kentx098: February 2013 Archives

www.Money Ba.ll

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In the middle of chapter 10 (Web of People), Berners-Lee begins to discuss one of the apparent analogies that came about as the result of his HTTP web protocol, domain names. The word "domain" is defined by Dictionary.com as, "the territory governed by a single ruler or government; realm" and stems from the Latin "dominium" meaning the same. This 'realm' is compared to real-world real estate by Berners-Lee. He describes on page 127 how, "Increasingly, everyone realized that short, memorable [URLs] were valuable commodities" as early as 1999 when the book was published. This has led to prices as high as 13 million dollars for popular domain names (source: Forbes.com). Berners-Lee says on the following page that, "One problem is that the better domain names will wind up with the people or companies with the most money, crippling fairness and universality."

The challenge I have for Berners-Lee here is this: Is the mad scramble for these domain names actually worth it? Despite his claim that all of the 'good' URLS will be snatched up by money hungry corporations (though undoubtedly, some have), the web is as thriving as ever before. To circumvent this money grabbing, the phenomenon of buying 'web hacks' has recently appeared. This refers to startup companies, rather than buying an expensive .com domain name, add other suffixes that work into their company name or idea. For example, popular live streaming site Twitch uses Twitch.tv instead of the more costly Twitch.com. Another example of this, hipster-adored Instagram got their start as Instagr.am instead of Instagram.com. In addition to this effect, I visited one of the top money grossers of 2011, Ticket.com. After clocking in at a 1.2 million dollar sale, I decided to make a trip and see if the ludicrous bid was worth it. After trying several different combinations, I was disappointed to find that the web page no longer existed. My observation is that it is possible for the Oakland A's of the world wide web can think outside of the box and win, despite not having the resources to play the game of the Internet Yankees. Despite the fears of Berners-Lee, the escalation of URL costs does have a limit, and doesn't crush the small-ball players of his incredible invention.

Andrew Blum spends an awful lot of time being amazed by the wrong things.

In his extremely detailed, often plodding text, author Andrew Blum of the book "Tubes" spends the majority of his time musing in old-fashioned amazement. The short text on the technological growth and physicality of the seemingly ephemeral internet discusses most of the major technological advancements, including networks, fiber optics, and the massive data centers that comprise the world-wide-web. Blum argues through these chapters that the most amazing part of the internet is the rapid growth of the technology and hardware surrounding the project, stating specifically that a data center he visited was, "Cyberiffic." In fact, for the majority of chapter 7, Blum discusses the absolute marvel of laying fiber optic cable along the ocean floor, despite the first instance of laying cable across the pond occurring in early 1858. Though he touches on it in chapter 4 when he discusses the bi-annual meeting of NANOG, I find it unfortunately apparent that Blum has let the most amazing part of the internet slip right under his nose.
The point that I argue Blum missed was that the true wonder of the internet is in the cooperation necessary to create such an achievement. He spent unfortunately few words describing how humanity came together and created something truly awesome on its own accord. The atmosphere of sharing, connecting, and exploration that is made by the internet is replicated on very few places on planet earth, and certainly not on a scale such as this. He reflects on this shortly in chapter 4, stating "Yet looked at from within, the Internet is handmade, one link at a time", but the train of thought stops there. To me, this cooperation factor is more amazing than any system of tubes will ever be.

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