Questions About the ‘Net

Susan, a fellow blogger, was searching for the answer to an interesting question:

The things you learn while surfing the Internet. I got interested today about the Internet. I was wondering what the very first website was. I never found out. Bummer.

Susan, here’s the answer from the W3C, the standards organization responsible for developing the web. According to the history of the web, the first web page was located at

Unfortunately, CERN, the world’s largest particle physics lab and birthplace of the web, no longer maintains the page. You can see a newer version of this page here. I regret that I couldn’t find an older version of the page for you.

Susan also asked about packet switching. During the time that packet switching was invented, it was a revolution. During that time, most communications networks were circuit-switched. That means that when you wanted to hook two devices together, you used network equipment that would automatically link segments of wire together until you ended up with a single wire that ran between the two devices. This was very inefficient, because it tied up switching equipment, made it impossible to talk with more than one destination at a time, and had a very low tolerance for malfunctions in the network.

In a packet switched network (which is the technology behind the Internet), a device that wants to communicate with another device first breaks up its message into a lot of small parts, called packets. Then, rather than getting a single connection to the destination, it sends all of the packets to the device that it’s physically connected to.

This device, often called a router, is usually connected to a number of other routers. Each router looks at all the other routers it’s connected to, figures out the most efficient way to send the packet to its destination, then passes the packet on. The equipment receiving the message knows how to reassemble these packets that may arrive out of order or not at all; missing or corrupted packets can be re-requested by the recipient.

Because there’s no single circuit, many messages can travel along the same wire (think cars on a highway). Additionally, if something breaks, its easy to re-route the packets onto a different connection – thus ensuring redundancy. After all, the original goal of the ARPAnet project was to create an information network that was impervious to a nuclear attack.

I hope I answered your questions clearly enough for you to understand, Susan. If anybody’s lost, feel free to ask for clarification ;)

Recent Google Weirdness

Yesterday, I noticed Google’s search result links were pointed to a Google web site – presumably, to allow the world’s largest search engine company to track click-throughs. Today, however, the links are once again direct links to the found sites.

I’m suddenly finding myself sharing Dean’s question: “What’s with Google lately?”

IP Laws – Where we Went Wrong

Copyright Symbol(To prevent any confusion, this article is discussing intellectual property and not the Internet Protocol. My apologies to the techBloggers. Also, a standard disclaimer – I’m not a lawyer, and nothing in this post or on this site should be construed as legal advice. If you have a legal question, seek out the representation of a competent attorney.)

Laws pertaining to copyrights, trademarks, and patents are collectively called intellectual property. Since a good portion of the GDP of the United States and many other industrialized countries consists of information development and exchange, it makes sense that there should be laws that protect information so that it remains a valuable commodity.

While I have absolutely nothing against IP laws in theory, I’m very concerned about how they have been, and will continue to be, abused by corporations with multi-million dollar legal budgets. These corporations have been attempting to increase the time that IP laws protect their creations while simultaneously limit the fair use of individuals, schools, and other groups to protected work. As a result, each day it seems less and less likely that protected works will ever enter the public domain.

Rather than bore you with a lot of legalese, I thought I’d link some of the examples of how the law is being abused today, right now:

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Semi-Interactive TV

While I certainly don’t endorse MTV or its gratuitous violence or sex, I was fascinated by a show I spotted while channel surfing. The premise of Control Freak (again, linked out of obligation, not endorsement) is a clever one. By putting control of what music videos are played under the control of viewers, MTV is boosting its revenues and reinforcing viewer loyalty.

For those who haven’t seen Control Freak, here’s a brief explanation of how it works. While a music video is playing on MTV2, visitors to the MTV web site are given the opportunity to choose one of three videos to watch next. Each choice’s popularity, along with the time remaining to vote, is displayed next to the video. After the video is complete, the next video – chosen by the audience – starts instantly.

It seems to me that this sort of “instant gratification” could be put to use by other television stations. I could imagine ‘Olelo, O’ahu’s public access cable channels, doing a “Viewer’s Choice” hour during prime time. It would be an effective promotional tool for public access, and all the needed equipment is probably in place – all it’d take is a little glue in the form of computer programming to integrate existing equipment together.

How about an interactive ad? Picture a minute-long spot during the Super Bowl or some other major television production. The company buying the $4 million ad (based on 2003 figures) would set up a funny scenario in 15 seconds, then offer the public the chance to choose the outcome.

Having only a 15 or 30-second window to vote would probably catch some people by surprise, but if ABC aired the game, as they did last year, they already would have the platform they need for this – Enhanced TV.

If I were a savvy marketing executive (which I’m not), I’d find a way to endear people to my ad. Letting them choose the ending seems like a good idea to me. It’s been done before (think Pepsi’s Britney Spears ad), but it’s an idea that can continue to be refined and sped up. People like instant results.