The Internet, from The Economist

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Cybercrime: Thieves in the night

17 December 2014 - 10:11am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Past and future tense Fly Title:  Cybercrime Rubric:  The growth in general wickedness online is testing the police Main image:  20141220_BRP001_0.jpg CRIME has been falling in Britain since the mid-1990s, as it has in much of the rich world. Car-related theft has plummeted by 79% since 1995 and burglary by 67%. The decline is partly due to technology; car immobilisers and house alarms make such crimes harder. The increased use of CCTV and DNA databases means criminals are more likely to be caught, and the rewards for burglary have decreased anyway because electronic gadgets are so cheap. The falling crime rate has come alongside big recent cuts in police budgets. By 2015, the coalition government will have trimmed 20%. Meanwhile, crime has moved online. Britain is particularly at risk when it comes to cybercrime, argues Charlie McMurdie, a cyber-security expert at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), a consultancy. It is rich, its infrastructure for moving money ...

Mobile phones: Crackberries

17 December 2014 - 6:22am
UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Mobile phones Rubric:  European consumers are starting to regard mobile internet as a necessity Byline:  C.R. Main image:  euro_crackberries.png WHEN the first mobile phone call was made in 1973, few members of the public were interested in the new technology. Telecoms companies had to invent reasons to use them—for instance, that they could be used to call a friend to pass the time when stuck in a car during a traffic jam—in order to get sceptical consumers to adopt them. But now, most people in rich countries could not imagine life without one: there are now more active mobile-phone connections in America and Europe than people. The rising importance of mobiles—not simply to make calls but to access the internet as well—partly explains why BT, a fixed-line telecoms firm, decided to make a £12.5 billion ($19.6 billion) bid for EE, Britain's biggest mobile operator, on December 15th. BT also hopes that the merger will allow the firm to ...

Babbage: December 16th 2014: Mysterious Martian methane

16 December 2014 - 3:54pm
UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Babbage: December 16th 2014 Rubric:  This week our correspondents discuss a new twist in the mystery of Mars's methane and the shutdown of Google News in Spain Byline:  The Economist Main image:  This week our correspondents discuss a new twist in the mystery of Mars's methane and the shutdown of Google News in Spain Published:  20141216 Source:  Online extra Video links paragraph:  This week our correspondents discuss a new twist in the mystery of Mars's methane and the shutdown of Google News in Spain Enabled

Telecoms in America: On the airwaves

11 December 2014 - 10:15am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  America’s police on trial Fly Title:  Telecoms in America Rubric:  An auction of wireless spectrum has led to a feeding frenzy Location:  SAN FRANCISCO TIMES are getting tougher for America’s mobile operators as they battle one another for business. On December 8th Verizon, which dominates the market together with AT&T, gave warning that its profits were being squeezed as it rolls out discounts to entice customers away from rivals. Telecoms firms are scrapping over something else too: the wireless spectrum needed to carry voice and data services. Every so often, America’s Federal Communications Commission puts up airwaves for auction. The latest sale began on November 13th. Before it started, analysts took stabs at guessing how high the bidding might go, with bullish estimates coming in at $22 billion. But that amount was blown past in just a few days and bids now total a whopping $43 billion (see chart). What explains this appetite for airwaves? Part ...

The Economist explains: How “Gangnam Style” broke YouTube’s counter

10 December 2014 - 7:50pm
THE popularity of the “Gangnam Style” video by Psy, a South Korean pop star, is beyond all reckoning. Or at least it was, until a change was made in YouTube's programming. The singer’s video was poised to exceed 2,147,483,647 plays, at which point YouTube would have been unable to count any higher. But the boffins made some tweaks, and now Psy is safe until his rousing anthem passes over nine quintillion views: 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 to be precise. Why couldn’t YouTube count high enough?The answer involves zooming in to the very building blocks of computing. All numbers in digital computers, whether stored in silicon memory chips or on rapidly rotating magnetically charged hard-disk platters, are represented in binary digits, or bits. In base ten, numbers are represented using ten digits (zero to nine); in binary, or base two, they are represented using two digits (zero and one). For example, in base ten, the digits of a three-digit number correspond to hundreds, tens and units, and the largest number that can be represented is 999; in binary, the digits of a three-digit number correspond to fours, twos and ones, and the largest number that can be represented is 111 (in other words, seven). An eight-digit binary number, which can represent values from 0 to 255, is called a byte; larger numbers are represented using multiple bytes. Two bytes (or 16 bits) can ...

Babbage: December 9th 2014: To Mars?

9 December 2014 - 2:00pm
UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Babbage: December 9th 2014 Rubric:  This week our correspondents discuss NASA’s new spacecraft and how to check that internet users are human Byline:  The Economist Main image:  Babbage: To Mars? Published:  20141209 Source:  Online extra Enabled

Money talks: December 8th 2014: China's bull market

8 December 2014 - 7:05pm
CHINA'S soaring stockmarket, the growing peer-to-peer lending market and the surge in corporate dollar borrowing in emerging markets Comment Expiry Date:  Tue, 2014-12-23

Artificial intelligence: Turing, the changes

5 December 2014 - 11:26am
UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Artificial intelligence Rubric:  Google revamps how it tests whether a website visitor is human Location:  SEATTLE Main image:  20141206_stp505.jpg IN THE end, the robots won. On December 3rd, Google announced that it was radically changing its ReCAPTCHA system, the sort of prove-you're-a-human-and-not-automated-software test that has become all but ubiquitous online. In April, Google researchers published a paper showing that their computer-vision software could decipher their own squashed and twisted images 99.8% of the time.  For many, it comes as little surprise that algorithms can now nearly always beat a CAPTCHA. This is a tortured acronym that stands for "completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart", and refers to a notional test devised by Alan Turing, a British code-breaker and computer-science pioneer, in which humans test a machine to see if it can think. CAPTCHAs are the reverse, administered by ...

Streaming media: Video in demand

4 December 2014 - 9:34am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Power to the people Fly Title:  Streaming media Rubric:  As online video continues to boom, publishers are exploring new ways to deliver their content reliably Main image:  20141206_tqd002.jpg THE growth of video online is staggering. Almost 100 hours of it are uploaded to YouTube alone every minute. As more users watch video on an increasing number of mobile devices and internet-enabled televisions, the volume will grow ever larger. Cisco, a networking company, reckons nearly 1m minutes of video will cross the internet every second by 2018. Unfortunately, it can be a frustrating experience as many users find their playback keeps stopping and starting. These delays, known as “buffering”, happen when data are loading. This is normal at the start of a film, but if it continues it may be due to other problems such as a home internet connection not being fast enough—especially when multiple users are online. But fitful playback can also be caused by the ...

Celebrity economists: The sages of the pampas

27 November 2014 - 9:05am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Should digital monopolies be broken up? Fly Title:  Celebrity economists Rubric:  Like the tango, the fame of Argentine economists is tinged with sadness Location:  Buenos Aires Main image:  A tabloid celebrity with an actress A tabloid celebrity with an actress ECONOMICS is not a profession for the publicity-hungry—except in Argentina. Consider Tomás Bulat, who holds three degrees in the subject, hosts a weekly television show about it and has written two best-selling books on it. He boasts over 179,000 followers on Twitter. In comparison, Ricardo Darín, arguably Argentina’s most famous actor, has only 41,000; Andrés Calamaro, a well-known rock star, has 34,000. At a recent lunch in the seaside city of Mar del Plata, your correspondent was intrigued to see waiters and diners fawn over Mr Bulat. A neighbouring table invited him to share their calamari and a particularly bold waitress hugged ...

Babbage: November 18th 2014: Ups and downs

18 November 2014 - 3:12pm
UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Babbage: November 18th 2014 Rubric:  This week our correspondents discuss Philae’s landing and getting internet connectivity from balloons in Australia Byline:  The Economist Main image:  20141118_babbage_90x90.jpg Published:  20141118 Source:  Online extra Enabled

Difference engine: When wireless worlds collide

17 November 2014 - 11:47am
UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Difference engine Rubric:  As Wi-Fi hotspots proliferate, who needs cellular wireless? Byline:  NV Location:  LOS ANGELES Main image:  20141108_stp505.jpg LIKE many others, the first thing your correspondent does when within hailing distance of a public hotspot is switch off his mobile phone’s 3G/4G data network and join the internet courtesy of freely available Wi-Fi instead. He can then download dollops of data without the anxiety of breaching his wireless carrier’s monthly megabyte cap and running up punitive charges. He is not alone. According to comScore, a market research company, more than 42% of mobile-phone traffic, and over 90% of tablet traffic, travels by Wi-Fi instead of the carriers' own cellular networks. Once, the future of wireless depended exclusively on the mobile-phone companies’ ability to secure enough spectrum in order to beef up their cellular networks. Now, ...

Internet regulation: Not neutral about net neutrality

13 November 2014 - 11:47am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Bridge over troubled water Fly Title:  Internet regulation Rubric:  Barack Obama jumps into the debate about how to regulate broadband Location:  SAN FRANCISCO Main image:  Hey, stop throttling my download Hey, stop throttling my download AMERICAN presidents rarely tell agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) publicly what to do. But Barack Obama’s statement, on November 10th, called for clarity in the debate about “net neutrality”—a cherished principle that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally. It is best served, he wrote, by regulating broadband internet services in the same way utilities are. However, the president’s intervention makes it even more unlikely that the FCC will finalise new rules on how internet-service providers (ISPs) should treat traffic on their networks this year, as it had planned to. And when it does publish them, the proposals ...

Correction

13 November 2014 - 11:47am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Bridge over troubled water In last week’s article on internet use (“A tangled web”), we wrote that SimilarWeb did not rank India in the top ten Facebook-using nations. In fact, they rank India fifth. Sorry. Published:  20141115 Source:  The Economist Newspaper Version:  5 Historic ID:  454Q9OP

Technology and the BBC: Mashing it up

13 November 2014 - 11:47am
UK Only Article:  UK article only Issue:  Bridge over troubled water Fly Title:  Technology and the BBC Rubric:  Technology is changing the way radio operates WHEN Radio 1, a BBC music station, launched in the late 1960s teenagers flocked to it. Its presenters, many of whom had previously worked in pirate radio, were brash and it played pop music. Despite fears that radio would be wiped out by television and then by the internet, the medium has proved remarkably resilient. But it is changing its shape to keep up with a younger audience. On November 10th the station launched a channel on iPlayer, the BBC’s video-on-demand site. The move was heralded as an “historic moment” by Ben Cooper, the controller of Radio 1. Between 2008 and 2013 the share of people listening to radio in Britain increased slightly—although the average time spent listening to it has dropped among all of those under 65. But among younger people it is proving far less popular. Since 2008 the amount of time spent listening to the radio by those aged 15- to 24-years-old fell by 13%. Fewer children grow ...

Net neutrality: Of presidential importance

11 November 2014 - 12:06pm
UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Net neutrality Rubric:  Barack Obama jumps into the debate about how to regulate broadband Byline:  L.S. Location:  SAN FRANCISCO Main image:  20141115_wbp504.jpg AMERICAN presidents usually do not interfere publicly in the work of agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). But Barack Obama’s statement, on November 10th, brought at least some clarity to the country’s increasingly dysfunctional debate about "net neutrality"—the cherished but overly-sentimental principle that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally. Rather than beating around the bush, his latest statement has left no doubt that he believes that net neutrality is best served by regulating broadband internet services in the same way as utilities. Yet what exactly this means and when, if ever, it will happen remain unclear. The president’s intervention makes it even more unlikely that the ...

Internet use: A tangled web

6 November 2014 - 11:40am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Welcome back to Washington Fly Title:  Internet use Rubric:  Who goes online, and where THE internet looks like an adman’s dream. Counting how many times an advert on a bus shelter has been viewed is impossible; counting clicks on a blinking banner ad is a doddle. But knowing where each click came from, and how many people are clicking, is harder than it appears. Firms dedicated to click-counting put code on websites that reports the times, origins and frequencies of visits, or get consumers to install it buried in browser plug-ins or mobile apps. These record web-users’ digital calling-cards: the internet-protocol (IP) addresses of the devices they are using. But to assume that each IP address represents a single user in its country of registration is a wild oversimplification. A new report published on November 4th takes a different approach. GlobalWebIndex (GWI), a market-research firm with local partners in 32 countries, surveys 170,000 consumers a year and recently began to ask detailed questions about internet use. ...

Difference engine: Say hello to the Ubernet

20 October 2014 - 10:40am
UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Difference engine Rubric:  Net neutrality is the least of the internet’s problems Location:  LOS ANGELES Main image:  20141018_stp506.jpg THE decade-long debate in America over “net neutrality”—the assumption that all internet traffic, no matter its origin or purpose, should be treated equally—is inching towards some form of compromise. Internet service providers (ISPs) like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Time Warner Cable are adamant that the internet should remain free of regulations that would bar them from limiting or charging bandwidth-hogging users such as Netflix and YouTube. During the prime-time hours of 6pm to 10pm, these two popular websites for streaming video account for half of all internet traffic in America. On the other side of the acrimonious debate, open-internet activists have bombarded the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with demands that the ISPs be prevented from doing anything that would erode the practice of treating ...

Schumpeter: Pointers to the future

16 October 2014 - 10:59am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The war on Ebola Fly Title:  Schumpeter Rubric:  Forecasting the internet’s impact on business is proving hard Main image:  20141018_WBD000_0.jpg PROGNOSTICATORS have a bad record when it comes to new technologies. Safety razors were supposed to produce a clean-shaven future. Cars were expected to take off and fly. Automation was meant to deliver a life of leisure. Yet beards flourish, cars remain earthbound and work yaps at our heels. The internet is no exception. Anyone looking for mis-prognostications about it will find an embarrassment of riches. The internet was supposed to destroy big companies; now big companies rule the internet. It was supposed to give everyone a cloak of anonymity: “On the internet nobody knows you’re a dog.” Now Google and its like are surveillance machines that know not only that you’re a dog but whether you have fleas and which brand of meaty chunks you prefer. We can now add two more entries to the list of unreliable ...

Foreign entrepreneurs in China: Small is not beautiful

16 October 2014 - 10:59am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The war on Ebola Fly Title:  Foreign entrepreneurs in China Rubric:  It is hard for small businesses to break into the Chinese market Location:  SHANGHAI Main image:  20141018_WBD001_0.jpg ENTREPRENEURS do more with less, proclaimed Fiona Woolf this week on a visit to Shanghai. Lady Woolf, the current Lord Mayor of the City of London, was speaking at an academic conference devoted to helping small and medium enterprises (SMEs) flourish in China. These businesses face all of the same obstacles as big firms trying to enter China but have far fewer resources. Intellectual-property rights are hard and costly to defend. The tangle of red tape involved in tax, compliance, customs clearance, business registration and so on can overwhelm small firms. Alexandra Voss of the German Chamber of Commerce points out that local firms often work overtime and on weekends during negotiations—and that foreign ...