TBTF for 1999-03-26: Clue train
T a s t y B i t s f r o m t h e T e c h n o l o g y F r o n t
Timely news of the bellwethers in computer and communications
technology that will affect electronic commerce -- since 1994
Your Host: Keith Dawson
This issue: < http://tbtf.com/archive/1999-03-26.html >
C o n t e n t s
NSI's power grab
Caching may become illegal in Europe
Getting a handle on open source licenses
The first e-serial novel
Introducing Lloyd Wood's Jaundiced Eye
..NSI's power grab
The Net's second most-beloved monopolist makes its move
Once there was a free and useful site called the InterNIC -- origin-
ally a US government project, the Internet Network Information Cen-
ter. ISPs around the world used it daily, by hand and via automated
tools, to check on names using whois and to access domain name reg-
istration forms. The InterNIC was run by the current monopolist in
the granting of domain names, Network Solutions Inc.
Over the weekend of March 20-21, NSI made the InterNIC site go away.
They redirected "internic.net" to point to the NSI corporate site.
Need To Know  points out that NSI sued Eugene Kashpureff in 1997
over a not dissimilar act of Net hijacking .
At its meeting in Singapore earlier this month, ICANN -- the agency
chartered with privatizing domain naming and numbering -- estab-
lished rules  and a timetable  for opening domain-name regis-
tration to five new competitors. NSI must open its databases to new
registrars on April 26.
In recent months NSI has mounted an advertising campaign calling
itself "the dot com company." (Do not confuse with Sun Microsystems,
who "put the dot in dot com.") Last week NSI took more technical
steps to cement its central position once competition arrives. The
moves generated a storm of protest from ISPs and network operators,
as well as from potential competitors. When NSI unveiled a new Web
site and new services and redirected "internic.net" to point there,
would-be competitors cried fowl  and complained to the US Com-
merce Department, which historically has overseen NSI's contract.
Their complaint is that the term "internic" now means "domain name
registration" to a great many people around the world (NSI would
probably agree with that) and that the name should not devolve to
the monopolist incumbent.
Here's what NSI did, apparently, over the previous weekend.
- Redirected the name "www.internic.net" to resolve to "www.net-
- Choked down telnet access to rs.internic.net. Saying "telnet
rs.internic.net," which used to allow you unlimited requests in
an interactive session, now returns "This service is no longer
available. Please use http://www.networksolutions.com". If you
specify telnet port "nicname" you can issue a single query,
however. Type quickly: the connection times out in a few sec-
- Changed the URL for direct access to the 'whois' query CGI,
without notice or warning. A query that worked last week, such
as , now returns "Your client does not have permission to
access the requested item."  works.
- Closed the loophole noted in TBTF for 1999-03-01  that al-
lowed you to retrieve creation date information on domain names.
NSI's troubles are mounting. Yesterday Asensio & Company, a member
of the National Association of Securities Dealers, issued a press
release titled "NSOL Possesses No Lock on Domain Registry or Reg-
istrar Businesses" . It begins:
> Investors may be buying Network Solutions, Inc.'s (Nasdaq:
> NSOL) stock believing the company possesses some market
> advantage, recurring income or proprietary technology that
> has allowed it to create, and will allow it to grow, its
> Internet domain name registry and registrar business. We
> found no reasonable basis for these beliefs. NSOL's domain
> name business has been and remains totally reliant on a 7-
> year-old U.S. federal government contract, which is expiring
> and will not be renewed. We believe that NSOL's management
> has purposely disseminated misleading information, and failed
> to disclose material negative information, that has led in-
> vestors to believe that the expiration of this contract will
> be postponed or that it cannot be entirely and easily ter-
> minated. Investors have also been led to believe that even
> if the contract is terminated, NSOL's business value will
> continue to grow. These expectations are baseless and false.
..Caching may become illegal in Europe
And you thought the Net was slow already
The European Parliament recently drafted  an anti-piracy law to
protect intellectual property that has the side effect of banning
Internet caching in Europe. The BBC provides a good synopsis of
the ill-conceived "clause 5.1" . Internet technical bodies have
joined with the music industry (which lobbied hard for the anti-
piracy measure) in trying to get the clause withdrawn from the
legislation, but their work has been complicated by the forced
resignation of the EU commissioners under charges of corruption.
Five startups each hope to be the one you'll trust with your
Robert Gebeloff notes in an article  in the Bergen (NJ) Record
that Al Gore last month restated his belief that Congress needs to
enact new privacy legislation:
> When you have individuals filling a prescription at the
> drugstore, and the information is immediately downloaded
> into a computer network, and then sold to the marketers of
> other medicines, that patient's privacy has been ravaged.
> And it's not fair and it's not right.
One private-sector initiative that may make a difference to con-
sumers' privacy, short of federal legislation, is a group of start-
ups calling themselves infomediaries, which promise to put the In-
ternet user back in control of his/her personal information. Wired
profiles  one of the startups, Lumeria, and mentions four more
that are poised to launch into the same space: PrivaSeek, InterOmni,
@YourCommand, and PrivacyBank. Lumeria has been in development for a
year and a half and is still weeks away from launch. PrivaSeek
rolled out its infomediary service, Persona XPress, earlier this
The NY Times ran a strong piece  today about the collision of
personal privacy concerns and online marketing, and the infomediaries
who hope to make a buck by standing between the colliding trains.
Randy Sparkman <email@example.com> sends this pointer  to an ar-
ticle on infomediaries he wrote that is scheduled to appear in Amer-
ican Outlook, the Hudson Institute quarterly.
Consumer privacy is an issue many Americans can agree on, even if
they don't support legislation to protect it. But Vice President
Gore may have chosen a singularly poor example to exemplify privacy
concerns, according to Jon Acheson <acheson at wefa dot com>, who
notes that he "used to work for a large pharmaceutical market re-
search firm and [has] just come out from under a 5-year NDA."
> What Mr. Gore doesn't seem to know is that when the indi-
> vidual drugstore customer's information is sold to a market
> research firm, all references to the individual are stripped
> from the data. In fact, if they can arrange it, the people
> who are buying the data prefer to just get the totals, so
> that they don't have to process the millions and millions of
> lines of data themselves.
> The companies who buy the data don't care what you the in-
> dividual consumer is buying. What they're actually using the
> data for is to see whether or not their sales reps are doing
> their jobs, so all they want is regional sales trends. The
> level of granularity only goes down to zip code at its ab-
> solute tightest, and even then they'll merge multiple zip-
> codes together if the population is low enough, both to en-
> sure privacy and to get a decent statistical sample.
> The market research companies that process the data and sell
> it to the pharmaceutical companies are quite aware of the
> privacy issues involved and are VERY scrupulous to avoid
> even seeing confidential information, in order to maintain
> trust, and avoid lawsuits and jail time. If they weren't
> careful, one unfavorable news report could cause their data
> suppliers to stop selling to them because of the negative
> publicity. Poof! Out of business!
Thanks to TBTF Irregulars Mick Schonhut <Mick.Schonhut at digital
dot com> for pointing me to infomediaries and Monty Solomon <monty
at roscom dot com> for the Gebeloff article.
..Getting a handle on open source licenses
What's open, what's free, and what's neither
As Linux and the open source movement get more attention in main-
stream media, many companies are declaring their own open source
initiatives. In many cases these moves are accompanied by new var-
iants on the OS licensing model that may distribute the rights sur-
rounding the public source code in different ways.
The community consensus on what can and cannot be labeled "Open
Source" is contained in this Open Source Definition , which
was derived from Bruce Perens's <bruce at perens dot com> Debian
Free Software Guidelines in 1997.
Among the recent entrants into the open source arena are Apple, Sun,
IBM, and the Australian company Bowerbird Software. Here are the
licenses these companies have introduced with their OS initiatives.
- Apple Public Source License  ("Darwin" OS X server software)
- Sun Community Source License  (Java platform)
- IBM's license  for the Jikes Java compiler
- Bowerbird's New Copyleft License 
At Apple's announcement  of the open OS X, dubbed Darwin, Eric
Raymond was on the stage with Steve Jobs and endorsed Apple's ac-
tions. Now three members of the open source community -- Bruce
Perens, Wichert Akkerman, and Ian Jackson -- have analyzed  the
Apple APSL and pointed out its deviations from the open source
model. (This document also refers in passing to IBM's Jikes lic-
ense.) The critique questions a number of points in the APSL,
- Apple's remedies for patent challenges
- Apple's relabeling of unchanged code acquired from the BSD
- Apple's requirement that adaptors of its technology refer to
a specific URL on Apple's Web site
Apple has responded  to the criticism, saying it's sincerely
trying to do the right thing here. This week Richard Stallman
weighed in on the debate  and in the process made the clearest
statement I've seen of why he has refused to embrace the open
> Apple has grasped perfectly the concept with which "open
> source" is promoted, which is "show users the source and
> they will help you fix bugs." What Apple has not grasped --
> or has dismissed -- is the spirit of free software, which
> is that we form a community to cooperate on the commons of
Stig <stig at hackvan dot com> has analyzed  Sun's license and
concludes that SCSL does not conform to the open source definition,
but it has similarities to the Mozilla license , and some im-
provements that should be studied carefully by the open-source
Bowerbird's NCL  attempts to remedy the disconnect between the
totally free variants such as the GPL  and the more commer-
cially oriented licenses such as the APSL . It does this by in-
troducing a 2-year period in which the author of a work can nego-
tiate terms for binary redistribution rights. Appended to Linux
Today's article  on the NCL is a small amount of community com-
mentary, all negative at the time of this writing. Thanks to TBTF
Irregular Chuck Bury for pointing it out.
Finally, here are several licenses that, according to Perens and
others in the community, fully meet the Open Source Definition.
- Netscape's Mozilla license, MPL 
- Free Software Foundation's GNU GPL 
- MIT X Consortium license 
- Artistic License 
- UC Berkeley's BSD license 
- Troll Tech's QT Free license, QPL 
Four online troublemakers birth an e-business manifesto
David Weinberger, Chris Locke, Doc Searles, and Rick Levine are
troublemakers in the same way Martin Luther was. They aren't so
much creating a revolution as announcing one. They have nailed 95
theses to the door of worldwide business. The message is: networked
markets are conversations; business can join the party or become
roadkill. Visit the Cluetrain , the site these ringleaders have
raised to host the conversation. (I'm linking to the numeric IP
address because cluetrain.com is too new to have propagated to all
corners of the Net.) The site contains far too many appealing sound-
bytes to even attempt excerpting. A number of us have signed on in
support of the Cluetrain  and you can too .
Here are particulars for the Cluetrain ringleaders.
David Weinberger firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.hyperorg.com/
Chris Locke email@example.com http://www.rageboy.com/
Doc Searles firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.searls.com/
Rick Levine email@example.com http://www.hatfactory.com/
..The first e-serial novel
Will Naomi be Little Nell for the end of the millenium?
In 1840 and 1841 Charles Dickens wrote "The Old Curiosity Shop" and
published it in installments, week by week, in his magazine "Master
Humphrey's Clock." The novel found its most passionate audience in
America. Serial installments arrived by boat in New York and crowds
gathered each week at the docks. As the ship carrying the next in-
stallment hove into view a cry would go up: "Does Little Nell yet
live?" It was answered from the decks of the approaching boat, for
many months in the affirmative .
For his next book "Naomi" , mainstream author Douglas Clegg 
has decided to cut out the middlemen -- all of them. No publisher,
no distributor, no bookseller. (And no profit.) Clegg will email 5-8
pages per week of "a ghost story with echoes of classic chillers
from Edgar Allan Poe to Nathaniel Hawthorne" free to anyone who re-
quests it (sign up here , but see below). Clegg will be writing
the novel over the spring and summer as it is distributed. The in-
stallments will be edited before mailing. He plans no other publi-
cation or distribution for the novel. The first episode will arrive
on May 1 with 17 more to follow. Those who sign up late will be
able to catch up at OneList, the site hosting Clegg's mailing list.
Clegg, a great fan of the online life, acknowledges that his is not
the first novel serialized in email. The distinction he claims for
Naomi is that it will be the first by a professional novelist to be
written entirely during its serial distribution, in the manner of
Unfortunately Clegg's mailing-list host, OneList, is in serious need
of a clue about welcoming new members. Browsing with Navigator, I
normally accept no cookies, turning them on as needed and accepting
them only from the originating site. (Ad-placement companies such
as Adforce, Flycast, and DoubleClick are responsible for most of the
if your browser rejects cookies explains how and why the site uses
them, but the explanation is disingenuous. It turns out that you
can't register if you reject cookies from Adforce, OneList's ad
For more on Charles Dickens, start with The Dickens Project  or
the less scholarly Dickens Page .
Thanks to TBTF Irregular Rich Treitman for forwarding the e-serial
..Introducing Lloyd Wood's Jaundiced Eye
A new independent voice on TBTF
TBTF is pleased to host Lloyd Wood's essays on the people and trends
of the digital age. He chooses to call them Jaundiced Eye, and they
will appear here from time to time. Lloyd's name may not be familiar
to most TBTF readers, save that segment who follow the development
of space-based communications satellites; his satellite pages ,
 are justly celebrated. His writing is precise and his viewpoint
is acerbic. Follow the links to Lloyd Wood's Jaundiced Eye: #2 --
Notes on [Donald] Norman , and Jaundiced Eye #1: An evening with
Eric Raymond, NT personality .
Why Mac users squint
Ever wondered why Web sites aimed primarily at Windows users some-
times look to Mac users as if they had been handset by elves?
Geoff Duncan, writing in TidBITS , explains in impressive detail
> how computers can take a mildly fuzzy measurement (the
> point), use it as a yardstick to render characters which
> themselves use an arbitrary portion of their point size,
> and finally convey that information to a display that,
> in all probability, does not conform to the computer's
> internal imaging system.
PC and Mac text rendering systems both rely on a similar, and brain-
dead, assumption. PCs assume their display is running at 96 dots per
inch, and Macs assume 72 dpi. Neither asks the display subsystem how
many dots per inch it is currently showing and renders accordingly.
Duncan supplies this pathological example  of how great the dis-
parity between PC- and Mac-displayed type can be. My real-life ex-
perience browsing from a Mac is not quite so dramatic, but this
screen-shot comparison  (33K), taken from Dell's Web site, shows
one of the many annoyances of swimming against the current in a Win-
Blocking Web ads goes mainstream
TBTF first reported on an ad blocker, Internet Fast Forward, nearly
three years ago . At the time Web advertising was in its infancy
and the idea of a commercial product to give users control over what
ads they saw, if any, was too hot for any established company with
mainstream clients. That first ad-blocking company, PrivNet, had
been started by three college students. PGP bought PrivNet at the
end of 1996 . While PGP at the time was no-one's idea of a
buttoned-down company, they nonetheless quickly buried the PrivNet
technology and product.
In the intervening years the Web demographic has ballooned with
users reared on television, not on a text-based and non-commercial
Internet. Though Web ads are far more pervasive than in 1996 the
proportion of Netizens who find them intrusive and offensive is
smaller. And now companies as mainstream as Siemens dare to offer ad
blockers. Siemens's WebWasher  is available free to individual
users on Windows systems (no other platform is mentioned on the
site). WebWasher's proxy server, running in a tiny memory footprint
on the user's PC, strips ads and replaces them with glorious white-
space. The resulting browsing experience is soothing and speedy.
TBTF Irregular Riley Rainey sent the WebWasher pointer.
Can't miss with this Internet stock
In the 60s people aspired to write the great American novel. In the
80s they pursued the great American screenplay and in the 90s the
great American business plan. What kind of business plan pops out
when Larry Ellison, Mitchell Kurtzman, and David Roux put their
heads together? The answer is Heyidiot.com , which sounds so
plausible it's downright scary:
> By focusing solely on increasing our stock price, we are
> able to avoid numerous management distractions and un-
> necessary costs associated with product development, man-
> ufacturing, sales, marketing, and support... Our marketing
> program is devoted to buzz -- inane opinions about Internet
> related activities, repeated endlessly on-line, around sushi
> bars, and at industry trade shows by growing numbers of suc-
> cessively less informed people. At its peak, monster buzz
> takes the form of mass hysteria... Our goal is to raise our
> overall share of buzz in the target audience: ignorant but
> affluent on-line investors and retail day traders.
Heyidiot.com offers to sell its stock to the public on the condition
that each transaction execute at a higher price than the previous
one. So I "bought" a thousand shares . Thanks to TBTF Irregular
Bob Treitman for the cite.
N o t e s
> The Siliconia page  has been updated and now sports 56 Siliconia
claimed by 78 locations worldwide. Here's what's new:
Cwm Silicon Newport, Gwent, South Wales
Silicon Hollow Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Silicon Island (#5) St. John, Virgin Islands
Silicon Necklace Route 128 around Boston, Massachusetts
Silicon Polder The Netherlands
Silicon Sandbar Cape Cod, Massachusetts
I've also split the page into four pieces; it was long past unwieldy.
S o u r c e s
> For a complete list of TBTF's (mostly email) sources, see
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Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.
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