The Internet, from The Economist

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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 ...


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 ...

Hotel Wi-Fi: Knock your block off

10 October 2014 - 11:13am
MARRIOTT has admitted to jamming customers' Wi-Fi hotspots in "at least one" of its hotels, forcing business travellers to pay for the chain's own Wi-Fi service, according to America's Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Marriott normally charges customers $14.95 per day for its Wi-Fi service, but in this case the costs were much higher—the jamming happened during a conference at which Marriott was charging exhibitors and journalists "as much as $1,000 per device" for access, according to the FCC. "It is unacceptable for any hotel to intentionally disable personal hotspots while also charging consumers and small businesses high fees to use the hotel’s own Wi-Fi network," Travis LeBlanc, the FCC's top enforcement official, said in a press release.Marriott, which was fined $600,000, doesn't seem sorry. The chain released a statement arguing that it was trying to protect customers from "rogue wireless hotspots" and demanded the FCC make a formal rule on the issue.Gulliver thinks that is balderdash. Marriott shouldn't need an FCC rule to know what it was doing was wrong—and that if it was discovered, the negative PR would damage the company's bottom line far more than a couple of hundred Wi-Fi signups would help. Moreover, the FCC operates an entire website that details the laws about Wi-Fi jammers. At the top of the site is this big warning box: ***ALERT*** ...

The Economist explains: How protesters evade digital censorship

9 October 2014 - 3:36pm
AS GOVERNMENTS attempt to block access to social media or to the internet entirely, protesters try to stay one step ahead.  So how do they get around blockades?  Comment Expiry Date:  Fri, 2014-10-24

Minority languages: Cookies, caches and cows

25 September 2014 - 11:03am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Mission relaunched Fly Title:  Minority languages Rubric:  Translating technological terms throws up some peculiar challenges Location:  BAMAKO, MALI Main image:  Speaking the customer’s language Speaking the customer’s language OUSMANE sweats under a tin roof as he thumbs through a Chinese smartphone that he is selling at the technology market in Bamako, Mali. Words in French, Mali’s official language, scroll down the screen. “A ka nyi?” (Is it good?) a customer asks him in Bambara, Mali’s most widely used tongue. Mozilla, the foundation behind Firefox, an open-source web browser, wants Ousmane’s customers to have the option of a device that speaks their language. Smartphones with its operating system (OS) are already on sale in 24 countries, including Bangladesh, India and Mexico, for as little as $33. Other countries will be added as it makes more deals with handset manufacturers. And ...

Internet IPOs: How Alibaba measures up

19 September 2014 - 10:49am
UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Internet IPOs Rubric:  China's big e-commerce site dominates its American peers ALIBABA'S shares were priced at $68 on September 18th, giving China's e-commerce behemoth a market capitalisation of $168 billion as it started trading on New York's Stock Exchange. The flotation will raise $21.8 billion, narrowly missing the record for the world’s biggest stock offering, held by Agricultural Bank of China with its $22.1 billion listing in 2010. But if some of the remaining options are exercised by their owners, Alibaba’s could yet be the largest. Outside of the stockmarket, Alibaba's dominance is less ambiguous. Transactions last year over its websites totalled nearly $250 billion, compared with $116 billion for Amazon, the American "e-taling" giant. Data from this year suggest that with every second that passes, Alibaba handles almost 500 orders, altogether worth more than $9,000 on average. Amazon’s equivalent transaction value in 2013 would be less than $3,700 per second. An average buyer on Alibaba's websites spends over $1,000 a year, whereas the figure is less than half ...

Nigeria’s online retailers: E-bola

18 September 2014 - 11:01am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Xi who must be obeyed Fly Title:  Nigeria’s online retailers Rubric:  Fear of the virus boosts e-commerce in Africa’s most-populous nation WHAT if Ebola spread beyond the smaller west African states, where the outbreak is concentrated, and took hold in Nigeria, Africa’s most-populous country? International epidemiologists tremble at the thought. Ordinary Nigerians worry, too—so much so that the country has seen a boom in online shopping, as some people avoid going out into crowded markets and shopping malls. Access to the internet and e-services is growing fast in Nigeria, a country of 173m people, more than 10m in Lagos alone. Online retailers must contend with poor roads, especially in rural areas, and suspicion of online payments (they accept cash on delivery). Ebola is giving an unexpected push to nascent e-commerce, after the country suffered its first case in July, when Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian civil servant, died in Lagos. At least six others have perished since. Jumia, the biggest e-commerce site, says orders have ...

Digital advertising: Tracking the trackers: Every click you make

11 September 2014 - 5:32pm
THE data we generate online has spawned a complex new ecosystem of firms tracking, interpreting and selling our data to advertisers. This raises privacy concerns for consumers  Comment Expiry Date:  Fri, 2014-09-26

Online video: Cracking the screen

11 September 2014 - 10:54am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Little Brother Fly Title:  Online video Rubric:  Online video is flourishing, but it is not about to kill television ONLINE VIDEO IS following in the path of broadcast television and cable, radically changing how and what people watch. Around 195m Americans, or 77% of American internet users, already watch videos online. In China, where people are suspicious of government-censored television, the figure is nearly 500m, or 70% of those who use the web. This year digital-video advertising in America is forecast to grow by 43%, against a mere 3% for TV advertising. Yet they start from such different bases that television will still rise by $2.2 billion, against $1.8 billion for online video. The battle lines are somewhat blurred. Probably more than half of all premium online-video advertising minutes are screened on the websites of big television companies, such as CBS and ABC. Increasingly it will make more sense to talk about “video” as a single category rather than “television” and “online video” separately. Online-video ads ...

Netflix expands in Europe: An American in Paris

11 September 2014 - 10:54am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  UK RIP? Fly Title:  Netflix expands in Europe Rubric:  The video-streaming firm enters some crowded new markets Location:  PARIS Main image:  A transatlantic tryst with a happy ending A transatlantic tryst with a happy ending AMERICAN internet giants such as Google and Amazon are the target of much criticism in Europe these days, accused of avoiding taxes, invading privacy and competing unfairly with local firms. The latest transatlantic tech firm to ruffle feathers is Netflix, a fast-growing company that offers streaming video on demand (SVOD) over the internet and which has already got conventional broadcasters and pay-TV companies worried back home in America. Netflix has been signing up viewers in Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands and the Nordic countries; and next week it starts invading the continental heartland, beginning with France. Television companies, telecoms firms and other ...

Social media in Saudi Arabia: A virtual revolution

11 September 2014 - 10:54am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  UK RIP? Fly Title:  Social media in Saudi Arabia Rubric:  Why social media have a greater impact in the kingdom than elsewhere Location:  JEDDAH AND RIYADH Main image:  People of the Facebook People of the Facebook TUNE into one of Saudi Arabia’s television channels and you are likely to find a stuffy report praising the government or a sheikh spinning a dreary sermon. Little wonder that so many Saudis turn to YouTube and other online broadcasters for light relief. That has led to the emergence of new media companies, mainly in the more liberal coastal city of Jeddah, dedicated to amusing the kingdom’s growing population. In the glassy offices of UTURN Entertainment, one such firm, men and abaya-clad women play table-football and squeeze putty between commissioning and recording videos for their YouTube channel. It airs a variety of shows, from cookery and religious programmes to talk shows ...

The future of Apple: Watched

10 September 2014 - 9:23am
UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  The future of Apple Rubric:  Apple is becoming a very different company, and not just because of its newly unveiled products Byline:  A.S. Location:  CUPERTINO Main image:  20140913_WBP504_473.jpg AS A technology firm, Apple spends much of its time reimagining the future, but it also likes to pay tribute to its past. Back in 1984 Steve Jobs, with a luminous mane of black hair, double-breasted suit and green bowtie, commanded the stage at Flint Performing Arts Centre near Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino to show off the new Macintosh computer. On September 9th Mr Jobs’ successor, Tim Cook, balding and in blue jeans, held his own performance in the same location. It was the most significant showcase of Apple’s determination to wow the world since 1984. To thunderous applause, Mr Cook showed off two new iPhones, a clever payments system and a wearable device, which it calls the ...