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Others, including those contributing to the W3C’s Annotea Project (Semantic Web Activity), seem to occupy rarified spaces not known to the common herd elbowing their way towards the trough of invention.
The W3C [w3.org], for those not familiar with it, “…develops interoperable technologies (specifications, guidelines, software, and tools) to lead the Web to its full potential as a forum for information, commerce, communication, and collective understanding.”
Its Annotea Project, however, seems set to join SmartTags, eZula, and others on their ride down the slippery slope of self delusion and enforced compliance. In June, John Garfunkel of the W3C Annotations mailing list, water cooler for the Annotea Project, put forward the following [lists.w3.org] in response to allegations of SmartTag impinging on copyright, choice, decency, etc. by the developers at the Decentralization list [groups.yahoo.com]:
”Winds are blowing? I would say hot air is blowing. Who would sue? ..."
“...we can blow all the steam we want about what the legal ramifications are. Wendy, and other lawyers, a general question: do academic law programs (such as Berkman Center) do any research preperation in anticipation of legal conflicts?”
Jon, obviously a respected member of the developer community, the Annotea Project, and seemingly well ‘sussed’ on US judicial politics elaborates in a later post [lists.w3.org]:
“Have their been any annotation lawsuits? By whom, over what? I still think that the "grafitti" complaint is spurrious, aside from the cases where offensive or libelous content is annotated on.
”The courts, at least in the U.S., just don't allow a technology to be killed. If the technology has some social value, some vendors work with the gov to meet the guidelines established for its use.”
My emboldened italics but the poor spelling and appalling grammar are all Jon’s.
This is a seriously sharp boy who has a good grasp of reality. All snide insinuations aside and, if the ongoing antitrust charade is anything to go by, he’s right. It appears the US government feels the W3C, Microsoft and others (including eZula) capable of delivering to mankind a package of great benefit and impeccable virtue.
Underlining Jon’s passionate defense of tampering with work not his own, Wesley Felter [lists.w3.org], appears more than ready to spend others’ money on litigation as he goes down fighting.
“I've been following some discussions about Smart Tags and I see two general types of objections:
“Some people think that any kind of "mediation" of their content is wrong and thus oppose all annotation (and many other aspects of the Semantic Web).
"(BTW, I don't think it's accurate to say that annotation can't be prevented. Annotation software developers can only fight off so many lawsuits before they go bankrupt.)”
It’s interesting that, as a member of the W3C group, Wesley ties SmartTags to Annotea and the Semantic Web. I see serious flaws in his logic and his all-too-ready willingness to share his insights with us. Once you’ve untangled the double negative obfuscation of his last statement, it seems he feels the onus is on those who don’t agree with the abuse of this technology to litigate its advocates into submission.
The naiveté of these guys evokes the criminally blind mindsets of those who gave us such twentieth-century niceties as nuclear war. With the VC in ignominious retreat after their beating by cruel reality, did the WC3 not expect every lowrent greedhead on the Web to try profiting from what is easily implemented code?
Besides, these things are merely on the backburner at Redmond – they’ve certainly not been relegated to history’s trash heap. Tim and his sycophants might be through-and-through altruists but they’ve a duty to remember that most of us are not. We’re in it for the money.
I digress. In response to Jon’s initial question, another member - a lawyer (attorney) - on the mailing list, Wendy Seltzer [lists.w3.org] replies:
“The "smart tags" furor has been interesting -- with many people seemingly opposed just because it's Microsoft. I'd argue that there is no copyright claim against a website annotator (either the technology or the person who adds and views notes).
“Although some copyright maximalists would disagree, I'd argue that a reader has the right to combine two sources of information in his web browser just as he could write notes in a book's margins. Annotation is akin to viewing the work under different lighting, not creating a derivative work.”
With friends like these, who needs Microsoft? Get real, Wendy, it has nothing to do with Redmond and everything to do with people like you messing with my code.
NOTE: The Annotea Project is not officially affiliated to eZula or Microsoft. However, their distorted logic and defense of third-party Web content manipulation puts them in the same camp. Because of this, I am sure they do not mind excerpts from their publicly accessible mouthings being reproduced here. Consider this post an annotation to their work on view at Annotea [w3.org], or consider it fallout resulting from the SmartTag [Microsoft.com] issue.
If someone wants to download and print my copyrighted material, he/she can then make notes in the margins, that's okay. If someone wants to annotate and republish my work using their technology , they need to purchase the rights.
These attorneys sound like they are looking for some clients and hopefully the WC3 will see the obvious pandering and conflict of interest.
Therefore anything that undermines the general rule and spirit of copyright law undermines free trade. That concept will appeal to the current administration and the courts.
”These attorneys sound like they are looking for some clients and hopefully the WC3 will see the obvious pandering and conflict of interest.”
John, this is where we have to look at W3C’s own definition of ‘annotation’. Annotations in Amaya [dev.w3.org] define them thus:
”Annotations are comments, notes, explanations, or other types of external remarks that can be attached to a Web document or a selected part of the document. As they are external, it is possible to annotate any Web document independently, without needing to edit that document. From the technical point of view, annotations are usually seen as metadata, as they give additional information about an existing piece of data.”
And they do have a point. What’s so bad about tracking changes and suggesting amendments to internal documents in an organization? If you believe MSNBC’s front-screen touting [msnbc.com] of SmartTags is merely for Office XP use, then surely there’s very little wrong with it. But we’re not talking ‘internal documents’ here. We’re looking at the annotation of:
“…any Web document independently, without needing to edit that document.” The catch is in the qualifier and it’s a qualitative shift. It says that by not editing the content, you are not changing the message. And it admits to this by saying that “…annotations are usually seen as metadata…”
This is semantics. Suppose I have access to your site and change only data not seen by the viewer. No harm done? No copyright infringement, no content manipulation, and no hard feelings? I don’t think so. No matter what anybody says, by changing metadata - in this case your meta tags, I could have your site booted off every database in existence as quickly as it takes to spider your site.
Of course, our lawyer would argue that, although this is pretty much what KaZaA are doing, this is not what W3C has in mind. I’d go along with her on that one but I’d ask you again, “If I were to change nothing on your site, i.e. code, text, etc., but if I were able to change how your pages are seen by the engines and by end users’ browsers, surely I could not be charged with misrepresenting your site content?”
Again, I would argue that this is wrong. I could filter, censor, and / or alter the perception of your site without your knowledge or consent and I know you would not agree to that. Nor would anybody else with half a mind - not that I’m assuming you’re in that position :). I also assume our lawyer is in possession of all her faculties, and I assume further that she would have to agree with my assumption.
W3C says of its system and of local and remote annotations:
Amaya can store annotation data in a local file system (called "local annotations") or in the Web (called "remote annotations"). Remote annotations are stored in annotation servers and can be downloaded and stored by anyone having the correct access rights, such as is the case of other HTML documents. We also refer to remote annotations as shared or public annotations, as they can be seen by other people.”
Dressed up any which way, I see enormous opportunity for the type of abuse of which KaZaA and other carpetbaggers are now charged. And with “annotations” having the support of supposedly sane and rational people, I cannot see their various manifestations going away sometime soon.
My reason for launching into W3C is simple. Until I’m told otherwise, I see them seeking to set themselves apart from the crass commercialism of outfits like Microsoft. Yet, they are found sorely wanting. It seems their will to “…to lead the Web to its full potential as a forum for information, commerce, communication, and collective understanding…” is not as strong as the code rendering it.
Pay to Play snuck into SEO and it now carries the day. Tomorrow belongs to third-party site riggers. SmartTags will ride in on the backs of Longhorn and Blackcomb. Given what we once had going for us on the Web, it’s kind of sad, isn’t it. As it stands, it looks as though the bottomfeeders will get their free lunch after all…
Fortune City has a multitude of users, and they are now publicizing and making this available for download. Look at the breadth and scope of this operation. From their press release:
FortuneCity has used its personal publishing business as a base from which to expand and now operates a wide variety of content web sites and Internet utilities including www.flynote.com, www.hotgames.com, www.WAPDrive.com, www.WSX.com, www.popex.com www.V3.com and www.bravenet.com. In addition, FortuneCity owns 50% of www.acmecity.com a joint venture with Warner Bros. Online, a Time Warner Entertainment Company (NYSE: TWX).
Here's their press release:
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998
In general terms, section 512(a) limits the liability of service providers in circumstances where the provider merely acts as a data conduit, transmitting digital information from one point on a network to another at someone else’s request. This limitation covers acts of transmission, routing, or providing connections for the information, as well as the intermediate and transient copies that are made automatically in the operation of a network. In order to qualify for this limitation, the service provider’s activities must meet the following conditions:
! The transmission must be initiated by a person other than the provider.
! The transmission, routing, provision of connections, or copying must be carried out by an automatic technical process without selection of material by the service provider.
! The service provider must not determine the recipients of the material.
! Any intermediate copies must not ordinarily be accessible to anyone other than anticipated recipients, and must not be retained for longer than reasonably necessary.
! The material must be transmitted with no modification to its content.
”Forget about venture capital, advertising revenue or consumer subscriptions as ways for software entrepreneurs to make money on the Net. In its never-ending process of evolution, the Internet has stumbled into a new business model. The age of parasite funding has begun.”
- Salon –
As webmasters, SEOs and general IT hangers on, it’s a pity that we tend to segment Web-related topics into technical or legal, moral and ethical categories. I realize that most of us tend to focus on one aspect, but a discussion of all relevant issues surrounding a topic educates those not placing them in their appropriate Web-wide context.
In other words, while everything about bundled plugins riding in on the backs of freebies sucks, to understand what is going on, we have to look at the part we play in propagating or perpetuating them as well as working out how to extricate them from our systems.
For this reason, it’s a pity grnidone’s first post [webmasterworld.com] and those before it have been culled from this thread. grnidone introduces key issues immediately pertinent to the future of the Web. As with Pay to Play, the possible future she alludes to – Microsoft’s likely incorporation of tools facilitating third-party site manipulation – affects us as Webmasters and SEOs.
If we do not speak as one on these issues, our message is diluted and will be ignored. C’est la vie and the constraints inherent in discussing these things on bulletin boards.
I want to put the technical (read ‘practical’) side to rest… for me, anyway :). KaZaA offers a bundled product. It details the nature of the bundled software in its legal notice and terms of service, viz.:
”8. Links to Third-Party Sites
The KaZaA's Service may provide, or third parties may provide, links to other World Wide Web sites or other Internet resources. Any third-party sites to which the KaZaA's site may link are not under control of KaZaA. KaZaA does not have any responsibility or liability for any information, contents, communications or materials available on such third-party sites.”
Point 10 is also well worth a read by those considering downloading KaZaA.
Moreover, in its license agreed to before installation, the following is stated:
”11. Third Party Software
During the process of installing KaZaA, you may also be offered the possibility to download or install software from third party software vendors pursuant to license agreements or other arrangements between such vendors and yourself ("Third Party Software"). In the event you do not wish to download this THIRD PARTY SOFTWARE you should uncheck the appropriate boxes. Please note that the THIRD PARTY SOFTWARE is subject to different license agreements or other arrangements, which you should read carefully, compared to the Terms of Service of KaZaA. By downloading and using this THIRD PARTY SOFTWARE you accept these THIRD PARTY SOFTWARE license agreements…”
For those adept at using Web tools but inept when it comes to grasping meaning, KaZaA goes further towards elaborating on TOPtext in point 14.
* TOPTEXT - a browser plug-in which gives Internet Explorer relevant quick links….”
“…The text below is an explanation of TOPText…”
“…TopText adds yellow links to associated Web sites that provide you with relevant information to your browsing experience.
“CLICK on the yellow-underlined word to reach the new destination that contextually relates to your web surfing!…”
Our company’s networks cater to about 70 staff, most of whom are not dumb. Yet we find we still need strict policies governing Web downloads. We have several systems set up that cannot be compromised. Any bozo downloading something like KaZaA would be for the high jump. Given what it says about itself, it is more than obvious that this is a product of what Salon [salon.com] calls The parasite economy [salon.com]. While Salon gets the story right, this is where the BigCo media are irresponsible. Benny Evangelista of the San Francisco Chronicle is being disingenuous in his article, Mystery links – New Web advertising tool gets results, draws criticism [sfgate.com], when he regales us with the unfortunate experience of one KaZaA user, Douglas Hoppe. Evangelista writes:
”After Douglas Hoppe downloaded the hot new online file-sharing program called KaZaa two weeks ago, random yellow hyperlinks began appearing on his fledgling music site.” … “…Hoppe soon learned that when he installed KaZaa, he also unknowingly installed a bundled program called TOPtext, part of a new online advertising technology called ContextPro developed by EZula Inc. of San Francisco.”
If Hoppe had read the small print, he would not have made an idiot of himself by downloading what amounts to spyware, a venal piece of code that reports to mama, does not uninstall, and is capable of ‘reactivating itself’. Even if his copy of TOPtext was selected by default, he has NO excuse. As for Evangelista, instead of massaging the egos of rumormongers, Benny would have to get off his backside and report the real news, i.e. that the vacuum left by Napster has sucked every lowlife greenback h*mper into the big time and a life of comfort with “contextual advertising”.
OK, let’s get back to my company’s employees and the heart of my ‘technical’ debate. First, if somebody louses up their machine with garbage, they have to clean it up while sticking to their deadlines. Secondly, for every new innovation foisted on to Web users, there are those who give of their time to develop workarounds, i.e. go to WhirlyWiryWeb [whirlywiryweb.com] and WebmasterWorld. With SmartTags, it took a couple of days for the appropriate tag to become common knowledge. So, yes, there are technical issues to be debated and worked through (most appear to have been already). But surely they form a small part of what should be an overall counter offensive against this sort of pervasive, self-serving sludge? The “agreement” quoted from is not KaZaA’s original agreement. It is partly a result of threats from the likes of Spyware Watch [kolby.f2s.com] and educational initiatives undertaken by JimWorld’s Scumware.com [scumware.com]. To wit:
” When we first started educating people about the TopText threat, the KaZaa installer had a very well hidden check-box that users could uncheck to avoid having TopText installed. It was set to a default that caused TopText to be installed automatically. the version now on Download.com does not install TopText unless you request it. That is progress. Not as good as if C/NET would do the right thing and stop offering this Scumware, but at least it is progress.”
How do we perpetuate the proliferation of these scumbags? Again, it’s simple. We ask for what they offer by not doing enough to stop them. First, we do not speak out against it. Secondly, we download it. Most would have the common sense not to install spamware like this. So who is doing it? Everybody and, according to Nielsen NetRatings, everybody is 12-17 years-old. In a release entitled Napster Keeps Top Spot, But Other File-sharing Sites Gain Momentum [corporate-ir.net], the following comes to light:
”…traffic to Napster at-home declined 36 percent during the past eight weeks ending July 15th, while other file-sharing sites, including KaZaA, BearShare, Audiogalaxy and iMesh, are gaining traffic, suggesting that Web surfers are seeking alternatives to Napster. Teens are leading the growth to these other file-sharing sites.” … “File sharing sites are attracting a large audience from teens ages 12 to 17…” “Teens spent more time and accessed more pages on file-sharing sites than any other demographic during this past week ending July 15th.” … "Generation Y surfers sit at the intersection of digital entertainment, as both hip consumers of music and savvy Internet users. More than a third of the visitors to kazaa.com are Gen Y surfers, for example, while that group normally comprises only 12.6 percent of the active Web audience."
OK, so it’s my daughter’s fault… Without a thought for the consequences to other users, script kiddies, gamesters, and every other Digimonster on the planet or online are bringing this thing down on us. This, however, does not entitle the fiscal thugs populating cyberspace to visit a virtual Armageddon on all of us. I don’t believe in censorship and it is up to me to educate my kids in responsible Web use. What the economic parasites are doing though, is unacceptable. They are acting as a vanguard for Microsoft’s – and others’ – later, widespread use of SmartTags. Those who have followed discussions on these vile things are aware of their inherent dangers. That the W3C has not distanced itself from them, is frightening.
If my kids misbehave or if I inadvertently let a virus loose on my PC, that should be my problem, not yours. KaZaA and TOPtext bring the reality of someone else’s distorted sense of right and wrong slap bang into all our lives and onto our desktops. That should not be allowed to happen. That they should be allowed to profit from their intrusion is disgusting. More, that these recidivists should line their pockets by abusing our propensity to skim Web text for meaning is reprehensible. Yet, we have to admit it: It is our dumbing down of language and our refusal to read between the lines that make the following so plausible to so many:
”EZula's Vitos said people who don't want TOPtext can easily delete it by using their Windows "Add/Remove" program. Also, she said the company tries to limit the number of TOPtext words that appear to two or three per page.
"We do not bring anything in front of the user without them wanting it," she said. "We're not forcing anybody to have it. The choice is the consumer's. Our ultimate goal is users will be happy."
Yeah, right… I hope you’re kidding just yourself because, in the end, we end users decide how you’ll get to earn your living. I’m just wondering whether we’re smart enough – as end users – to realize it.
>As webmasters, SEOs and general IT hangers on, it’s a pity that we tend to segment Web-related topics into technical or legal, moral and ethical categories. I realize that most of us tend to focus on one aspect, but a discussion of all relevant issues surrounding a topic educates those not placing them in their appropriate Web-wide context.
I recently spent over two hours in another forum attempting to discern how to defeat TopText. I came away with 5 minutes of useful technical information as to whether it can be overridden.
Ultimately, it will be the moral, ethical, and legal issues that shut this type activity down (hopefully). In the meantime, my traffic is being stolen NOW. And I want to do something about it NOW, if possible. I suspect other WmW members feel the same way, hence the separation of the threads.
I agree with that statement:
It is that same separatist mentality that allows the kazaas of the world to even get started.
Technology is not immune from moral, ethical or legal oversight. I can think of a few technologies that are terrific for their allowed purpose, but would be a disaster if they lacked oversight.
They are wonderful if you are in a combat situation and are used in accordance with the Geneva convention rules of engagement. They could also be useful for everyday chores like making holes without shovels, fishing, stump removal, do-it-yourself home demolition projects and a myriad of other time and labor saving purposes. If the marketers had their way, I'm sure you could run into the Home Depot and pick up a dozen on your way home from church, why not? The technology is good, and if I didn't like the way you used your hand grenades, I could just come up with a "technical" solution and make hand grenade neutralizers...
until you figured out a way to beat that.
"9,1 Million downloads of KaZaA so far! and 3rd place on C¦Net Download.com. Why don't you join the world's largest online media community right now. What are you waiting for download it now - it's free."
Bunch of lame brains… Nothing is free. Every solution generates its own problems, etc. but we won't go into that one here. Suffice to say that I reckon a fair proportion of those who've downloaded this gimcrack 'navigation tool' packaged with the portable 'media community' (talk about sleaze-ball sales talk) have installed the venomous little beast.
When outrage flooded these forums, the likes of ZDNet estimated that over 2 million TOPtext plugins had been downloaded. By now, a couple of weeks later, who knows? It would be interesting to find out because I'm willing to bet many home users are happily gobbling below-the-line advertising put out by cheapjack shysters scrabbling for a fast buck and a portion of their latest paycheck. The parasite economy is scorching along on a happy mix of steroids, speed, and greed.
So, no, I can’t give you updated figures there, Arty, but it sure looks, from the cheerfully upbeat KaZaA site, the SF Chronicle story [sfgate.com], and PC World.com’s perceptive article [pcworld.com] that it’s true: there’s one born every minute :). As long as people download this stuff, it’ll be around.
Everybody’s directing his or her ire at KaZaA, eZula, and TOPtext. Why? Surely the deviously demented little pinheads roaming free in the marketing departments of large companies like Wells Fargo Bank and BMG Entertainment are the criminals here? Their ad dollars drive the whole disgusting truck of suppurating trash straight to users’ hard drives. And they then, after lousing the medium with execrable calls to their creative flatulence, complain that the Web is not a suitable medium on which to do business.
Their gall is staggering to the point of disbelief. That there aren’t laws to contain such vile little weevils boggles my brain. Is this how capitalism works in your neck of the woods? Whether it does or doesn’t, it’s quite apparent that hypocrisy holds sway at the heart of ‘respected’ banks and music companies and is alive, well and living in the style to which it has become accustomed on the Web.
The furor surrounding SmartTags has been demanding. But it has been worthwhile. Early in the campaign to thwart the ghastly creatures, we warned that this technology would be abused. The following, from the SF Chronicle, illustrates just how quickly our advertisers and those promoting them set about saving us from disappointment.
” When a Chronicle reporter using TOPtext visited the Universal Music Group Web site, the phrase "Boyz II Men" displayed a pitch for a major Universal rival: "The Best R&B at BMG Music Club."
“And at antivirus-softwaremaker Symantec's Web site, TOPtext highlighted "virus protection" and displayed, "Click for Virus Protection at McAfee," with a link to Symantec's arch-rival, McAfee.com Corp.”
San Francisco Chronicle
Voila! Living up to our lowest expectations from day one! The SF Chronicle, however, does not cover itself in glory. The preceding paragraph reads:
”A similar debate caused Microsoft last month to back off plans to add "Smart Tags" to its Windows XP operating system. Smart Tags would have provided a link from any word on a Web site to Microsoft or a Microsoft partner. Web site operators feared the Redmond, Wash., software giant was trying to hijack Web surfers.”
Look, I might be dumb but I am not completely stupid. Web site operators, on hearing about SmartTags, knew the Beast of Redmond was mounting a no-holds barred, full-frontal assault on Web freedom. So we stopped them. The same will happen to the pukes giving impetus to the likes KaZaA, TOPtext, or whatever you want to call the SmartTag flavor of the month. Rather than tread on eggs, the SF Chronicle should tell it like it is.
DaveAtIFG, I think you misread me in my earlier post on this subject – it’s easy to do. I stand by my disappointment that we see fit to divide subjects such as this into technical or legal, moral and ethical issues. From my point of view, the law, morality, technical problems, and ethics are not the issues here. KaZaA is. So is eZula, so is TOPtext and so are all current and future purveyors of poison pretending to pander to our best interests while digging their code deep into our registries. So too is our umbrage at those lining their pockets to foist their swill onto us, i.e. Wells Fargo, McAfee, et al.
When I decide I need to discuss legal, moral, and ethical issues with anybody, I will find a group of philosophers or theologians willing and able to put up with my peculiar brand of foulmouthed bombast. Until then, I’d rather stick to Search and, in particular, WebmasterWorld. You guys seem quite capable of withstanding my barrages of virtual vomit.
That said, I quite see your need to cut what was a furiously paced discussion into sub-topics. It gives each aspect direction and focus. My disappointment does not reflect on your moderation. It rails at the limitations of our fledgling medium. The Web needs a workaround and a serious power boost in the global back end. We’ll get there - sometime :).