Dec 11

Nat Torkington

Nat Torkington

Stories we want to see in 2008

We at the Radar put our heads together and came up with this list of headlines we'd like to see in 2008.

Verizon Launches Billing System APIs: In an industry first, Verizon (VZ) today released a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) that will offer customer management and billing services to the emerging "open telephony platform" that encompasses iPhones, Android-based Yahoo! (YHOO) phones, and Sun's (SUN) OpenJ2PhonarisPlus wireless wallets.

Google Announces Privacy Dashboard: Internet giant Google (GOOG) today announced the launch of a portal, privacy.google.com, where consumers can view all the information that Google has about them, request the deletion of any of that information, and download privacy-enhancing tools such as cookie cleaners.

New Standard: All Products Released With Screwdriver: President of Consumer Electronics Association announces "warranty void if unbroken" program—"it cost you $15 at Wal-Mart, why should we try to fix it if you won't?"

Doomsday Seed Bank Requires Seed Patent Holders to Release Claims: The Doomsday seed bank stunned biotech and agribusiness giants by refusing to store any patented seeds, unless the patent holders agree to renounce all claims in the event that seeds must ever be redeemed from the bank.

Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, Endorse & Support OpenID and OAuth: Add it to all of their properties and require it of all partners, including consumers of their APIs.

(more below the fold, and don't miss the companion "Stories We Won't See In 2008" article)

Obama Announces Open Source Voting Machine Mandate: President-elect Barack Obama's first act of office will be the development of voting machines designed to "give America the reliable audits, voter privacy, and trustworthy elections we deserve". The new machines will be based on so-called "open source" technology, where the software is open to inspection and review.

Mozilla Corporation Reverses Course on XULRunner: The Mozilla Corporation, makers of the popular open source Firefox web browser, reversed its earlier decision to focus exclusively on Firefox itself, and decided instead to build out its nascent XULRunner application platform so that standalone, desktop applications could get maximum benefit from the Mozilla technologies.

Amazon Releases "Open Grid" Facility: Open Source Code Runs Free: Acknowledging that the Web 2.0 world requires "Google-scale" infrastructure for many interesting applications, Amazon.com today announced that it is throwing open its popular S3 and EC2 facilities to open source projects around the world. "Open source helped build our company, and all of the major Internet companies," said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. "But in today's world, if you're not the size of Google, having the source code isn't enough. We've launched this initiative to enable the open source world to build an open source search engine—or whatever else they want, as long as they're contributing back to the community." Bezos also announced that any project on the Open Grid network would have full access to Alexa's crawl of the Internet. "Data and infrastructure matter as much as source code these days," Bezos said.

Google Resurrects SOAP Search API; Adds REST Interface: "We realized that enabling cool things was worth the small drop in advertising revenue," founder Sergey Brin said today as he cut the ribbon on the new old APIs.

Kindle Able To Read PDFs Natively; Removing the Need For Time Consuming Work Arounds: "You spoke, we listened!" said Amazon founder Jeff Bezos today before letting off a trademark laugh that shook windows in the greater Seattle area and took 2 points off the Dow. "The hell was that?" Bill Gates exclaimed in a meeting across town. "Did Steve hit the red button again?"

iPod Touch Uncrippled; iPod Dongle Replaced With Micro-USB: Steve Jobs announced an end to cable hell today at his MacWorld keynote. He held up a handful of the different and incompatible cable standards used by companies, including his Apple (AAPL). Then he dramatically shredded them all in a General Atomics military grade "Stormin' Eagle Class Shreddamatic S-60" before announcing all future iPod models would use the industry standard mini-micro-USB connector. He received a standing ovation, the queue for the new iPods went around the block at the flagship downtown San Francisco store, and Apple store jumped $2.50 in midday trading. Insiders report Microsoft will announce a move to the industry-standard SCSI connectors for the new khaki Zune 2008.

Nebraska High Schooler Makes Ethanol Breakthrough: Emmett Jordan, a high school student in Nebraska, successfully demonstrated high-efficiency production of cellulosic ethanol by a genetically engineered bacterium during the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition, beating out biotech giants to the prize. This step signals a major milestone in what Freeman Dyson calls the domestication of biotechnology.

Federal government agrees to use version control for all legislation: Following a suggestion made here on Radar, Nancy Pelosi today announced that the U.S. House of Representatives is deploying version control for all legislation, allowing the public to see who made changes to any bill, just like they can do with Wikipedia. The Senate is expected to follow suit. Virgil Griffith, creator of Wikiscanner, announced LawScanner within two hours after Speaker Pelosi's declaration. The Register writes up the story: Code is Law, but Law is Sausage.

NAVTEQ, TeleAtlas Release Open Developer Programs: With new self-serve license endorsed by two leading map company, anyone can download or upload map base data, points of interest, and navigation layers. "We're tired of being disintermediated by Google and Microsoft," says NAVTEQ CEO. "We have the data and we want it to spread," adds TeleAtlas CEO.

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Comments: 24

  Michael H [12.11.07 04:29 AM]

Doomsday Seed Bank Requires Seed Patent Holders to Release Claims

I had to double check it. I thought it was funnier when I read it as Doomsday Seed Bank Requires Patent Holders Permission to Release, as an analogy to the external Western Digital and Seagate drives that won't let people use the media stored on them.

Kindle Able To Read PDFs Natively - for $400, I still won't buy it.

  Chris Jay [12.11.07 04:54 AM]

Surely you mean "micro-USB", not "mini-USB"? See http://www.omtp.org/news/news_pr_universal_cable.html - Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola etc have all announced they will supporting it, Apple are the only holdouts.

  Mike Shaver [12.11.07 07:55 AM]

Hi, Nat,

You say that you'd like to see the Mozilla Foundation invest in XULRunner, but the link you provide labelled as "focus exclusively on Firefox" clearly says that we intend to invest heavily in the platform, including XULRunner! An enormous amount of work goes into XULRunner every day, and while our primary focus is on work that's necessary to ensure the continued success of Firefox, we fix bugs, shepherd features and incorporate contributions needed by other apps all the time. The vast, vast majority of XULRunner apps are using a strict subset of the platform features used by Firefox, and they all benefit directly and significantly from the Mozilla Foundation's massive investment in our platform.

So I think you got one of your stories early, though it's not a reversal at all. :)

  People Finder [12.11.07 08:01 AM]

Interesting you mention wanting to see the Google search engine add a privacy tool. The WSJ online is reporting today that Ask.com is doing it already.


  Ross Stapleton-Gray [12.11.07 09:35 AM]

Why do seed patent holders care about storage of those seeds in a doomsday vault? A need to recover them from the vault presumes that there's been some disaster on a scale that makes the corporation's seed concerns irrelevant. WE want a vault, so that if "life as we know it" (and the Dow, NASDAQ, and etc.) goes into the tank, we've got access to tools for recovery. But they couldn't care less. So don't expect them to make such a deal.

  Don Marti [12.11.07 09:58 AM]

Here's one I'd like to see...

O'Reilly magic makes a bright spot in California's bummer real estate market

Book publishing and events firm O'Reilly and Associates broke ground today on the first of a series of planned "FOOberhoods." The FOOberhood concept extends the O'Reilly empire to mixed-use housing and commercial space for tech innovators, hackers, and "geek" families. More than just Work at Home space and lots of fiber, the new community offers comfortable cafés at a variety of light and noise levels, a MAKE-branded tool library and shared workshop space for kids and adults, an energy-efficitne data center with one server cage per dwelling unit, plenty of conference facilities and guest houses, and no antenna restrictions.

  gnat [12.11.07 10:21 AM]

@Chris Jay: you're right. Although, frankly, even mini-USB would a set up from Apple's proprietary connectors. In Dante's inferno there's a special level of hell reserved for people who make proprietary connectors. Its residents are constantly sexually aroused but each person's genitals are in a custom shape and noone can mate with anyone else to relieve their passions. The only exception is whomever came up with the magnetic power connector--that person has their own special cloud in Heaven and a lot of extremely compatible angels.

  Don Marti [12.11.07 10:24 AM]

But as long as people are in "want to see" mode...

Google Opens 30,000-person anti-spam and anti-fraud operation in North Dakota; becomes state's largest employer and political contributor. Larry Lessig elected to US Senate.

  gnat [12.11.07 10:26 AM]

@MichaelH - If we think it's hard to find copyright holders for out-of-print works now, imagine what it's like trying to contact gene patent holders in a post-apocalyptic Mad Maxian world of guerillas with AK-47s on Harley Davidsons raiding like Vikings. The seed banks had better have pretty strong defences against unauthorized withdrawals!

  gnat [12.11.07 10:30 AM]

@Mark - that's a services-based approach. A privacy-based approach would say "this is what we know about you: who you are, where you live, what you search for; click here delete this knowledge." I.e., it'd be based around things we want to keep secret rather than services we want or don't want to consume. Note that the services page you linked to doesn't let me say "don't track my history"--I have to log out of Google, and even then I'd bet you $20 they're still associating what I search for with me.

  gnat [12.11.07 10:41 AM]

@People Finder: that's basically Google's "logout" feature, isn't it? Different from actually deleting information about you.

  gnat [12.11.07 10:44 AM]

@Don Marti - I love O'Reilly but I don't think we have the ferocious execution required to do this. We're more likely to run a Fooberhood conference, have Tim talk up the value of Fooberhoods at real estate investment events, and thus kickstart a billion dollar industry where the billion dollars are being made by other people :-)

  People Finder [12.11.07 11:25 AM]

@gnat - I don't think it is the same as Google's logout feature, since you don't have to be logged into any registered account to use it - like on iGoogle etc. While not exactly a dashboard feature like you mentioned above, the askeraser does claim to delete all of your search engine activity from the Ask.com servers. I am not currently aware of a feature on Google that allows you to have your search engine query information permanently deleted from Google's servers at the click of a mouse, if there is one.

Here is the Ask.com description of the askeraser feature --

"AskEraser is a new privacy feature from Ask.com. When AskEraser is enabled your search activity will be deleted from Ask.com servers."

  Mark [12.11.07 11:28 AM]

> Note that the services page you linked to doesn't let me say "don't track my history"--I have to log out of Google

I don't want to get into a pissing match about my employer (whom I don't speak for), but your statement is factually incorrect. One of the "services" listed on that account management page is "Web History" ( http://www.google.com/history ), which allows you to see exactly what Google has stored about your searches, allows you to delete them, and allows you to "pause" such tracking indefinitely.

Once you familiarize yourself with the services Google actually does offer, I'd be happy to engage in a conversation about how such services could be improved. But I'm not particularly interested in debating easily verifiable facts.

  Tim O'Reilly [12.11.07 12:38 PM]

Don -

I love the Fooberhood concept. I wish we had the wherewithal to pull something like that off. Great idea!

  gnat [12.11.07 01:11 PM]

@Mark - I did know about the History feature, but was put off by the apparent requirement to install the Google Toolbar--thanks for pushing me to explore further and discover that I don't need the Toolbar to use that feature. However, History requires me to log in. If I use Google without logging in, I get a uniquely-identifying cookie about which the search history is probably kept (would love to know for sure, while you're answering questions about privacy). However I can't say "don't keep my search history" without creating a Google Account and thus binding myself closer to Google. Am I factually correct so far? Thanks.

  Mark [12.11.07 08:10 PM]

Wow. Just... wow. Here I thought we were on the verge of having an intelligent conversation about the many complex privacy issues we'll face in 2008 and beyond. Perhaps we could start with that little matter of Facebook PUBLISHING THE PRIVATE PURCHASES of its 60 million users. And then mention, in passing at least, the teensy-weensy little story about AT+T LOGGING EVERY SINGLE PACKET ON THE INTERNET AND GIVING IT TO THE NSA. And then we could move on to the *really* hard issues like phishing, pharming, DNS pinning, spyware, botnets, and net neutrality.

But no, you want to talk about the Google cookie. Un-f'ing-believable.

OK, well, far be it from me to deny anyone this vitally important information. Here's what you do, in case you've been living under a rock for the past, oh, 10 years or so... Download a real browser, if you haven't already. Go to its Options dialog. Go to the Privacy tab. Uncheck the "Allow cookies" option. Or select "keep cookies until I quit Firefox". Or click the Exceptions button and block google.com from setting cookies. Or install CustomizeGoogle and check the "Anonymize Google UID" option. Or install CookieSafe and micromanage your cookies on every single site. And rest ye weary head on ye ole pillow, safe in the knowledge that you have valiantly rid yourself of the scourge of the evil browser cookies.

(In the interim, someone has kindly pointed me to the newly-hyped super-spiffy "AskEraser" feature on ask.com, which no doubt was the true instigator behind this thread. Beautiful piece of PR, very well-played, exactly the sort of horseshit that non-technical media outlets love to latch on to. Totally orthogonal to any actual privacy issues, of course, but God, what a beautiful piece of horseshit. Be sure to read the fine print where they say they'll USE COOKIES TO TRACK YOUR PREFERENCE TO NOT BE TRACKED. Also, the part where they will continue to allow third parties to track you anyway. (Bonus points if you spot the irony in exactly which third parties will continue to be able to track you.) And finally, the part where Ask may continue to track you even while visibly and prominently claiming not to track you (i.e. LYING TO YOU). Let me know when that sinks in.)

  gnat [12.11.07 09:34 PM]

@Mark - I don't mind being torn a new one when it's done with such style. Yes, alright, singling Google out for a privacy wishlist was stupid given it does the most to preserve privacy of any search engine. Mea culpa.

And for the record, I wrote the 2008 list before Ask announced the eraser. First the algorithm, now the eraser. Whoever's doing branding for Ask appears to be looking around the room and picking random words from the whiteboard, or indeed office supplies by the whiteboard, for their product names. Look for the "AskDustbunny" and the "AskDoor" in Q1 2008.

  Rob Unger [12.12.07 07:21 AM]

If Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL would support OpenID and OAuth the life will be much easier, but i don´t think that this will come in the next years

  Antonio Piccolboni [12.12.07 11:21 AM]

My favorite story is:

End to phone number era ushered by new standards, GrandCentral

Starting next month, you will be able to dial a person's email and reach them wherever they are, over mobile, landline or VOIP channels, at home and abroad, seamlessly. This service, pioneered by GrandCentral and Google, is based on a new standard called VNS (voice name system) that resolves one person's email to the right protocol and address, be it POTS, GSM, SIP, supported by the major industry players with the exception of Verizon. On top of this, GrandCentral will offer sophisticated filtering capabilities to allay concerns that the system is so seamless that our phones will be ringing in perpetuity. Additionally, unsolicited commercial callers will be charged $20 per call and the amount will be used to fund the new Universal Health Care System for the New Century at no cost to the taxpayer.

  Don Marti [12.12.07 02:24 PM]

@Tim, gnat: Started typing this in the comment box, and it kind of outgrew it. More on how to make the "FOOberhood" project work, and why O'Reilly is the right co. to do it.

  Plissee [12.12.07 11:24 PM]

Some people says that Google saves much more datas as we all know. So Google have a monopoly position of all other companies.

  enefekt [12.27.07 01:45 PM]

@Mike Shaver

Mozilla is NOT building a shared XULRunner runtime for developing XUL applications, and thats a shame. It seems clear that Mozilla wants to sandbox XUL usage and promote HTML for user interface development, which is a huge step backwards.

Flex and Adobe AIR to the rescue!



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