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The Internet

Commercialization Of The Internet 340

Anonymous Coward writes "For those anti-corporate tech-heads out there, Excite is running an article about how companies are taking over the net through the use of the courts, trademarks and deep pockets. From the article, 'Big corporations have a significant and growing presence on the Internet. In March, just 14 companies controlled 60 percent of users' online time, down from 110 companies two years earlier, Jupiter Media Metrix found.' A final thought from the article, 'This is the last remaining communications medium that allows the small person to participate,' said Barbara Simons, past president of the Association for Computing Machinery. 'To lose that would be a great tragedy.'"
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Commercialization Of The Internet

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  • by TheDick ( 453572 ) <dick@askadick. c o m> on Wednesday December 26, 2001 @10:35PM (#2753749) Homepage
    In even the fairly recent "past" (1994?) was how any jow schmoe with some university webspace was on equal footing with a multinational. Not anymore. Granted, the net has a lot more USE now, I mean, its more than just a passion for tech oriented young men, but we've lost the edge we once had. I'm sure everyone knows this, and I will get modded redundant, but who cares. I want the old school URL's back. Shit like www.university.edu/physicsdep/387434/2w0843273/geo rge.html
    • by Anonymous Coward
      and email address like
      3634234.324234@compuserv.com
      :-)
    • Hey look, those things are still there.... the only thing reports like this show are that there are more companies on the net, and more muppets spending their whole lives looking at them...

      That doesnt stop everyone having a say and it doesnt stop the weird and wonderful having its place.

      That only happens when big business _changes_ things - but thats a whole different story....
    • I also loved the drab gray backgrounds, the blue hyperlinks, the simple HR tag, Times New Roman font, and the content. People actually seemed to have intelligent things to say. Pages were just loaded chock full of information. It was functional and reliable, though not completely pretty.

      Seems today that people have forgone functionality for looks and Shockwave and JavaScript and other fun stuff. The Statusbar alteration got annoying about 20 minutes after it was invented, much like the BLINK tag.

      I think it'd be neat to see retro Web sites. Although one can find them just by looking deep within university Web sites and search engines. Or we could just simplify and go back to when tables were the hot new thing.

      Oh yeah, one more thing I loved about the Internet back only five years ago when I started: no pop-up x10 ads!

      • Excellent point! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nbvb ( 32836 )
        That's exactly how I still code HTML to this day.

        {ShamelessPlug}
        Check out www.osxadm.com [osxadm.com]. I haven't put any real content up yet, but the HTML forms are done.

        The only difference between my pages in 1997 and today is that I use a BGCOLOR="#FFFFFF" tag now. :-)
        • The only difference between my pages in 1997 and today is that I use a BGCOLOR="#FFFFFF" tag now. :-)

          But why? I mean, when I design new pages now, I remove the BGCOLOR attribute. BGCOLOR is clearly marked as deprecated in the specs [w3.org], and should only be used in a transitional period, and I think the tranaitional period has lasted more than long enough. From now on, I think one should use the Strict DTD, either 4.01 or XHTML 1. There is no use for BGCOLOR anymore (eh, actually, I think there never was.... :-) ). Instead, use an (external) stylesheet. It's easy to turn off for the users, and it'll be easier for users to make your pages suit their taste.

          Other than that, I agree with your philosophy. The pages I write now are XHTML 1 (it should be completely backwards compatible) and comply with at least two levels of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 [w3.org]. I think that if everybody did that, the web would be a lot more usuable for everyone (it was a huge blunder by the W3C to market the Accessibility Guidelines as being something only for people with disabilities).

          • Because I'm trying to avoid CSS line the bubonic plague.

            There are still a LOT of web browsers who don't render CSS properly -- my goal is to have the page look good in IE, Netscape, OmniWeb, Mozilla, iCab, Lynx, etc.

            I don't want to block anyone from access because they're not using MegaloBrowser 4.999.999.999.today's build. :-)

            On another note, I think we need to start a "retro Web" group or something -- one that shuns any site that involves any sort of proprietary extension, or any site with Flash!

            (Agreed about the blunder by the W3C, BTW -- I miss the days when I could actually do something useful with Lynx!)
      • by mboedick ( 543717 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @12:58AM (#2754038)

        I too remember the days when sites were distinguished mostly by what they had to say and what content they offered instead of who has the prettiest graphics or the coolest Flash.

        It would also be nice if every site could drop back into that mode and still be usable, which is entirely possible using stylesheets, standards-compliant markup, etc. If I can look at a site with stylesheets and images turned off, in black Times font on battleship grey background, with blue and purple links, and the site still says something to me and gives me a reason to go there, then I know it's a worthwhile site.

        You can make a fairly spiffy looking web page by starting like that and using stylesheets to add color, change fonts, and do positioning.

        Like building a house and then painting it, instead of trying to build a house out of paint.

    • My favorite quote from the early days:

      "In cyberspace, *everyone* can hear you scream."
      (regarding the great net.kook [crank.net] Serdar Argic [eff.org])
    • .... how any jow schmoe with some university webspace was on equal footing with a multinational ....

      Ah yes, the good 'ole days of '94, when everyone who had 'net access had (or was persuit of) an advanced degree at a university. Hardly "any Jow Schmoe".

      Throw in the unwashed masses, and you get lots of personal pages along the lines of My Cat Fluffy's Grand Adventure On The Day I Bought The Digital Camera!

      Now there are still a lot of good non-profit pages out there, and the number may actually be increasing... but they are saddly an ever shrinking fraction of the total. Even with better search engines, it's getting harder and harder to find or even bother looking for the really good pages that're out there somewhere.
  • by MtViewGuy ( 197597 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2001 @10:38PM (#2753752)
    The reason why 14 companies control that much of the Internet access today is the fact these are the companies that have survived and have the resources to support large numbers of users connecting to the Internet.

    What's very interesting is many of these companies own the means to connect to the Internet (DSL/cable connections) or own the backbone of communications lines used for Internet traffic.
    • exactly. most of the "joe shmoe" venues vanished because they couldn't pay their bills. when you can't make payroll or pay for your bandwidth you also go away (not just when a behemoth buys you).

      it's not the fact that big corporations have taken over the net so much as they're the ones who have survived the recession. the lawsuits aren't so much a result of their new power as the increased attention they're paying to the net. six years ago if you told fox that someone has a web page with screenshots from one of their shows they probably wouldn't have known what you were talking about, and now they do (and care).

      frankly i think the net is as democratic now as ever, just in a new way. i no longer have to rely on tripod or xoom or the globe or whoever else has gone out of business: i can set up my own webserver under my own domain on my home dsl to voice my opinions (try doing THAT six years ago).
    • by scoove ( 71173 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2001 @11:01PM (#2753808)
      What's very interesting is many of these companies own the means to connect to the Internet

      and obtained that exclusive ownership through rather nefarious means. A former Southworstern Bell friend used to brag about how the entire provisioning platform for CLEC/DSL providers to issue orders thru SWBell was a single fax machine (set on the slowest receive speed, and frequently out of paper for days).

      No phone orders. No electronic order system. No email requests. One crummy fax machine that was usually down. "Golly Mrs. Jones, I can't understand why your CLEC DSL provider can't get you service. Southworstern Bell would gladly get it for you in a few days if you'd switch your order!"

      On my home turf, USWorst beat the colocation orders by stuffing hundreds of desk job folks into recently relocated quarters inside the central office. Imagine freezing your butt off next to a 5ESS switch just so some higher up exec can keep the CLECs out of town. "Sorry, no space left in the central office... wish we could help ya!"

      Top that off with their hit squad that serviced cities like Minneapolis, Des Moines, Omaha, etc. that "oopsed" on ISP dedicated lines. "Gosh, did you say that T1 you've been runnin was supposed to be ESF/B8ZS? Golly... looks like it's AMI/D4 now. Guess you'll have to reorder your uplink connection... should be about 35 days by the time we get to fixin it. I could flip the little switch on the CSU/DSU, but hey, I'd be breakin the rules!" (Apparently payola is expected or else it's 'company policy' for you)

      I had everything from lost orders (more than 50%), competitive poaching (request a quote to a customer location and discover USWorst sales people getting the lead passed on), intentional interference with hunt groups (killing hunt #2 out of 200+ lines), fraudulant billing putting companies from other states onto my bill (and being told if I didn't pay it by 5 PM, I'd be shut down), etc.

      Only the city's top law firm, vicious attorneys and nonstop publicity about their illegal aggression kept us above water. Our competitors who couldn't afford $50K/month for legal fees to combat the LEC? They didn't last long at all.

      Combine that with oversight from our elected officials like Louisiana's Tauzin (an EFF watchlist critter and highly effective open Internet killer), and there should be no surprise. We've demanded a spam-favoring Baby Bell monopoly Internet through our votes.

      Don't like it? Don't elect this funny speakin' Bell lacky crap [house.gov].

      *scoove*
      • Here in Seattle, Verizon(aka GTE) wouldnt put my Covad dsl in, But the tech said he would put in DSL from GTE, it was installed in a week.

        I could care less about who it was from, just glad I had DSL. But it was a still an illegal tactic.
  • I'm sorry, but this seems rather one-sided. Commercialisation of the internet is not all bad, at all. In fact, commercialisation of the internet democratises commerce.

    For example, Amazon as a retailer has to compete with every other bookshop on the onternet - this competition is good, and keeps prices down. Low proces allow poorer people to buy. The digital nature of amazon means that anyone can work for it anywhere in the world (excluding the manual work in the warehouses). This is a democratic, meritocratic process.

    As for the effect on the internet itself, well, look at all the services available - hotmail, msn, aol, yahoo, cnn, bbc, these are the bread and butter of the internet.

    But most importantly, the Internet prior to commercialisation was an ivory tower. It was exclusive and exclusing. It has been the commercial companies that have pushed it out into the mainstream and made it a resource accessible by everyone - much to the chagrin of the Internet 'old timers', who still contemptiously sneer at AOLers and such 'low life'.

    Moaning about commercialisation of the internet is just a front for elitist snobbery, for wanting the old, university and academic dominated internet back, for people who want to exclude the majority.

    This hypocrisy must not be tolerated.

    You may be annoyed that the sort of internet *you* like is no longer mainstream, and is relegated to dusty old newsgroups and places like slashdot, but that's just tough; don't try and exclude the majority under the pretense of 'stopping commercialism', the only great force of equality known to man, Capitalism.

    I have been in the Digirati for 15 years, but as an artiste, not a programmer or sysadmin, and it has always dismayed me how the mainstream 'hacker' opinion is so exclusionary, and hypocritical.

    Now that this culture is finally a tiny majority on the internet, it seems to view itself as persecuted by commercialism, which (in a small sense), it is, as it has been sidelined.

    But creating this anticommercial, anticapitalist, antiequality and antiegalitarean agenda will only lead to tears.

    Wake up!

    • Digerati? That is a perfect example of why normal people should NOT be allowed to make up tech jargon....
    • Dude, we're not angry about AOL, Hotmail, or online stores. These are all good things. The problem, in the eyes of hackers and general Slashdot visitors, is what has been brought with it. The commercialization of the internet has given rise to free web page services that only give you 2MB of space and 300MB of bandwidth per month, cable modem services that will disconnect you if you run anything even remotely resembling a server, and a greater feeling among non-tech-heads that any site that isn't run by a multinational corporation that already owns fourteen newspapers and three TV stations "isn't trustworthy".

      Free e-mail is a good thing. Reasonably priced and user friendly internet access is a good thing. Online stores are a good thing. The silencing of the average person for the sake of keeping internet speech under the control of multinational corporations because it is more profitable, however, is a bad thing.

      • Dude, we're not angry about AOL, Hotmail, or online stores. These are all good things. The problem, in the eyes of hackers and general Slashdot visitors, is what has been brought with it. The commercialization of the internet has given rise to free web page services that only give you 2MB of space and 300MB of bandwidth per month, cable modem services that will disconnect you if you run anything even remotely resembling a server, and a greater feeling among non-tech-heads that any site that isn't run by a multinational corporation that already owns fourteen newspapers and three TV stations "isn't trustworthy".

        I agree that, in general, people are not too angry that services like AOL, Hotmail, or online stores, exist. But I don't think your example of what was "brought with it" is a particularly apt one. I see no fault whatsoever in "free web page services that only give you 2MB of space and 300MB of bandwidth per month". They are free, so take what they give you and don't whine about it. Also, cable modems and other forms of home-based broadband aren't something people had in "the early days", and though most broadband providers are crap right now, I imagine most people would agree that having SOME broadband option is better than having NO broadband option.

        There are two primary issues that I believe are the cause of most of the attitudes you will find. First is a perceived loss of culture. In the "old days" there was a certain lingo and level of technical aptitude with which you could speak, and you could generally expect people to understand you. The Internet was not yet very diverse in the type of person that could gain access, and as a natural result those who could gain access formed a somewhat tightly-knit culture. While much of this culture still exists (as evidenced by Slashdot, various newsgroups, etc), it is often harder to find the tech solaces due to increased noise. The exploring tech-guy who happens to wander into other subcultures of the internet could, understandably, feel out of place, which could be a particularly offensive feeling for those that helped to create the internet in the first place. It is this issue that usually leads to comments that people see as elistist or excluding. As for a solution, I can't really give any answers, as it seems more of a natural social phenomena than anything.

        The second issue is the one that seems to really drive people nuts. That is the attempt by commercial interests to exert CONTROL over the internet. There are several commercial entities at work that would like to see the internet standards come under proprietary control. Others exist that would like to see (more) legislation passed to censor what we can read, write, and do on the internet. Many of the "original" gang saw the internet as the ultimate in presonal freedom (particularly free speech). Commercial interests quite often (usually) act in direct opposition to this concept. This is what aggrivates most of the old school internet junkies. The attitude I see is more or less "What right do these corporations have to tell me what I can do on MY internet. I was here first, not bothering anybody, and they came along and crashed my party." Again, I can't claim to have any real answers as to how to combat this (I do have ideas and opinions, but they are beyond the scope of this post), but I definately feel this is the more serious issue.

        AJ
      • The commercialization of the internet has given rise to free web page services that only give you 2MB of space and 300MB of bandwidth per month

        The reason why you're getting "only" 2mb space and 300mb a month is because, in case you haven't noticed, the bubble has burst. This is a good thing, because we're returning to a rational allocation of resources.
      • The commercialization of the internet has given rise to free web page services

        There; I edited your comment to bring out the salient point.
    • For example, Amazon as a retailer has to compete with every other bookshop on the onternet - this competition is good, and keeps prices down. Low proces allow poorer people to buy. The digital nature of amazon means that anyone can work for it anywhere in the world (excluding the manual work in the warehouses). This is a democratic, meritocratic process.

      Dude, didn't you pay attention?

      Let me quote: "In March, just 14 companies controlled 60 percent of users' online time, down from 110 companies two years earlier,"

      So there is actually *LESS* competition than before as fewer and fewer companies control the web.

      • Let me quote: "In March, just 14 companies controlled 60 percent of users' online time, down from 110 companies two years earlier,"

        So there is actually *LESS* competition than before as fewer and fewer companies control the web.


        And yet, 1.5Mb access costs $40-$50 a month now, whereas the best you could get five years ago was a couple grand a month for the same speed.

        Damn those economies of scale, they're ruining the internet!
  • 14 of 110? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by joshamania ( 32599 ) <jggramlich&yahoo,com> on Wednesday December 26, 2001 @10:46PM (#2753769) Homepage
    It's because the other 96 went out of business...

  • by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2001 @10:46PM (#2753770) Homepage Journal
    Should such an overtaking of the internet happen, there is always the going back to building our own. And come to think of it, it'd probably cause some innovation to happen. You know making things streamline and faster, no ads... etc..

    So how would we replace the university backbones that began the internet?

    Hasn't there already been some efforts in this direction?

    Do we have to be concerned about anti-ad-free networks or laws banning such?

    GNU/Linux/GPL began a direction of user/consumer options. How might this play out with
    commercial free internet?

    Should we begin now or push more for commercial free networks, or wait?
    • So how would we replace the university backbones that began the internet?

      Eek. Please check into the NSFNET NAP/ANS/Al Gore scam before wishing this monster on us again.

      NSFNET was never supposed to evolve into a competitive Internet. Ask any insider about what arranging peering with NSF was like back 'in the day' NSFNET was still alive. Learn about PRD (policy route database) and how ANS used it to attempt to become the Ma Bell of the Internet. Read about how then Senator Al Gore had his fingers in everything, working hard to transition the net to friends.

      I don't mean to come across as a bell hater - they're mostly ineffective where I play these days since they have no viable competition to screw and simply flop around like a mostly dead fish absent competition - but seriously, the only thing worse than a corrupt monopoly is a government-mandated corrupt monopoly.

      *scoove*
    • So how would we replace the university backbones that began the internet?

      Communicate the old-fashioned way: FidoNet [fidonet.org]

      Seriously, the only way break the megacorp's choke-hold on the net is to go totally wireless, and completely circumvent the need for the existing millions of miles of strung wire. There needs to be a communcation method that can go end-to-end without *depending* on all that wire.

      Right now, he who owns the pipe controls the communication.

      No start-up or co-op or RMSophile (of which I am one) is going to gather enough resources to lay down an equal amount of wire to compete.

      It's gonna be AT&T or TimeWarner. Coax or twisted pair. Cable or DSL. There is no other option, and all the wire is owned.

      There will have to be an all-wireless solution. Until then, grab your ankles -- but don't hold your breath.
      • mshiltonj writes...
        There will have to be an all-wireless solution. Until then, grab your ankles -- but don't hold your breath.

        God I wish I could post & mod at the same time. Need some +++ on your post.

        I keep reading posts that presumably are on opposite ends of the political spectrum - e.g. believing the only alternatives are "commercial-free government net" and "big mega corp monolith net." If you understand how wireline broadband works, the two are the same.

        A few basic things to understand about getting wire from my business to your house:

        1. I need to suck up to the local pols to obtain right of ways. This means lots of lobbying, campaign contributions, and all the usual nice words for bribes. (I've done my time hanging out with lobbyists and pols - I find watching video of bambi being shredded by wolves much less painful).

        2. The pols aren't idiots. They know that Mr. Megacorp would blow them away in a second if they had the chance, so when they give the right of way or whatever regulatory approval is required to allow the wires and service, the pol sticks in terms that continue to require the megacorp to pay into the system. (This was Microsoft's major blunder, not their aggressive anti-consumer behavior, in the eyes of the Fed and the hungry little states). Understand: both operate via 'screw or be screwed' - this usually doesn't result in consumer-friendly markets.

        3. The pols and the megacorps reach a nice state of symbiosis, both feasting away on the public. It's a rather stable system that unfortunately requires you, the fat and stupid consumer, to be the food source. But hey, you got your stability and your consumer goods. You're happy and couldn't care less.

        So here's a Slashdot primer: when you see posts positioning big corps vs. government (e.g. your run of the mill JonKatz blather), recognize that someone is trying to get you to not notice that you're being set up to be suckered.

        In the rare event you don't like being the host to this predatory nonsense, try supporting smaller companies that do a good job. They're the only ones that really give a damn about you...

        *scoove*
  • by Flarners ( 458839 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2001 @10:47PM (#2753775) Journal
    ...then why are we seeing an explosion of decidely non-corporate, distributed technologies like P2P networks and online gaming? The Web has become little more than interactive television, that's for sure, but there is so much more to the Internet than HTTP and Flash ads. P2P services are the driving force behind the adoption of DSL, Cable and other Broadband. Online gaming with Quake et al. is only "corporate-controlled" in the sense that the games are made with corporate backing; the major fun of these online games comes from the people who participate in them.

    People need to see beyond the Web; it may be the primary medium you look through when you open up Internet Explorer, but it's primacy is being quickly supplanted by new distributed technologies. Articles such as this are terribly short-sighted.

    • Online gaming with Quake et al. is only "corporate-controlled" in the sense that the games are made with corporate backing; the major fun of these online games comes from the people who participate in them.

      Ah yes, but notice now how multiplayer games come 'locked in' to certain service right out of the box. The Quake1 days were a boon for independent servers and user contributed mods. Since they all started becoming 'Foxed', and more and more games tie you into a service (ala battle.net), it starts to get locked in.

      Now, in the name of 'preventing cheating' and tying in a gamer for a monthly service fee, I can see alot of the games becoming more "corporate-controlled".
      • "Now, in the name of 'preventing cheating' and tying in a gamer for a monthly service fee, I can see alot of the games becoming more "corporate-controlled"."

        Maybe, maybe not. However, it's worth pointing out that the majority of games that require a monthly service fee (EverQuest, Ultima Online, Asheron's Call, Dark Age of Camelot, Anarchy Online, World War II Online) are those where the server's usually providing significant extra processing (running NPCs and such) and is definitely handling several orders of magnitudes more players than you see on other servers.

        Several recent games have had free central servers (battle.net and Half-Life come to mind), but the extent of the corporate control extends to anti-piracy, autoupdates, and providing an official list of games (which I personally find a lot easier than dealing with GameSpy back in my Quake2 days). A monthly subscription fee in the absence of some additional value would have a very hard time competing with the existing one-time fee games -- people are used to forking over $50 and being done with it, unless there's a single game server with literally thousands of people in a single shared world.

    • >...then why are we seeing an explosion of decidely non-corporate,
      >distributed technologies like P2P networks and online gaming?

      That's like saying that the interstate system isn't federalized because the government doesn't make the cars we drive. How do you run the technologies you mention? Over the cable owned by your local cable monopoly, or maybe over the copper owned by the telco. Big companies, getting bigger, and gaining more control. What happens when they decide to start fighting these new technologies? You may have bought your car from Ford, but the state troopers will still pull you over for speeding.

      What do you do if your cable company blocks all inbound traffic, and only allows you to use 80, 25, and 110 out? (Keep in mind that tunneling is not an option for the average user.) Do you go to the "competition?" And what do you do if the phone company puts the same filters in place? Good luck running P2P over dialup.

      As big ISPs keep swallowing up the smaller ones, we're getting closer and closer to having as much of a "choice" of internet providers as we have a "choice" of utility providers. If nothing changes, I imagine that 10 years from now, you'll be able to choose between using one "local" (subsidiary of a nationally owned) internet service, or using nothing.

      Shaun
      • >What do you do if your cable company blocks all
        >inbound traffic, and only allows you to use 80,
        >25, and 110 out? (Keep in mind that tunneling is
        >not an option for the average user.) Do you go
        >to the "competition?" And what do you do if the
        >phone company puts the same filters in place?

        Start my own ISP and clean up..
  • Issue I faced (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MathJMendl ( 144298 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2001 @10:50PM (#2753781) Homepage
    I manage a non-profit site geared toward people interested in the TI-89, a Texas Instruments graphing calculator, at www.ti-89.org [ti-89.org]. I do not have any illegal material there, and I clearly state that I am not in any way related to TI in my disclaimer. My website is simply a fansite that promotes interest in the TI-89, and in the message boards I've noticed that it has influenced several people into buying TI-89s.

    This did not prevent them from sending me a letter threatening lawsuit if I did not sign an trademark "license" with them for the use of the letters T and I, placed consecutively. The letter stated that it was their trademark and that I would have to remove it or face lawsuit. They also wanted me to turn over the domain name as well, and the license they sent me was extremely restrictive.

    I refused to agree with this agreement because it said that I couldn't say any negative things about TI or any of their products and had several other clauses restricting what I could say. I felt that this was censorship, and even though I haven't put anything negative about TI on my site, I didn't want my opinion to be biased toward them.

    Anyway, that was the last I've heard from them (for now, at least). My site remains, and with over 100,000 visits it surely generates interest in TI's products, generating revenue for them. Luckily, they probably came to the conclusion that such a fansite was probably more beneficial to them than detrimental, and that sending threating letters wouldn't accomplish anything. If they decide to threaten me again about this, though, I might choose to simply remove my site, and thus the interest it generates for them, from the Internet. I simply do not have as deep pockets as they do and could not afford a lawsuit.

    Then again, perhaps they were just sending me a form letter. I once received a letter from someone asking for advice about what to do, since Dell threatened him about his domain name, which had the word Dell in it. Consequently, Dell was his last name, and he had just as legitimate a right to the domain name as they did (even more legitimate, in fact, since he registered it first); they probably just chose to send out a form letter to all domain names with the word Dell in it.
    • Trademark protection isn't just a matter of companies being Jerks - particularly in a case like yours. If companies don't at least go through the motions of protecting their trademarks, such as "Ti" in something obviously referring to calculators, they lose those trademarks. If they make attempts to protect their trademark only some of the time, they risk having the judge decided that it's become common usage when some Taiwanese company starts selling calculators with "TI" on them.
      • Yes, but in this case it's a non profit website that simply discusses and gives support and add-ons for TI's products. Your example is completely different, because that would hurt TI's trademark and their profits by profitting off the name. My site refers to their product and is about the product, not hurting their revenue at all (in fact probably helping it). Plus, it indicates that I am not in any way affiliated with TI.

        I mean, if people got sued every time they mentioned a product, then why shouldn't companies like HP and Intel sue the New York Times for writing news articles about them, or sue Slashdot for that matter? Why shouldn't Palm should sue news organizations for reporting that it lost its court case against Xerox, since they did not give the organizations a license to use their trademark?

        I say, as long as people aren't using a trademark to profit off of by attempting to offer similar services (such as selling calculators with the letters TI on them), then it should be perfectly ok to mention the product or create a website about it.
        • Whether the site is non profit or not doesn't come into play when a judge has to decide if a name has become common usage. This is why Kleenex goes bonkers over the usage of Kleenex to describe anything thats not official Kleenex brand tissues. The problem is a somewhat broken bit of the legal system, more than TI's legal department.
    • ...it looks like you've just been slashdotted!
    • by ColaMan ( 37550 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @12:12AM (#2753945) Homepage Journal
      I once received a letter from someone asking for advice about what to do,

      I get these all the time :-)


      HI!

      I send you this file in order to have your advice.

      See you later, bye!

      Attached File: "Threatening Domain Name Letter.doc"

    • Re:Issue I faced (Score:5, Informative)

      by prisoner-of-enigma ( 535770 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @12:45AM (#2754016) Homepage
      It's very easy for a company to send a "cease and desist" letter to someone like you, that neither means they have the legal wherewithall to prosecute you nor the time/money to do so. They hope you will be intimidated by the letter and comply. Sounds like borg to me.

      What this is rooted in is not necessarily some greedy corporate culture drones out there (although they do exist) but more in patent and trademark law. Both, unfortunately, are horrifically broken in this modern era. What you are probably getting needled for is so that TI can defend it's trademark. Here's why:

      Trademark law (in the U.S.) put simply states that if you do not vigorously defend your trademark, you lose it. "Vigorous" to lawyers means you sue anyone, anywhere, anytime they might appear to be infringing. Thus, the letter to you. TI could care less what you're doing, but the damn legal system wants its pound of flesh, and the corporate lawyers on retainer know that.

      I'm willing to bet that outside the legal department nobody at TI has one inkling of an idea that you were "threatened". Further, and this has worked for me in the past, if you contact someone higher up in the company (and it is damnably difficult -- use the "investor relations" links to get their contact info) you'll usually find them sympathetic to your cause if you're not slandering them left and right. Nobody wants a PR black eye, and it's very easy to distribute negative info on a company to the entire world overnight via the Internet.

      So, to sum it up, if you're being threatened, stand your ground. If things look to get nasty, contact the EFF for legal assistance. As a last resort, the ACLU might be of help sometimes as well (for Americans only, though). Sooner or later the legal system will change to catch up with technology.
  • by sabinm ( 447146 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2001 @10:50PM (#2753782) Homepage Journal
    Meanwhile, the busiest sites are increasingly run by a handful of companies, giving them greater ability to control what users read, view and say. By running the message boards and chat rooms, such sites can delete unpopular viewpoints or reveal identities of anonymous critics

    Now would be a great time to just shrug your shoulders and refuse to contribute to a world where you have no place.

    The only freedom we have left is the freedom not to condone, encourage, or participate.

    Until there is freedom, let there be silence
  • by reaper20 ( 23396 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2001 @10:51PM (#2753785) Homepage
    I agree that commercialization of the net can generally be bad. (More spam for everybody).

    But at the same time, it's good to know that there are alternatives to all the commercialism on the web. What we need to be fighting for is to ensure that the open protocols of the net remain open, and that I don't have to have a Passport/Sun doohicky to buy a book if I don't need it.

    Come to think of it, I rarely browse commercial sites unless I am looking for something. Commercialism tends to be counter to what the internet was ideally supposed to be, a repository for information.

    Ever notice how stories on Yahoo, ZDNet, MSNBC and others mention things, but really never provide links to anything that they are talking about? That's because some marketing moron decided that it's best to 'lock in' a surfer to their specific 'content channel'. I say screw that. Link the hell out of everything and let the content stand on its own.
    • The problem isn't the spam, or the pop-up ads, or even "branding" certain parts of the net. It's the fact that wealthy corporation have access to hordes of lawyers that they can send after anyone doing anything they don't like. "Things they don't like" include fan/anti-fan use of characters, trademarks and the like, reverse engineering, file sharing, distribution of patented algorithms, reporting of vulnerabilities, and such.

      To put it under the rubric of the "commercialization of the Internet" is actually to miss the point. The problem is the concentration of political power in the hands of the wealthy, and the use of the court system to exercise that power - that was a problem before the internet, and it remains a problem now.

  • Corporations care a lot about the legal process. They write letters and checks to their congresscritters. Do you really wonder why corporation-favouring legislation keeps getting passed?

    If you don't like it, change the system. For example, make it hard for corporations to give money to congresscritters. Make it hard for corporations to use the legal system.

    Ever thought how different things would be if having a corporation not only protected the founders from liability, but also limited their rights use the legal system? Say a special clause where if a corporation loses a case against an individual, that it has to pay 10x legal charges plus 5x the individual's normal yearly salary plus another two years of the individual's legal expenses in any case the individual decides to start?

    Hmmmm...
    • Such a plan is sure to backfire. There would be a similiar clause that would state the individual must pay a certain amount to the corp for losing as well. It would then make it impossible for the individual to fight back for their rights as the loss would ruin them and their family for decades.

      Personally, I would like to see corps be treated as "full" individuals. By that, I mean that I would not mind seeing officers of a company rot in jail when they break laws. If I, as a person, murder someone, I go to jail for the rest of my life. If I, as say... Ford, murder people by refusing to recall and redesign my products, I pay only a fine and it's back to business as usual.
      • Corporations are already treated as full individuals in almost all regards, save voting rights (and even that could be called into question.)

        The corporation exists as an individual, because it protects the people who run the corporation. A corporation can kill thousands of people through shoddy plant maintenance and untrained personnel (US Carbide: Bhopal), and no human individual goes to jail. Even were the case to go to court and the corporation found guilty, the most that can happen are financial penalties: with no corporeal body, there's no way to throw the corporate entity into jail.

        There are two ways to take things:

        A) Really start punishing corporations as individuals. Bring back the death penalty: if a corporation is found guilty of murder, then kill the corporation. Naturally, the unemployment of tens of thousands of employees may be an issue in this case!

        B) Abolish the corporation-as-individual rights. Regress things back a few hundred years, to the point where owners and directors were held personally accountable for the consequences of their decisions and the actions of their employees.

        Anyway, point is that you're on the right track, but going the wrong direction for the goal you want to score. Treating corporations even more as "full" individuals would result in the directors/owners/etc being more protected, but would place the corporate entity at greater risk; treating them less as individuals would likely reduce the risk to the corporation, and increase the risk for the directors/owners.
  • by pongo000 ( 97357 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2001 @11:01PM (#2753810)
    We have the National Science Foundation to thank for allowing commercial traffic across what was then known as NSFNET in 1991. Does it really come as a surprise to anyone (especially the ACM) what has come to pass? There will be no undoing the deed that's been done.

    Not even Internet2 is safe from rampant commercialism, as is evidenced here [internet2.edu].
  • Small people (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2001 @11:02PM (#2753813)
    'This is the last remaining communications medium that allows the small person to participate,'

    But isn't this also the first communications medium that allows the small person to participate? (Other than largely ineffective channels such as pamphlets and megaphones.) Maybe things are just returning to the way they were prior to 1994.

  • by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2001 @11:06PM (#2753820) Homepage Journal
    when corporations use their business leverage to get ISP's to cut the connection of websites which they find objectionable. The Internet as an open forum for free speech is not protected by law; currently, an ISP can pull your service for any reason whatsoever. Thus, if you post any content (say, a Christian website, for example) that someone finds objectionable, you could lose your right to free speech without so much as a court battle.

    Access to the Internet should be federalized and regulated like the utilities - freely available to anyone who has the equipment to connect. Yes, our tax dollars should fund it - then free speech would be safe from the corporate interests.

    • Connecting to Morpheus or Napster and cbn.org are 2 different things. No one can sue the ISP for connecting you to cbn.org so you can pirate music and software.
    • currently, an ISP can pull your service for any reason whatsoever

      And you can change ISP's for any reason whatsoever. There's plenty to choose from, thanks to capitalism.

      Thus, if you post any content (say, a Christian website, for example) that someone finds objectionable, you could lose your right to free speech without so much as a court battle.

      Eeeh gads, you haven't lost any rights in this case! You simply lost access to service from a particular company.

      Imagine you created a commercial, and you wanted to pay a television network to air it. They air it, receive complaints, and decide not to air it any more. Have you lost free speech rights? Of course not, you can approach any number of other networks and cable stations to get them to air it. You can broadcast your message in other mediums.

      Your right to free speech doesn't guarantee that you are going to be able to physically get your message out to other people, only that you have the right to express your views.

      Access to the Internet should be federalized and regulated like the utilities

      Oh god that's just what we need... another branch of the government. Let's see, would you like the FCC to control it? They're doing a wonderful job of preserving free speech on the public airwaves, aren't they? Ahem...
        • currently, an ISP can pull your service for any reason whatsoever

          And you can change ISP's for any reason whatsoever. There's plenty to choose from, thanks to capitalism.

        But here is the point! 110 to 14. What if in 5 years the trend follows and there is really only 1? Then you have no choice.

        --jeff

      • Imagine you created a commercial, and you wanted to pay a television network to air it. They air it, receive complaints, and decide not to air it any more. Have you lost free speech rights? Of course not, you can approach any number of other networks and cable stations to get them to air it. You can broadcast your message in other mediums.

        In your interpretation, the first ammendment guarantees to every American the right to step up on a cactus in the Arizona desert and howl their opinions to their hearts' content. Others might say that the first ammendment protects speech as a form of communicating with other human being, a radical idea that might entitle people to a reasonable access to communication media. Nah, that's communism.

        FYI check adbusters [adbusters.org] to see how corporate media makes sure you are not exposed to speech that might harm their commercial interest.

    • That is what regulated common carriers, such as your local telephone company, are for. It doesn't have to be federalized, just regulated. This is usually done at the state level. The telephone company can't disconnect me for having views that people find offensive. On the other hand, my ISP can cancel my account for any or no reason. This isn't a big problem with dial-up ISPs, where there are plenty of competing ISPs. It's in the broadband arena that the problems are more serious. There are likely to be few alternatives for the broadband customer. Cable companies tend to have the attitude that their customers are mindless proles, who should be happy that they are allowed to surf the web in the company's "walled garden". They dream of partners, synergy and pay-per-view.
  • by FFFish ( 7567 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2001 @11:06PM (#2753821) Homepage
    There's no two ways about it: the Internet must become commercialized.

    Not because we, the joe-blow users of the Internet want it commercialized. Rather, because it is the biggest threat to the mediacracy since the invention of the printing press.

    And what makes the Internet even more threatening than the press is that the actual publishing is as good as cost-free. At least with paper, you have the overhead of layout, paper, and shipping. With the net, you have the overhead of... nothing.

    The media conglomerates simply aren't going to allow that. They can't afford to.

    And I believe the government isn't particularly happy about it, either. If you care to dig, you can get all sorts of truthful information about the bad-ass things our governments and corporations are doing.

    An information-empowered people are a dangerous people: they know things they shouldn't, they can coordinate too easily, and they get smarter.

    Between the media conglomerates and the government, you damn well bet that the glory days are over!
    • I guess web designers, bandwith, and network admins come free.
    • With the net, you have the overhead of... nothing.

      What a crock of bull-puckey.

      I tell you what - go lay fiber from coast-to-coast, around Cape Horn, and to every corner of this godforsaken planet. Then go launch a global network of high-capacity low-earth satellites. Then go connect 200 million homes in America alone with a plain-old-telephone system.

      That's your low overhead. What a joke.
      • No, dummy: there's effectively no overhead for the publisher. I get something like 5Mb free webspace with my costs-dick-all ADSL account.

        There is considerably less entry barrier for the web than there is for paper. It would cost me several tens of thousands of dollars to publish and distribute a book; on the web, I can do it for jack-squat.
        • Ohh neato! Thats all slashdot needs to solve its troubles too, right? An ADSL modem and 5mb of webspace!

          You can publish 5mb by your ISP - unless of course the site gets any type of traffic at all- in which case you will be promptly booted from your ISP's included hosting. Plus you're ADSL costs money. Money that many people dont have. Plus computers.

          There is less barrier now, that the initial barriers have been put in place - BY CORPORATIONS. But even still, to reach a large audience would take either (1) p2p style caching/distribution or (2) a commerical hosting account.
          • Kee-rist. You hang out exclusively at the commercial sites, don't you? That's the only way you could be so ignorant of the wealth of small sites that publish information that you simply couldn't have access to in any other format.

            Slashdot is a commercial site. Commander Taco isn't footing the bill. Slashdot lives and dies by its corporate backers. It's a prime example of the concentration of power.

            Go take a look at http://www.vacman.com/. There's no way you'd have that as a resource if it weren't for the very low cost of Internet publication. Yes, I realize the guy may be a bit loony: that's not the point.

            Is this site costing the fellow a shit-load of money? No (not until I got him slashdotted!) Could he ever have been effectively published on paper? No. Is it a site that corporate interests wouldn't mind seeing disappear? Yes.

            The mediacracy would like to see free, informative little sites like that disappear. Vacman is costing the media companies money. The free dispersal of information is the antithesis to their making of money.

            Hell's bells, man, the big publishing houses are currently making noises about having libraries pay them licensing fees on the books they stock!

            Free/cheap information has to be eliminated if the media wish to continue to make a buck!
            • by danheskett ( 178529 ) <danheskett@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday December 27, 2001 @01:37AM (#2754115)
              First off, lets look at this:

              Hell's bells, man, the big publishing houses are currently making noises about having libraries pay them licensing fees on the books they stock
              This is an age old question, its not anything new. The Supreme Court has been dealing with this issue for literally a hundred years. Publishers of information have rights only to "first sale". Libraries have long fought for this right, and are seeking to extend it now into the digital age. Check out the ALA here [ala.org] for more information. The "big houses" can make noise, but they AREN'T getting anywhere.

              Kee-rist. You hang out exclusively at the commercial sites, don't you? That's the only way you could be so ignorant of the wealth of small sites that publish information that you simply couldn't have access to in any other format.
              No, and I run a number of small private interest/non-commerical sites. Yet despite your moronic unquestioning claim that their is "no overhead" to publishing on the Internet I still have overhead.

              The mediacracy would like to see free, informative little sites like that disappear. Vacman is costing the media companies money. The free dispersal of information is the antithesis to their making of money.
              You so vastly over-estimate the power of corporate interests that its silly. That site costs the media companies nothing. It costs only the publisher and maybe a few Vac. manufactuers some money. If you reall believe AOL-TW is out to get them, then you are wrong. If they are so afraid of Vacman and like, why not cut them off? The site is hosted by Icon Developments, based in Scottland. Netcraft shows that Netblock belonging to several higher level ISPs, and eventually going back to Sprint. AOL has peering agreements with Sprint - so why doesnt AOL (or MSNBC, or ABC, Disney, whoever) just leverage that against Vaccman and get him "off the air".

              Ohh right. Because no one cares about his site.

              Bottom line is that publishing on the Internet does cost money. Right now those big nasty corporations subsidize sites and bandwidth for all those free info sites they want to destroy. Verio, a top host and a very cheap one at that, hosts thousands of those little free-info sites you talk about. They are owned by NTT - amoung the largest corporations in the world.

              Where is all this oppression you speak off? Where is all this "hells bells". No one cares about these little sites. They don't jeopordize anything.
            • Free/cheap information has to be eliminated if the media wish to continue to make a buck!

              "Information may want to be free, but fiber optic cable wants to be one million US dollars per mile."
              - Shawn McMahon
  • by danheskett ( 178529 ) <danheskett@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday December 26, 2001 @11:10PM (#2753832)
    This article, this whole notion, and this whole conversation is built upon the faulty premises and misinformation blithely propagated by morons frothing at the mouth. From the article, and the Slashdot teaser:

    In March, just 14 companies controlled 60 percent of users' online time, down from 110 companies two years earlier, Jupiter Media Metrix found.'

    What's wrong with this? What is wrong with this statement. Really look at it.

    14 companies controlled

    What a joke.


    I control my online time - not AOL, not MS, not Earthlink, X10, Slashdot, or The Onion.

    If people in this country and indeed the world would adopt a more responsible attitude towards media, the Internet, and corporations than I think as a whole the human race would benefit. This type of silly willy-nilly victimization ("I am being controlled while online!") is so typical of the general mindset that has been taken up en masse.

    For the sake of freedom, if I want to read MSNBC, Slashdot, Linux.com, or any other site I will do so. I will filter my Internet connection. I will choose the sites I want to patronize. I will choose where to purchase my goods. I will decide who gets what information. I will make these decisions. It is not "a great tragedy.", nor is it a terrible loss when a site goes offline. It is the world, the Internet, the great masses exerting its inexorable will.

    My eyes are open. The Internet is mine. The Internet is yours. No one, not a single site on the Web - not a single host on the Internet can withstand the massive market forces we each contribute to.

    AOL doesn't rule me, Time Warner doesn't rule me, and Microsoft certaintly does not rule me. And they don't rule you either. As soon as we all can agree to that the sooner we can all move on with our lives. And each day, from this day to that day, I sincerly hope that each individual chooses a productive road and lives secure in the knowledge that so long as the creative mind seeks a channel a medium will present itself.
    • by Swaffs ( 470184 )
      You're forgetting about ignorance.

      Many people, especially new users, are simply not aware of the diversity of the internet. They're locked into the content their ISP's portal delivers them. And why not? It offers news, weather, shopping, everything. There's even that little search box which makes you think you're searching the net.

      The average user has no clue that they're trapped within such a narrow view. And for those that do, most don't realize that they should care.

      And Microsoft doesn't rule you? Well then, consider yourself to be within a very tiny majority. Try and find an ISP that will support any OS other than Windows. Try and find an ISP that will even answer a simple question like "what's my mail server address" if you happen to let it slip out that you're not running Windows, instead of the usual "We don't support that"...click.

      To even realize that there are other OSes out there puts you into a very tiny majority. I'd doubt if even 1% of the population could name an OS other than Windows or Mac, and most of the rest would only be able to name Linux thanks to the stock market hype surrounding it two years ago.

      Yes, the internet still does offer the freedom that it always has, but freedom is useless if you aren't aware of its existence. Be glad that you are enlightened enough to realize you have a choice, but realize also that very few people are.
    • One thing you're neglecting is the cost of publishing on the Internet. A corporation can pay for a couple of T-3's, a bunch of expensive servers and the engineers and publishers who will put up their massive web sites.

      A small publisher may be incredibly popular, but the costs would make it so that publishing would become increasingly difficult, there's a cap on how popular they can be. Too many people come to their site and their ISP will hit them with a bill they can't afford.

      The central problem is the "cost" of publication falls more upon the publisher than the consumer. P2P publishing networks like MojoNation and Freenet change this trend. Resiliency is determined by consumer popularity, not how big the corporation publishing it's bankroll is. Usenet publishing is free, but ephemeral. Only a corporation could collectivize Usenet. Currently one has a monopoly on this collectivization, Google, and it does not archive binary posts.
  • by cthugha ( 185672 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2001 @11:14PM (#2753841)
    the early days when [the Internet] was a place for researchers at universities and governments to talk about their professions, hobbies and other interests with little interference from lawyers or corporate executives...disputes are often over gray areas...that courts rarely get to resolve because fans back down first.

    You have to wonder how much of the problem revolves around the migration of a large group of people onto the Net who don't appreciate the free, communitarian culture they were entering.

    While reading the article, I was reminded of the big bust-up that occured when Paramount went after all the unofficial Star Trek fansites prior to establishing its own official site. The community of Trek fansites had a lot in common with the early community of the Net as a whole (probably because a lot of our founding non-gender-biased parental figures were Trekkies themselves), it was cohesive, well-connected and had a sense of the common ideal of the free flow of information. These qualities allowed it to collectively "take offense" at what Paramount was doing, with the result that Paramount did permanent damage to the Star Trek franchise.

    These days, it seems that the various communities online are a lot more internally isolated and aren't aware of the proud heritage they inherit, with the effect that whenever there's a corporate crackdown on a single fansite, there's no way for the community to which that site belongs to find out and react as a whole.

    Perhaps we should start establishing community ISPs that provide cheap, high-quality access (on the back of inexpensive or volunteer labour) to the masses and distribute with each new account some material about the early history and ideals of the Internet, a sort of "online civics" course to indoctrinate the masses. I'd work for one.

  • 'This is the last remaining communications medium that allows the small person to participate,'

    I have found many communications mediums that allow the small person to be active.

    1. Tin-Can to Tin-Can, AKA PPPOTC

    2. Copy machine to street corner

    3. Projection on laser tracked white balloon

    4. Soap Box

    5. Spray paint on large wall

    6. RFC 2549

    7. Bumper sticker

    I could come up with others but that's just what I found on the top of my head.

    Granted numbers 2, 3, 5, & 7 allow for only one way data transmission but that still leaves 3 bi-directional methods for use by the little people.

  • It's not really a suprise that ownership pool of webviews has shrunk. Essentially, only the largest corporations still have money to throw away. It's not as if *anyone* is making money off the internet. Basically, everyone involved is taking a bath, from the connection providers to the content providers. (Yea, yea, a few people took the money and ran, but I'm talking about making a profit, not suckering investors.)

    Only a large company still has money to throw down the drain into supplying cheap bandwidth and free (okay advertiser supported) web sites in the hopes that some day, this will magically make money.

    The last few years has, in my opinion, seen the largest transfer of money from investors to customers (in the form of below cost services) in the history of commerce. No suprise only the wealthy can afford to continue giving away money to their customers.


  • Dontcha just love how this article infers that corporate involvement is directly synonymous with a loss of personal freedom?

    With companies, as with government, we all boo and hiss them to death because they make nice targets. Its a constantly renewable whine of "They take money from us!!!" or "They're trying to take my freedom away!!" when in reality, both institutions are providing you with services you both want, and need.

    You pay taxes so you dont have to drive on a Fred Flintstone road in an unsafe car designed by 9 year olds. You pay your phone bill because youre tired of going down to the Western Union office and sending a telegram whenever you want to say hi to your folks or see if your girlfriend wants to go to dinner.

    The government, and corporations, are made up of you and I. They are not unthinking, uncaring robots that kidnap old people, puree them in a big blender, and sell them back to you as baby food. For example, I used to work for IBM. Big Blue. Perhaps the single largest corporate entity in the world. Did a big black raincloud show up on your radar because of it? With the money I earned, I was able to buy a nice ring for my girlfriend, move to a better neighborhood, get a better/nicer car, and actually sleep at night without freaking out when it comes to bills and rent. Many of you do the same thing...So if you think companies or governments are evil, doesn't that make you evil by definition? After all, you're 1/600,000th of IBM, or 1/350,000th of Hewlett-Packard, or 1/4th of VA Linux Super Research Mario Systems World Software Boy Storage Forge.

    Think. Then react. Not the other way around.
    Cheers,
    • "The government, and corporations, are made up of you and I. They are not unthinking, uncaring robots that kidnap old people, puree them in a big blender, and sell them back to you as baby food."

      Hah! What colour is the sky in your world?

      Here are just two examples: Union Carbide, Bhopal disaster. Ford Motor Company, Pinto.

      In the UC case, shoddy plant maintenance and a shocking reduction in staff training -- a cut from six months of training, to a quick two weeks! -- led to a tragic chemical leak that resulted in 20000 deaths, another 120000 people requiring medical treatment, and a generation of grossly deformed children.

      United Carbide really gives a flying fuck, don't they? [bhopal.net]

      Ford Motor company built Pintos from 1969 to 1977, fully aware that it would explode on rear impact, because it calculated that the predicted 180 deaths per year directly attributable to this known design defect would be cheaper than spending an additional $11 per car to eliminate the defect.

      Ford really gave a flying fuck, didn't it? [motherjones.com]

      Oh, hey, and let's look at one last case: Kerr-McGee corporation, which was a plutonium fuels processing plant. Yah, that'd be plutonium: one of the most deadly elements, lethal in astonishingly small quantities. The plant had some safety control problems. Karen Silkwood started kicking up a fuss.

      It's pretty much acknowledged that the head honchos at Kerr-McGee had Karen Silkwood killed for her efforts to protect the workers and community.

      "The government, and corporations, are made up of you and I. They are not unthinking, uncaring robots that kidnap old people, puree them in a big blender, and sell them back to you as baby food."

      Hell, no. They're unthinking, uncaring robots that spew forty tons of massively toxic, mutagenic chemicals into third-world cities, build cars that explode in a low-speed rear-end collision because it's cheaper that way, and murder employees who might fink them out.


      • In the UC case, shoddy plant maintenance and a shocking reduction in staff training -- a cut from six months of training, to a quick two weeks! -- led to a tragic chemical leak that resulted in 20000 deaths, another 120000 people requiring medical treatment, and a generation of grossly deformed children.

        Sounds trite, but accidents like these are inevitable consequences of our civilization. Its our nature as human beings to maximize our effectiveness while minimizing our use of resources. Sure, its sad and terrible what happened. So was Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 250,000 people died there--A quarter of a million people burst into flames, got buried by rubble, got impaled on things, or just plain disintegrated--But most historians agree that it had to be done. Japan wouldn't have given up, and a ground invasion would have cost at least 500,000 lives, some estimates as high as 750,000. See what I mean about "inevitable consequences" ?

        The example of Ford and the Pinto you pointed out isn't that unusual. All companies make decisions regarding cost-effectiveness. If you dont like the decisions they make, you can buy from another car manufacturer. Its your responsibility as a buyer to thuroughly research your choices before putting your name on the dotted line and putting your money on the table. Of course, thats not to say that the people who died in Pintos deserved their fate -- It merely states that perhaps they would have been wise to question the motivations behind the design of Ford's products. Any mechanic will tell you that the engines Ford automobiles are generally difficult to repair. That translates into added cost to you, because in the long run, you'll be paying disproportionately more for labor. This doesn't mean that Ford is evil and makes their engines difficult to maintain because they take delight in seeing you shell out more money than others. Its your choice, ultimately. You didnt have to buy the car. You didnt' even have to buy American.

        I'm tempted to not even bother with your third example, Kerr-McGee and Karen Silkwood, as its pure speculation, conjecture and Hollywood bullshit. Stranger things have happened out of pure coincedence, a woman driving home drowsy after a long day at work not withstanding.

        Cheers,
  • by pen ( 7191 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2001 @11:53PM (#2753913)
    The reason the 14 big sites have captured such a big percentage of an audience is that the audience has grown much larger. There is also a much larger percentage of Joe Schmoes. In 1994, most of the Internet's users were nerds of some sort (whether computer geeks or university staff/students) who would not care for AOL.com anyway.

    Even though MSYAHOL has captured 60% of the Web's audience, this doesn't mean that the audience of the "weird" sites has grown smaller. I'm quite sure that while their "market share" has decreased, the actual numbers have increased.

  • worst case (Score:2, Interesting)

    by edo-01 ( 241933 )

    I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere in the boardrooms of the world there are people who would like nothing better than to have the internet regulated to the point where you need to be licensed to operate a website... The Australian government looked at doing this to anyone in Australia who wanted to stream video over the net [wired.com] but then backed down [wired.com] - for now, anyway.

    I don't believe it will ever happen, I don't think anyone would ever even suggest it publicly; but the biggest thorn in these companies sides seem to be the public's unwillingness to stay in the officially sanctioned "walled gardens" they have set-up, and you can be sure that somewhere there's a few rich old white men who daydream about walling off the whole damn thing and turning the entire internet into a kind of SuperAOL...

  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @12:05AM (#2753929) Journal

    Isn't The Rest Of The Web Still There?

    There are still .EDUs. Most ISPs give out 10 free megs or more. If you have broadband and you don't upstream too much, you can run a server. If your project is software, you can host it on places like SourceForge. If your project is the least bit interesting, you can probably find someone who will host it for nothing.

    There is still plenty of room for the Internet as it used to be: Obscure, intellectual and hostile.

    Just because there is a WalMart in the suburbs doesn't mean there isn't a coffeehouse in the city. Just because everybody else drinks Starbucks mocha, doesn't mean you can't drink home-brewed kombucha from a thermos.

    The old culture is still there. Those who want it will always seek it out. Yes, it is no longer the brightest star in the sky. Maybe the other stars are as bright as the Sun, drowning things out; but there will always be people who surf above the atmosphere, in the blackness of space.

    • Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work that way. For example, it is almost impossible to go to a restaurant and get anything non-alcoholic other than products from the Coca Cola or Pepsi companies. In many public areas, you have a choice of a bunch of generic chain restaurants where there used to be regional cuisine (sometimes bad, sometimes good, but at least different). Old culture does disappear when big corporations move into the neighborhood. You may be able to avoid it if you become a hermit, but for regular human beings who have a normal social life, it becomes impossible to avoid the bland culture imposed by a few big chains--the choices simply aren't realistically there anymore.
  • What about OSDN? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by John_McKee ( 100458 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @12:17AM (#2753960) Homepage
    Isn't it a tad bit hypocritical to criticize companys like AOL for owning so much of the traffic when this is what VA has done with your site? The way I see it is that the consolidation has kept many organizations alive that wouldn't be otherwise. And just because they are owned by the a larger company mean that they lack journalistic integrity? Freshmeat, News Forge, Slashdot, Source Forge and Themes.org used to be independent before being bought by VA. Would they still be around now without being bought? Maybe, but I doubt it considering the advertising shake up. The control has not be gained from nefarious means, just out of survival.
  • What always gets me are studies done on web site use, showing that people are more and more frequently going to more commercial sites. Of course! When was the last time you went to a person homepage? What sort of ratio is this compared to places like Slashdot and CNN.com?

    The web being the ideal "person to person" communication device is obviously incorrect. The telephone does a better job that the web. Various chats do a much better job than the web, and they have been around longer than the web. Email is another great example.
  • Now that's IRONIC! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fmaxwell ( 249001 )
    From the article:

    1. As the Internet becomes more commercialized, companies are able to use the courts, trademarks and copyrights, proprietary technology and deep corporate pockets to control what Internet users do and say, threatening the openness that made the Net unique.

    And at the end of the article, we find this gem:

    1. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All right reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

    It's like reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about how commercialism is ruining Christmas.
  • by Graymalkin ( 13732 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @01:57AM (#2754147)
    Statistically all statistics lie in some form. Journalists statistically don't have any degrees besides journalism. Few journalists statistically know more about statistics than statisticians.

    My point? You can infer anything from statistics, thats like the first chapter of a statistics textbook. So web eyeballs have narrowed their focus to a smaller number of websites in a given amount of time, big deal. If you go a little farther back in time you'll see the exact same thing as today, a majority of web users visited a handful of websites. Why? Lots of reasons. The biggest is only a smaller number of websites offered content the majority of web users even wanted to look at. Then there was a boom of websites that all offered the same thing packaged a little differently, some put blue bows on their piles of shit whilst others wrapped their shit in red bows. People liked the red bows more and thus now most of the blue bow sites are gone. Before the boom there were a handful of sites because no one thought much of the internet, now there are a handful of sites because people overvalued the internet.

    Some people think this is a new concept and rant and rave and some who read slashdot whine and moan about it. Somehow the government and corporations are controlling people's minds. Read into your history a little bit. Around the turn of the last century there were dozens of newspapers in San Fransisco. It had grown so fast and was inhabited by so many different sorts of people that for a while it supported these several dozen newspapers. Then people began to homogenize and so did the different newspapers and publishing groups. Now you've got a handful of local newspapers in San Fransisco some with much larger circulations than others. See the correlation here? The web is going to be varied but there is also always going to be points where alot of people go to. Just because you've got a phone book with a million listings doesn't mean you're going to call them all, unless you're war dialing. Same goes for websites in directories.

    Besides basic economics and social structures pervading the web researchers are often times not very well versed in the regions of the internet. Most research completely ignores IRC networks and message boards some of which are like slashdot and have nearly a bajillion people reading them per day. As well as IRC networks (which I know have declined a little bit in popularity) researchers seem to ignore instant messaging systems and their effect on the web. Alot of web users have abandoned e-mail lists, IRC networks, and message boards in lieu of instant messaging systems. I bet alot of people on analog modems probably IM more than they surf the web anymore. It doesn't require a whole lot of bandwidth and can be done on even old slow computers.
  • It's not that independent voices have been squelched. It's that few people have anything to say worth hearing.

    I can't get that excited about fan sites having trademark problems. Most of them lack any significant original content. (There's fan fiction, but most of it sucks.)

    Pressure applied to sites that criticize companies is more of a problem. But most of that is bluff. I run Downside [downside.com], which was very negative on doomed dot-coms back when they were riding high. I've received threats from companies I mentioned, but nobody ever actually did much. Read the Associated Press libel manual [ap.org] for guidance, then go ahead and criticize.

    The biggest disappointment to me in the last decade of the Internet has been the lack of good online journalism. I'd hoped that disintermediation between journalists and readers would lead to reader-supported investigative reporting. Nothing like that has happened. We have online columnists, yes, but not hard-news reporters.

  • by Garry Anderson ( 194949 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @07:24AM (#2754449) Homepage
    I have been warning about this problem on WIPO.org.uk for some time now.

    Virtually every word is trademarked, even the common words you learnt with your A B C's - apple, ball and cat. MOST share the same words or initials with MANY others in a different business and/or country. For example, the World Trade Organization (WTO) shares its initials with six trademarks - in the U.S. alone [uspto.gov] (please check). Caterpillar tractors claimed 'cat' is 'their' trademark [zdnet.com] on the Internet - even though hundreds of trademarks use the word 'cat' - again in U.S. alone [uspto.gov] (see for yourself).

    Conflict with trademark and domain name is IMPOSSIBLE to avoid. Yet, the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO.org) and the United States Department of Commerce are hiding the simple solution. It was ratified by honest attorneys - including the honourable G. Gervaise Davis III, UN WIPO panellist judge.

    Please visit WIPO.org.uk [wipo.org.uk] to see.
  • Some of the issues mentionned are alarming. Most aren't.

    I am not a bit troubled that Buffy the Vampire fans cannot have their website. To use Buffy's metaphors, if you go to sleep with vampires, you wake up with bruises on your neck. And if you insist on creating your identity out of corporate material, your identity is going to be at the mercy of the executives who made that material. If think that this is an educational experience. Now, if you had a satire on Buffy, that would deserve first ammendment protection, and will be a completely different game.

    Likewise, I am not bothered that some portal does not give a link to alternet. Alternet is there, and people who feel the need for it can find it. Part of the value of alternative networks is that they spread by alternative means.

    It is wrong to judge alternative media by eyeballs. For an ad driven network, eyballs are everything. But the impact of an alternative source of information can be far greater than the number of people who actually use it directly.

  • set up wireless networks, neighborhood networks, anything that is OURS and not THEIRS!
    right now i wuld love to see a medium that anyone willing to pay an up front fee can get online for no additional cost.
    we can have this if we want it, you know.
    no spam, no banners, no popup ads
    use ipv6 and ipsec, and your all set.
    it is our internet, we allowed this to happen to it.
    what do we do? we cant take it back, so build another one.
    a nonprofit provider would work...
    i say everyone pitch in and create such a thing.
    i bet that AOL and the telcos provide better service REAL fast.
    i bet those spams stop, REAL fast.
    and i bet you wont see another X10 popup ad ever again.
    on another thought... i suggest that the small isps, the ones willing to provide a good service for less install spam killing software to kill popup ads and banners.
    this is just what i want to see, and im sure some others will agree with me.

Little known fact about Middle Earth: The Hobbits had a very sophisticated computer network! It was a Tolkien Ring...

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