The Internet, from The Economist

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Telecoms regulation: Crossed wires

26 March 2015 - 11:47am
UK Only Article:&nbsp; UK article only Issue:&nbsp; The world is going to university Fly Title:&nbsp; Telecoms regulation Rubric:&nbsp; Regulators grapple with a rapidly changing telecoms industry HOW do you both encourage investment, which requires lucrative returns, and facilitate competition, which keeps prices low? Answering that question keeps regulators in a job. The latest instalment in the long-running struggle between profits and prices came on March 19th, when Ofcom, the communications regulator, confirmed that it would subject BT, Britain’s telecoms incumbent, to fresh scrutiny of its wholesale charges. More drastic regulatory changes could yet come to this rapidly evolving industry. In 2005 Ofcom, aiming to encourage competition, forced BT to “functionally separate” its infrastructure division—which manages the cables and ducts that criss-cross the country—from its retail arm. That led to the creation of Openreach, a subsidiary of BT that provides access to its network on identical terms to all retailers (including BT itself). At first that merely meant new firms could hook ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

The Economist explains: Why Saudis are ardent social media fans

23 March 2015 - 7:50pm
ON MARCH 18th, at an Arab media get-together, Twitter announced that it will open an office in Dubai. Not before time. Smartphone growth has rocketed in the Gulf—by most counts the region has the highest penetration. WhatsApp and Facebook have become standard modes of communication. Nowhere is that more so than in Saudi Arabia. Several surveys in 2013 showed that the kingdom has the world’s highest percentage of people on Twitter relative to its number of internet users; and on YouTube too. Saudis also spend more hours online than their peers elsewhere. That might seem surprising for such a conservative country where the constitution is said to be taken directly from the Koran and where women are not permitted to drive. Why are Saudis such big fans of social media? Outsiders often regard the 30m Saudis as far behind the rest of the world. The modern Saudi state was founded only in 1932, and then on the basis of an existing pact between the Al Saud family and the Wahhabist clerics, who peddle a particularly red-hot version of Islam. It is certainly a traditional place, especially around the capital Riyadh. But the country has also rapidly modernised since discovering its vast oil wealth. It has a GDP per capita of almost $26,000. Today thousands of its young people study abroad, speak English and are as globalised as their peers in other countries. Fully 75% of the ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

Babbage: Speedy 3D

18 March 2015 - 6:12pm
UK Only Article:&nbsp; standard article Issue:&nbsp; The caliphate cracks Fly Title:&nbsp; Babbage Rubric:&nbsp; This week our correspondents discuss a live video-streaming app called Meerkat and a new 3D-printing technology Byline:&nbsp; Economist.com Main image:&nbsp; 20150321_mma903_107.jpg Published:&nbsp; 20150321 Source:&nbsp; The Economist Newspaper Enabled <div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

Mobile video streaming: Incomparable Meerkat

18 March 2015 - 11:50am
UK Only Article:&nbsp; standard article Fly Title:&nbsp; Mobile video streaming Rubric:&nbsp; A new social network probes the limits of cooperation in the business Location:&nbsp; San Francisco Main image:&nbsp; 20150321_wbp505.jpg MEERKATS are small, burrowing animals that spend much of their time socialising while sheltering from the heat of the sun. They are not unlike those uber-geeks who migrate each year to Austin, Texas, for the South by South-West Interactive Festival (SXSW), where they partake in similar rituals. Apart from partying after the sun goes down, the main purpose of those attending is to promote their latest start-ups, while seeking to catch the eye of investors. Occasionally, it works. Twitter, the social-networking service that lets users dispense wisdom in 140 characters, made its debut at SXSW in 2007. Foursquare, a mobile app for local search and discovery, was the festival buzz of 2012. This year, the social-media fad is a mobile app for streaming live video. Appropriately, the new iPhone-only app ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

Africa and the internet: What’s in a domain?

12 March 2015 - 11:48am
UK Only Article:&nbsp; standard article Issue:&nbsp; Made in China? Fly Title:&nbsp; Africa and the internet Rubric:&nbsp; Tapping an unlikely resource in Mali Location:&nbsp; BAMAKO MALI has long had links with the wider world. Tripoli and Gao were once connected by chariot. Trade routes shuttled scholars and goods from Timbuktu to the Mediterranean and beyond. The same routes ferry guns, drugs, people and pasta today. Now Mali’s government is finding new links on the web. Disappointed that its national top-level domain address, “.ml”, the national equivalent of “.com” or “.co.uk”, had just a few hundred users in 2012, Mali’s webmasters asked for help from Freenom, a Dutch internet firm. It beefed up the country’s web infrastructure and then offered free registration of domain names. Foreigners registered by the thousands. Surprisingly Malaysians represented a small but significant portion, perhaps because of similarities with their national domain “.my”. Today there are 340,000 active .ml domains, and 100 new ones register ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

Computer security: The law and unintended consequences

5 March 2015 - 11:49am
UK Only Article:&nbsp; standard article Issue:&nbsp; The new nuclear age Fly Title:&nbsp; Computer security Rubric:&nbsp; The perils of deliberately sabotaging security Main image:&nbsp; 20150307_STP003_0.jpg COMPUTERS are notoriously insecure. Usually, this is by accident rather than design. Modern operating systems contain millions of lines of code, with millions more in the applications that do the things people want done. Human brains are simply too puny to build something so complicated without making mistakes. On March 3rd, though, a group of researchers at Microsoft, an American computer company, Imdea, a Spanish research institute, and the National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation, in France, discovered something slightly different. They found a serious flaw in cryptography designed to guard private data such as e-mails, financial information and credit-card numbers as they wing their way across the internet. By exploiting this flaw, a malicious hacker could see such information as ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

E-commerce in South-East Asia: Home-field advantage

5 March 2015 - 11:49am
UK Only Article:&nbsp; standard article Issue:&nbsp; The new nuclear age Fly Title:&nbsp; E-commerce in South-East Asia Rubric:&nbsp; The global online-shopping giants may not find it easy to conquer the region Location:&nbsp; JAKARTA TROPICAL rain pounds on the roof of a cavernous warehouse near Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital. Inside, youngsters in orange T-shirts haul around clothes, luggage and electrical goods for Lazada, an e-commerce firm, which has just moved in. The 12,000 square metre space is three times the size of the depot it has vacated, but it already looks full. Three years ago Lazada’s entire stock filled a storeroom the size of a studio flat, recalls Magnus Ekbom, its twenty-something boss in Indonesia. Internet shopping accounts for less than 1% of all purchases in South-East Asia—a region twice as populous as America, where the proportion is nearly 10%. But surging smartphone use and a broadening middle class mean the market is set to multiply; perhaps fivefold by 2018, reckons Frost &amp; Sullivan, a ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

The Economist explains: What network neutrality is, and why it matters

25 February 2015 - 7:50pm
“THE promotion of network neutrality”, wrote Tim Wu of Columbia Law School in a widely read paper a decade ago, is about “preserving a Darwinian competition among every conceivable use of the Internet so that only the best survive.” He thus not only coined the label for one of the most controversial of internet-policy issues, but correctly predicted that it will be a difficult one to sort out. On February 26th America’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will have a go at regulating, and defending, network neutrality, by taking the radical step&nbsp;of reclassifying internet access as a utility. But what is it?For much of the internet’s history the network has been neutral by default, thanks to its technical rules, which are blind to the type of data being handled. This more than anything explains the disruptive (and Darwinian) power of the internet: network operators could not play favourites among the packets of data they were transmitted, and startups didn’t have to ask them for permission to build innovative services. But new technologies, like the inelegantly named “deep packet inspection” (DPI), now allow network operators to identify what kind of traffic they are funnelling through. At the same time new forms of traffic are increasing in importance and generating calls for better traffic management: Netflix, the video-streaming service, now accounts for a ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

Sports this week: The Cricket World Cup and English hooligans abroad

20 February 2015 - 4:11pm
TWO of our sister blogs have posted on sports this week.&nbsp;The Economist Explains addressed why the Cricket World Cup is full of meaningless games, and Gulliver wrote about the poor behaviour of English football fans abroad. Take a look. Comment Expiry Date:&nbsp; Sat, 2015-03-07 <div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

Cyber-security: Good tech,bad tech

19 February 2015 - 11:58am
UK Only Article:&nbsp; standard article Issue:&nbsp; The great fracturing Fly Title:&nbsp; Cyber-security Rubric:&nbsp; Why people need to wise up about what smart criminals are working on Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It. By Marc Goodman. Doubleday; 464 pages; $27.95. Bantam; £20. AT A recent cyber-security summit in Silicon Valley, Barack Obama was asked by an interviewer from Re/code, a technology blog, to give his view of the thorny issue of cyber-snooping by governments. Mr Obama drew on a sporting analogy: “This is more like basketball than [American] football,” he said, “…there’s no clear line between offence and defence.” In the corporate world digital defences are being overwhelmed alarmingly often. A string of recent high-profile intrusions by hackers, ranging from the devastating cyber-attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment to the news this week that crafty hackers had pilfered large sums of money from banks in Russia and elsewhere, have propelled cyber-security to the top of boardroom agendas. Marc Goodman’s book was ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

Cyber-security: The Kaspersky equation

19 February 2015 - 11:58am
UK Only Article:&nbsp; standard article Issue:&nbsp; The great fracturing Fly Title:&nbsp; Cyber-security Rubric:&nbsp; A Russian antivirus firm impresses the sceptics, again Main image:&nbsp; Casting Kaspersions Casting Kaspersions THERE is more than one reason to harbour doubts about Eugene Kaspersky and the computer-security company that bears his name. He graduated from an institute close to the KGB and later worked for the Red Army. He has called Edward Snowden, the whistle-blower, a “traitor” for having broken his contract with his former employer, America’s National Security Agency (NSA). And, like many an executive in his industry, his regular warnings about big, emerging cyber-threats just happen to be good for drumming up business. However, Kaspersky Lab has repeatedly impressed sceptics by exposing genuine and serious cyber-security problems. In 2010, for instance, it helped uncover Stuxnet, a computer worm designed to sabotage the Iranian nuclear programme. On February 16th Kaspersky appeared to repeat this ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

Computer hacking: Anthem’s sour note

6 February 2015 - 1:05am
UK Only Article:&nbsp; standard article Fly Title:&nbsp; Computer hacking Rubric:&nbsp; This could be one of the biggest corporate data breaches in history Location:&nbsp; San Francisco Main image:&nbsp; 20150207_wbp502.jpg MEDICAL and insurance records are like catnip for hackers, who can make a fortune by selling them in black markets on the internet. Anthem, one of America’s biggest medical insurers, has just discovered how tempting a target they make. On February 4th the company revealed that as many as 80m digital records of its customers and its employees may have been compromised after intruders broke into its systems. Anthem alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation to the theft and engaged Mandiant, a well-known cyber-security firm, to help with an investigation into what it has described as a “very sophisticated external cyberattack”. Joseph Swedish, the firm’s chief executive, has written a public letter personally apologising for the breach. The scale of the theft is still unclear. Social-security numbers, ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

The week ahead: Complex kingdom

5 February 2015 - 2:51pm
UK Only Article:&nbsp; standard article Fly Title:&nbsp; The week ahead Rubric:&nbsp; Saudi Arabian authorities plan to flog blogger Raif Badawi again, Slovakia holds a referendum on same-sex marriage and Jacob Zuma gives his state-of-the-nation address Byline:&nbsp; The Economist Main image:&nbsp; 20150205_twa_raw.jpg Published:&nbsp; 20150205 Source:&nbsp; Online extra Enabled <div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

Network neutrality: No more overtaking

4 February 2015 - 4:20pm
UK Only Article:&nbsp; standard article Fly Title:&nbsp; Network neutrality Rubric:&nbsp; The Federal Communications Commission outlines its proposals to regulate the internet Byline:&nbsp; L.S. Main image:&nbsp; 20150207_fnp507.jpg “I AM submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC.” Thus Tom Wheeler, the chairman of America’s Federal Communications Commission, on February 4th unveiled online his long-awaited plans on how to safeguard network neutrality, the principle that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally. What he did not say is that they are unlikely to ever be implemented—as was the case with the FCC's previous proposals. &nbsp; The first part of Mr Wheeler’s proposals, which&nbsp;wants to reclassify internet access as a utility and regulate it as such,&nbsp;is hardly news, since President Barack Obama in November had asked the FCC to make that move. But he does not intend to apply the full set of regulations, honed in the age of the plain-old ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

Babbage: Done and dusted

3 February 2015 - 1:37pm
UK Only Article:&nbsp; standard article Fly Title:&nbsp; Babbage Rubric:&nbsp; This week our correspondents discuss the final word on the BICEP2 findings and the latest on network neutrality Byline:&nbsp; The Economist Main image:&nbsp; 20150203_babbage_thumb.jpg Published:&nbsp; 20150203 Source:&nbsp; Online extra Enabled <div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

Internet access: Gordian net

29 January 2015 - 8:57am
UK Only Article:&nbsp; standard article Issue:&nbsp; Go ahead, Angela, make my day Fly Title:&nbsp; Internet access Rubric:&nbsp; Why network neutrality is such an intractable problem—and how to solve it THE idea that certain businesses are so essential that they must not discriminate between customers is as old as ferries. With only one vessel in town, a boatman was generally not allowed to charge a butcher more than a carpenter to move goods. This concept, called “common carriage”, has served the world well, most recently on the internet. The principle of blindly delivering packets of data, regardless of origin, destination or contents, is welded into the network’s technical foundations. This, more than anything else, explains why the internet has become such a fountain of innovation. Yet with the internet becoming more crowded and traffic-management tools improving, this principle—known today as “network neutrality”—is under threat. Telecoms firms would like to create lanes of different speeds, not just to manage their networks better, but to capture more profits. Internet ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

Network neutrality: To be continued

29 January 2015 - 8:57am
UK Only Article:&nbsp; standard article Issue:&nbsp; Go ahead, Angela, make my day Fly Title:&nbsp; Network neutrality Rubric:&nbsp; The rules of the road on the internet will always be a work in progress A TERSE 900-word letter sent by AT&amp;T to America’s attorney-general a century ago changed the course of the telecoms industry. In exchange for not being broken up, the monopoly agreed to treat all phone calls equally. What became known as the “Kingsbury Commitment” entrenched the notion that existing transport rules would apply to so-called “long lines”. That helped build the world’s best telephone systems. But life is trickier now. Policymakers are wrestling with how that “common-carriage” approach should apply to the internet. In Europe ministers on January 27th discussed rules proposed by Latvia, which currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency. America’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to start discussing plans on February 5th (and vote on them on February 26th). The arguments revolve around “network neutrality”, a term coined ten years ago ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

Publishing: Spotify for books

22 January 2015 - 11:23am
UK Only Article:&nbsp; standard article Issue:&nbsp; America’s new aristocracy Fly Title:&nbsp; Publishing Rubric:&nbsp; Authors and publishers may constrain the rise of e-book subscriptions Location:&nbsp; NEW YORK Main image:&nbsp; A world of books at your fingertips A world of books at your fingertips “BEWARE of the person of one book,” said Thomas Aquinas, a medieval friar and author. The risk of encountering such unscholarly types is rarer in modern times. Digital devices can hold dozens of e-books, so people can carry around a whole shelf of reading material with them. Now a new crop of e-book subscription companies is offering bibliophiles the chance to consume as many books as they like, from a huge range of titles, for a flat fee of around $10 a month. It is a bit like having a whole lending library in your pocket—but with no need to return the books. In America the main providers of e-book subscriptions include Amazon, Oyster and Scribd. Similar ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

The state of the union: Live-tweeting the speech

20 January 2015 - 3:34pm
PRESIDENT Barack Obama will be delivering his 6th&nbsp;state of the union speech tonight. Though the address comes just as many&nbsp;new Republican Senators and Congressman&nbsp;decorate their offices on Capitol Hill, having taken control of the Senate and held on to the House in the recent midterm elections, the president appears reluctant to play the lame duck. He has used his executive powers to&nbsp;shield millions of migrants&nbsp;from deportation, has&nbsp;started to dismantle&nbsp;the (remarkably ineffective) embargo against Cuba, and has made&nbsp;a deal with China&nbsp;to reduce carbon emissions. The country’s&nbsp;economy is improving, and the president’s approval ratings are rising. Tonight Mr Obama will sketch out policies he hopes will help define his legacy, such as making college more affordable, and a new tax on the very rich to pay for tax breaks for the middle class. Given the Republicans’ control of Congress, few if any of these proposals are likely to become law. But this speech is Mr Obama’s last real opportunity to set a bold agenda before the drama of the 2016 elections shoves him off the stage.The state of the union will be broadcast at 9pm EST. Our live-tweets of the speech, and the Republican response (delivered by Joni Ernst, Iowa's new junior Senator), can&nbsp;be found here.&nbsp; Comment Expiry Date:&nbsp; ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>

Difference engine: The right to be left alone

19 January 2015 - 1:38pm
UK Only Article:&nbsp; standard article Fly Title:&nbsp; Difference engine Rubric:&nbsp; Why people cherish privacy, yet cheerfully surrender it Location:&nbsp; LOS ANGELES Main image:&nbsp; 20150117_stp502.jpg LIKE others, your correspondent is not unduly paranoid about his privacy. He takes cybercrooks seriously, and practices all proper online precautions. But on retail websites, he cheerfully parts with credit-card and contact details, and accepts that his texts and e-mail messages may well be read by prying busybodies (whatever good that may do them). He resents the way mass-marketers build pictures of his buying habits, but finds their recommendations for further purchases mildly amusing, sometimes even useful. He quit using social networks, not through fear of identity theft, but when the return on investment (of time) became too low and the threshold of gibberish too high.There are occasions, though, when he wants nothing more than to shut the entire world out, to focus on friends and family, and to enjoy the ...<div class="og_rss_groups"></div>