Internet Explorer pulls Lazarus stunt

The Financial Times Techblog has a useful post pondering the significance of the Beta version of IE9. Its conclusion is that Microsoft has finally begun to innovate in the browser field again — which is good news for everyone (and will, in due course, lead to a re-evaluation of ‘the-Web-is-dead’ meme). Developments singled out by the FT include the new browser’s ability to tap into the graphics capabilities of contemporary PCs, smarter use of screen real-estate and the way it harnesses the capabilities of HTML5.

Now, all I need is a PC to try it on…

All predictions about the Net are wrong. (Except this one, of course)

This morning’s Observer column.

If I’ve learned one thing from watching the internet over two decades, it’s this: prediction is futile. The reason is laughably simple: the network’s architecture and lack of central control effectively make it a global surprise-generation machine. And since its inception, it has enabled disruptive innovation at a blistering pace.

This doesn’t stop people making predictions, though. In fact, ever since the web went mainstream in 1993 there has been a constant stream of what computer scientist John Seely Brown calls “endism” – assertions that some new technology presages the termination of some revered practice, not to mention the end of civilisation as we know it. The prediction that online news means the death of newspapers, for example, is almost as old as the web. More recent examples include Wired’s announcement of the imminent death of the web at the hands of iPhone apps and Nicholas Carr’s assertion that ubiquitous networking heralds the end of contemplative reading.

The problem with endism is that it’s intrinsically simplistic…

Why university websites suck

Ever wondered why so many university websites are totally useless? Well this explains it neatly in one Venn diagram.

You’d have thought that universities would have figured out the Web by now. The reason they haven’t, of course, is that their official sites are usually the responsibility of the development (aka fundraising) or PR departments, and these people are exclusively focussed on the messages they wish to project, rather than thinking about what users and visitors might actually want.

Thanks to Laura James for the link.

Sir Timothy regrets

According to Engadget,

Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with creating the World Wide Web, recently said that his only real regret about the whole shebang is forcing people to type out the (essentially unnecessary) double slash after the “http:” in URLs. Speaking at a symposium on the future of technology, he noted (in reference to the dreaded marks) the paper, trees and human labor that could have been spared without them.

To which Engadget responds:

Hey Tim: don’t sweat it! You’ve done us enough good turns that we’re willing to overlook it.


Posted in Web

Recession causes, er, hard times in the porn business

Interesting piece in the Economist.

The adult-film industry is concentrated in the San Fernando Valley—“the Valley” to Angelenos—on the northern edge of Los Angeles, so the slump in porn is yet another factor depressing the local economy. Pornography had been immune to previous recessions, so the current downturn has come as a shock.

Most of the industry consists of small private production companies whose numbers are secret, but Mark Kernes, an editor at Adult Video News, a trade magazine, estimates that the American industry had some $6 billion in revenues in 2007, before the recession, mostly in DVD sales and rentals and some in internet subscriptions. Diane Duke, the director of the Free Speech Coalition, the adult industry’s trade group, thinks that revenues have fallen 30-50% during the past year. “One producer told me his revenue was down 80%,” she says.

If the Valley used to make 5,000-6,000 films a year, says Mr Kernes, it now makes perhaps 3,000-4,000. Some firms have shut down, others are consolidating or scraping by. For the 1,200 active performers in the Valley this means less action and more hardship. A young woman without …name-recognition might have charged $1,000 for a straight scene before the crisis, but gets $800 or less now. Men are worse hit. If they averaged $500 for a straight scene in 2007, they are now lucky to get $300. For every performer there are several people in support, from sound-tech to catering and (yes) wardrobe, says Ms Duke, so the overall effect on the Valley economy is large.

The Economist — and the industry — think that piracy is to blame. I wonder: surely the rise of user-generated porn has something to do with it too. At any rate, those stories of ‘amateur’ porn being sold freely in pubs might not all be urban myths. And some of those camcorders being sold by the truckload must be used for, er, creative purposes.

En passant And don’t you just love the irony of the porn industry trade association calling itself “the Free Speech Coalition”? Almost as funny as the Irish alcoholic drinks industry calling itself the “Hospitality Association”.

1.5 billion App downloads don’t count — says Google

From Tech Blog.

Apple customers may have downloaded 1.5bn applications from its AppStore in the past year for their iPhones and iPod touches, but the service does not represent the future for the mobile industry, according to Google.

Vic Gundotra, Google Engineering vice president and developer evangelist, told the Mobilebeat conference in San Francisco on Thursday that the web had won and users of mobile phones would get their information and entertainment from browsers in future.

He claimed that even Google was not rich enough to support all of the different mobile platforms from Apple’s AppStore to those of the BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Android and the many variations of the Nokia platform.

“What we clearly see happening is a move to incredibly powerful browsers,” he said.

“Many, many applications can be delivered through the browser and what that does for our costs is stunning.

“We believe the web has won and over the next several years, the browser, for economic reasons almost, will become the platform that matters and certainly that’s where Google is investing.”

Well, as Mandy Rice-Davies said…

The Web becomes the stream

From a blog post by Glen Hiemstra.

As we move beyond Web 2.0 into an ever more interactive network, in which users send as much material as they consume, via social nets and video sites, and so on, it becomes obvious that we are progressing from the Internet through the Web to the Stream. It is the constant flow of information that matters. (When Sonia Sotomayor is nominated to the Supreme Court, within about 90 seconds her bio on Wikipedia has been updated.) No static website or traditional media company can keep pace.

Interesting that point about the Supreme Court nomination.