Thursday, March 30, 2006

Elections and the Future of the Internet

The issue is "network neutrality" and it is being determined right now in Congress and in the FCC. It's an important issue.
Think "private commercial arrangements" are just so movies get preferred transport? Jeff Chester writes:

Imagine how the next presidential election would unfold if major political advertisers could make strategic payments to Comcast so that ads from Democratic and Republican candidates were more visible and user-friendly than ads of third-party candidates with less funds. Consider what would happen if an online advertisement promoting nuclear power prominently popped up on a cable broadband page, while a competing message from an environmental group was relegated to the margins. It is possible that all forms of civic and noncommercial online programming would be pushed to the end of a commercial digital queue.

If you don't think it can happen to the Internet, look at TV. Are we heading for a world of 500 billion URLs and nothing on? Chester's article, "The End of the Internet," is worth reading entirely.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The New Google News on My PDA

Google News on my Palm changed recently. It used to be the standard version I get on my desktop, which the Palm's Blazer Browser then optimized (their term) for display on the small screen. It worked well enough that I used it.

A week or so ago it changed. Now Google is recognizing that I'm on a small screen browser and is presenting the content accordingly. The decision they've made for presenting the news is to start with a topic index. They are now leaving it up to me to choose what topics I'll look at, rather than having me scan the snippets they've chosen of all topics.

This strikes me as a big change.

In the old system, my eyes would scan the sports stories on the way from the world news to the technology stories. Occasionally I would see something of interest and at least read the blurb and understand enough to know what the story was about - what sport, where in the world, what controversy.

No more. Now I won't see sports or entertainment items unless I click on those links on the top level index.

A while back I read an article about the design of the BBC's sites for small screen devices which was presenting it as a paragon of such design. When I read it at the time, I nodded my head in agreement. With this change at Google News I have to reconsider.

From the designers point of view, there are two goals which conflict.

  • Allow me to get to the new I want as quickly as possible.
  • Give me an overview of the news.
Google and the BBC have chosen the former. I realize now I quite like the latter.

Update: (even before I finished writing this): They've fixed it. VoilĂ .

It is evolving quickly. I don't think that choice was there a few days ago.