Opera/Microsoft antitrust case drama

It seems Microsoft are in the dock again. This time it’s the turn of Norwegian browser producer Opera, to pursue the software giant. The case is an anti trust allegation, claiming that Microsoft are ‘abusing their powers, by only shipping copies of their operating system Windows, with only their own “Internet Explorer 8.0” browser and none of their competitors’.

The Chief technology officer for Opera, is quoted as having said “Microsoft is ignoring web standards and should use its position to promote competition, among browser”. Meanwhile Mozilla, producers of the popular “Firefox” browser, claimed that the “browser wars are over”, at this years South by South West festival in Texas.

What Mozilla meant by ‘the end of the browser wars’ is that the main browser manufacturers are now working much more closely  together on a common set of standards, to ensure that all browsers act and display information is a uniform way. There have been some minor disputes, one being Microsoft going off and developing their own security systems, but in in their defense, they have made the code available for other vendors to utilize. Internet security is something that most people agree can not wait for agreements to be made, at the expense of leaving clients vulnerable and contrary to Opera’s claim, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8.0 does actually support internet standards.  By default Internet Explorer 8.0  has standards support turned on for the internet , but the  intranets, claiming that this is so that developers can continue to use internet explorer 7.0 while they upgrade their systems.

Microsoft’s stance on the shipping of browsers has been that Explorer and by extension  Internet Explorer form an integral part of the operating system and should be shipped with windows.

In the latest bid to appease the European Courts, Microsoft offered to go back on previous stance, that Explorer and by extraction Internet Explorer form an integral part of the operating system and should be shipped with windows. Offering to ship a version of their operating system for Europe (to be known as version e) without any browser at all.
After discussions with Opera, the courts dismissed this suggestion after a single day, saying “the move would not further its goal of promoting browsers that compete with Internet Explorer.”

The only hearing scheduled in the case, was set for early June, but has been cancelled after Microsoft complained that many European antitrust officials who could attend the hearing as observers were unable to do so because of a competing conference in Switzerland. The commission is under no timetable to release its ruling in the browser case, but in the past, it has publicized crucial decisions, fines and sanctions before leaving for its summer break in late July.

The truth is, that Apple also ship their operating system with only Safari, their own browser and yet Opera have not sued them. In fact its doubtful that it is Microsoft they should be chasing, as Microsoft do not install or ship most of the Windows products that go out, hardware manufacturers do. Companies like Dell, IBM, HP, ASUS often add their own utility software,  anti virus products and other extras, I’m sure that if Opera where truly demanded by end users, then they would be more than happy to bundle them with their products.

The idea of a modern operating system not coming with a browser at all is quite ridiculous, having to get installers on a cd or memory device and install one before connecting to the internet would make registration, licensing ad upgrade a far more arduous task.  Operating systems coming with a choice of  3 or 4 browsers, would also have implications to large corporate IT systems, supporting and keeping on top updates and security control for multiple browsers would be a very large undertaking in many cases.

In some ways I believe it is Opera’s own best interest to have users download their browsers from the internet if they want it, firstly this keeps them competitive as they have to make truly better browsers, and secondly because it gives them much needed information on who is using their browser.

Regardless of what the courts decide, remaining the default browser will be a lot harder than just being put on the installation disk. Opera,  will still have its work cut out, as it does have its downsides, there is a general lack of support for all important plug-ins and a large number of sites that don’t support it.

I myself am a big fan of Opera, and have been using it as my browser of choice  of late, but I do also use Explorer, Chrome, Flock and Safari on a daily basis, each of which has it own benefits.

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Opera/Microsoft antitrust case drama

Can Friends Reunited Really Make A Comeback?

Despite recently dropping their annual charge, recent statistic from zdnet show that friend reunited still lost 45% of its market share in social networking, since jan 07. Once the dominant force in social networking, Friends reunited are now reported to be the fifth largest social network in the UK having a market share of just 1.55% in June 08. While the market for social networking is still growing it is now entirely dominated by facebook with a huge 45% of the market, all four of the other competitors have lost market share over the same period.

Friends reunited’s faq page stats “We have removed the single greatest barrier to increased communication between our members.” Stating as many as 87 per cent of messages on the old Friends Reunited were never sent because of the cost of membership and that was a great shame, so they have dropped the fee to encourage greater interaction between members but still with the same level of privacy that they enjoyed before. Unlike other social networks, where users are able to share their contact details, friends reunited say they will still never reveal you personal email address.

But is this too little too late? A major factor in social networking is being on the same social network as your friends and having enough content to keep it interesting. Facebook have always been the masters of this, they have been allowing developers to create a wide variety of applications for a long time and the variety and quality of applications already available is fantastic. Facebook have recently adopted a new look, which has generated a lot of extra work for developers which they have been criticized over but they are continually evolving and staying on top of their game. Recently they have introduced facebook connect in a bid to retain the all important data at the centre of their social networking empire.

Although Friends reunited have 19 million signed up members they have a lot of catching up to do if they want to survive, but are they capable of making the change and will they need to shift away from their roots in reuniting old school friends or will that remove their core benefit

Can Friends Reunited Really Make A Comeback?

Using a neighbour’s wifi?

If you are one of the millions of UK internet users, that think because one of their neighbours has an unsecured wifi connections, then they can get free internet access. Then you’d better watch out.

Under the 2003 Communications Act it is illegal to use another person’s service provider to access the Internet. The offence, carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail or a fine.

Often refered to as “piggy backing” or “cyber squatting”, using open wifi networks illegally is quite common, and up until now there have been few if any prosecutions of offenders. But on sunday 17th Feb the police were called to a home in Tweedmouth, Berwick, Northumberland, after a woman had reported two men behaving suspiciously outside her home. The two men were arrested on suspicion of allegedly logging on to another person’s internet connection illegally.

Both men were believed to have been checking their emails using the womans wireless broadband and have been released on bail pending further enquiries.

Berwick Neighbourhood Inspector Sharon Stavers said “This is a very unusual offence and it appears the two men were doing nothing more sinister than checking their emails and getting some time on the internet for free. However, this is an offence and people pay good money to have the internet in their homes.”

If you have an unsecured open wifi connection, then my advice would be to secure it as quickly as possible, using the highest form of protection you can, and not to publish the connection unless you have to.

If you need access to wifi away from home then, my suggestion would be to use one of the thousands of legitimate “hotspots” across the country. There are now free hotspots, on many trains, cafes, and hotels. Fast food restaurant McDonald’s recently announced that its 1,200 UK outlets would soon get free wireless internet access, for customers.

Using a neighbour’s wifi?

Who’s responsability is policing content.

Recently there has been a lot of controversy over who’s job it is to police the internet. The basis for the current debate being that UK government is pushing to make it the of an ISP or webhost to control all content publish on its space. The police and other organisations finding it more and more difficult, if not impossible to control what individualspublishon the net. They are proposing to change the law to take responsibility away from the individual and placing it on the content provider.

It has been the case for many years that isp’s have been to some degree responsible for facilitating the illegal distribution of software and music, “napster” being a landmark case in the late 90’s. In some ways though this is a simple black and white case sharing of MP3 files is illegal, liable, slander and bad taste are not quite so clear cut. The BBC did a show about the displaying of bad taste on service like u-tube last year. U-Tubes comments were that they investigate all content reported to them as being in bad taste and that in some case they would remove this, but where that content was questionable they said that this was really a police matter and they would only do so if requested to by the police.
This has moved from ISP’s to individual webmasters. Recently a company in the UK took a blogger to court, over not the content of his blog but the content of a comment placed on that blog by a visitor. The company won and the blogger was made to pay damages and remove the comments.

There are now more people blogging than ever before and it is a fine line between freedom of speech and slander, and i’m not sure it’s a bloggers job to decide on freedoms of speech. Isn’t everyone entitled to their own opinion. In most situations where i have seen extreme comments posted, theblogger and other visitors have countered those statements with more moderate discussion.

Who’s responsability is policing content.

Google Adword associations

While surfing Microsoft Evangalist Steve lamb’s blog, I had to have a little laugh. Steve uses Clustrmaps to show where visitors to his blog come from geographically, this in turn displays Google ad words. Adwords had obviously mistaken his surname ‘Lamb’, for Lamb as in the meat and was displaying links to Lamb recipes and supermarkets selling lamb etc. Makes you wonder what other wierd and wonderful associations they might mistakenly come up with doesn’t it.

Google Adword associations