The Internet, from The Economist

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Updated: 14 hours 31 min ago

Mozilla's boss resigns: Exit Mr Eich

4 April 2014 - 6:25am
MOZILLA, the outfit behind the Firefox web browser and other software, has just lost its chief executive, Brendan Eich (pictured), who resigned on April 3rd after spending little more than a week in the job. His departure raises thorny questions about where lines should be drawn between leaders’ personal beliefs and their corporate roles. Comment Expiry Date:  Sat, 2014-04-19

Amazon: Set-top boxing match

2 April 2014 - 9:12pm
“MOZART in The Jungle” is the name of a new TV series about goings-on behind the scenes at a New York orchestra that will soon be available through Amazon. On April 2nd, the web giant took an even deeper plunge into the TV jungle, when it unveiled a $99 set-top box, called Amazon Fire TV, which will compete with online video-streaming services from rivals such as Apple, Google and Roku. Comment Expiry Date:  Fri, 2014-04-18

Babbage: March 26th 2014: Clamping down on tweets

26 March 2014 - 4:02pm
HOW the Doppler effect helped locate the likely remains of MH370, why thorium will not be the fuel of tomorrow and how Turkey (tried to) shut Twitter down

Intellectual property: A podcast patent piper wants to be paid

25 March 2014 - 8:05am
ADAM CAROLLA, an American television and radio show host, is not famed for his moderation. He is a sometimes beloved, sometimes hated loudmouth, who shifted from working with large media outfits on shows such as the syndicated radio programme "Loveline" (co-hosted with "Dr Drew" Pinsky) and the cable TV "The Man Show" (with Jimmy Kimmel) to a self-owned podcast, "The Adam Carolla Show". His programme has consistently topped Apple's iTunes charts as the top download. It is supported through advertising.Thus it is no surprise that Mr Carolla's reaction to his company, ACE Broadcasting Network, being sued a year ago by Personal Audio, a non-practicing patentholding entity (a "patent troll"), was to speak out fiercely and at length. Personal Audio has a patent issued to it in 2012 that, according to one of its founders, James Logan, covers the production of serialised or episodic content that can be downloaded from a specific URL that client software can retrieve and store—effectively the definition of a podcast. (The precise claim in the patent is much more precise and lengthier.) Personal Audio has also filed suit against NBC and CBS, as well as Discovery Channel's HowStuffWorks.com and TogiEntertainmnet's TogiNet streaming station.Mr Carolla has launched a campaign to raise the $1.5m his attorneys estimate the suit could cost at a minimum to defend, ...

Social media in Indonesia's elections: Chasing the first-voter advantage

25 March 2014 - 12:31am
THE big news that Joko Widodo, Jakarta’s popular governor, will be a candidate in this year’s presidential election broke first on social media. The Twitter feed of the main opposition Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), which unveiled Mr Widodo, or Jokowi, as its candidate on March 14th, buzzed with slogans promoting the chosen one. The hashtag #JKW4P was soon trending locally. This was all a deliberate attempt to appeal to the younger voters who are expected to be so very influential when the world’s third-largest democracy goes to the polls this year.Almost 22m people, or 12% of the 187m people who have registered to vote, are between the ages of 17 and 21 and will be casting ballots for the first time. Twenty-nine per cent of the electorate, or 54m people, are younger than 30. In Jakarta and other major cities people are wired into the internet via smartphones with data connections. Indonesians are particularly avid users of social media. Election-related apps have proliferated in recent months.Shinto Nugroho, in charge of public policy and government relations at Google in Jakarta, says this year’s elections will be the first in which the internet, mobile technology and social media play an important role. Google has become a partner to Perludem, a local NGO, and to the Asia Foundation, an American one, to run joint workshops for political parties on how ...

E-commerce in South Korea: Groupon therapy

24 March 2014 - 8:51am
GROUPON seems to be confused. The American e-commerce company, best known for its “flash sales", recently announced it would soon shutter its Korean subsidiary. Despite vigorous marketing since it entered South Korea’s thriving e-commerce market in 2011, Groupon Korea has remained a laggard behind the three big domestic rivals: TicketMonster—Korea’s first “social” e-commerce provider, launched in 2010—Coupang and WeMakePrice.

The Economist on China: Weekly round-up

23 March 2014 - 9:22pm
IN ADDITION to the China-related gleanings gathered up here on Analects, we publish a China section each week in the print edition of The Economist. Our attention sometimes turns to China in other sections of the print edition, and on some of our other blogs, too. To help readers find all our China coverage in one place, we offer this handy round-up.We lead our China section with a report on the unveiling of a new urbanisation policy. Long delayed and touted by officials as “people-centred”, the policy was the subject of much bickering and reflects a shift in strategy by Xi Jinping's government.In our accompanying leader we say that although the new plan is important, it needs to go further by providing more cash for public services in the cities, and by allowing the establishment of a rural land market.A related story in the China section notes that the housing market appears to be stumbling again. As to whether this means a bubble is about to pop, we conclude that the answer is never a simple “yes” or “no”.In the Asia section, our Banyan columnist writes about the latest spat between China and the Philippines, and how a grounded ship risks becoming the South China Sea’s latest flashpoint. In our Business section we report on the flight of Chinese internet firms to American stockmarkets.In our Finance and economics pages, we write about China’s ongoing ...

Anonymous social networking: Secrets and lies

22 March 2014 - 10:45am
SOCIAL media may have brought millions of people together, but it has torn many others apart. Once, bullies taunted their victims in the playground; today they use smartphones to do so from afar. Media reports of “Facebook suicides” caused by cyberbullying are all too common. Character assassination on Twitter is rife, as are malicious e-mails, texts and other forms of e-torment. A recent review of the academic literature on cyberbullying suggests—conservatively—that at least a quarter of school-age children are involved as either victim or perpetrator.

The music industry: Beliebing in streaming

20 March 2014 - 12:01pm
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The new world order Fly Title:  The music industry Rubric:  Record bosses now hope that online streaming could become a big enough business to arrest their industry’s long decline Location:  OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA Main image:  20140322_WBP001_0.jpg AT THE headquarters of Pandora, an online-radio firm, in Oakland, about a dozen headphone-clad analysts fill in a long questionnaire as they listen. They rank whether a song’s mood is “joyful” or “hostile”, the vocalist “breathy” or “gravelly”. They note whether they can hear electric guitars, lutes or bagpipes. Their ratings help to shape algorithms that push music to the service’s 76m users. Pandora is in the vanguard of a revolution in which ever more consumers are streaming music over the internet to their smartphones or computers, instead of owning collections of songs. For the first time since Apple popularised the paid download in 2003, the ...

Chinese internet firms: Migrating finches

20 March 2014 - 12:01pm
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The new world order Fly Title:  Chinese internet firms Rubric:  China’s online firms are flying to American stockmarkets Location:  SHANGHAI Main image:  20140322_WBD001_0.jpg DICK COSTOLO, the boss of Twitter, was in Shanghai this week to see first-hand what the Galapagos islands of the internet look like. He follows in the footsteps of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, who also came for a study tour. Thanks to censorship and hostility to foreign internet firms, otherwise global giants such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and eBay are banned or irrelevant. Weird and wonderful local variations have, like Darwin’s finches, evolved in this isolated market instead. Even as American technology bosses are exploring China, some of those esoteric local firms are bursting to get out. A moratorium, only recently lifted, on initial public offerings on mainland exchanges has led to a big backlog of ...

Internet governance: Doing the ICANN-can

20 March 2014 - 12:01pm
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The new world order Fly Title:  Internet governance Rubric:  America promises to release its grip on the internet’s phone book—and opens up a debate on how to govern cyberspace IS THE internet about to fall apart? Just a few weeks ago it seemed possible. First Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s president, said her country would seek to circumvent internet services based in America; then Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, said she would back calls to create a separate European internet. Both were furious that America’s National Security Agency (NSA) had spied on their communications. But on March 14th the likelihood receded that either would embark on a costly, damaging and quixotic redesign of the internet’s architecture. America’s Department of Commerce said it planned to relinquish its role in managing the internet’s address system, preferably by September 2015. The move may also have cleared the way for a much-needed wider reform of the way the internet is governed. America’s role in administering the internet’s phone book is a ...

Babbage: March 19th 2014: Who rules the internet?

19 March 2014 - 4:58pm
ICANN and internet governance, the missing Malaysian flight 370 and a flurry of messaging apps that allow users to send anonymous messages to friends

Brazil’s presidential election: Winning hearts and likes

13 March 2014 - 12:00pm
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The new age of crony capitalism Fly Title:  Brazil’s presidential election Rubric:  Social media will play a big part in this year’s campaign Location:  SÃO PAULO Main image:  20140315_AMD001_1.jpg IN JUNE Brazil’s elites received a rude introduction to the power of social media. Protests, many convened via Facebook, saw millions take to the streets to air disaffection with politicians. Those same politicians now want to harness social networks for their election campaigns. Just before Dilma Rousseff was elected president in 2010, 6m Brazilians used Facebook at least once a month. As they gear up for a presidential poll in October, 83m do. Only the United States and India have bigger Facebook populations. One Brazilian in ten tweets; one in five uses Whatsapp—part messaging service, part social network. Cyberspace is seen as a crucial battleground for the election, even before campaigning ...

Daily chart: Happy birthday world wide web

12 March 2014 - 8:29am
Society is adopting technology at an increasingly fast pace ON THIS date in 1989 Tim Berners-Lee, a British physicist working at CERN, Europe’s particle physics laboratory, wrote a memo to his boss modestly entitled “Information Management: A Proposal”. Mr Berners-Lee proposed to develop a way to share information over a computer network. “A ‘web’ of notes with links (like references) between them is far more useful than a fixed hierarchical system,” he wrote. The rest is history. It took only seven years from the first web pages in 1991 for the web to be used by a quarter of the American population. That compares with 46 years for electricity, 35 years for the phone and 26 years for television. “Vague, but exciting”, wrote Mr Berners-Lee's supervisor at the top of his CERN memo (a diagram from which appears under the chart). The web, just 25 years old, is still at the start of its life.  

Expanding the internet: Of drones and loons

5 March 2014 - 9:30am
FRESH from forking out $19 billion for WhatsApp, a mobile messaging service, Facebook may be on the brink of striking another, much less expensive (but nonetheless intriguing) deal. According to Techcrunch, a tech-industry blog, the giant social network is angling to buy Titan Aerospace, an American company that makes drones, for some $60m.Presumably it does not intend to use the drones to spy on people, which would be pointless given that some 1.2 billion folk already tell Facebook so many intimate details about their lives voluntarily. Instead, Facebook is said to be keen to use the drones to get even more people online—a cause that it has championed via internet.org, a group that brings together companies and community groups.Given that billions still do not have access to the internet, there is plenty of scope for expanding its reach. Titan makes drones which are supposedly designed to stay aloft at great heights for up to five years at a time using wing-mounted solar panels to generate power. Equipped with the right gear, these aerial marvels could bring broadband connectivity to people in remote areas of Africa and other parts of the world where the internet has yet to penetrate.This sounds exciting in theory. But Facebook’s rumoured interest in Titan still raises plenty of questions. For instance, it remains to be seen whether Titan’s drones can stay aloft for as ...

The Economist on China: Weekly round-up

2 March 2014 - 11:59pm
IN ADDITION to the China-related gleanings gathered up here on Analects, we publish a China section each week in the print edition of The Economist. Our attention sometimes turns to China in other sections of the print edition, and on some of our other blogs, too. To help readers find all our China coverage in one place, we offer this handy round-up. The lead note of our China section reports on China’s continuing addiction to tobacco (and tobacco tax revenue). China is taking steps to kick the habit, but still has a long way to go.From Beijing we report on military song-and-dance troupes that have long been a prominent part of China’s army—and on recent debates about their usefulness. And from Hong Kong, we report on the latest in a string of attacks on local media figures perceived to be hostile to mainland China.In our Asia pages, we cover a new Japanese film about kamikaze pilots that has given a worrying boost to nationalists, and provoked predictable fury from China.Our Finance and economics section includes two pieces on China. In the first we report on Chinese authorities’ recent moves to test the assumption that the yuan, if allowed to float, might only move in one direction. In the other, we ask whether internet-finance entrepreneurs could upend China’s banking sector.In our special Essay, “What’s gone wrong with democracy?”, we suggest that the rise ...

South Korea’s internet giant: Now or Naver

27 February 2014 - 12:07pm
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  What’s gone wrong with democracy Fly Title:  South Korea’s internet giant Rubric:  At home, South Korea’s biggest web portal has thrashed Yahoo and kept Google at bay. Now its owner plans to conquer the world with its messaging service Location:  SEONGNAM Main image:  Cutesy characters cost extra Cutesy characters cost extra DOWN jackets are typically stuffed with duck, not chicken, feathers. Why? “Ask Naver”. So ran an ad in 2003 for a South Korean web portal of that name featuring an innovative, crowdsourced question-and-answer service. In spite of such features, Naver’s chances looked slim as it was launched into a crowded market dominated by Yahoo of America and Daum, another South Korean company. Last year Naver indexed its 100-millionth question: a user asking for the title of a particular song, that begins with a giggle. An answer took just 14 minutes to arrive: “Blow,” by Kesha, an ...

Internet regulation: The underwood of net neutrality

25 February 2014 - 12:44pm
THE timing was certainly awkward: on February 23rd Netflix and Comcast confirmed an agreement under which the movie-streaming service will pay the American cable-TV and internet provider for direct access to its network. The news came only ten days after Comcast had agreed to buy Time Warner Cable, another big cable-TV network—a deal that, many worry, will limit competition. And it came only four days after America’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had announced how it would go about reformulating rules to keep the internet open.

Authors and social media: Too many tweets?

25 February 2014 - 6:07am
MATT STEWART does not mince words when explaining why he tweeted his 95,000-word debut novel, “The French Revolution”, five years ago. “It was a publicity stunt to get attention,” Mr Stewart says. And the stunt worked. Not only did it earn him a small amount of fame as the first person to tweet a full-length novel, it also got him a book deal.Yet even as authors keen to get their prose noticed experiment with social-media platforms, others are starting to use them as central elements in their actual writing. Jennifer Egan (pictured on the left), the Pulitzer-prize-winning author of “A Visit from the Goon Squad”, wrote a short story, “Black Box”, specifically so that it would fit cleanly into 140-character tweets. The New Yorker’s fiction department then tweeted it for an hour an evening for ten days.

The Economist on China: Weekly round-up

24 February 2014 - 12:43am
IN ADDITION to the China-related offerings gathered up here on Analects, we publish a China section each week in the print edition of The Economist. We also cover China-related happenings in other sections of the print edition, and on some of our other blogs. To help readers find all our China coverage in one place, we provide this handy round-up. In our China section this week we start with the complex story of local-government debt (keeping in mind that by “local” we are sometimes referring to provinces with populations and economies larger than those of most nations). We follow with a piece about the increasing proportion of college graduates who join China’s Communist Party. It’s not necessarily for the love of Marx. And we end the section with a piece on Chinese film, and one director who is hoping to manage a rare feat: appealing to viewers both at home and abroad, yet still passing muster with the censors.The lead note of our Asia section concerns a UN report accusing North Korea of “unspeakable” rights abuses. The report also puts China on the spot, with the suggestion it has been “aiding and abetting crimes against humanity”.Our Books and arts section includes a review of a new book about how people in authoritarian countries are empowered by the internet. China features prominently.At Prospero, one of our sister blogs, we give more attention to ...