SOPA: What Is It & Why It’s Important

By - Posted under: News, Web on December 28, 2011

Have you heard of SOPA before? If you haven’t, then its time to sit up and pay attention.

This is important, not only for companies with businesses online or web developers, but also for consumers and regular internet users alike. In this article we will explain what is SOPA and the impact it can cause in a long term basis.

SOPA, which stands for Stop Online Piracy Act, is a bill tabled by US Senate together with PIPA, Protect IP Act.

Here’s what the government can do to foreign websites under even the most narrow reading of SOPA section 102 and PIPA section 3:

  1. Order internet service providers to alter their DNS servers from resolving the domain names of websites in foreign countries that host illegal copies of videos, songs, and photos.
  2. Order search engines like Google to modify search results to exclude foreign websites that host illegally copied material.
  3. Order payment providers like PayPal to shut down the payment accounts of foreign websites that host illegally copied material.
  4. Order ad services like Google’s AdSense to refuse any ads or payment from foreign sites that host illegally copied content.

Under SOPA, IP rights holders can proceed vigilante-style against allegedly offending sites, without any court hearing or any judicial intervention or oversight whatsoever. For example, SOPA establishes a scheme under which an IP rights holder need only notify credit card companies of the facts supporting its “good faith belief” that an identified Internet site is “primarily designed or operated for the purpose of” infringement. The recipients of that notice will then have five days to cease doing business with the specified site by taking “technically feasible and reasonable” steps to prevent it “from completing payment transactions” with customers. And all of this occurs based upon a notice delivered by the rights holder, which no neutral third party has even looked at, let alone adjudicated on the merits. If they get the assistance of a court, IP owners can also prevent other companies from “making available advertisements” to the site, and the government can prevent search engines from pointing to that site.

So how does a website get blocked under SOPA? The answer is a frightening “if your website has a few links that link to infringing websites, you are subject to the law and you will be blocked”. What’s more scarier than that is once they found out you are providing even just ONE infringing links, and you won’t be aware even if a complaint has been made. One comment from an unknown user is enough to get your website blocked, or even the whole domain. If you use any online services for backup or work related issues, you don’t even have to infringe any copyright material because if someone else do, the whole website will be shutdown.

The SOPA is an American law, but China, Syria and Iran has started long ago on Internet censorship. But once it is passed in USA, very soon other countries will follow suit and adopt it as the new Internet standard.

In summary, let me explain SOPA in a metaphoric manner: there is a DVD shop selling pirated movies in Tokyo city. The U.S government wants to destroy the roads, walkway, tunnels, and pedestrian crossing surrounding the DVD shop (but left the DVD shop untouched) to prevent American citizens from visiting the DVD shop.

Internet has been booming for many years, and many businesses, including many start-ups, manage to stay afloat or make an in-road to their demographic because of the freedom in Internet. Once this freedom is removed, Internet will not become what we know it because censorship will be happening all around the world.

We believe that SOPA should not even exist. Yes, the infringement on copyright material is a serious issue, and we do not encourage it. What we want is something to be done that won’t censor the Internet.

References:

XXX Domain: Destined for Failure

By - Posted under: News, Web on December 14, 2011

Just last week ICANN (International Corporations for Assigned Names and Numbers), who controlled the World Wide Web’s domain, started selling the .XXX domain names.

Some histories about the .XXX domain first.

ICANN wanted a special domain to differentiate the pornographic websites than regular websites so that regular users won’t stumble onto a pornographic website by accident, and parents, IT managers, and etc can filter these websites with .XXX domains easily to prevent the teenage child, workers and regular people can and will be blocked easily from these pornographic websites.

Very good intention. But seriously?

The AP reports that 80,000 XXX domains were sold in pre­sale and many com­pa­nies like Pepsi and Nike lined up to pur­chase adult domains. The Uni­ver­si­ty of Kansas report­ed­ly just paid $3,000 for a vari­ety of XXX URLs.

Nike will not want the domain Nike.XXX to be registered by some dubious companies and turn Nike into pornographic brand with a Nike porn site. Furthermore, universities will not want to allow pornographic websites to use their names, such as MSU.XXX or MSUGirls.XXX. So most of these 80,000 XXX domains were sold to legitimate corporations seeking to protect their names, brands and corporate images.

How about the real pornographic websites? From the information that we gather, there were just a few real pornographic companies registering them. A lot of these pornographic websites make their fortune when users stumble onto their websites, so the good intention of ICANN on preventing innocent people from stumbling onto a pornographic website is a moot point. Furthermore, with the .XXX domain, they can be blocked easily (just a simple *.xxx will do) so it is not a surprise anyone with half a brain that real pornographic websites will not take up the triple X domain.

A quick tour to GoDaddy website, one of the largest web hosting companies and domain registration companies in the world, showed that a .XXX domain is USD99 per year, while regular domain ranges from USD 11.99 to 19.99 per year.

Accord­ing to the web­site, if I want­ed to launch an adult web­site under that URL, I actu­al­ly have to become an “Inter­net Com­mu­ni­ty Mem­ber” and then con­firm my sta­tus of “the spon­sored adult enter­tain­ment com­mu­ni­ty”. My guess is that this is how the ICANN polices the URLs, to ensure that some­one isn’t reg­is­ter­ing some­one else’s brand as a porn site. I have no plans to do so, which con­ve­nient­ly means I do not have to become a part of the “Community.” GoDad­dy tells me this too, and is — for­tu­nate­ly, I guess — only too happy to help me park my URL for the same exor­bi­tant fee.

Atop GoDad­dy’s XXX domain reg­is­tra­tion page is this: “Let’s be adult about it. Cre­ate an adult Web pres­ence or pro­tect your brand.” This is fol­lowed by an expla­na­tion of why you’d want to reg­is­ter an XXX domain. Note what it starts with:

Secure your brand. Pro­tect your rep­u­ta­tion.

Per­haps you’d like to cre­ate an adult enter­tain­ment web­site. Or maybe you’re here to keep your brand from being reg­is­tered as a .XXX by some­one else. What­ev­er your rea­sons for want­i­ng a .XXX domain, you’ve come to the right place. To check the avail­abil­i­ty of your domain, type the name you want into the search box above.

The mes­sage is clear: If you don’t want some­one launch­ing a porn XXX domain with your name or brand, you’d bet­ter let GoDad­dy take your money and reg­is­ter it for you.

This scene was like during the early days of the web where companies and person rushing to snap up domain names to protect their own interest or making some quick money by selling the legitimate domain back to the companies. But this time there is a dif­fer­ce in one fun­da­men­tal way: Those snap­ping up the domains for pro­tec­tion will never use them. No one out­side the porn indus­try wants to run a live XXX domain web­site. These busi­ness­es and uni­ver­si­ties are sim­ply buy­ing them in what GoDad­dy actu­al­ly calls “Defen­sive Reg­is­tra­tions” to hide them from view for­ev­er (and they’ll pay GoDad­dy year­ly fees to do so).

I think GoDaddy should send ICANN a flower, a box of chocolate with a Thank-You note while laughing all the way to the bank.

Adobe Ending Development of Flash Player for Mobile

By - Posted under: News, Web, Web App on November 10, 2011

It has been wildly speculated that Adobe will announce the development of Flash Player for mobile platform will come to an end very soon.

It is no surprise. Earlier in March, Adobe announced Flash to HTML5 conversion tool code name Wallaby. That was the first sign of Adobe giving up the development of Flash Player for mobile platform.

Sources close to Adobe that have been briefed on the company’s future development plans have revealed this forthcoming announcement to ZDNet:

Our future work with Flash on mobile devices will be focused on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores. We will no longer adapt Flash Player for mobile devices to new browser, OS version or device configurations. Some of our source code licensees may opt to continue working on and releasing their own implementations. We will continue to support the current Android and PlayBook configurations with critical bug fixes and security updates.

Additionally, the e-mail briefing to Adobe’s partners has been summed up as follows:

  • Adobe is Stopping development on Flash Player for browsers on mobile.

Adobe is now focusing their development efforts on:

  • Applications for mobile
  • Expressive content on the desktop (in and out of browser)
  • Increasing their investments in HTML5 in general

So what does that mean to web developer?

First of all, we can’t say that we didn’t see it coming. There were signs all over and especially when Apple’s Steve Jobs refusal to provide support for Flash for Mobile on iPhone and iPad platform.

Secondly, there were lots of web developer has already developed websites that support Flash and will have to invest the time and resources to continue to provide support to these websites, or have to take the next step by converting the Flash websites to HTML5 platform.

At Zymora we do not encourage our customers to develop a Flash website because we always felt that if the whole website is developed using Flash, the performance and loading time of the page became an issue, and with the booming of Tablet (iPad and Android tablet), smart phones (iPhone, Android phones, BlackBerry, etc), the Flash website will have performance issues and most often than not, will not be displayed at all. That’s hundreds of millions devices that can’t access the website.

HTML5, we believe, will be the platform that we should all invest in. That is the reason why we invest our time and effort to gain traction in the HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery platform as we want to provide the best flexible solutions to our customers.

Update:Even as this post is published, ZDnet has just confirmed that Flash is Dead, Long Live HTML5

[Original news from Engadget and ZDnet]

iPod Turned 10 and What Does It Got to do with Web Design?

By - Posted under: Design, News, Web on October 24, 2011

Original iPod

Exactly 10 years ago today, Apple Inc. introduced the iPod. It wasn’t the music player that had the largest capacity. It wasn’t the music player that offered the best music quality available. But it was the music player the revolutionized the music industry.

How did Apple do it?

It was the design. It offered what others didn’t offer.

For example, the Creative Labs Nomad was better as it had bigger capacity, and it offered great sound quality. But it was huge, chunky, and got too many buttons and options. And then there was Sony which was pushing hard for the MD format, where users had to download the music, insert the MD drive into the PC, synchronize the music, insert the MD drive into the music player, and again, there were many fancy functions.

What Apple did was the complete opposite. It offered very simple design, simple functionality, and offered iTunes to provide “one-stop” music purchase and synchronization. Want to play music? Press one button. Want to select different track? Scroll the wheel. And then people caught on because of how iPod was beautifully made and offer seamless and simple music purchase and listening experience. It became a big hit, and online music store started to boom.

So how do we translate that into our daily life? How do we translate that into web application?

Functionality

A visitor that comes to the website need not select so many options. As a designer, our main aim is to provide the simplest navigation experience that we can offer, without users clicking pass some secret code to find the information that they are looking for. It is technically cool to offer a website that offer functions such as background color, music track, different elements, and etc. But the million dollar question is: do the visitors need this? Most often than not, they don’t. Making it too fancy will actually make them feel visually impaired.

It is extremely important to know what are the main function of the website. Is it to promote a product or service or is it function to provide information of the product or service? Is it function to provide video or music, or is it function to provide news about the video or music?

Once the main function of the website is defined, then it will be easier to start designing the website as we will know what we should include (features) into the website and how the design should flow.

Simplicity

Like functionality, we should offer a simple yet elegant website design that offer easy to find information. For example, the menu must be clearly labelled for the sake of easy navigation.

Less is more – Robert Browning (1812 – 1899)

If we look at Apple product, for instance, we see the iPhone that offer less buttons. In fact, they removed the keypad, they removed the call or end call buttons. All they got was the big home button at the bottom.

Some websites cramp all the information into main page, or some show very little information and users have to click through many links to find out what they are looking for. The ideal way is that on the main page, when the visitors scroll from top to bottom, they already have an idea what the website is about and what kind of information they can expect.

Features

As for features, that’s always a struggle in terms of web design. But we have to draw a clear line that features do not equal to functions. A website can have many features that offer the visitors a unique browsing experience, but having too many functions will spoil the visitors browsing experience.

It is important to remember the distinction between product functions and product features.  Functions are the “product’s answer to the set of user tasks”; features are the “user tools” inherent in the product used to perform the functions (Wood, 1995).  Placing a telephone call is a function; the dial tone and the touch-tone keypad are features used to accomplish the function.

So we need to distinguish the difference between a function and a feature. Once we get that out of the way, we will be able to provide specific one or two functions but with many features.

Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011)

By - Posted under: News on October 6, 2011

20111008-160340.jpg

Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, has passed away.

Being a visionary, Steve Jobs had revolutionized the I.T industries, changing the PC and laptop styling (for the better instead of the boring square box with boring color),changing the music industry by introducing the iPod, changing how we use smartphones with the introduction of iPhone, and revolutionized the tablet PC with the introduction of iPad and the netbook industry with the MacBook Air.

The impact Steve Jobs made in our life can be seen almost everywhere around the world. Competitors were forced to make their devices more useable, better, and more aesthetic and beautiful when faced by the challenge from Apple Inc.

The world has lost a great visionary and icon in the I.T industry. We will miss Steve Jobs immensely.


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