Data viz video of the most visited websites from 1996 to 2019

In 1996, AOL and Yahoo! were at the top. Things changed. They can change again.

(Data Is Beautiful) Read the rest

Unintentionally funny voice-over-IP demo from 1978

In 1978, researchers were conducting early experiments in group teleconferencing using packet switching over the ARPANET, which became the basis of the Internet. These "packet speech systems" evolved into the VoIP that we know and love (?) today. Above is a 1979 video from the USC Information Sciences Institute of an experiment involving a "dramatization" of a group teleconference. As /r/ObscureMedia user jetRink posted, "The meeting participants are late, unprepared and frustrated, the audio quality is terrible and nothing is accomplished except the scheduling of another meeting."

Just like today!

For more on this, see Stanford University professor Robert Gray's "History of LPC Digital Speech and its impact on the Internet Protocol." Read the rest

How social media destroyed the web's art communities

Kelsey Ables explains how social media killed art communities. It's not just a statement of fact, but a history of the parts of the web that mainstream users might have only seen in the periphery as it happened, but whose loss is now keenly felt.

And while artists have made their mark on all of the major social-media networks, these new, bigger sites have changed the way we communicate and consume. Algorithms steer us back to similar content in echo chambers that inhibit both critical and creative thinking. Platforms incentivized to keep users scrolling discourage long-looking and render users as passive consumers, rather than active seekers of inspiration. They aren’t a space for productive feedback, either: Art takes on a different tone when it’s surrounded by dog GIFs, political memes, and your cousin’s baby photos.

The blanding out of art hosts like DeviantArt and ConceptArt are the big ticket items, and the decay of tumblr into a "joyless black hole" exemplifies the process. But I feel things on a smaller scale are more instructive. Left unsaid, but also important: when audiences migrated to Facebook and other social media platforms, what was left behind on once-vibrant small community sites often went toxic fast. Read the rest

Internet mostly fake now

When bots finally accounted for half the traffic on the internet, Media Experts speculated that algorithms would start identifying bots as a better advertising target than humans. Max Read points out that fear of "Inversion" is now quaint. Now everything is so fake online that no-one trusts numbers at all.

In the future, when I look back from the high-tech gamer jail in which President PewDiePie will have imprisoned me, I will remember 2018 as the year the internet passed the Inversion, not in some strict numerical sense, since bots already outnumber humans online more years than not, but in the perceptual sense. Everything that once seemed definitively and unquestionably real now seems slightly fake; everything that once seemed slightly fake now has the power and presence of the real. The “fakeness” of the post-Inversion internet is less a calculable falsehood and more a particular quality of experience — the uncanny sense that what you encounter online is not “real” but is also undeniably not “fake,” and indeed may be both at once, or in succession, as you turn it over in your head.

Read the rest

Rudy Giuliani doesn't understand the internet

Rudy Giuliani is having some Twitter trouble.

It started last week with a covfefe-esque tweet. Read the rest

Comcast forced to provide refunds to 20,000 customers in Massachusetts

If you were living in Massachusetts a few years back, you might remember that Comcast was offering what seemed to be a screaming deal: a $99 lock-in rate plan. I say "seemed to be," because Comcast's advertised $99 price didn't include the cost of renting equipment and the fact that, as we're talking about Comcast here, there were a number of additional fees that could (and often did) appear on a subscriber's bill at the end of the month, for reasons only Comcast understood.

Did I mention that escaping the rate plan set folks back $240 for killing their contract with the company early? No? Well, it totally did. The state's Attorney General, Maura Healey, felt that this was bullshit of the first order. Her office did something about it.

From Gizmodo:

Comcast will cancel the debts of more than 20,000 customers and pay back $700,000 in Massachusetts as part of a settlement with the state’s Attorney General over deceptive advertising. Back in 2015 and early 2016, the cable giant advertised a $99 lock-in rate for plans that didn’t include equipment costs and had additional fees that could be jacked up at any time.

As part of Comcast's settlement with the state, they'll be forced to fork over refunds to anyone who paid the $240 early termination fee. They'll also be forced to forgive all outstanding unpaid early termination fees and related late fees that Massachusetts consumers incurred between January 2015 and March 2016. Comcast fully cooperated with the AG’s investigation. Read the rest

Instagram's bullying, stalking, and harassment crisis

Twitter gets well-deserved attention for online harassment, but know who else has a huge problem there? Instagram. Big time. Read the rest

Reddit 'quarantines' white supremacist, incel, holocaust denier, and other gross subreddits

Women-hating MRAs and Incels, Holocaust Deniers, 9/11 Truthers, and snuff video fetishists on Reddit got harder to find today. An update of Reddit's “quarantine” policy was announced on Thursday, and by Friday new content disclaimers appeared a number of the sketchier “subreddits,” including four with over 100,000 subscribers each. Read the rest

Twitter to let you turn reverse-chronological feed back on

Bravo, Twitter! Something that users are asking for made it in: "Twitter will now let you completely turn off its algorithmic timeline. So now you can revert completely to a reverse-chronological feed of only people you follow."

Twitter has made a surprise change to how it shows tweets to its users, following a viral thread earlier today that discussed ways to reverse the platform’s algorithmic timeline. Now, when you uncheck the settings box reading “Show the best tweets first,” Twitter will completely revert your timeline to a non-algorithmic, reverse-chronological order, which is how Twitter was originally designed and operated for years until the company introduced a default algorithmic model in early 2016.

The company's hand was being gently forced. A few weeks ago, Andy Baio discovered and publicized Twitter search flags that generated a reverse-chronological snapshot of your follows, and last week Enna Kinema discovered that you could vanquish suggested tweets and highlights by muting their metadata tags. Read the rest

Trump falsely claims Google is RIGGED to show bad things when you google "Trump News"

"Google search results for “Trump News” shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media," Trump tweeted this morning.

"In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal? 96% of... results on “Trump News” are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous. Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!"

The top response as of 8:30 a.m. EST was "You fucking moron", posted by an account with an elderly woman as its profile photo. Read the rest

The Joy of Missing Out

In the NYT, Hayley Phelan recommends disengagement from the information rat race.

If you’re wondering whether you may also be engaging in unhealthy tech habits, here’s a helpful pop quiz:

Do you own a smartphone?

That’s it. Because if you answered yes, you’re essentially carrying around what the Center for Humane Technology, an organization working to spur reform in the tech and media industries, calls a “slot machine” in your pocket. Play it enough times, and you’re bound to get hooked. This isn’t an accident. This is big business.

There are further tips in the article, all of which amount to "be less online" and, euphemized, "remember that capitalism is bad."

The phrase "Joy of Missing Out" and the ideas behind it have already been appropriated by those it obviously aims to subvert. Pictured below is Google CEO Sundar Pichai, selling you the idea of using Google to cut down on everything except Google.

This means that if you talk about this stuff in its intended or meaningful sense, gentlemen will explain it to you or tell you to use some app that stops you using other apps, then turn weirdly aggressive when you disagree. Read the rest

Villagers dig 15 miles of trenches in the name of faster Internet

Choosing to live as far from cities as I can, as often as I can, I spend a lot of time on the cusp of sanity trying to do my online job, keep up with the news, and keep in touch with the people I care about over a cellular connection that stays attached to my carrier’s network by a thread. On rainy days, or the frequent times when the gods have had enough of my bullshit, I can’t connect at all, forcing me to put my life on hold. It’s a part of choosing to live in the country! As mad as I’ve gotten at my lousy connection speeds in the past, I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to connect to YouTube badly enough that I was willing to dig 15 miles of trenches to make it happen — but that’s exactly what the residents of a small village in Wales did.

Michaelston-y-Fedw, located between Cardiff and Newport in the United Kingdom, has a population of around 300 people. They were all putting up with shitty internet, with speeds as slow as 4Mbps. It was possible to pay for high-speed broadband service in Michaelston-y-Fedw — someone is always willing to take your money — but the infrastructure to pipe the bandwidth into the village didn’t exist. Sick of their internet connectivity being caught in the late 1990s, some of the villagers got to drinking, which led to talking and, after a bit more drinking, resulted in a plan: They’d sort the mess out themselves. Read the rest

XOXO will be bigger and more inclusive in 2018

Described as "an experimental festival for independent artists and creators who work on the internet," Andy Baio and Andy McMillan's internet-fest baby XOXO will be back in early September.

And according to this tweet, they're making it bigger and more inclusive (be sure to check out their "living" inclusion policy):

We're moving to a new venue, and growing so we can offer significantly more free subsidized passes, prioritizing underrepresented and economically disadvantaged individuals.

The fun is happening in Portland, Oregon at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum from September 6 through 9. If this sounds like your jam, get on the horn and register before the deadline of June 29. Tickets (both paid and subsidized) are offered through a survey and lottery process, of which they write:

A first-come, first-serve system typically favors those with time and money, which ends up benefiting predominantly white men with well-paying jobs and disposable income.

Our survey system allows us to factor diversity into admission, which helps to counteract systemic biases and prioritize access to the festival for underrepresented folx and independent artists.

Check out the lineup! Read the rest

Good riddance to Klout, horseman of the influencer apocalypse

Social rating site Klout saw where society was heading with influencer marketing, but like many bad ideas that were a little ahead of their time, Klout will not live on to see the devastation they helped usher in. Read the rest

Eminent Domain: registrar gives France.com to the French government, destroying its owner's business

France.com was a popular travel site owned and operated by a U.S.-based French expat. Jean-Noel Frydman registered a trademark, had hundreds of thousands of monthly visitors, and loved his birth country. For years, the French government was happy with it, even giving Frydman an award. In 2016, though, it decided it wanted his domain for itself. Though the .com top-level domain is administered in the U.S., they didn't have to go to court in America to get it. That's because the domain registrar, web.com, gave it to them.

It’s unclear if a US court ever validated the order with an international enforcement of judgment, a common measure for foreign rulings involving US businesses. But if Web.com had enough business in France, that may not have been necessary. Faced with a valid court order and the pressure of an entire government, the company’s lawyers may have simply decided it wasn’t worth fighting the issue in court. (Web.com did not respond to multiple requests for comment on their policy regarding court-ordered transfers.)

Trademarks, the domain-name resolution system, WIPO: all useless if your registrar is shady or easily rolled. This appears to be the first appropriation of a .com domain in this manner and confers upon web.com a uniquely dismal distinction.

Also consider the next level up: operators of fashionable new top-level-domains. They set prices per domain, with lists of "premium" ones with higher prices. So if you establish a successful business at .???, you may succeed in making your domain name "premium." Which means an extra zero or two tacked onto domain renewal fees. Read the rest

SEC fines Yahoo (now Altaba) $35 million over massive data breach

How the once mighty have fallen. Read the rest

Social media use in 2018 charted

Here's a chart of social media usage from Pew Research. YouTube and Facebook are by far and away ahead of the pack, but Facebook's been stagnant for a few years, at least in the U.S.

Facebook and YouTube dominate this landscape, as notable majorities of U.S. adults use each of these sites. At the same time, younger Americans (especially those ages 18 to 24) stand out for embracing a variety of platforms and using them frequently. Some 78% of 18- to 24-year-olds use Snapchat, and a sizeable majority of these users (71%) visit the platform multiple times per day. Similarly, 71% of Americans in this age group now use Instagram and close to half (45%) are Twitter users.

Note that there's no tracking data on YouTube: they only just sampled its popularity in their surveys. Like everyone else, they only just noticed that it was Google's real social network all along. Read the rest

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