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Competing (Commercial) Visions For The Internet Future 195

Stirland writes: "This article in today's NYTimes says that AOL's new plan focussed on creating content for broadband could have cable companies over a barrel. It tries to compare programming on cable to 'programming' on the Internet. It's an important article to read because it gives us an idea of what cable companies' potential plans are for the broadband Internet. Given that they're not regulated like DSL, and they're the fastest growing providers of broadband Internet access, this has profound implications for the next generation of the Internet. This article omits the fact that Excite@Home tried this 'programming' approach on broadband. It failed. Another reason this article is important: Contrast AOL's approach described here with Amazon.com and Microsoft's .Net strategy. These are two polar opposite visions of the way the Internet will develop. The media vision vs. computing vision. The interesting story here is that it isn't that one is 'open' and the other 'closed.' They're just open and closed in different places -- places, obviously, that suit the companies' strategies. Why should you care, and what's in it for you? These competing visions are currently duking it out at the FCC under open-access proceedings. So the future of the Internet is hanging in the balance."
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Competing (Commercial) Visions For The Internet Future

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  • by cdrj ( 556227 )
    Although AOL is a big company I personally would rather give my money to a reliable hige company than one that could fold any minute. Just how I feel...
    • I suggest you go out and buy a few copies of Windows, Office, Exchange, and SQL Server right now...! ;-)
    • First of all, as another poster pointed out, the FCC's mandates cannot possibly silence the rest of the world's own input into the future of the internet. And lets not forget the emerging 802.11a-b networks and the growing potential for these ad-hoc networks to coalesce into larger and large independent, anonymous, and unregulated networks - until it becomes an internet in its own right.
    • Re:Well (Score:3, Insightful)

      by John Hasler ( 414242 )
      > I personally would rather give my money to a
      > reliable hige company than one that could fold
      > any minute.

      A big reliable company that couldn't fold any minute? Such as Enron or Worldcom, perhaps?

      When you rely on a small company and it folds you can find another just like it down the street. When you rely on a big company and it folds...
      • Heck I'd rather not rely on a company at all. See that thing last week about a community-ISP? You and your neighbors are the ISP.

        But rather than relying on some big company like Covad for the big pipe, you rely on several and switch between them ... and let them fight it out for your permanent business.
  • The infamous installation software for Comcast installs broadjump software that has the same idea: "push" content to the user instead of having the user "pull" content from the network.
    • "I hate idiots." -- Albert Einstein

      You didnt have to install the software...

      • But you have no idea how many think they had to... or maybe you do, probably somewhere around 95% sound right? I received those packages in the mail and was quite suspicious. So, I setup a Win98 test box on my network in order to load up the software and see what it does. Well, that was a dead end because I ran into so many problems with hardware requirements. But keep in mind, this was a rather old machine, some 133 MHz or so setup that I picked up around 95 (still, it should be quite capable of connecting to the Comcast network without any bloat, and was able to in the past). I called in tech support a couple times to see if I could find solutions for some of the problems and basically ended up finding out that it didn't change any hardware settings or whatnot (I thought they might have be trying to push everyone through proxies with the switch-over). Now, that was just me, but at least I had suspicions. I also setup my grandma's box with Comcast cable, and when the software came in the mail she must have called me and/or mentioned something about the software several times, along the lines of "Will it still work after the date listed, because the package said it is absolutely critical to install the software before the network switches over.". I explained a few ideas about the network each time and she seemed to finally agree with me and everything turned out alright. But for the million of other Comcast subscribers that don't have a nerd to turn to, how can they be sure? And, more importantly, will they just end up taking the "safe road" and installing the software anyhow?
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Monday August 26, 2002 @06:23PM (#4144402)
    > AOL's new plan focussed on creating content for broadband could have cable companies over a barrel. It tries to compare programming on cable to 'programming' on the Internet
    >[ ... ] This article omits the fact that Excite@Home tried this 'programming' approach on broadband. It failed.
    > [ ... ] Why should you care, and what's in it for you?

    Why care? Because IMHO it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what the net is all about, and if AOL tries this, they're fux0r3d even harder than they were after the AOL/TW merger.

    What's in it for you? If you agree, and you put your money where your mouth is by selling AOL stock short, you make good money riding it down to zero. (Conversely, you can lose a bundle if you're wrong and don't realize it in time, but with great risk can come great reward :-)

    • " What's in it for you? If you agree, and you put your money where your mouth is by selling AOL stock short, you make good money riding it down to zero"

      If only we had such sane markets. It matters not if AOL is a junk company or not, only if joe stockbuyer thinks it is. AOL has looked like a bad investment for years and years. You look at their various moronic business plans that they never really deliver on, etc. But as long as old Jod keeps buying it, it goes up - not down. Knowing they are wrong is easy, predicting the moment the bubble will burst in another thing entirely.
      • > If only we had such sane markets. It matters not if AOL is a junk company or not, only if joe stockbuyer thinks it is. AOL has looked like a bad investment for years and years. You look at their various moronic business plans that they never really deliver on, etc. But as long as old Jod keeps buying it, it goes up - not down. Knowing they are wrong is easy, predicting the moment the bubble will burst in another thing entirely.

        True. But given that the stock has been in a three-year decline from around $90 in late 2000 to today's $12 and change, I'd say that had you gone short at any time in the past three years (outside of the past two weeks :), the market would have rewarded you quite well for your prescience and patience.

        Anyone who thinks "It matters not if XYZ is a junk company or not" has only to look at the stock charts for said companies over the past few years.

        (And anyone who wants to talk about Enron, Tyco, Worldcon and Martha Stewart would do well to look at a one-year chart before they spoke. The market is a far harsher judge of business impropriety than Congress can ever be.)

        • I was thinking more about watching this stoopid company through the '90s. It never looked like a fundamentally good company. But people kept buying it and buying it. Eventually the bubble was big enough to buy a real (if evil) company with real assets (Time/Warner) with the stock of their basically valueless company. for me they jumped the shark about the time they came out with their first PC client - which is long before most people knew they existed. Anyone else remember when they were Macintosh only?
          • Anyone else remember when they were Macintosh only?

            IIRC, they never were. I have an AOHell client disk for the Apple II at home...never used it because I didn't like the idea of being locked into using whatever crummy software they provided. (I used ProTERM [intrec.com] 3.0 to dial into GEnie, the CS department's terminal server (for Internet access), and local BBSes instead.) I think they introduced DOS and/or Win16 clients around the same time they dropped Apple II support.

      • AOL has looked like a bad investment for years and years. ... But as long as old Jod keeps buying it, it goes up - not down.

        perhaps you should have looked at a chart before commenting. AOL has been a a bad investment for years. for the past two years the street has been extremely sceptical about aol and its future.
        there are plenty of stocks (like roxio) that are still elevated by unrealistic expectations, but aol has not been one. i do believe that aol has some more points to lose. if i were to open a position, it would be short.

  • We kept saying, `Sell us wholesale access to your network and we will have the direct relationship with the customer,' " Ms. Hook recalled in an interview last week. "It became clear that that was really unknown in the cable industry, and we've realized that moving more toward an HBO model for carriage makes a lot of sense."

    And there we had them, Hooked :)

  • ...and I already have such a feature that comes with DCable... you can fetch the local movie showtimes, get the local weather instantly, etc. AOL just wants to take over the world. The way I see it, this would become merged with a DigiCable feature on Time Warner cable systems (of which I am not I subscriber, so I wouldn't know).
  • by MrFenty ( 579353 ) on Monday August 26, 2002 @06:24PM (#4144408)
    These competing visions are currently duking it out at the FCC under open-access proceedings. So the future of the Internet is hanging in the balance.

    For those of us not under the control of the FCC, we may beg to differ that this will decide the whole internet - there may be something that can be added to the internet by the rest of the world, perhaps ?

    • The big US cable modem providers don't allow users to run web servers or other information-producer applications on their sites, which is really much more important than which ISPs deal with which Content Providers and which Cable Modem services and who gets which money. For those of you not under control of the FCC, do your cable modem providers allow you to run servers? Do people in your areas have anything interesting on them, other than simple web servers and maybe webcams? How does this change the dynamics of content that you can access? Do people mostly ignore the issue and put their pictures on terra.es anyway?

      It seems that the main location for experimentation is college campuses, which often have high-speed LANs in the dorms and may not be too aggressive about firewalls to the outside world, though there are also some US ISPs and DSL providers that allow servers on their DSL connections.

      • Earthlink [earthlink.net], which bills itself as the number two ISP in the US behind AOL, does not restrict your use of servers on their home DSL lines, though they obviously won't supply you with any tech support for them.

        But then, Earthlink does offer various anti-spam services as well as a new Popup blocker software [earthlink.net] available free to members, and while they provide dial-up software similiar to AOL's, you're just as free to not install or use the "simplified net interface" and just use the connection on it's own.

        For one of the big guns of ISPs, they tend to be one of the better deals, at least if you're not in certain areas and in need of detailed tech support.
      • I have DirecTV DSL, nee Telocity, and I find their TOS regarding servers acceptable: everything (except, maybe, IRC servers... I'll have to check that) is okay, as long as you don't exceed an upload cap of 2 GB/mo. There's no download capping (short of the DSL line speed, which in my case is officially 768Kbps, but I've hit speeds north of 1Mbps from time to time.

      • I use an AT&T-Broadband cable modem. They do let me use a web server.

        Of course the server is theirs, on their site, not mine. This makes perfect sense, because bandwidth on the cable is very asymmetrical. A typical cable modem segment, shared among dozens of users, has 2.5 Mbps upstream and 27 Mbps downstream. (These numbers can vary somewhat but that's in the range.) So if users put servers on their sites, the upstream bandwidth could congest pretty quickly.

        This isn't some nefarious plot. CATV networks begin their downstream at Channel 2 (in the USA, 54-60 MHz), and need a guard band between that and the upstream. So upstream is below 40 MHz, and is shared between modems, telephony, cable box response, and a whole lot of noise in that part of the spectrum. Upstream bandwidth on a cable is just naturally scarce. To have more, the cable would need a "high split", say at 100 MHz, which would reduce the number of TV channels, especially the valuable "cable ready" analog ones (VHF 2-6).

        Cable operators make mistakes, and don't always "get it", but they are stuck dealing with reality.
        • Sigh - I ask about non-US cable policies, and the only non-US answer talks about a bunch of countries with socialized medicine, gorgeous scenery, and Bad Weather, saying nothing about cable modems, plus Australia which has nice weather but telecom companies who are even more blazingly clueless than most of their politicians :-) Some of the Canadian cable modems are really fast, but I don't know about their server policies. On the US side, thanks to the person who pointed out Earthlink - their DSL policies are about the closest to reasonable among the lower-priced large providers, and I hadn't thought to check their cable modem policies.

          Most of the cable companies supported by AT&T Broadband doesn't let you run a server on *your* machine - you can't take that nice In reality, while the cable modem upstream bandwidth is limited, it's not THAT limited. Most of the equipment can limit you to 128kbps upstream, which is a surprisingly large amount of data transfer for any activities other than distributing lots of CDs or movies. You wouldn't want to run a high-volume commercial site on it, not only because it's too slow, but because the cable tv Service Level Agreements say Look, it's just television, if it goes down for a day or two in bad weather, go read a book or help your kids build snowmen and the cable modems get the same quality of repair service. 2.5Mbps upstream is more than a T1 - a surprising number of medium-sized business offices don't need that much for downstream (though it's always nice) for the number of people you're sharing your cable feed with. And most of the newer cable modem systems are running on Hybrid Fiber-Coax - if they run out of bandwidth, it's pretty easy to split the segment, but more importantly, the cost of Packet Shapers has been coming way down - they can stick a box in the upstream that starts throttling individual connections if the total gets too high.

          The real reason they banned servers was that the beta-test cities had some equipment problems causing high packet loss (perceived as low throughput due to TCP retransmits) which led to all those bogus but effective Don't Be A Web Hog smear ads from competing telco DSL services - and the equipment they were using couldn't limit individual users below the raw transmit level of 768kbps, so they were worried that they might have worse public relations problems (i.e. even lower sales) if they started having neighborhoods with bad performance because of somebody's p0rn server. By the time Napster came along, they had performance under control, so they had official policies about "Napster is Bad Evil Bandwidth-Eating Copyright Theft" even though half the employees thought "well *duhh*, it's about *time* people had a compelling reason to get broadband besides gamez for their kids" :-)

    • by Anonymous Coward
      So where is the great country, that doesn't
      have draconian laws and is not under the umbrella
      of US control, yet affords such luxuries as unshackled high-speed internet access?

      And how difficult will it be for an american who
      is fed up with the tyranny building up, to emigrate there?

      The USA is acquiring the characteristics of an
      iron curtain nation, and I want to leave before that becomes forbidden. Unfortunately, it appears that every other country on the planet which has such luxuries as refrigeration and telecommunications, also represses its people.

      So tell me, where is this mythical land, and what color is the sky there?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        And how difficult will it be for an american who is fed up with the tyranny building up, to emigrate there?

        PLEASE emigrate somewhere. The more of you idiots who experience what real repression in other countries is like, the better. Americans are the most spoiled rotten people on earth. Yeah, Mr. Teenager, you're oppressed. Oh NO! The feds are cracking down on your ability to steal music. OH MY GOD! When will the oppression end???

        Meanwhile, did you know it's illegal in Germany to believe that the holocaust never happened? That's right. You can be put in JAIL for having the wrong opinion.

        Or how about France, where it's ILLEGAL to mix English words in French broadcasts. And let's not even get into the fact that it's illegal to own Nazi artifacts.

        Please, do us all a favor and just stop leave. The less whining from idiots like you the better. Go live in one of the socialist "paradises".

        • These socialist paradises are becoming very unfriendly towards immigrants. It's nearly impossible, for example, for a non-ethnic-German immigrant to get German citizenship within their lifetime. It's becoming increasingly difficult to even get into any EU countries at all.
        • It is interesting that you chose the term "idiot" to describe US Citizens. It originally meant, in Roman times of course, a person who did not exercise their right to vote.

          Oppression here is the same as anywhere, the penalty just differs. For every thing you can't do or own legally, there is something here that is similar. For every illegal opinion, there is one here too. Hell, you saw what they did to the Branch Davidians in Waco, TX, right? Their beliefs and practices where supposed to be legal, and they probably were. They just weren't popular and some closet-communist (Janet Reno) decided to burn 'em out. I'm betting you'd at least get a trial in Germany for disbelieving in the holocaust.

      • So tell me, where is this mythical land...

        Independent offworld colonies (in ~50+ years when nanotech makes it easy), followed shortly thereafter by 'mythical lands' in the virtual space of the society of mind. [aeiveos.com]

        ...and what color is the sky there?

        Depends. If you're a planetary chauvinist, the sky will be red (on Mars), otherwise it'll be black or blue depending on the size of the space habitat (4 miles of atmosphere is enough to produce a blue sky overhead, along with clouds, and weird weather).


    • Or you can sit in a raft out off the shore of the US just oustide the border. The FCC can't touch you there either. Even if they did, don't worry, they're not sharp enough to bust your raft.
    • You're partially correct. This case directly affects US Internet users; but does indirectly affect the rest of the world.
      As seen in the past, the American government is very good at creating a "moral agenda" and subjecting not only its own citizens, but also the world. Using economic & military aid and trade laws, the US sometimes attempts to apply its own sense of right and wrong onto outside sovereign nations. Just ask the EU and Russia. When they banned American beef imports, America raised taxes on Russian steel.
      Just remember the American ego has no boundaries or borders.
    • Big media is global.

      Neither Vivendi nor Rupert Murdoch's News Corp is American. Don't you think they are doing exactly the same calculating that ATT and AOL are doing? John Malone, the American cable magnate, has been trying real hard to crack the European cable market. EuroDisney. Do you feel safe from them where you live?

      Europe will of course be safer than the developing world where the big guys are going in before there is a mature market to crack. Many countries might never get to experience a 'net with a frontier, it will be like the walled garden Compuserve of the mid/late 80's. Murdoch is especially agressive in this area, having a lock on global satellite distribution outside of the US. Most media markets are protected in some way from foreign ownership,, these protections are under attack, being on the WTO's agenda for the next round of negotiations. Brazil recently amended its constitution to allow for foreign ownership.

      So, if you live outside of the US, you should watch what goes on here closely and make sure it doesn't happen where you live.
  • if so, i'll keep shelling out the $50 a month for unreliable pacbell dsl.
  • The future of the Internet is hanging in the balance

    In the USA only, thanks.

    While a great deal of the current content on the Internet is indeed US-based at the moment, there is a whole big world out there that these "strategists" seem to ignore with great success. Nothing says that "Hollywood" has to stay in Hollywood (witness the spate of movies and television programs that film in Toronto and Vancouver) and Internet content-creation is even more portable. Given enough (regulatory) reason to move, much-that-matters will move.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      ...but if it works for the US, then chances are it's bound to spring up in Europe, Australia, and in some other form probably in China and India, at the very least. Not much left after that.
  • Surely the internet can develop in all directions. If one company wants to make it commercial, and another doesn't, so be it.
    For example, there are AOL groups like /., with completely different content, which run parallel, and have no need to (and so don't) interact.
    Just because the internet is literally linked, doesn't mean it is in practice. It's the people who make it what it is, not just the technology.
    • You're forgetting that this is about what the owners of the pipe (broadband, in this case) want to do with their property. It sounds like the owners are leaning towards using their pipe to support a bizarre cable-style "programming" business model. In effect, the broadband internet is only big enough for whomever the owners want to do business with. Anybody who doesn't want to do their particular brand of "business" won't get to play at all.
  • Programming? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PD ( 9577 ) <slashdotlinux@pdrap.org> on Monday August 26, 2002 @06:29PM (#4144432) Homepage Journal
    I'll sign up for the programming if it interests me. To translate for marketing executives: I want to see anything by JMS, specifically, I want to see "Crusade" finished. I want to see Star Trek Voyager, no, not the one that already exists --- I mean a GOOD version of Voyager. I want to see more episodes of Burke's "Connections". CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?

    If these companies can't give me what I want, then they won't get my money. Lately, I've been bitten by a camera collecting bug. I want to get information on really cool old cameras that cost less than 20 bucks. Can they "program" for that? I doubt it.

    • I want to see more episodes of Burke's "Connections".

      Hell yeah. I'd never even heard of Connections until I got cable and saw it on Discover Science. Awesome stuff, history filled to the brim with fascinating trivia. You'll never hear about this stuff in your history classes.

      Burke was rumored to have done some speaking here in Portland recently, but I missed it. Want to see him speak, along with Spalding Gray.
  • Billions of people in the world, many of the internet users and we're supposed to believe the only options for the future of the internet lie in the hands of amazon.com, microsoft .net and AOL???

    Are we truly doomed to the mindless commercialization of EVERYTHING?
  • by lux55 ( 532736 )
    not to be an idealist, but i think that commercial attempts to control the internet will largely fail because we're faced with smart terminals that allow us, the internet populace, to do what we want and go where we want. it's not like someone can force me to stop using Mozilla and start accepting their over-commericalized (and popup driven) vision of the internet without a fight. and no attempts at fighting your customers are going to result in happy or loyal customers. it's the same reason the music industry is in for it, because they are trying to control the listeners and we don't like it, and we know we don't have to put up with it.

    anyway, i should go read the article now that i've gone and run my mouth off! :)
  • by bigpat ( 158134 ) on Monday August 26, 2002 @06:33PM (#4144451)
    The internet is not meant to be a broadcast medium, nor is it very good as one. Ask online radio stations that not only must now pay high license fees, but also must buy lost of servers and bandwidth to stream audio to a few listeners, nothing like traditional broacast mediums (radio, tv, even broadcast cable and satelite) which scale much better.

    Truely the internet is meant for and best at 2-way, end-to-end communications. These schemes to make the internet a playground for a few big content providers can cause nothing but trouble.

    I dislike companies that try blur the line between Internet access providers and Internet Content providers. All I want from ATT or Verizon is fast internet access. They and AOL can take their content and shove it. If they can't make enough money providing me with basic internet access, without charging extra for what I click on, then I'm sure some other company will be content to take my money providing me with just the service that I want.

    • The internet is not meant to be a broadcast medium, nor is it very good as one. I disagree. What's a web server? All you may see is yourself making a single connection to that server, but it's really providing content to thousands, possibly millions more, at the same time. Isn't that basically the same as a TV or radio broadcast? One sender providing content to many receivers? I dislike companies that try blur the line between Internet access providers and Internet Content providers. I agree completely with this portion. Not because Comcast couldn't give me the news just like Slashdot does (as if they don't have the bandwidth? pff), but because Comcast has enough trouble giving me my Internet connection bug-free. When I have a steady, fast connection that is as reliable as my TV or radio or toaster or other household appliance, then they can start working on content. Till then, focus, guys. - Jeff
      • by Anonymous Coward
        "Isn't that basically the same as a TV or radio broadcast? "

        It would be, if I also had the ability to make a TV broadcast, and any viewer who could view "Their" content, could also view mine.

        So a lot of people have nothing to say, nothing to distribute, no reason to host an http service, and so a lot of them are simply forbidden to do so, etc.

        But that doesn't make the internet a broadcast-to-consumer medium.

      • The internet is not meant to be a broadcast medium, nor is it very good as one.

        I disagree. What's a web server?

        Web is just one kind of application that runs over the Internet. Email is another one. Napster yet another. The Internet is a peer-to-peer data communication network. You can use it many different ways.

        It happens to be pretty lousy mechanism for broadcast. Just think, there is no Slashdot effect in television, no matter how many people watch a particular channel.

      • Its not really a broadcast media, bandwidth cost scales linearly, the person "transmitting" pays more for each person that receives. It just so happens that the pricing model allows the traffic that most people experience to be accomodated in a relatively cheap cost. Most pricing plans for small scale traffic are retail, so they'll sell you a package for up to X GB/month but their markup and support charges are higher than the bandwidth cost. If your traffic gets out 1 or 1.5 standard deviations from the average traffic, say past 10,000 visitors, you're bandwidth cost will dominate the pricing plan.

        Say you can keep a person occupied with text page and a couple images, say 50KB, for 10 minutes. To keep someone occupied with, say, 40KBps of video for 10 minutes requires about 24MB or 500 times as much bandwidth. So you see that cost scale pretty quickly, with bandwidth dominating the cost to provide beyond trivial use (notice how many service centers will give you one or two streams with a package, but you have to pay for each additional).
    • What's really holding back netbroadcasting is the lack of deployed multicast backbone. How difficult would it be for a DSL ISP to have the gateways (which are probably running embedded Linux or BSD anyway) support multicasting, design a GPL protocol to allow multicast Ogg streaming and offer hundreds of channels of digital music (say 96kbps Ogg) to their subscribers. I would pay an extra $15/month for a DSL ISP with that and decent TOS.

    • by jmilne ( 121521 ) on Monday August 26, 2002 @08:47PM (#4145199)

      The internet is not meant to be a broadcast medium, nor is it very good as one. Ask online radio stations that not only must now pay high license fees, but also must buy lost of servers and bandwidth to stream audio to a few listeners, nothing like traditional broacast mediums (radio, tv, even broadcast cable and satelite) which scale much better.

      That's absolutely true, if you look at unicast streaming methods. But there's definately technologies out there to get around that. Multicast is an excellent way to get over that nasty bottleneck that expensive bandwidth creates. The main problem with multicast? Not everyone has it. Its one requirement is that every device in the path be multicast enabled.

      Check out this FAQ [multicasttech.com] for a starter on multicast. Read up on PIM-SM, the dominant multicast protocol, and the future of multicast which is SSM. These are protocols that are designed specifically for one-to-many applications, which is ideal for things like audio and video streaming. Unfortunately, the only major OS with built-in SSM support is Windows XP. There's patches out there for specific Linux and FreeBSD kernels to add the necessary IGMP v3 support, but you won't see it in the main builds. Why? I wish I knew.

      If your cable modem is DOCSIS 1.1 compliant, then it's capable of multicast. But most ISPs don't want to enable multicast. A lot of the time, they've never even heard of it, even though it's been around since the mid-80s. It's a requirement for IPv6, but Juniper and Cisco routers don't support it yet. I definately haven't seen any IPv6 multicast enabled applications.

      Multicast is out there, and it's exactly the type of communication model that we need in order to scale audio and video streaming applications on the Internet. On 9/11, an audience of 2000 was watching CNN Headline News over a multicast feed from the University of Chicago. It was a single 300 kbps video stream that never ran into the issue of a bandwidth bottleneck that CNN's own website had. And quite frankly, that audience could have grown to over a million, and the University of Chicago's server never would have known it. It still would have been sending out a single 300 kbps stream, and still reached all those people.

      • I totally agree with you on the value of multicast. But, I ask myself, "Self, why would AOL/ATT/Comcast make the investment necessary to upgrade their networks to be multicast enabled if that would mean that all of their customers could compete with them?"

        Even assuming that they had to make no investment, they could just lock down their routers, to not just prevent multicast (or maybe a similar app level service), but to slow down content coming from their competitors, as suggested by the Center for Digital Democracy [democraticmedia.org].

        While there are still a few things going on in the courts and before the FCC they don't want to do anything like this that would attract attention. But being proactive to put forward technologies that would strengthen civil society is not in the cards.
      • Unicast/multicast are just words. We would need to restrict who is allowed, when they are allowed, what the are allowed to multicast on the Net in order for muticast to work. Bandwidth is limited and if all can multicast then is it not unicast and we are back to square one.

        Multicast is for TV, Radio, and traditional media. I may be wrong but could someone please explain to me how multicast would work through the phone, which is a unicast by design such as the Net, then I may understand how it would work through the Net.

    • I've always said: why would anyone want to watch television on their computer screen?
      The idea of turning the net into another mass medium is so insane, I now have another reason to ask the same old question. Who would *ever* want to go back to a one-way medium? With content created & controlled by 3 networks?

      CBS/NBC/ABC was an ideal propaganda machine. So might the internet be. But I'd rather know what people think than what governments think. If that's really what's at stake here, then this is indeed a crucial decision.
  • Has anyone seen the new nullsoft streaming video format? Opinions can be non-objective but in my opinion it rocks anything MS, Apple, or real have to offer.

    So how does this tie into the whole AOL story? Well, some of you may or may not know nullsoft was bought out by time warner AOL some time ago. Now in addition to the MP3 technology nullsoft has a streaming format ready to go. Nullsoft has sort of become a PARC for AOL.

    Just a interesting side note I wanted to point out.
  • Mirror (Score:2, Informative)

    by infornogr ( 603568 )
    Here's a mirror of the text of this website. Login/password haters of the world unite!

  • What kind of crack are these people at AOL smoking? There is not a single service that AOL provides that can't be gotten elsewhere. Sorry, even GAIM....I just don't use it enough to make it worth paying extra for....and some services (read parental controls/no-porn) I would pay NOT to have.

    Are they thinking that somehow they will be able to "port" over the popular "must have" shows?.....I don't even watch HBO on television, still nothing for me...

    The only way I could see this as positive is if somehow AOL and Comcast block Microsoft's attempt to own the content delivery. If AOL were to switch to some form of Linux too, that would keep delivery platform neutral....that's about the only good I could see from this.

    • Well, of course you and I, and most everyone who reads slashdot doesn't want anything to do with AOL. But you seem to have forgotten that they still have the most subscribers on the internet by a large margin. There must be something that people like about them. I reckon many of those people want to keep that something as they move over to high speed access.

      The big problem I see with this plan is that if AOL is giving Comcast $38/mo for each subscriber, then AOL Broadband is probably going to be more than $50/mo (just my guess) At that price, it will be a significant premium over regular AT&T/Comcast broadband, or at least AT&T can undercut them and make it a significant premium. I wonder if all those people will think it is worth the extra money for the AOL experience. Will they spend $10/mo to hear "You've got mail." instead of a beep. AOL seems to be betting that the people wil pay. Then again, what choice to they have. People aren't going to stay on dialup forever and AT&T doesn't have any interest in leasing them access lines. This "HBO business model" may be their only choice.
    • I can.

      Winamp. granted it was purchased by AOL and not created.
    • The thing is, people know with AOL that it could be set up and used by a drunk monkey, so they go to that, because, ad slogans aside, it's extremely easy.

      Granted, there are ISPs that offer packages that are just as easy to set up or even easier, but you don't know until you sign up.
    • Mozilla is my favorite AOL product. Sure, it's free software and has quite a few contributors, but the majority of the core programming team are AOL employees, so AOL is primarily to thank for its continued active development.

      And whenever I'm in Windows I use Winamp, another fine AOL product.
  • by nanaki ( 602955 ) on Monday August 26, 2002 @06:36PM (#4144472)
    "For a long time, we kept asking cable operators to let us import our traditional business model into the broadband arena," said Lisa Hook, who oversees America Online's high-speed, or broadband, business for AOL Time Warner. "We kept saying, `Sell us wholesale access to your network and we will have the direct relationship with the customer,' " Ms. Hook recalled in an interview last week. "It became clear that that was really unknown in the cable industry, and we've realized that moving more toward an HBO model for carriage makes a lot of sense."

    I currently use a Comcast cable modem connection, and used to have a lot of problems with it (though lately it's been fine). I didn't enjoy calling tech support, because the level 1 guys are flunkies reading off a clipboard, but once you get to level 2 you can get some actual help. And when you have a serious problem that it takes a computer geek just like yourself to understand, Comcast actually has one somewhere up the line.

    That's because they kind of care. While AT&T, Comcast, and others like them are large corporations, they still manage to deal with their users reasonably well. I'm sure more localized providers like Cox and Optimum Online do a great job with customer relations.

    That said, I'm much happier that America Online has chosen this route. I'd have to have AOL, the most faceless company on the face of the Earth, be helping me with my tech support questions and installations. When I have a question that it needs an expert to answer, I don't want to speak to one of a hundred thousand AOL flunkies.

    Better to have those with "the direct relationship with the customer" be those who actually know what state the customer lives in.

    - Jeff
  • Can you see it?


  • One where they are not just consumers and pirates and are not obliged to to spend every waking minute sucking up marketing and shelling over greenbacks. A vision where some shade of freedom, human rights, and free speech still exists. . . . one where pissing off a corporation is not necessarily illegal. . . . one where the world is included and the universe does not revolve around the corporations and government that make up the US powerhouse. ...and of course, lots of pr0n. ;p Its too bad this worldwide forum is quickly just becoming just another mechanism for controlling the masses.
  • I've ranted for a long time that the cable modem companies seldom had half a clue about what they were doing, and that the AOL-led "cable openness" nonsense pushed most of them in entirely the wrong directions (stonewalling about technical difficulties and regulatory issues rather than simply negotiating a wholesale discount price, which was one of the two real ISP complaints.) So now they've got a wholesale price, and AOL seems willing to be treated like a premium movie channel on the cable modem bill (or separately billed, or whatever)(rather than the cable modem being a line item on the user's AOL bill, which was one of their major bogus objections.) They seem to have met halfway, which is a Really Good Thing.

    The cable modem content-creation efforts failed, partly because the ideas that can be generated by one group of Central Planners are usually much lamer than the ideas created by a large number of different groups (even if they're not well-funded) - the anti-server policies adopted for performance reasons discouraged development of real applications, though some content applications developed by other people in the market succeeded at getting people to want to buy cable modem service (some of the games, and of course Napster). Another big reason, of course, was that there were only so many viable market niches for search engines, and the Excite business model depended on banner advertiser funding at a time that the market was going through rapid discovery of what that was worth (much much less for late arrivals in a crowded market than for the early adopters when web users were also mostly well-paid early adopters in an uncrowded market.) And Blue Mountain Greeting Cards didn't appear to have much business model at all - your mother could send out cutsie MommySpam(tm), but nobody got paid anything :-)

    AOL is another example of this - it's content that wanted more bandwidth, but that had become successful without it, though unlike some approaches, it's a combination of user-developed and service-provided content on the service's computers rather than the users'.

  • AOL is screwed... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sterno ( 16320 ) on Monday August 26, 2002 @06:44PM (#4144510) Homepage
    The future is going to have aspects of both strategies. The problem that AOL is going to face is that being a provider of broadband content isn't going to be that valuable. On the otherhand, being an distributor and moderator (for lack of a better word) of broadband content is the place to be.

    Think about it, already we see on television that there is no shortage of crap to watch. The problem is figuring out what crap is worth watching, and when it is on. The solution, of course, is Tivo and ReplayTV. This solution has the side effect of choking off money (through ad revenue) to the providers of content. This does, however, illustrate the struggle that content providing services are already getting burned by.

    Basically if you want to be a content provider, plan to provide a service that people will be willing to pay for. Be like HBO or any number of pr0n sites. Otherwise you will get drowned in the sea of noise that is thousands of small-time producers who are willing to do their work for free because they enjoy it or to gain noteriety enough to go work for HBO or any number of pr0n sites.

    Smart money is on the people who can filter through the noise and consolidate the content in a useful way for various audiences.
  • by papasui ( 567265 ) on Monday August 26, 2002 @06:44PM (#4144513) Homepage
    AOL retains it's customer base by convincing the customer that it IS the internet. The average AOL user hears internet and thinks AOL. They are a content provider and in order to keep their customers they need to keep convincing those customers that they need AOL for a reason. I see lots of people who are completly shocked that they can get the same content via any other internet service without AOL. I think they have a hard battle ahead of themselves. MSN Explorer is really cutting into AOL hard by offering a easy to use interface while not requiring the fees involved.
    • AOL retains it's customer base by convincing the customer that it IS the internet. The average AOL user hears internet and thinks AOL.

      Only to some degree. I know a number of people who use AOL, and most of the "internet" they spend their time on (the World Wide Web) isn't on AOL. Of course, their tastes are ... esoteric. But then, so are the tastes of 99% of the people in the world, in one subject or another.

      AOL is suffering from the fact that the Time-Warner portion of the company has ousted most of the leadership of the AOL side of the company. In other words, the old Media Moghuls have taken over the AOL side of the company, and it shows in both their thinking and their behavior. It shouldn't be any surprise, in that light, that AOL is persuing the 'dream' of becoming a big cable company ... that is the only thing the media whores running AOL-Time-Warner these days can see within their small minds.

      It should also be no surprise that such a strategy will prove disasterous, should the internet survive. Unfortunately, the very same people are in Washington lobbying and purchasing legislation that will eliminate the internet as we know it, and replace it with something that represents the Home Shopping Network and Interactive TV more than it will the internet as we know it today. Should they succeed, this strategy will no longer be inane, it will be inspired. Inspired by the destruction of the last vestige of free thought and freedom of expresson in America, whose demise they will have orchestrated and profited from handsomely.

      Gives new meaning to the song "Burn Hollywood Burn" doesn't it?
  • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Monday August 26, 2002 @06:45PM (#4144519)
    Has commercial television killed PBS? Cable? Have labels killed indie music? Have indie films vanished under the studio system? No.

    There is room for independent sites on the web and they will continue to exist while they can find an audience that will sustain them.

    • Has commercial television killed PBS?

      PBS would be dead dead dead if it had to compete in commercial space. It doesn't, and indie music and films don't truly compete in any meaningful way with their "corporate" counterparts. The concern is not whether independent web sites and content providers can survice. The concern is what I can do (copy, backup, skip commercials, burn to CD/DVD) with "corporate" content which I bought and paid for.
      • PBS would be dead dead dead if it had to compete in commercial space

        Gee, I guess those "Funding for this program has been provided by BigChemicalCo" announcements aren't commercials. My mistake! :^)

        It would be interesting to measure their effectiveness against the blitz of ads on regular TV. Of course, the demographics are completely different.

        • Gee, I guess those "Funding for this program has been provided by BigChemicalCo" announcements aren't commercials. My mistake! :^)

          You're absolutely right - they are a kind of commercial. However, the point still stands. PBS doesn't operate as a commercial enterprise, but as a charity.
    • Actually, Cable TV has virtually killed PBS.

      There just isn't any reason for PBS to exist anymore. There are other channels on cable that provide the specialized content that used to be PBS-only. They're commercial, and they're successful. PBS truly is redundant at this point in time and probably won't last another decade.
  • Well, I think some people have kept with AOL because they got accutomed to some of the custom content there, or the specific communities.

    Hard to grow that though, with so much competing free stuff out there.
  • -pr0n!

    -Hope this means faster pr0n...

    -The more pr0n the better!

    -Imagine what this will do to pr0n?

    -I love porn.

    -You've got pr0n!

  • It strikes me that this kind of hanging-in-the-balance thinking is rooted in our big-media cultural mindset, like saying that the future of music hangs on the results of the next Grammy awards. It doesn't, considering how few musicians are actually involved in the Grammys. The vast majority continue to play the same gigs for the same audiences as before.

    The only thing that concerns me is how it might affect your and my ability to post and surf each others websites. As long as those stay online, I don't care whether AOL or MSN has more members. The corporate interests all want to control whatever they think might threaten their profit streams, and in that sense I don't think really matters which of them wins these wars. There aren no good guys among them. What affects us is how much they are allowed to restrict on our access, and the only way we peasants will win that war is if Congress decides to bite the hand that feeds it and do a Bell breakup on these guys, prohibiting any of them from owning a controlling interest in a significant facet of the Internet.

    Or, alternately, monkeys could fly out of my butt.
  • is a merger of your tv, and your internet. Everything at once, at your finger tips.
    The idea is simple... TV on demand, watch what you want, when you want... We would all like that. Especially if there were few to no commercials.
    Second, the internet, what you're using right at this moment.
    Example: you're watching the movie you decided to see, for no apparent reason.. All you Aspen Extreme people know who you are... and all of a sudden something pops in your brain because of a scene on the TV. The press of a button, and you're on google! You do a search, surf, now satisfied, you go back to your Movie.

    Now even better... you're watching TV and see a commercial. Press *55 now to go to our web page!

    See what I mean. Everything, in one box. No, not for us Gamers, or serious programmers, but for the everyday I-just-check-my-e-mail user. This is the projected future of the internet, and people like AOL are betting their business on it.

    But with 9 years of surfing (using gopher for me) can I drop my computer and go solely TV??? That's the obsticle they need to jump....

  • Quoth the poster:

    So the future of the Internet is hanging in the balance.

    It seems a little hysterical to me to say such a thing. While we should be concerned and involved in the process, companies like AOL/MS/etc.. have to bring products to market that poeple will buy. They are not the best products, but they are saleable. Products with extreme DRM or forced commercials won't sell, I don't think. There will always be a gray market for non-DRM content, commercial-stripped content etc.. Until they make it easy and cheap to pay for the content, people will continue to "steal" it.

    As for .NET, I don't know. And Palladium. Ergh.
  • Information wants to be free, you can't stop it once it is out. The whole point of the Internet is to distribute information. There is nothing hanging in the balance here. Even if AOL dominated and got their way you forget that America is a small part of the global landscape.

    I am an American, so I am not some elitist European either. I just wish that more people would look at the big picture. Furthermore, I would rather have 56k dialup before I would accept restrictive broadband access. Fortuantly my current DSL ISP gives me raw bridged ethernet access instead of restrictive PPPoE AND I can do whatever I want with it as long as the FBI doesn't come knocking on their door. :)
  • Business Models (Score:4, Insightful)

    by aaarrrgggh ( 9205 ) on Monday August 26, 2002 @07:12PM (#4144692)
    "For a long time, we kept asking cable operators to let us import our traditional business model into the broadband arena," said Lisa Hook, who oversees America Online's high-speed, or broadband, business for AOL Time Warner. "We kept saying, `Sell us wholesale access to your network and we will have the direct relationship with the customer,' " Ms. Hook recalled in an interview last week. "It became clear that that was really unknown in the cable industry, and we've realized that moving more toward an HBO model for carriage makes a lot of sense."

    Boy, adapting your business model to the likings of the cable companies really sounds like a recapie for disaster! The only reason cable companies are successful is because they can extort their clients; competition for the last mile really destroys this advantage.
    • Re:Business Models (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Mryll ( 48745 )
      IMO the government should have forced the breakup of cable content provider functions from cable infrastructure provider functions before deregulation of cable.

      The packaging/sales of content in cable is hindered in a lame and anti-competitive manner when provided solely by the single company providing the wire. Choices are severely limited, and realistic alternatives for a different infrastructure provider may not be available in some locations.
  • Last week, AT&T Comcast, which is to receive about $38 a month from America Online for every high-speed AOL customer served by its cable lines... Cable operators now pay ESPN close to $2 a month for each subscriber. So cable company gets a channel to pay it, instead of the other way around. Seems like a great idea for the cable companies.
  • First off, the goal of the corporate entities on the Internet from Day 1 has been to turn it into TV. They've largely succeeded.

    Second, the idea that "market forces" can affect anything is rather touching, but so naive. The corporation$ will determine what you are allowed to "choose". Sort of like Republicans vs. Democrats, Ford vs. Chevy, etc. Some fucking choice.

    So, the Web was made to function, and the corps took it over, corrupted and polluted it. Who is surprised? Who thinks that anything but huge $$$ runs anything any more?

  • False analogy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by stwrtpj ( 518864 )
    I read this article several times to try to find where this is the End Of The World As We Know It and came up empty, and it took me only a few moments of reflection to discover why. The reason why is that the author fell into the same trap that many others do that really don't understand how the internet works. He based the article on a false analogy.

    The author spends much time building up an example of the broadcast TV and cable industry, and how the cable companies are forced to carry certain content to keep customers. But the problem is that this line of reasoning fails utterly when applied to the internet.

    In the TV industry, you have a limited number of content providers and a limited number of content carriers. It takes a few barrels of money to become either a provider or carrier. Not so with the internet, at least not entirely. While you could make the case that there are a limited number of carriers, there are too many providers to count. Anyone with rudimentary knowledge of computers can set himself up to be a provider.

    So AOL would be just another provider, only the content would be sent over the cable pipe only if you subscribe to it. Unless they propose coming up with their own protocol for this, I don't see how this would differ from just another site on the internet, except serviced exclusively through the cable connection. I don't see how this model is very different from having a site on the regular internet and requiring people to pay subscription fees to get into it. And the moment that they did come up with some "killer app", someone else somewhere will duplicate it on a site that is more widely available, and people will then say "why am I paying AOL through the nose for this when I can get is more cheaply on my own"? You can't do this in the traditional broadcast model because of the cost factor involved in setting up your own content. But on the internet, this cost prohibition is either not there are greatly reduced.

    In other words, AOL is too late. The internet has been so widely established as not simply an American phenomenon, but a global one. I can't think of very many other technologies that a single protocol (i.e. TCP/IP) is so widely and tacitly accepted as the de facto standard. Not so with broadcast content (try playing a European PAL DVD in your American NTSC player and you'll see what I mean, and I'm not talking about region codes).

    Yes, some people will subscribe to this because they don't know any better. But I don't see it becoming the resounded success that they want it to be without reverting to the days of BBSs and isolated networks. And I don't see anything warranting the somewhat alarmist cry of the person that posted the story.

    Nothing more to see here. Move along.

  • by Nkwe ( 604125 )
    What really matters as these large companies battle over who "owns" the Internet is not the content and programming provided, nor the method of how this content is provided to customers. What really matters is what restrictions are placed on customers (our) ability to be our own content provider and publish information back to other users. Most of the cable providers place restrictions (either technically or by policy) on hosting any services. By doing this, the providers are trying to change the Internet from being a network (two way) into being a content delivery system (one way.) This is the real danger.
  • this is just the old convergence thing all over again. Will the Convergence thing be a computer or will it be a TV?

    I think that it hasn't arrived yet, that this will be 'something' else. Something that will superset everything else.

    Ultimately I think it will be an AI Star Trek type thingy with voice commands, able to do almost anything. I say this because I can recall a old couple many many years ago who came into the computer retail store I worked in, who wanted to see the first mac with a built in microphone and built in speech capability. Telling them that it was not star trek yet was exactly like taking a lollipop from a child. They were heart broken.

    Point being, there is a major pent up demand in the culture for that kind of tool. It has been sold in the culture through multple shows and movies for decades now. This is what computers are supposed to be.

    The first company that can legitimately say say "This IS Star Trek" will make a mint. I think everything else is sort of grasping baby steps towards this sort of thing.

    heck, If you have ever seen the film of the introduction of the very first Mac will note what a visceral reaction was achieved with such a jump in technology, even if alot still had to be fulfilled and developed over the coming year. Just the idea that it could be achieved ...

    Heck If Steve Jobs comes out with something that is a legit star trek level type system in the next few years, he can blow peoples mind all over again. But I digress. (And I do not own a Mac)

    Of course, this is insanely difficult. but ....

  • Seems to me that there should be some sort of "keep your fucking hands off" rule, nobody fucks with anything and everything is left just as it is! (though minus the pop-up ads would be nice)
  • When Muhammad Ali defeated Joe Frazier on Sept. 30, 1975, in Manila, the fledgling Home Box Office network beamed the fight to cable television operators in the United States... Viewers, who up to that point had considered cable mainly a means to better reception of local broadcast stations, soon realized that cable operators could provide original programming available nowhere else.

    How is this different from the LIVE, FREE video feeds of YOUNG TEENAGE CELEBRITIES doing all sorts of risqué things that I get in my inbox everyday??? :)

  • After actually reading the article, it seems to me that this is not a big deal. It seems to boil down to this: If you want, you can pay more for AOL-style cable modem service, and have access to AOL-only content. Or you can pay less, and receive the same AT&T standard cable modem service we all know and loathe. If you don't want AOL, or aren't an AT&T customer, it's completely irrelevant. Hence I think the real problem is this: The perception that this will change the face of the internet hinges on the assumption that AOL is a major content provider. It's not. It's a service provider -- the real "content" of the internet comes from hundreds of different companies -- Amazon, eBay, online magazine sites, etc, and that's only taking a commercial view of content. The only way this agreement could possibly change the face of the internet is if AOL somehow comes up with content that is so compelling that NOT having AOL is a clearly inferior option. AOL is in the same situation they were in regarding dial-up service: millions of people paid AOL for their content+internet, millions of others decided that the internet alone was more than enough content. There are plenty of very important issues on regarding the future of the internet (access for all-broadband availbility-myriad technical issues on and on and on), and this simply is not one of them. AOL is not the internet, and this does nothing to change that.
  • AOL bets farm on a bad idea. What makes the internet different from cable in the 80's is the cost of developing "content" isn't a barrier like it was then. You couldn't clone MTV back then but you can clone slashdot or any other "killer" content that people don't want to pay for.
  • Remember though, in the end it is about the consumer. If you don't ilke it, stick with it. There are still a (few) gopher sites around, even though I havn't seen one since 1995. There are a couple BBSs in my area, though I haven't called one since I got on the internet.

    I used to be into irc, one guy at work found out, and decided to check it out. In half an hour he found 10 warze sites, and concluded that it was irc was about. I used it for hours at a time, over several years, and never once encountered warze (or porn, which is appearently the other big thing on irc). Porn is a major force in web-commernce according to slashdot posts, but I rarely encounter them.

    If the consumer doesn't like it, they won't find it. If the consumer finds it useful they will. Now you might find that you are a minority consumer, but just because you don't want what everyone else does, doesn't mean that you can't get your fix.

    I don't care if AOL wins, and 95% of the net population subscribes to their service, which can only be accessed with their client in windows. Knowing AOL/TW, I don't expect to have any interest in the content I cannot access. My TV is only used for nostalga trips with my Atari, I have no interest in any of the programs I could get. Maybe there is something of interest, but I haven't seen it. YMMV.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.