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Internet Explorer Ruling is Old News Anyway September 27, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet.
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The European Union antitrust head has announced that Microsoft is to be charged with failing to follow a ruling from 2009 related to their failure to offer a selection of web browsers.

This ruling is centred on the ability of Microsoft to bundle their Internet Explorer system with Windows, the web browser that for many years was the dominant choice for browsing the web.

But this ruling feels like old news, even though it was just announced this week.

Internet Explorer is no longer the dominant product for web browsing.

The crown now belongs to Google with their Chrome system and Firefox from the Mozilla Foundation is close on the heels of Internet Explorer. In fact if you now add together Chrome and Firefox, they are used for almost half of all Internet web browsing. Internet Explorer retains just over 23%, but this figure is dropping.

The EU may be throwing their legal muscle at Microsoft, but the market has moved on anyway. Internet Explorer became a bloated, slow product that was full of bugs and subject to endless virus attacks. Google offered a light, very fast product with Chrome and users switched in droves.

Now the browser has become more than just a browser anyway, with Chrome offering a gateway to all the services offered by Google, further locking in users and preventing them from seeking out an alternative.

Microsoft can only wish they spent more time focused on improving the product and letting users decide on the best tool for web browsing. Now they are suffering the irony of being fined by an antitrust body as their product is losing market share to the competition.

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Photo by Varawat Prasarnkiat licensed under Creative Commons

New domains for a new Internet June 14, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet.
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Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) is the organisation that organises the Internet – assigning the domain names we all know, such as .com and .org.

They just announced plans to create many new domains and asked organisations to submit requests for new suggested domains. Big tech firms like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have all asked for new domain names, but what is interesting to see is that even non-tech firms like Land Rover have made requests for domains such as .landrover.

There is a concern that this process has commercialised the control of the Internet itself. Of course, brands and big commercial companies like Amazon and Google dominate the Internet as we know it, but it is also a resource that can be freely used just for the exchange of information.

With brands spending over £100,000 just to apply for the right to create a new domain it means that only those with deep pockets can guide the direction of the Internet and is that really the way we should be taking it?

The US government still takes a keen interest in the overall governance of the Internet and all the key organisations like Icaan are still based in the US, but perhaps it is time for a supranational body to be created – so the future of the Internet is not just auctioned to the highest bidder.

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Photo by JW Sherman licensed under Creative Commons

Does multi-channel retail really deliver the goods? March 14, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, IT Services.
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Call Centre Focus magazine recently published a survey of senior executives involved in retail with some interesting findings for those interested in how the multi-channel concept is changing retail.

A full 65 per cent of retailers believe their in-store experience defines their brand and over 50 per cent say it is the most profitable channel. Interestingly 70 per cent believe it delivers the highest level of customer service.

This shows some bias in favour of the high street store – better profits and better service, but the survey also showed that 98 per cent of retailers recognise that a broader multi-channel strategy is vital to remain competitive in the current market and 77 per cent of respondents stated their reason for pursuing a multi-channel strategy is to drive an increase in sales.

These are quite interesting statistics because they show an overwhelming support for the multi-channel concept as something that has to be done even though most of these executives see most of their branding, customer support, and profits coming from the traditional channels.

Over two-thirds of the survey respondents admit that their service levels are not consistent across all channels – so the experience with the brand will be very different depending on how the shopper engages.

Thomas Eggar is currently working on our own research in this area and we will be publishing our results soon, but based on the results of this other survey it would seem that retail executives are steering through uncharted waters.

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Photo by Graham Holliday licensed under Creative Commons

What is Web 3.0? July 22, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in Internet, Outsourcing, Software.
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The Internet continues to evolve at a frenetic pace. Back in the nineties, having a website meant little more than a series of static pages that used hyper-links to allow the reader to click between pages.

Web 2.0 changed all that. Websites became based on dynamic data, so different readers might see different pages, based on their own profile. Your Facebook profile is a good example – endlessly changing whenever you update it or load new content such as photos. It became normal for readers to also become contributors.

Now the tech world is talking of Web 3.0, even as many in the enterprise are yet to fully take advantage of the dynamic information flow of Web 2.0.

But Web 3.0 is not really here just yet. It revolves around how information can be better linked through concepts such as the semantic web. In short, there will be a point at which the systems are publishing information automatically and tagging or linking the data to existing information. Like Web 2.0, but with the computers doing much of the publishing and linking for us.

The clear advantages of this are obvious. We are drowning in a sea of information at present. Just search Google for ‘John Smith’ and hundreds of millions of possible results come up. If your own name is ‘John Smith’ and the search system had some way of linking data that relates to the correct ‘John Smith’ then search suddenly becomes far more intelligent.

Given the amount of content now being created it is becoming essential for the systems to help connect the dots. For example, the video site YouTube gets 35 hours of new video uploaded by users every single minute. How can we make sense of this vast sea of data if it has no context?

The downside of relying on the technology is that machines make mistakes. Only time will tell how laws designed for a previous era might handle cases related to an automated system linking millions of pieces of data, where some of those links are erroneous and create a knock-on effect that invalidates other data.

It’s a problem we have yet to encounter, but this world is just around the corner not decades away.

Facebook juror jailed for 8 months June 20, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in Internet.
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If you have ever been on jury service you will know that the rules about contempt of court are quite stringent. Though everyone in reality talks to their family about the case before it is over, you are not really supposed to.

But talking about a case on social networks must be a modern-day hazard for juries across the world? Of course, and court officials now warn jurors of the danger in using tools like Twitter and Facebook to update their “friends” how a case is proceeding.

It is just plain common sense. If any release of jury deliberations could cause a change in the outcome of a trial then you keep your mouth shut.

But one juror in a Manchester drugs trial not only used the Internet to start searching for background details on defendants she also started up a Facebook friend relationship and conducted online conversations with a defendant.

It seems blindingly obvious that you don’t form a relationship and have online chat with a defendant in a case where you are a juror. But has the etiquette of social networking, where friends don’t necessarily need to be real friends, blurred into an environment where these two people should never have even been talking – let alone friends?

The juror in question claims she felt an empathy with the defendant, who had been released after more than a year on remand. She got eight months in jail herself for contempt of court.

Perhaps she should have just clicked on ‘Like’?

Workforce going mobile March 22, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in Internet, IT Services, Outsourcing.
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The entire workforce is mobile these days. If you don’t believe it then think for a moment about how a typical worker in any professional industry might start the day.

Get up, get breakfast, check the latest news on a smart-phone while eating toast, catch the bus to work listening to the news on the radio whilst browsing the web and checking emails. By the time the worker arrives at the office, all those early emails from Asia are dealt with and he has an update from the media on what is happening in the world that day.

If it still sounds far-fetched or untraditional then take a look around you on your morning commute. Sure, there are still some people with books and newspapers, but there are an increasingly large number of people who are connected the moment they pick up their phone.

This ability to use the web, collect email, and produce documents while on the move has never been so easy or pervasive – these devices are not issued by NASA, they are the iPhones and Android devices available on the High Street.

This always-on ability flies in the face of organisations that ban social networks inside the office. Which office worker faced with a social network ban never uses a social network? They just use their phone instead.

At present, the implications for the always-connected workforce are only starting to be understood, but they spread wider than just creating the opportunity to check email on a commute.

Some changes might be:

  • Employees are generally using higher-specification equipment now than the official kit issued by the company. Will this change the technology function of many companies so they just offer a basic infrastructure, a platform to connect to with bulletproof security? The IT department, as we know it, will be dead.
  • Commuting patterns may change entirely as employees are more seamlessly available 9 to 5 without being in a fixed location.
  • The fabric of many cities may change entirely as workers desert their core and accept a longer commute once or twice a week.

The humble smartphone and the freedom it offers to knowledge workers could change work and societies as fundamentally as the railways shaped Victorian society.

Wikileaks – the legality of a website for leaks August 11, 2010

Posted by Mark Hillary in Government.
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The Wikileaks website is back in the news again, this time because it is alleged that a US serviceman has leaked thousands of confidential diplomatic messages to the services. The US military is angry, claiming that troop lives can be endangered by leaks of this nature. Many in the media argue that the freedom to criticize government should be a right for all citizens to enjoy.

Wikileaks describes itself as “WikiLeaks is a multi-jurisdictional public service designed to protect whistleblowers, journalists and activists who have sensitive materials to communicate to the public.” The site distributes data across several servers located in several countries, therefore not subjecting itself to any one jurisdiction. There are also hundreds of web addresses that will take a reader to the Wikileaks site too, just in case your current jurisdiction bans it.

But consider for a moment how free comment could be abused using such a system.

If it is possible to make any comment about anyone or any organisation using a service such as this then the national protection of libel surely no longer exists?

Wikileaks is proving to be a vital tool in giving whistleblowers a safe mechanism for reporting corporate or government fraud and wrongdoing, but once a reporting mechanism answers to nobody, how can the claims be verified and reputations protected?