by Dana Blankenhorn
Volume V, No. XXXVII
For the Week of September 17, 2001

Internet in Time of War

Internet in Time of War

SSP (Shameless Self Promotion)

SP (Shameless Promotion)

Bad Laws Get Ignored

Where Ethics Come From

I Need to Do This

Clued-in, Clueless

Many important Internet issues were settled on September 11, 2001.

Ipv6 will mandate identification and authentication of all users. Project Carnivore will go ahead, at an accelerated pace. Debates about privacy vs. security are over, and security will win all of them (for a time) - even if that means your online liberties disappear. Even if that means the Internet as we knew it is destroyed.

I spent the day in desultory interviews with executives from Internet security companies. They all foresaw a day where all traffic is encrypted. Massive efforts will now begin to prevent that. All encrypted traffic is suspicious, and will be, for some time to come.

But for business the Internet is more vital than ever. It will be months before air travel becomes anything like routine - we have to learn new routines. So Internet conferencing of all types - text, IM, e-mail, video and audio - will suddenly become commonplace.

Markets will open more quickly than we think possible, because of the Internet. The NASDAQ will open first. A decentralized, networked marketplace isn't as easy to destroy as the terrorists thought. The markets will open (through tears) because keeping them closed gives evil a victory.

In our rage and grief a lot of hard black-and-white conclusions will be drawn. Millions, maybe billions, will be dehumanized just as all of us were dehumanized by the terrorists who hijacked planes and plunged them into our heart (or what they thought to be our heart). 

Reality is filled with shades of gray, but those shades are lost in time of war. This is war time. I'm a fan of the movies of the 1940s, filled with the wildest flag-waving propaganda, and the cause was just. But that was followed immediately by another conflict, the Cold War, where those same feelings of black-and-white gave us McCarthyism, and then Vietnam.

There is no good war in front of us, and no easy enemy. So we face only the specter of McCarthyism, the dehumanization of the other which was itself just steps removed from the horrors of Hitler and Stalin and Tojo. Many of those who counsel peace or patience may face hatred instead. It is hard to maintain rationality, to be a grown-up, in these times, but we must do that. 

On Tuesday evening I faced a Black Muslim passing a petition against crack, and engaged him in dialog. Out came madness, tales of conspiracies by government against faith, conspiracies by markets against faith, and if the names were changed (he would never believe this) he could have been Bin Laden himself. (We must beware our Bin Ladens --we have many among us. We all have the potential to become one.) 

On Wednesday I heard a local "Middle East expert" on the radio railing against our enemies, warning "we must not temporize" even on anti-American editorials in Arab newspapers.

Our technology has made the world one. I have celebrated that for most of my career. But that reality also has a dark side. I have asked repeatedly here, how do we keep the light and fight the dark? I have suggested we need to limit the number of enemies we make, and concentrate our efforts. 

Those nations that harbor terrorists should have no links to the Web. Those causes that seek war on civilians must be destroyed as our grandfathers destroyed Hitler's bunker. But unless we limit our scope we can lose this war, and as we saw Tuesday, lose everything. 

SSP (Shameless Self-Promotion)

The draft is done. "Living on the Internet: How to Make Money, Live Right, and Fight For the 21st Century" is now in the hands of the folks at eBookAgent , which is arranging for electronic distribution. I'm hoping to add a monthly newsletter as an up-sell, available free to all buyers of the book. Your testimonials would be appreciated. Drop me a note if you need a sample chapter first .

You can join the A-Clue.Com discussion at I-Strategy , our shared e-mail digest produced with Adventive.Com. You can also read me at ClickZ , B2B, at Boardwatch, ISP Executive, Sitepoint  and the new (paid) version of WorkZ. More deals are being sought. Remember that it's journalism that keeps the Clues coming...

Shameless Promotion

You have a little list, but how do you make the most of it? You turn it into a database, you query the database, you audit the results and you deliver market research to yourself and to others.

Permission is just the first step. An audit is the second step. Building interactive relationships with every name in your database is the greatest business asset you can have.

You can take the first step toward making your little list truly valuable with help from my friends at Whitehat Interactive - click here to begin that journey.

Takes on the News

Bad Laws Get Ignored

Here's a story that didn't get enough play. CNN reported recently that the volume of music exchanged via the Internet rose again in August. This traffic is now at a higher level than it was at the height of the Napster hysteria .

Fear on the part of record executives has now created a huge market that is entirely underground, insofar as the law is concerned. Artists and publishers are not yet participating in it, although millions of people would willingly pay fair prices for fair treatment.

Pending systems like MusicNet and PressPlay don't represent fair treatment , but at least they represent an alternative. Further legal action is likely to await their presentation to the marketplace.

But the crackdown has already had a negative spillover effect on every other site on the Web. Kazaa's TopText paints sites yellow and sells access to those "keywords," even to porn sites, pocketing all this money. It's a business model for music exchanges, and yes it's illegal, but under the DMCA so is Kazaa itself so why should they care? There's no doubt a suit against Kazaa or Audiogalaxy would succeed, but systems like Freenet (which encrypts the file transfers and doesn't use a central server) are waiting in the wings to pick up the slack.

Here's the ultimate danger. In time every file transfer - legal and illegal, legitimate and illegimate - may be encrypted. There's plenty of CPU horsepower in the new 2 GHz machines to do it, and they'll be cheap within a year. ISPs will be unable to then call encryption an "unsupported feature," and governments will find the enforcement of any online law impossible.

For once Gartner Group has it right . Pay stuff has to be better than free stuff, or people won't buy it. By trying to have it all, business, government and the economy may all find they have nothing. I can't say they weren't warned.

Where Ethics Come From

There is a myth that journalism ethics come from the law, or from professional societies. The truth is they come from publishers, who are responsive to the market.

India is learning that lesson through the case of Tehelka.Com, a hip online newspaper that hired prostitutes in a sting of politicians' sexual hypocrisy.

There was a ton of gnashing-of-teeth about this, but the real test comes in how Tehelka's target market sees the site's journalists in the future. U.S. papers that pay for stories or print rumors as fact aren't "accepted" by the major media, but they are followed and they're wildly profitable. Thus, the ethics of the whole trade have fallen down a slippery slope.

My guess, based on a tour of the Tehelka site, is they're carving out a new niche with a new audience - secularized, young, high-tech - that could eventually lead India into a dominant role in the world's economic future.

Time, and the market, will tell the tale. It won't be told by other newsmen, or by courts. Court rulings killing the "paper" would just kill the market and leave nothing in its wake.

I Need to Do This

The A-Clue.Com home page prominently displays a Moreover.Com newsfeed, but that feed doesn't include stories from A-Clue.Com. They flat turned me down. Those small sites that do get coverage have to pay for it.

Well, there is an alternative, and I (or my lovely Webmaster) need to get off our duffs and support the thing. I've mentioned it before - it's called RSS , and it only requires the creation of some simple XML files.

The fact that I haven't done this says a lot about the tunnel-vision of small site managers. What's needed is a business model that will ease the way and power the result with money - but there isn't one yet. Although there are some nifty RSS-driven news feeds out there.

Clued-in, Clueless

Clued-in is Jim Baen . E-Books, like e-music, deserve the copyright protections of books and music, but they don't deserve any more. Those who defend the DMCA ignore reality, they ignore the market, and they could wind up losing everything for everyone.

Clueless is the International Herald Tribune, for republishing a Clueless New York Times study on the case of Leslie Kelly, who wants image search engines shut down. If he wins his appeal the whole Web is illegal, because every search engine takes a piece of all content it spiders. There are technical means available to protect pictures, and the search engines only display thumbnails. Kelly's decision to leave his own door open and expect the cops to protect him in advance is Clueless.

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