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This is the TBTF Log, the place where I report important breaking news in the most timely way possible.

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Saturday, July 29, 2000

7/29/2000 9:13:07 PM

  • A new patent threatens Web syndication. Information Architects has one issued patent, no. 5,983,267 that it claims covers much of the technology and business model of dynamic aggregation -- syndicating Web content -- from both ends. Now iA has issued a press release announcing a new patent pending on the same topic. The company says the new patent is complimentary to the '267; the press release implies that iA believes the pending patent, once issued, will sew up the company's right to charge a licence fee to anybody who uses RSS, RDF, XML, or any similar technology to provide or consume summaries of Web content. Such as for example TBTF, roving_reporter, and (from the other end of the pipe) SiteScooper and UserLand.

    It goes without saying that iA did not invent dynamic aggregation.

    Thanks to TBTF Irregular Justin Mason (proprietor of the above-mentioned SiteScooper) for the nod.

Friday, July 28, 2000

7/28/2000 1:05:13 PM

  • Coiner of the term "software" dies. John W. Tukey was a Princeton University statistician credited with coining the word "software." He died yesterday of heart failure in New Jersey. He was 85. [NY Times obit] Tukey first used "software" in a 1958 article in the American Mathematical Monthly.

    Tukey is also credited with coining the term "bit." Here's a piece of computer history I've not seen documented anywhere -- the fight to establish the terminology for what we now call a "bit." In the early 1970s I heard Edward Teller speak at Livermore Labs. In that temple to the supercomputer, Teller took as his theme the sheer unnecessisariness, for any computation whatsoever, of any computer larger than 4K of 8-bit memory. But Teller did not say "bit" -- he contrarily said "bigit" (pronounced "bijit") every time. My guess is that Teller, a man for whose eyebrows alone the word "irascible" might have been invented, some time in the 1950s had championed "bigit" as the proper term for "binary digit," but lost out to Tukey's more elegant coinage.

7/28/2000 8:28:53 AM

  • "Safe Harbor" is OK with the EU after all. Early this month the European Parliament rejected a proposed "safe harbor" data-protection agreement, two years in the making, between the US Commerce Department and the EU. Now the European Commission has reversed that ruling. This means the EU officially recognises the adequacy of a privacy-protection regime in the US whereby companies voluntarily adhere to a set of data-protection principles promulgated by the Commission. The "safe harbor" arrangement will be fully up and running by November

    At the same time, the EC sanctioned similar regimes in Switzerland and Hungary.

Thursday, July 27, 2000

7/27/2000 11:38:31 AM

  • ICANNthrope. Ted Byfield, TBTF's roving_reporter,, has lately been burning up the airwaves with his coverage of ICANN and domain-naming developments. Yesterday he boldly predicted which three new top-level domain names are shoo-ins for approval. Today he adds a long and compelling look at ICANN's increasingly broken Membership At Large program.

    The roving_reporter offers RSS 0.91 syndication separate from that of TBTF and the TBTF Log. If you care about the future of domain naming, sign up for the roving_reporter's dispatches at a syndication site near you.

7/27/2000 11:13:18 AM

  • Semi-anonymous sites simplify email mischief. The International Herald Tribune carries this story on two Web sites, ManicMail and Zoubidoo, that make it relatively simple to send email that appears to originate from someone else.

    It appears that ManicMail has tightened up its access since the above article appeared yesterday. To use the service now you need to submit your name, email address, and reason for wanting access, and ManicMail promises to get back to you. (They haven't gotten back to me yet.)

    Note added 2000-07-31: Antony Robbins, the ManicMail.net administrator, informs me that the above paragraph (retained here in grey type) is incorrect. In the article as initially posted I got the ManicMail URL wrong -- they're .net and not .com -- and therefore misrepresented them. Robbins writes:
    At ManicMail.net we have not tightened up any security measures and still allow the sending of emails from the site for free and without registration.

    ManicMail forces the sender to acknowledge that bad things may befall if the message is harassing or otherwise illegal. A savvy recipient can easily determine, by examining the headers, that the message is not what it seems; but nothing in the message body tips off the unwary.

    Zoubidoo takes no such precautions against casual mischief. The service does seem to have added a footer to outgoing mail containing its URL -- this should significantly reduce the liklihood that you'll be fooled when a cow-orker impersonates your boss to tell you that you've been fired.

    Thanks to Irregular Monty Solomon for the forward.

Wednesday, July 26, 2000

7/26/2000 8:14:31 AM

  • Privacy hunter Richard Smith gets backing. Smith will be working with a new organization based at the University of Denver. The Privacy Center will be funded by a nonprofit agency underwritten by Denver entrepreneur Peter Barton. Smith will work with University of Denver researcher David Martin and three associates.

Tuesday, July 25, 2000

7/25/2000 12:41:40 PM

  • Is Microsoft's .NET 100% vapor? Joel Spolsky read Microsoft's .NET announcements and had a reaction almost identical to mine. He wrote this insightful piece, Microsoft goes bonkers, detailing the utter lack of any content in the program as announced. Someone inside Microsoft apparently agrees that, if the emperor has any clothes, they have not yet been made manifest. S/he sent Spolsky this revealing letter.

    Management spent nearly a year explaining how everyone needed to focus on NGWS and how we could all fit into the vision - without ever describing the goal. It was the proverbial answer in search of a question. All of a sudden it has a new name, seemingly an attempt to hide the fact that it still has no body.

    Thanks to TBTF Irregular Justin Mason for the pointer.

Monday, July 24, 2000

7/24/2000 8:40:42 PM

  • The roving_reporter returns. After a months-long hiatus, Ted Byfield has revived his roving_reporter column on the TBTF site. At present r_r is looking rather like a Web log. Check in from time to time to see what's new. Ted and I are working on ways to make r_r content more visible from TBTF's top page.

7/24/2000 8:30:54 PM

  • ICANN: a failed experiment? Lauren Weinstein and Peter Neumann have come out of the blue with a manifesto arguing strongly that ICANN, in its current incarnation, needs to be scrapped as a noble experiment gone bad. The two authors, moderators of the respected forums Privacy and Risks, suggest establishing a new international organization that truly balances the interests of the commercial Internet, private users, not-for-profits, governments, and the disenfranchised on the wrong side of the digital divide. It wouldn't surprise me if this manifesto had real impact on the debate over ICANN.

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