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TBTF for 1996-05-05: Land rush in namespace

Keith Dawson (dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com)
Mon, 6 May 1996 08:37:08 -0400

From Spring Internet World

Big show: 40,000 attendees overflowed San Jose. Mecklermedia announced that next year's Spring IW will transpire in Los Angeles (paralleling the move of Fall IW from Boston, which it overran last year, to New York). The show was big news in the San Francisco media of course, but was also picked up this time by the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal, and NPR. The hype level was dizzying: one booth had Indiana Jones and Marilyn Monroe lookalikes performing on the hour, another featured Elvis with waitresses in a simulated diner.

Six months ago the first robust HTML editors and industrial-strength Website managers were beginning to appear; in San Jose there were a dozen companies in this space, one giving away its tools [1], others [2],[3] aiming high for the largest enterprises. In Boston the first commercial URL collector-organizers appeared; at last week's show the category was ubiquitous and had broadened to include offline browsers and personal spiders. Even bigger was the showing of Web traffic watchers [4] and analysis tools [5],[6].

Almost everything on the show floor was being demonstrated on Windows 95. My vote for the most often-asked question at the show: "When will this be available on Macintosh?" Rarely was the questioner satisfied with the response. While MacOS runs on less than 10% of new computers sold, I suspect that the Mac's share among working Web designers and webmasters is higher. If you can supply figures, please email me.

Netscape was showing the beta version of its new Navigator 3.0 browser, called Atlas, just weeks after finally shipping Navigator 2.0. As covered in TBTF for 1996-03-24 [7], this version builds in Net telephony; also streaming audio, VRML-3D, and video (not all implemented on all platforms yet). I've been using the Macintosh version (Preview Release 2) and find it to be at least as stable as 2.01, though conspicuously sluggish -- typing fast will lose you keystrokes. I particularly appreciate two new features: (1) in a frame, hitting the Back button takes you to the previous frame, not to the previous page; and (2) you can have Navigator ask each time before accepting a cookie. The latter feature is enlightening: it gives you some clue as to how much tracking of user habits has been going on on the Web, invisibly until now. As an example, to visit the home page of Interse [6] I refused 8 cookies; to descend one level in the site I refused 16 more. Each cookie could have allowed the site to record details about my browsing habits.

[1] <http://www.tools.gnn.com/press/index.html>
[2] <http://www.netcarta.com/>
[3] <http://www.ebt.com/>
[4] <http://www.caravalle.com/>
[5] <http://www.netgen.com/>
[6] <http://www.interse.com/>
[7] <http://www.tbtf.com/archive/1996-03-24.html>


A global bulletin board

Venanzio Jelenic <i-site at mgl dot ca> has begun an intriguing experiment: the FreeForm WebSite [8]. This webmaster encourages [9] all visitors to modify the site in any way they choose, subject only to his judgement that the result be decent. The site is set up so that anyone can update, rearrange, or add pages to it using FTP. It's a noble experiment in pure gonzo global collaborative authoring. Jelenic posted a notice about the site on the Apple Internet Authoring mailing list this week and has entertained several thousand visitors since, about 1% of whom have contributed content. So far there is a physics test, a once-upon-a-time story, a number of shingles hung out by freelance Web designers and others, and not a lot in the way of visual coherence. Jelenic writes:

> ...what you will see there is not my doing... it's been done by
> many different people.... and the last iteration, with some neat
> page graphics, only arrived on Saturday, so the site some days
> changes "look and feel" almost 100% without my even knowing about
> it -- it's a bit strange as a webmaster to see that... but I'm
> getting used to it.

FreeForm is hosted from a Mac Quadra 650 and is served over a 128 Kbit ISDN connection. Jelenic asks me to ask you to be gentle with the site, so play nice. We don't want to see FreeFrom succumb to the tragedy of the commons -- bad money driving out the good -- that overcame Fletcher Mattox's mail-to-news gateway. See Gene Crick's <gcrick at tpoint dot net> summary at [10].

[8] <http://i-site.on.ca:8001/start.html>
[9] <>
[10] <http://www.tbtf.com/resource/mail-to-news.txt>


Become an international arms trafficker in one click

This page [11] sports a button labeled Click here to become an International Arms Trafficker. Clicking on that button causes three lines of perl code to be sent to an ISP in Anguilla; the code implements a patented RSA encryption algorithm. You can optionally give your name and email address for addition to the list of known arms traffickers [12]. At this writing it numbers 14 names. Two use handles and/or an email anonymizer; one is a spoof (Willian Jefferson Clinton <president at whitehouse dot gov>); and eleven are very brave or very foolhardy.

Note added 1998-09-10: The count today, 28 months after this note was written, stands at 6935.

[11] <http://online.offshore.com.ai/arms-trafficker/>
[12] <http://online.offshore.com.ai/arms-trafficker/known-traffickers>


Followup: Yahoo sidesteps controversy over switchboard.com database

TBTF for 1996-03-10 [13]

This database has been nothing but trouble. It contains the names and addresses of more than 100 million Americans culled from commercial mailing lists. Problem is, the database includes those who had requested unlisted numbers from their local phone companies, unaware that the request did not bind the phone company never to sell their names to anyone.

In 1991 Lotus announced plans to market the database on a CD-ROM costing less than $1,000. Privacy experts expressed alarm on two fronts:

Lotus addressed the second concern by adding features to make it more cumbersome to build large address lists from the CD-ROM. This failed to still the outcry. Lotus then announced a program to let people request that their names be taken off the CD-ROM. When 30,000 people (me among them) did so in the first week, Lotus dropped plans to market the database.

The troublesome database, or its lineal descendent, is now owned by Database America Inc., who with Banyon Systems, Inc. offers switchboard.com [14].

Early in April Yahoo launched a new People Search service in conjunction with Database America that provided access to the names and addresses of 185 million Americans. The San Jose Mercury News reported on 4/26 [15] that after a public outcry Yahoo had removed 85 million unlisted names.

[13] <http://www.tbtf.com/archive/1996-03-10.html>
[14] <http://www.switchboard.com/>
[15] <http://www.globeonline.com/excite/revue/96-04-26--4.html>


Threads Trademark conflicts with domain namespace
See also TBTF for
1996-05-05, 1995-09-14, 09-03, 07-30

Land rush in namespace

The Net raises twisty problems for those concerned with questions of trademark law and brand recognition. Until September 1995 anyone could register a domain name for free [16]. Indeed, until July 1995 [17] the policy of Network Solutions Inc., the SAIC subsidiary that runs the InterNIC registry, did not consider possible trademark status when granting a new domain name (see [18] for NSI's current policy).

Toys'R'Us, the giant toy retailer, didn't wait for the policy to change before coming on like the Grinch that stole Christmas. As they were developing their own Web site early last year Toys'R'Us reportedly applied pressure to a 9-year old boy whose father had obtained for him the domain name toys-r-us.com. (The boy just liked the store, he said.) Father and son relinquished the name in alarm. In April 1995 Toys'R'Us came after Miles O'Neal <meo at rru dot com> of Austin, TX, whose Web site [19] is the current embodiment of a satirical operation he calls Roadkills-R-Us. O'Neal is refusing to give up the name. The spoof has no legal or commercial reality; it exists only in O'Neal's mind and on the Net. (RRU first appeared in 1988 on Usenet news and later became a mailing list. In 1993 O'Neal secured his domain name and moved RRU onto the Web.) A summary of his encounters with the toy company is at [20]; for a condensed version see [21].

C|net News delves more deeply into the land rush in namespace at [22]. For an exhaustive treatment of the subject see What's In A Name? [23]. This impressive site was put together by three law students at George Washington University: Jonathan Agman <bearpop at crosslink dot net>, Stacey Halpern <halperns at gwis2 dot circ dot gwu dot edu>, and David Pauker <davidp at crosslink dot net>.

[16] <http://www.tbtf.com/archive/1995-09-03.html>
[17] <http://www.tbtf.com/archive/1995-07-30.html>
[18] <http://internic.net/domain-info/internic-domain-4.html>
[19] <http://www.rru.com/rru/>
[20] <http://www.rru.com/rru/tru/#synopsis>
[21] <http://www.rru.com/rru/tru/pr1.html>
[22] <http://www.cnet.com/Content/News/Files/0,16,1257,00.html>
[23] <http://www.ll.georgetown.edu/lc/internic/domain1.html>


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