Where Would We Be Today if the World Wide Web had Been Patented?

  • August 6 marked the 20th anniversary of Tim Berners-Lee publishing the first website at CERN. Techdirt provides a few guesses regarding where we might stand today had Berners-Lee sought and received a patent for the World Wide Web.
  • The article suggests that innovation would be dramatically limited and rather than an open World Wide Web, we would be using proprietary, walled gardens such as AOL, Compuserve and Prodigy. The idea of open Internet development would be hampered by lawsuits.
  • Search functionality would most likely be dismal (no Google, for example), and limited to proprietary systems. We may also not have seen the meteoric rise of smartphones without the Web.
  • And try to imagine this: “Most people’s use of online services would be more about ‘consumption’ than ‘communication.’ There would still be chat rooms and such, but there wouldn’t be massive public communication developments like blogs and Twitter. There might be some social networking elements, but they would be very rudimentary within the walled garden.”
  • What are your thoughts? If Berners-Lee had not been so generous, would innovation be stalled in patent hell? Or would we have moved forward with other systems in development at the time?

FCC Study Reveals Broadband Internet Closer to Advertised Speeds

  • A study released last week by the FCC reports that broadband Internet speeds in the U.S. are within 80 percent of the speeds advertised by Internet Service Providers. The study calls this a “significant improvement” from just two years ago, when some ISPs were delivering Internet at less than half the advertised speed.
  • The study looked at 13 U.S. broadband providers delivering Internet over cable, DSL, and fiber-optic services. Overall, Verizon’s service was best at meeting or exceeding advertised speeds, while Cablevision’s was the worst.
  • There are currently no sanctions or enforcement mechanisms in place to punish ISPs for advertising faster Internet than they deliver, a situation that some public interest groups insist must change.
  • The study comes as the FCC is promoting its National Broadband Plan, a roadmap expanding Internet speed and availability nationwide.
  • A full copy of the report, as well as the raw data from the study, are available at the FCC website: fcc.gov.

IEEE Publishes 802.22 Standard for Wireless Internet

  • The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) published the 802.22 standard for Wireless Regional Area Networks (WRANs), designed to make wireless Internet widely available in sparsely populated areas.
  • The new standard sends and receives data in the so-called “whitespaces,” the places in the UHF and VHF spectra between TV broadcast signals.
  • IEEE claims the standard will allow transmission of data at speeds of up to 22 Mbps, and will be able to communicate over distances as great as 100 kilometers without interfering with reception of existing TV broadcast stations.
  • In addition to channel specifications, the standard addresses “the required cognitive radio capabilities including dynamic spectrum access, incumbent database access, accurate geo-location techniques, spectrum sensing, spectrum etiquette, and coexistence for optimal use of the available spectrum.”

Op-Ed: The Internet Cannot Remain Free Forever

  • Brian Barrett of Gizmodo provides a compelling and timely opinion piece that addresses various issues related to the current and future cost structure of online media (“The Biggest Lie the Internet Ever Told: Free Everything, All the Time”).
  • Barrett’s post reminds us that the Internet is still in its infancy — and online media is still essentially in beta, and as it continues to grow we should accept that not all content can remain available for free.
  • We’ve seen an interesting collection of revenue and advertising models in recent years that were designed to keep up with online media distribution and related technological advances (all of which are really still in beta form) — as well as a steadily climbing level of consumer demand.
  • Barrett points out that in order to move forward we may need to recognize the need for paid subscriptions and get past the philosophy that everything on the Internet is meant to be free.
  • He cites recent examples of online media approaches that have drawn criticism (“each one a flaming arrow launched straight at the heart of free”), such as Hulu Plus, the New York Times paywall, the TIME magazine paywall, and Fox’s recent decision to delay new episodes from streaming.

Advisory Committee Releases Report on Closed Captioning of Internet Video

  • The Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee (VPAAC) released its report to the FCC last week on the closed captioning of IP-video programming (a PDF of the report is available from the Broadcast Law Blog).
  • VPAAC (co-chaired by Vince Roberts, chairman of the board for ETC@USC) submitted the report as required by the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act passed in October.
  • ETCentric member Brad Collar points out this will require closed captions be included in Internet distributed programming (the Accessibility Act requested rules requiring that once a program has aired on television with closed captions, any subsequent online distribution must also include closed captions).
  • The VPAAC report proposes a compliance schedule based on the date of the FCC’s revised rules: programming that has been prerecorded and unedited for Internet distribution (within six months), live and near-live programming (within 12 months), and programming that has been prerecorded and substantially edited for Internet distribution (within 18 months).
  • The report also includes recommendations for performance objectives, technical requirements and capabilities related to online closed captioning.

Over-the-Top TV: Growing Numbers from Generation Y

  • Nearly a quarter of Generation Y viewers are now opting for Internet-connected TVs over broadcast.
  • A new survey from Knowledge Networks indicates viewers 13 to 31 are more likely to cut the cord than other generations.
  • Of this demographic, 44 percent still watch regular prime-time broadcasts, compared with 66 percent of baby boomers.
  • It is interesting to note that Generation Y also uses DVRs significantly less than Gen Xers.
  • Multichannel News asks: “Will the younger generation at some point subscribe to ‘real’ TV? Or do their current media-consumption habits point toward an eventual decline of traditional television viewing?”

Piracy Takes to Broadway with The Book of Mormon

  • Trey Parker’s “The Book of Mormon” has joined the growing collection of pirated media available on the Internet.
  • In what may be a first for Broadway musicals, a bootlegger shot the popular award-winning production on video and made it available online.
  • The recording was made in March and is now available as a 1GB download on sharing sites.

Proposal: Develop a New Internet to Address Cybersecurity

  • The U.S. may want to create a new, more secure Internet infrastructure that would support critical services like banking, suggests former CIA director Michael Hayden.
  • The public Web would not be able to access this network making it more secure from the threat of cyberattacks.
  • Visitors on the secure network would need certified credentials. There would be no privacy. And network operators could scan traffic content.
  • The Obama administration and Congressional lawmakers are working on cybersecurity legislation that would increase oversight of commercial and government networks.

Plizy: Cloud-Based Video Discovery and Recommendation Platform

  • Plizy is a new cloud-based discovery and recommendation platform for Internet video.
  • The company currently offers an iPad app and will soon roll out to other devices.
  • The app makes recommendations from 300 Web “channels” based on an individual’s video habits, interests and social graph.
  • It downloads content for later viewing where they have agreements with owners.
  • The company is signing deals with content owners for quality content.
  • “You can enjoy TED, YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, Facebook at the same place. And we are adding something new in the coming days, which is the ability to download some content, so you will be able to download TED videos [for example] and watch them on the plane or the bus or in a train. So we’re trying to push the experience, the discovery, and the access to the best content,” explains Jonathan Benassaya, founder and CEO of Plizy.

Netflix Leads Downstream Internet Traffic in North America

A new report from Ontario-based Sandvine indicates Netflix video streaming content currently accounts for the single greatest source of peak downstream Internet traffic in the U.S. (recently reported as 29.7 percent, up from 21 percent last fall).

According to TechCrunch: “That puts Netflix above HTTP websites (18 percent), BitTorrent (11 percent), and YouTube (10 percent) as a source of downstream traffic during peak times in North America. (BitTorrent still accounts for half of all upstream traffic). As whole, ‘real-time entertainment’ (which is mostly video streaming, but also includes streaming music) accounted for 49 percent of downstream traffic in March 2011, versus 19 percent for P2P file sharing, and 17 percent for Web browsing.”

The Global Internet Phenomena Report: Spring 2011 from Sandvine also offers the following observations:

  • Real-Time Entertainment traffic is continuing its journey to network dominance, particularly in North America, where it represents 49.2% of peak period fixed access traffic. If this rate of growth is sustained, Real-Time Entertainment will make up 55-60% of traffic by the end of the year.
  • The continued growth of Real-Time Entertainment enables a seemingly contradictory conclusion: P2P Filesharing is here to stay, at least for the immediate future, as evidenced by the marginal drop in share from 19.2% of peak period traffic in Fall 2010 to 18.8% in Spring 2011.
  • The composition of upstream traffic on Latin America’s mobile networks has changed dramatically since the previous study. P2P Filesharing has supplanted Real-Time Entertainment to become the largest consumer of upstream capacity, accounting for 46.4% of uploaded bytes.
  • Europe’s networks reflect rapidly shifting user preferences. Levels of P2P Filesharing and Web Browsing traffic have changed dramatically since 2009, with no consistent trend appearing. Nevertheless, an important exception in this dynamic market is the Real-Time Entertainment category, which continues to grow steadily.

Related Bloomberg article: “Netflix Offers Streaming Movies on Google Android Phones” (5/12/11)

Fostering Innovation: Vint Cerf Calls for Education and Recognition

Computer scientist, technology pioneer and chief Internet evangelist at Google, Vint Cerf addresses the current state of innovation in the U.S. and what he sees as the necessary steps in moving forward.

Cerf suggests our educational programs are deteriorating and that our culture places more emphasis on entertainment and sports figures than it does on scientists and engineers. To foster innovation, he sees a need to revitalize our K-12 educational system, create national recognition for scientific achievement, and devise an effective plan for attracting the best talent from abroad.

In his essay published in The Wall Street Journal this week, the Internet pioneer cites Japan, Spain, Norway and Sweden as examples of nations that “shine a much brighter national spotlight on international science and technology breakthroughs.”

In addition to a new national spotlight, Cerf promotes a hands-on educational approach that focuses on search and discovery rather than memorization of facts. He calls for increased interaction with groups such as the FIRST robotics program and Google’s Global Science Fair. According to Cerf: “By elevating interest in math and science, we will foster the innovation and ingenuity that will move this nation forward into a better future.”

Is Piracy is a Product of Market Failure?

Internet law columnist Michael Geist, writing for the Toronto Star, comments on a new global study on piracy backed by Canada’s International Development Research Centre that suggests “piracy is chiefly a product of a market failure, not a legal one.”

The media piracy study — in an effort to analyze infringements regarding music, movies, and software — was launched five years ago by the Social Science Research Council. Institutions in South Africa, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia, and India were identified to better understand the international media market and related piracy issues. The resulting 440-page report is the most thorough analysis of media piracy to date.

The report sets the record straight on several popular piracy myths. For example, it states there are no links between piracy and organized crime, there is no evidence indicating that anti-piracy education programs have any impact on consumer behavior, and tougher legal penalties do not necessarily provide a deterrent to piracy.

The report also suggests that piracy is primarily a result of market failure, not legal failure. Geist writes: “In many developing countries, there are few meaningful legal distribution channels for media products. The report notes ‘the pirate market cannot be said to compete with legal sales or generate losses for industry. At the low end of the socioeconomic ladder where such distribution gaps are common, piracy often simply is the market.’”

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