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20 years with the World Wide Web

20 years with the World Wide Web

Earlier this year we passed the twenty year anniversary of the world wide web; on of the most prolific inventions of our contemporary time. From this milestone a historical line can be drawn as recent iterations of the web are disseminated to a wider array of users and new uses adapts the web as a platform. Not only is the web gaining larger audiences, it is also changing various platforms until recently not being thought of as web. The last five years we have seen the renaissance of web technologies with the triforce of Javascript, HTML and CSS. We must not forget that the web has been of paramount importance in the diffusion of the Internet and is still expanding and even if its death has been prophesied.

The first days 

First, just to clear the air, the web and the Internet are two separate technologies. While we are celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the web we need to know that the Internet on which the web is working is much older. Protocols you are using daily while doing things as sending e-mails, transferring files over FTP and playing computer games online are also preceding the web with years, so why is the celebration of web such a special thing?

The world wide web was introduced in the beginning of the 90s built on the ideas of hypertext (that had already been around for decades). With the creation of a markup language, HTML, and a transferring protocol for acquiring such sites, HTTP, the web was born. Working a the European Organization for Nuclear Research, the father of the web – Tim Berners-Lee conceptualised a system where digital resources could be exchanged platform independent. On his Next computer he wrote the technology.

 

At that time one could not imagine the success and widespread the technology would go through the next twenty years.

In the eighties and nineties other structural changes helped make the web into what it is today. In the late seventies and the eighties personal computers had entered the consumer market, and as its cost grew lower and more units were sold the general importance of computing grew. Before the web, and also before the personal computers, Internet and computing was a professional realm in companies and universities, but with Internet Service Providers homes were included into the global network. The market for internet access grew as home computing became popular, and until recently, here in Norway, it was a political goal to spread computers to the homes, and home computing was partly tax-exempted. The UN and the World Bank still use percentages of home with Internet access as a measure of countries, and lacking IT literacy is spoken of as it was analphabetism.

Before the web through the Internet was possible, an abundance of open and proprietary standards, several programs with different usage and no central hub as the computer browser provides today the Internet lacked any application so ubiquitous as the web would become. E-mail servers could communicate in SMTP and POP3, but there was a lack of an open gateway where all services could be found (this will take more than twenty years, and browsers today are not totally compatible, but it is a great abstraction from when little and big endian was a problem for network communication, or from the proprietary standards of IE6.)

The web is cool and much have happened, but what I find especially amusing is the recent and ongoing development. Just think about it. The last five years more and more applications are encompassed into the web. Long before gmail and even earlier than hotmail most people downloaded their e-mail to their local computers using the POP3 standard, today it’s all online, or at least you can synchronise your mail-boxes with IMAP. Another example is the expansion of content services oriented around the web. Music, movies, pictures and friends are now living in the cloud and the cloud-access-points (desktops, laptops, mobile phones, TV-sets, tablets, information screens etc) are much more flexible than just a couple of years ago. Where did you go to access the Internet in 1995, or 2000? Now you probably have a portal close by, but ten years ago that portal was in a home-office. When did you get your first laptop? Smartphone? Wireless router? When did you sign up for Flick, Picasa, Gmail, Facebook, Twitter?

The recent technological development has largely been accredited AJAX and the rebirth of Javascript. With new Javascript engines such as Chromes V8 modern browsers are able to run Javascripts more than 100 times faster than earlier, also more effective distribution of workload onto the GPU and new standards in HTML and CSS has changed the web drastically. The web originally was a stateless experience, you asked you got served, but in-between you had a load-time unbelievable for today’s netizens. Now applications are downloaded (and with all the libraries included and assets these can be massive), but when first running locally they acquire data asynchronously. The application are now sending and receiving data without loading the whole site, they have been doing it for years, but now it starts to change the experience of the web.

Yesterday, I was looking into some of the technological changes in the web, and I tested some of the relatively new features of the web. With new iterations the web-browsers a better control of visual elements are implemented through CSS3. Box shadow, round edges, transparency and other features earlier emulated with images, smoke and mirrors are now included in the model. Here is a little demonstration of some features at lovholm.net/projects. Another demonstration which only works with newer web-kit browsers (Safari, Chrome) is showing reflections and animations through CSS3 (Click on the image).

Not only the visual aspects are changing, the HTML 5 package introduce a new and more semantic model for how to label content in HTML, this again leads to the idea where the Internet is made up of smaller parts than documents. In his book Weaving the Web, Tim Berners-Lee introduces the idea of the web of data. I like to think of it as being able to query the web, not only locally running databases. You can now have a lot of fun using YQL to query Yahoo’s interpretation of the web , or you can find the facts from Wikipedia using their service DBPedia.

Here is presentation summarising some of the open data achievements. (Do also watch the first presentation TBL on the next web)

 

The article picture is made by Anna Lena Schiller, licences under Creative Commons and made available on Flickr.

 

A brief history of the Internet

A brief history of the Internet

We are living in interesting times. Even though we don’t have flying cars,  eat dinners contained in pills or have vacations in space (yet) there have been a been dramatic changes the last decades. I want in this little piece to focus on the changes the computers have imposed upon information, and intellectual property. The digitalisation of various forms of communication in combination with the huge numbers of computers and computer-like devices owned and cheap Internet connections have changed the way we communicate. Maybe not in the expression, but in the manner of speed and multiplicity. Just think back; after the battle of Marathon in 490 BC the message of success against the Persian had to be transmitted by a runner. After Napoleons success against the Austro Hungerian Empire the expanded system of semaphores made this easier, but the biggest difference in efficiency of transmission messages happened in mid 19th century beginning in the Supreme Court Room in Washington DC 24th of May in 1844 with a message sent to a railroad depot in Baltimore and back again. The first message sent through a telegraph; from now electrical communication replaced the optical semaphores. Ironically is the next big step done by moving back to an optical system, but this time through optoelectronics and through fibre cables rather than a manual system.

In the end of th 1960s the first messages between computers was performed. The 29th of October 1969 a short message was sent through the ARPANET. Living in 2011 and look back in time this may seem like a huge invention, but the consequences of getting  computers to communicate meant very little for John Doe in 1969. Computers were expensive and rare, it would take around another ten years before the first computers got personal into their acronym and another twentyone years before the most popular and the pinacle in its commercialisation was to be incepted at CERN (WWW). From here the story is well known: Everyone got connected, bought new hardware every second or third year and got faster and cheaper Internet. We got routers and flatrate so we could stay online all the time, then we got wireless routers so we could sit in the sofa and not in the office and finally we got wireless connection on our phones, Kindles, iPad, Gallaxies and whatnot. We stopped admiring gif and horisontal borders with low-res animation and started to download music. Later as computers got more powerful we started to download movies as well, and games. Games in the begining had to be runned through DOS and came in big boxes, but at some point they turned into auto-install and came in the new DVD-casing format. Oh, and as not just the nerds, the office workers, academics and the porn-browsers got connection we started to connect in social networks, and sharing our content online. In the early days through homepages where we took the metaphor of virtual home to a maximum by placing a house in the top-left corner and dedicating a section to the family pet, to a more contemporary dynamic myriad of content based services for blogs, pictures, video, poems, tour tips, movies watched and book reviews.

Today the hot stuff is tangible and cloud-based, and the convergence of media in the computer is segregated into other platforms as well. The e-book is read on devices with artificial ink, the music is heard on portable players or mobile phones, some even have own devices to present pictures taken digitally. Games are still popular on computers, but more extensions to the game consoles and exclusive release on games increases their sales. Simultaneously do we see a reconvergence as most of these differentiated platforms are able to do tasks the others are specialized to do. You can listen to MP3s on your Kindle and watch movies in your photo frame. Things get also moved from the computers and into the cloud, your photos can be shared through others online and even synchronised from your computer, the same happens with your e-mail. Who are still using POP3? Things get moved from your computer to your little distant storage room located another place so you can access it from all the gadgets.

So, what can we learn from all of this? What is the next move in communication? What is the next trend or tendency? Well, I don’t know, but if you have any idea, please leave a comment.

This post was meant as a little comment on the intellectual property of the Internet, but well, that is not the way it turned out. Stay tuned for that post later, and more post on technology. Picture by Tim Ducett, acquired through Flickr The picture is licensed under creative common. Please refer to link for more information

Bruk nettets muligheter

Bruk nettets muligheter

Har du hentet ned noe musikk fra nettet i det siste, bare for å sjekke om musikken er verdt å kjøpe? Eller har du lastet ned en film, fordi det var for langt å gå til nærmeste videobutikk?

Kjenner du deg igjen? Sjansen for at du da har forbrutt deg mot åndsverksloven er da stor. Åndsverksloven vi i dag benytter oss av i Norge ble lagt til lovverket i 1961, men lover som slår fast de immaterielle rettigheten en person oppnår ved å publisere et verk for offentligheten har eksistert lengre enn som så. Helt tilbake til 1700 tallet finner vi slike lover. Det store gjennombruddet i internasjonal opphavsrett kom med utarbeidelsen og implementeringen av Bernkonvensjonen om vern av litterære og kunstneriske verk i 1886. Konvensjonen slår fast en del rettigheter for opphavsmenn, og gjør opphavsretten gjeldene på tvers av landegrensene i land som har ratifisert konvensjonen.

Siden den norske åndsverksloven ble innført har det blitt gjort endringer i loven for å i større grad tilfredsstille den teknologiske utviklingen, men hovedprinsippene står fast. I lovens første paragraf slåes det fast at loven gjelder for de som skaper et verk, dette kan være litterære verk, vitenskapelige verk eller kunstneriske verk. Alt fra romaner og filmer til kart og foredrag kan være et åndsverk. Beveger vi oss ned til andre paragraf slåes det fast at kun opphavsmannen har rett til å fremstille kopier av verket og velge om verket skal offentliggjøres. Nå er det riktignok slik at få kopierer opp sine åndsverk selv, men selve retten og eierskapet ligger hos de selv om de velger å benytte seg av andre for å gjøre denne jobben. Åndsverkslovens funksjon er å beskytte de intellektuelle og økonomiske rettighetene opphavsmannen får ved å publisere et verk. Siden det nesten alltid ligger en hel del arbeid bak et verk som blir offentliggjort kan loven sees på som et insentiv for å få skapere til å gi ut sine verker. Den skal også legge til rette for å tjene penger på interlektuellt produserende arbeid.

Det har skjedd mye siden 1961. I 1961 ga Bob Dylan sin første opptreden, John F. Kennedy var president i USA og  Norges første kvinne ble ordinert i Vang kirke like utenfor Hamar. Det har skjedd mye siden gang. Bob Dylan har vokst seg stor og blitt et ikon innen musikken, mange presidenter har styrt de forente stater siden Kennedy ble skutt, Norge har fått mange kvinnelige prester og Vang og Hamar kommuner er slått sammen. På denne tiden har det også skjedd mange teknologiske forandringer. Vi må huske at i 1961 hadde knapt fjernsynet, som ble offentlig åpnet i 1960, gjort sitt inntreden i Norge. Reproduksjon og eksemplarfremstilling var noe langt fra alle kunne gjøre. Da fjernsynet i sin spede barndom skulle ta opp sine egne sendinger måtte signalene sendes til Danmark siden NRK ikke hadde tilgang på utstyr for å gjøre videoopptak. Mange år seinere er hvem som helst i stand til å skape en kopi ved et par enkle tastetrykk. Ctrl C – Ctrl V. Også distrubusjonskanalene var mer kronglete. I VG 11. November 1961 kunne man lese at telegrafdirektøren neppe trodde at man kunne få avskaffet køen for å skaffe seg telefon før om en 5-6 år, i dag kan man få skaffet seg en datamaskin på dagen og få den koblet til Internett samme kveld. Har man en internett tilkobling kan man også kommunisere med andre tilknyttet nettet i hele verden vederlagsfritt. I 1961 var dette utenkelig.

Selv om mye har skjedd siden åndsverksloven ble innført er den fortsatt en gjeldene del av norsk lovverk, derfor er det problematisk når den gjentatte ganger blir brutt uten at det får konsekvenser. De gangene det har kommet til dommer på grunn av brudd på denne loven har det vært tilfeller med stor symboleffekt. For mange regnes denne loven som død, og kan en død lov bli respektert? Flere unge i dag føler ikke at de bryter noen lov eller gjør noe sosialt uakseptert når de laster ned ei ny skive eller en ny film. Argumentene de kommer med handler om at de kanskje kunne tenke seg å kjøpe platen hvis de liker den eller at det er for tungvindt å skaffe seg en film på lovelig vis. Har det blitt slik at åndsverksloven har blitt forbigått?

Nei, sier en rekke opphavsmenn og deres interesseorganisasjoner som har åpnet nettsteder deleikkestjele.no hvor de tar til ordet mot politikere som har snakket om å fjerne opphavsretten for så å kompensere opphavsmennene på andre måter. Opphavsmennene mener at man ikke kan forsvare brudd på loven med at ”alle gjør det” eller ”der så lett å få tilgang til ulovelig materiale”.  Tankene er gode, men hvordan få gjennomført det.

Flere unge som har blitt spurt eller på andre måter har kommet til orde i fildelingsdebatten har pekt på at det ikke lengre regnes som galt og ulovelig å laste ned eller dele et opphavsrettslig beskyttet verk. Både i ungdomsmiljøene og i samfunnet ellers eksisterer det få sosiale sanksjoner mot de som begår disse lovbruddene. Påtalemakten og storselskapene står uten midler for å redusere kopieringen. Når en person kopierer et åndsverk er det en forbrytelse som det praktisk talt kan slåes ned på, men når en hel generasjon gjør det er det vanskelig å håndheve loven.

Heldigvis finnes det håp. Jeg tror ikke håpet finnes i en strengere lovgivning der mer overvåkning og begrensninger av brukerene på Internettet. Derimot tror jeg at industrien må mer på banen. Teknologien må blir mer enn et onde, det må bli løsningen. Når jeg kan få tilgang til filmer og musikk som jeg ellers ikke kunne fått kjøpt på den lokale bensinstasjonen eller platesjappa må det regnes som en kulturell seier, når en smalfilm produsert i Romania blir sett i Norge uten å ha godt igjennom et stort distribusjonsapparat må det regnes som en seier. Spredning over Internett er også en seier for miljøet da musikk eller filmer lengere ikke må sendes med lastebåter eller trailere, men enkelt kan sendes gjennom en kabel ved hjelp av lyssignaler. Mulighetene er mange, og det gjelder å benytte seg av de. Når spillprodusenter selger sine spill igjennom en integrert nettbutikk der man selv kan velge hvilke spill man ønsker å betale for disse hjemme i egen stue er dette bra. Når man har mulighet til å høre så mye musikk man ønsker for 99 kroner per måned gjennom den svenske tjenesten Spotify er dette bra. Når bransjen selv kommer med enklere og bedre løsninger enn piratene er dette bra. Bransjen må bli mer offensiv. Selvsagt skal også lovbrudd behandles som lovbrudd så lenge norsk lov mener at det er et lovbrudd, men det gjelder også å være offensiv og benytte seg av mulighetene og ikke se begresningene.