet Tycoon Instruction Manual (8/20/10)

Larry Downes, a nonresident Fellow at the Stanford Law School Center for Internet & Society. Net Neutrality: What Are We Fighting For? (8/18/10)

David Weinberger, Senior Researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society: Notes from a Disappointed Fanboy (8/13/10)

More posts to come.  And you might also be interested in our Net Neutrality News Roundup.

Comments | Filed Under: David Weinberger Larry Downes google net neutrality verizon FCC

Google to debut Chrome store for web apps

 by John Moe // Posted: 08/18/10 11:17 AM

This is interesting and potentially very significant. At a gaming conference in Cologne, Germany, Google detailed plans to launch a store for Chrome web apps, meaning games and tools that you can plug into your Chrome browser. Chrome is made by Google and is rapidly gaining market share. It would be like any mobile app store but just for the web. The wrinkle is that Google is apparently only taking a 5% cut of the sales, which is way less than the 30% cut taken by Apple, Facebook, and other big companies for app revenue. This could provide huge incentive to developers to want to build on the platform. Companies are realizing that they need to make developers love them in order to get ahead, that’s why Microsoft is paying developers to offer their wares on the upcoming Windows 7 Phone.

Comments | Filed Under: google chrome facebook apple microsoft

Net Neutrality: What Are We Fighting For?

Posted: 08/18/10 06:30 AM

Net Neutrality is a complicated issue.  The recent Google/Verizon policy proposal has raised new questions about the open internet - the idea that all online content gets treated equally.  To explore this issue, we’re featuring a series of guest blog posts on our site.  Today, a post from Larry Downes, a nonresident Fellow at the Stanford Law School Center for Internet & Society. His books include “Unleashing the Killer App” and, most recently, “The Laws of Disruption: Harnessing the New Forces that Govern Life and Business in the Digital Age.”  

As both an Internet entrepreneur and a legal scholar, I’ve been watching and sometimes participating in the “net neutrality” debate for several years now.  At times it’s seemed like real progress was being made, but lately I’ve grown concerned about the prospects for a peaceful resolution.  It seems that some of the participants in what has been transformed into an honest-to-goodness fight over public policy have more to gain from aggravating the situation than in solving the problem.  I can’t predict what’s going to happen next.  Technology and business are rational subjects—politics is not.

Many of those now arguing the loudest in favor or against minimal or even drastic changes to U.S. law simply don’t understand enough about law, business, or the engineering details of how the Internet works to be making much sense. 

Unfortunately, uninformed opinions are being encouraged by a few media reform groups in Washington who have co-opted net neutrality.  They see it as an issue they can use to get their foot in the door to pursue broader agendas. 

(The broader agendas, which the groups make no secret of, include restrictions on media ownership—think of the pending Comcast-NBC Universal merger—and long-term hopes for full or partial nationalization of everything from the communications and broadcast infrastructure to the failing newspaper business.)

Reducing “net neutrality” to the kind of sound-bite screaming that so poisoned the debate on health care has many unfortunate side-effects.  Not the least of these is that the chance of any real resolution of the problem gets farther rather than closer.  For many of the groups advocating most vocally in “favor” of net neutrality, it is becoming clearer that they don’t actually want a resolution.  In pursuit of their long-term interests, they benefit much more from continued rancor.

That I think it what explains the strangely hostile response to the legislative framework proposed jointly by Google and Verizon last week.  Advocates and journalists, all of whom know better, continued to characterize the proposal as if it were some kind of secret deal to carve up the Internet and its users, like the clandestine treaty between Germany and Russia at the beginning of World War II.  I’ve seen the proposal referred to as a “deal,” “agreement,” “treaty,” “accord,” “pact,” “contract” or worse.  It’s not a business arrangement, it’s not law, and it’s not treason.

To understand why and why there’s such a strongly-vested interest in mischaracterizing pretty much everything said by anyone on the other side of the debate, let’s step back for a moment and ask how we got into this mess in the first place.

What is Net Neutrality?

For starters, it’s hard to come up with a concise definition of net neutrality, largely because it’s one of those terms, like “family values,” that means something different to everyone who uses it.  For me it’s become something of a litmus test—people who use it positively are generally hostile to large communications companies.  People who use it negatively are generally hostile to regulatory agencies.  A lot of that anger, wherever it comes, seems to get channeled into net neutrality.

In fact the Federal Communications Commission doesn’t even use the term—they talk about the “open and transparent” Internet instead.

But here’s the general idea.  The defining feature of the Internet is that information is broken up into small “packets” of data which are routed through any number of computers on the world-wide network and then are reassembled when they reach their destination.

Up until now, with some notable exceptions, every participating computer relays those packets without knowing what’s in them or who they come from.  The network operates on a packet-neutral model—when one computer receives it, it looks only to see where it’s heading and sends it, depending on traffic congestion at the time, to some other computer along the way just as quickly as it can.

That’s still the model on which the Internet works.  The “net neutrality” concern is not with current practice, but of future problems.   Increasingly, those advocating for new laws see a few dominant providers controlling the outgoing and incoming packets to and from consumers—the first and last mile. 

So while the computers between my house and Google headquarters all treat my packets to Google and Google’s packets back to me in a neutral fashion, there’s no law that keeps Comcast (my provider) from opening those packets on their way in or on their way out and deciding to slow or speed up some or all of them.

Why would they do that?  Perhaps they make a deal with Google to give priority to Google-related packets in exchange for a fee or a share of Google’s ad revenues.  Or, maybe they want to encourage me to watch Comcast programming instead of YouTube videos, and intentionally slow down YouTube packets to make those videos less appealing to watch.

Most of this is theoretical so far.  No ISP offers the premium or “fast lane” service to individual applications.  Comcast, however, was caught a few years ago experimenting with slowing down the file-sharing traffic of some of their customers who use the BitTorrent peer-to-peer protocol.  The reason was that some of Comcast’s most active customers were slowing down the network by sending and receiving very large files (mostly illegal copies of movies and other copyrighted content, as it turns out).

When Comcast was caught, the company agreed to stop offering “unlimited” access and to use more sophisticated network management techniques to ensure a few customers didn’t slow traffic for everyone else.  Comcast and BitTorrent made peace, but the FCC held hearings and sanctioned Comcast after-the-fact, leading to the court case that made clear the FCC has no authority to enforce its existing neutrality policies.  (More on that in a moment.)

The Network Was Never Neutral

The revelations about Comcast revived the net neutrality debate, this time with a strongly partisan bent.  Net neutrality, it was argued, was “about” free speech on the Internet, about a few large network operators destroying the innovative spirit of the net, about a secret plan to replace the Web with walled gardens of approved content.  There was either complete neutrality, or there was chaos.

But the with-us-or-against-us mentality of the rhetoric that followed this shift in the discussion leaves out some important and complicated technical details. 

First, some applications already require and get “premium” treatment for their packets.  Voice and video packets have to arrive pretty much at the same time in order to maintain good quality, so Voice over IP telephone calls (Skype, Vonage, Comcast digital voice) get priority treatment, as do cable programming packets, which, after all, are using the same connection to your home that the data uses.

Google, as one of the largest providers of outbound packets, has deals with some ISPs to locate Google-only servers in their hubs to ensure local copies of their web pages are always close by, a service called “caching” that is offered more generally by companies such as Akamai and LimeLight.  In that sense, technology is being used to give priority even to the most requested data packets, about which no one should complain.

When Should the Federal Government Step in?

So the net neutrality fight, aside from leaving out any real appreciation either for technological or business realities, is really a fight about the future.  As cable and telephone companies invest billions in the next generation of technology—including fiber optics and next-generation cellular services–application providers fear they will be asked to shoulder more of the costs of that investment through premium service fees.

That’s possible, of course, and it’s also possible that network operators will make business decisions that, in the long-term, will do great damage to the remarkable engine of innovation that the Internet has proven to be for the last decade.  If the market really does fail, or fails in significant local ways (rural or poor customers, for example, have no or little access to broadband Internet), then some kind of regulatory intervention might make sense. 

But history has shown that it’s a bad idea to regulate ahead of a market failure, especially when dealing with technology that is evolving rapidly.  In the last ten years, the Internet has proven to be a source of tremendous embarrassment for regulators trying to “fix” problems that shift under their feet even as they’re legislating.  Often the laws are meaningless by the time the ink is dry or—worse—inadvertently make the problems worse after the fact.

Nevertheless, in October of last year the FCC proposed—in a 107-page document—six net neutrality rules that would codify the principles described above and a number of peripheral, perhaps unrelated, ideas.  Implicit in that rulemaking was the assumption that someone needed to codify these principles, that the FCC was that someone, and that the agency had the authority from Congress to be that someone. 

There are good reasons to be skeptical that the FCC in particular is the right agency to solve this problem even if it is a problem.  Through most of its existence the agency has been fixed on regulating a legal monopoly—the old phone company—and on managing what were very limited broadcast spectrum—now largely supplanted by cable and more sophisticated technologies for managing the spectrum.

The FCC, recall, is the agency that watches broadcast (but not cable) television and issues fines for indecent content—an activity they do more, rather than less, even as broadcast becomes a trivial part of programming reception.  (An on-going challenge to how the FCC enforces broadcast decency rules is headed back to the U.S. Supreme Court soon.)  Congress has three times tried to give the FCC authority to regulate indecency on the Internet as well, but the U.S. Supreme Court has stopped all three.

But in April, as I noted, a federal court of appeals in D.C. ruled that the agency did not have the legal authority to enforce its existing net neutrality guidelines, which have been in place since 2005, regardless of their merits.   That decision also threw the proposed six rules into limbo. Why?  The FCC based its jurisdiction to issue them on the same legal theory the court rejected in its effort to enforce the earlier neutrality policy statement against Comcast.

So now the agency is pursuing a second avenue, which is to change the classification of broadband Internet access in a way that would give it all the authority it needs (and then some) to go ahead with the October rulemaking. 

A better solution, for many reasons, would have been to go back to Congress for specific authority over broadband, but the agency is feeling political pressure to move quickly on net neutrality, and so is pursuing what everyone understands is a procedure that stands on very shaky legal grounds, at best.  (Net neutrality means full employment for communications lawyers in Washington for a long time to come.)

Back to the Google-Verizon Proposal

Here’s where last week’s proposal from Google and Verizon fits in.  Network operators, content providers, and responsible consumer groups have come to recognize, as has the FCC itself, that the net neutrality policy fight has gotten out of hand.  Almost no one likes the way the FCC is trying to plug the holes in its legal dam which are appearing faster all the time.  Investors are unhappy, content providers are distracted, and the FCC’s more productive efforts, including the truly visionary National Broadband Plan issued and then forgotten back in March, are foundering.

So FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski sensibly asked his chief of staff to try to get all the parties together and figure out some way out of the legal logjam.  That shouldn’t have been hard, because almost everyone agrees on the basic principles of net neutrality—and has operated accordingly all along.  And, it seems, the meetings were going well, or as well as these things can go in Washington in the middle of a hot summer.

One positive side-effect of the meetings was that Google and Verizon discovered they had more common ground than they thought.  (The two companies have been working closely for some time—Verizon’s cellular network now handles smartphones that use Google’s Android operating system.)  The companies had earlier written a joint letter to the FCC, and jointly filed comments in the net neutrality rulemaking.  Those documents all indicated that Verizon was prepared to accept a larger FCC role in ensuring the continued success of the net neutrality model, a significant concession.

So to those of us who have been following the maneuverings for a while, the proposal released by Google and Verizon was no surprise.  With one exception, it followed nearly exactly the earlier statements the companies had made together.

It also followed closely what the FCC has been proposing since October, 2009.  Most of all, it proposed nearly-identical rules to the six the FCC announced.

The rules proposed by Google and Verizon include the kinds of exceptions necessary for voice, video, and new services that are already in place.  The FCC proposed the same exceptions.

The Google-Verizon proposal excuses network operators from applying neutrality to unlawful content—including spam, viruses, and illegal fire sharing—just as the FCC proposal does.  It recognized the need fast-changing networks and new innovations in technology and user behavior create for “reasonable network management” and private “managed services,” just as the FCC’s proposal does.

And the Google-Verizon proposal called for Congress to make the neutrality rules a matter of federal law, enforceable on a case-by-case complaint basis by the FCC—precisely what the FCC said.

What was most disappointing about last week’s response to the Google-Verizon framework was the thick layer of hypocrisy and cynicism that came with it.  Much of the invective launched against the proposal criticized features of the Google-Verizon framework that were identical to aspects of the FCC proposal.  

Many of those doing the loudest complaining are those who most ardently supported the same rules when the FCC proposed them.

That’s what happens when a technology problem gets perverted into a political problem.  And it’s why so little progress is being made.

I mentioned that there was one important difference between the Google-Verizon proposal and the FCC’s.  That has to do with wireless broadband.  The FCC, albeit reluctantly, proposed in October that it would apply the six neutrality rules to wireless just as it would to wired broadband.  Google initially agreed, but now takes the same position as Verizon and other cellular operators, which is that the rules should not apply—at least not for now.

Why the distinction?  As anyone with a smartphone knows, wireless broadband access is seriously constrained by overburdened cellular networks.  Even at its best, the capacity of the wireless Internet is a tiny fraction of what can be delivered over cable or fiber, but its users want to do the same kind of high-bandwidth activities on the road as they do at home.  Watching high-definition videos or sharing large files on the wireless Internet is not just technically possible right now.

There are ways to increase the speed and reliability of cellular networks, but they require a combination of new technologies, additional spectrum allocation, and the cooperation of local communities, many of whom resist the installation of additional towers and other infrastructure.


So for now a growing consensus of Internet service and content providers acknowledge that wireless network operators need flexibility.  Some applications will indeed be blocked.

This kind of network management is not “evil.” It’s simply a technical necessity.  It doesn’t make sense to ban it, or even to put a slow-moving federal bureaucracy in charge of deciding how to implement it.

But that, at least, is a conversation that reasonable people could have.  Unfortunately there aren’t many of them around these days.

 

Comments | Filed Under: net neutrality Google Verizon open internet FCC broadband wireless

Net Neutrality news roundup

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 08/17/10 02:52 PM

The evolving conversation about net neutrality in wake of the Google/verizon policy proposal now includes a letter to the FCC from four Democrats in Congress.  In their letter dated August 16th(PDF), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) urge the FCC to take formal action and consider four items:

1. The FCC must have oversight authority for broadband access services.
2. Paid prioritization would close the open Internet.
3. Wired and wireless services should have common regulatory framework and rules.
4. Broad “managed services” exceptions would swallow open Internet rules.

This week, Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn will be in Minneapolis, Minnesota this week to hear from the public about this issue.

Online, the debate continues. We’ve been covering the story - you can hear from Google and Verizon here and we’ve explored what this proposal means for us as we watch YouTube videos and search for things online

We’re also featuring a number of guest blog posts on the issue - the first one we’ve posted is from David Weinberger of Harvard’s Berkman Center for the Internet and Society

Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government, Professor of Computer Science at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and co-founder of the Berkman Center, has a substantial breakdown of the issue on his Future of the Internet blog.

Tomorrow, we’ll feature a post from Larry Downes, currently a nonresident Fellow with the Stanford Law School Center for Internet & Society, and later this week, a guest blog post from Christian Sandvig, a Berkman Fellow and visiting research scholar in the Innovation Lab at MIT Sloan. 

Comments | Filed Under: FCC, Google Verizon broadband net neutrality open internet wireless

Change your name to escape Google.

 by John Moe // Posted: 08/17/10 06:00 AM


Will you have to change your name to escape all the data about you on Google? One person who thinks you might is Eric Schmidt, who just happens to be THE CEO OF GOOGLE. In a recent Wall Street Journal interview, Schmidt envisioned a day when young adults will change their identities, to get away from their digital pasts.

Wow. The guy who runs Google says Google will know so much that we’ll have to hide from that which he helped create? Really?

“I don’t believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time,” he says. He predicts, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites.

Schmidt’s statement, which may be off-the-cuff speculation but is still pretty darn provocative, kind of flips technology on its head. Instead of molding our technology around who we are, we would need to re-do who we are in order to get away from who the technology has made us out to be.

What the—?!

We talk with Sherry Turkle about this. She’s the director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self and the author of the forthcoming book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.

We also speak with Mary Madden of the Pew Internet and American Life Project who fills us in on the latest data about how young people manage their internet lives. And we talk with Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard. He advocates not changing your name but being able to declare reputation bankruptcy.

Comments | Filed Under: google

Google CEO: You'll be able to get a new identity when you reach adulthood.

 by John Moe // Posted: 08/16/10 10:50 AM

It’ll just be one of those growing up things: go to college or get a job, be eligible to vote, change your name to escape your shameful online past.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal over the weekend, Google CEO Eric Schmidt predicts a future when changing your name, changing your identity, becomes commonplace. Because the internet will know so much about you- so much more than now even, given how we live more and more of our lives online:

“I don’t believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time,” he says. He predicts, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites.

Comments | Filed Under: google

Battle lines being drawn for Google, Verizon, net neutrality

Posted: 08/13/10 06:00 AM

Google and Verizon issued a public policy statement Monday outlining their position on net neutrality, the idea that everything going over the internet should be given equal priority. They said they support a free and open web BUT future technologies might require special rules and shouldn’t be subject to the same restrictions.

Since that announcement, battle lines have been drawn. Standing against the plan: an FCC commissioner, a ton of bloggers, and even Facebook. As this story matures, we take a look at what the fallout might be.

Steve Henn from our sister program Marketplace joins us to talk about who’s aligning where. Amazon and eBay are backing Facebook but not very loudly, big media companies and most internet providers are saying nothing. We also talk to Larry Downes of Stanford University Law School’s Center for the Internet and Society who explains what this whole debate might mean for you sitting at home.

Comments | Filed Under: google verizon facebook net neutrality

Google gives Germans a month to sign up to alter reality

 by John Moe // Posted: 08/11/10 11:51 AM

It’s the dang Street View issue again. Latest is that Google has announced that people in Germany have a month to opt out of the Street View program and have their homes not appear on the service. Just have them erased. This despite the fact that their homes are real and visible from the public eye if you’re walking down the street. There’s already a plan in place to fuzz out any faces or license plates that Street View sees. So the Germany Google presents is one where everyone has a smudgy face and houses disappear into thin air.

Comments | Filed Under: google street view

Google and Verizon and the future of the web

Posted: 08/10/10 06:00 AM

Google is a company that’s full of mysteries. How does their page ranking system work? What will they turn YouTube into? Why did anyone think Wave would catch on? And most recently, what is their role in the future of net neutrality?

On Monday, Google CEO Eric Schmidt held a joint conference call with Verizon CEO Ivan Seiderberg to announce a new public policy statement about the future of the web. It reaffirmed both companies’ support for an open web but it also left a little wiggle room in the form of the fifth of seven points being made:


Fifth, we want the broadband infrastructure to be a platform for innovation. Therefore, our proposal would allow broadband providers to offer additional, differentiated online services, in addition to the Internet access and video services (such as Verizon’s FIOS TV) offered today. This means that broadband providers can work with other players to develop new services. It is too soon to predict how these new services will develop, but examples might include health care monitoring, the smart grid, advanced educational services, or new entertainment and gaming options. Our proposal also includes safeguards to ensure that such online services must be distinguishable from traditional broadband Internet access services and are not designed to circumvent the rules. The FCC would also monitor the development of these services to make sure they don’t interfere with the continued development of Internet access services.

Essentially, the companies are saying that new forms of content may require a different approach to distribution and that the old open internet model may no longer apply. They used the somewhat bizarre example of 3D opera.

We hear excerpts of Schmidt and Seidenberg’s from the press conference. We also talk to Glenn Fleishman of Wi-Fi Networking News about what this policy proposal, which both companies made sure to say is just an idea that they wish to float, would mean to the internet of tomorrow.

Comments | Filed Under: google verizon net neutrality

You are a map maker. Yes you are.

Posted: 08/04/10 06:00 AM

Hey guess what! You’re a map maker. Or cartographer. Whatever you want to call it. Yes, I’m serious. The job is yours. Doesn’t pay but it might be fun to do anyway. Microsoft is making you the offer. Now don’t go getting all full of yourself, they’re making the same offer to every person on Earth.

It’s part of the map service on their Bing search engine. I guess they’re looking for a leg up on other map sites. So they’re doing this thing called Bing Open Street Map where you, or anyone, can provide pictures and information and that gets added to the map, to the record of what that place looks like and is.

It was inevitable, really. The Wikipedia model works, lots of people contribute for free, building something bigger. But is bigger better?

We talk about the future of mapping when we’re all map makers. Our guests are Michael Goodchild, professor of geography at the University of California Santa Barbara and Mark Harrower, a map designer at Axis Maps and former professor of cartography at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.

Comments | Filed Under: microsoft google maps

Why is Google buying wind energy?

Posted: 07/22/10 06:00 AM

Most news from Google involves stuff like search ads, web services, mobile computing. The occasional Buzz or Wave, perhaps, that is a little confusing. But at the very least, no matter what Google does, it always involves a computer in some way. Well, not any more. Google has begun investing in wind power.  This week, Google agreed to buy 114 megawatts of electricity from an Iowa wind farm. 

We heard that and we were all what the—?

Turns out that even though they’re a web company, Google is getting into the energy business, making plans to buy up energy, resell it, and keep the renewable energy credits that go with it. We talk to CNET’s Martin Lamonica about Google’s plans. We also check in with energy industry analyst Sam Jaffe about how this all works.

(photo from Flickr)

Comments | Filed Under: google energy

Like lots of people, Google shells out money for Farmville

Posted: 07/13/10 06:00 AM

Have you played Farmville? There are estimates that one in ten Americans has. It’s a video game that people mostly play on Facebook where you get a little patch of land that you get to / have to take care of. You tend the soil, raise crops, acquire animals. Your farm grows as you work at it and acquire points and fake money You can also pay real money for it to grow. It’s a silly game.

But Google is taking it seriously. They’ve apparently invested at least a hundred million dollars in Farmville’s parent company, Zynga, who also makes other similar games that are played online. Games like Frontierville and Mafia Wars.

Google is seen as getting ready to take on Facebook with a much more aggressive push into social media. The idea is for Zynga games to be at the heart of a new Google gaming site. We talk to Dean Takahashi from Games Beat who says he’s confirmed this story about Google’s investment. He fills us in on what Google is doing here.

We also talk to A.J. Patrick Liskiewicz. He’s in the process of completing an MFA in the Department of Media Study at SUNY Buffalo. He’s written about Farmville online and says that what’s really at the heart of Farmville’s popularity is a compulsion toward politeness.

Comments | Filed Under: google farmville zynga

Google Takes Photos. Also Data.

Posted: 05/24/10 08:07 AM

For years now, search engine giant Google has been sending fleets of cars all over the world to drive up and down as many streets as possible, taking pictures. For many people, the idea of having a photo of your house online that was taken out the window of a Google car was creepy enough but now comes word that over the course of taking all those pictures, Google also collected data from Wi-Fi networks they drove near. The company said that collection was accidental, they didn’t even know they had it until recently, they’ve never used it, and they want to destroy it as quickly as possible. But governments and privacy groups around the world are nonetheless furious at Google and are threatening legal action. We talk to Danny Sullivan about this. He’s the editor-in-chief of SearchEngineLand, a website covering the search industry. We also get legal insight from Michael J. Songer of Crowell & Moring Intellectual Property Group in Washington.

Comments | Filed Under: google

Nexus One goes from savior to possible flop in four months

Posted: 04/28/10 09:53 PM

The Nexus One, Google’s first smartphone, did not live up to the hype created by the tech press. How could it?

Guest: Tom Krazit, CNET News.com

Comments | Filed Under: google mobile jg

today's show

What will we do with all this "white space"?

09/26/10 11:15 AM

There’s a vote coming up this week in Washington that will have a big impact on how you use the internet, what’s available to you, how much faster you’ll be able to get things online. On Thursday, the FCC is expected to open up unused parts of the broadcast spectrum, a lot of people call it “white space”. This is space that was positioned to be something of a buffer between television stations but such padding is proving less essential since the conversion to digital TV.

On today’s show, we talk to Glenn Fleishman from Wi-Fi Networking News and The Economist about how the spectrum works and what kind of new space we’re talking about. We also check in with Tim Wu from Columbia Law School about the companies that will look to use the space and what it all might mean for you and me as internet consumers.

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