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Volume 2, Issue 132: Monday, November 20, 2000
- "Support for Software Law Eroding"
Los Angeles Times (11/20/00) P. C1; Menn, Joseph
The controversial Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) is losing ground as opposition to the measure grows and the software industry backs away from some of the bill's more inflammatory provisions. UCITA, which aims to standardize software contracts by treating sales as licenses, has been heavily criticized for giving vendors too much control at the expense of consumer rights. Only Maryland and Virginia have passed UCITA, and the bill has a range of powerful opponents, including the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, and the attorneys general of more than 20 states. In addition, the FTC expressed concern about UCITA and held public hearings to discuss the bill. The open source community, which recently stepped up its criticism of UCITA, wants to ensure that the bill does not prevent consumers from playing with and changing software code. As a result of the UCITA backlash, legislators who once hoped the bill would help draw high-tech business to their states are toning down their support. Meanwhile, the software industry is retreating from some of UCITA's measures and emphasizing a change in the bill this summer designed to prevent UCITA from trampling over existing consumer protections. One UCITA provision that particularly offends critics would allow vendors to keep license terms hidden until after a sale. UCITA would also prevent the publication of negative software reviews and would allow vendors to prohibit the sale of used software and to avoid repairing flawed products, critics say. Meanwhile, UCITA supporters such as AOL and Microsoft contend that UCITA would benefit consumers by making software contracts more uniform if enough states pass the bill.
For information about ACM's UCITA activities, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/IP
- "Planet Poll Queries the World With Web, Palm Devices"
Investor's Business Daily (11/20/00) P. A8; Howell, Donna
A global project called Planet Poll that used technology donated by several high-tech companies to poll people around the globe on their beliefs and opinions ended Saturday. The project, led by 3Com, helped companies determine how much network traffic their products can handle. AT&T, Akamai, Oracle, and Sun Microsystems also donated equipment for the massive survey. Respondents could visit the PlanetProject.com site to answer questions in eight languages about eight subjects such as religion, self-image, and sex. Pollsters also traveled to remote areas to poll inhabitants using handhelds, laptops, modems, and portable satellite connections. A control room with 53 servers in Santa Clara, Calif., processed feedback 24 hours a day. "The joke around here is that if the presidential election were conducted the way the Planet Project is, we'd know who our president is," says project director Rick Smolan. In addition to testing the capabilities of technology, the project also aimed to provide information about people around the world and to narrow the digital divide by bringing technology to areas where it is not common. Farah Kamal, a pollster in Karachi, Pakistan, says, "Many were curious about the Palm itself and were pleased when we handed it over to play with." About 5 million people took part in the survey, according to the poll's organizers. The survey found that Americans are more trusting of their countrymen than are Germans, women are more satisfied with their sex lives than men, and only one in five North Americans believe traditional medicine is the best form of health care.
- "Address Digital Divide, U.S. President Tells APEC"
InfoWorld.com (11/17/00); Legard, David
President Clinton addressed the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Thursday and called on its member countries to help close the global digital divide by promoting electronic learning, donating computer equipment to villages, and ensuring that the growth of e-commerce is not inhibited by barriers. Clinton cautioned APEC countries against favoring e-commerce over Internet access. Clinton called for a serious focus on equipping schools for Internet access and providing those schools with educational software. Clinton also emphasized the importance of determining the "best practices" in each country and spreading those practices to other countries.
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- "New Web Domains Provoke .Deja Vu"
Washington Post (11/18/00) P. E1; Cha, Ariana Eunjung
ICANN's introduction of new top level domain names was met with a deluge of companies and individuals rushing to pre-register domain names under the new TLDs. The consortium chosen by ICANN to handle the new .info TLD, Afilias, was flooded with calls; however, many of those calls were questions from people trying to figure out exactly what was happening, says NetNation Communications CEO Joseph Kibur. "We're just catching our breath from this week and we haven't mapped out where we're going next," says ICANN CPO Andrew McLaughlin. One of the issues that will have to be resolved is the price of the new TLDs. Further, ICANN will have to determine whether or not to include a sunrise period. Afilias, which includes Network Solutions among its members, intends to utilize a sunrise period. However, the JVTeam, which will handle the .biz TLD, will only utilize a sunrise period if all the other organizations handling new TLDs do so as well. A sunrise period is vital to ensure order online, according to the International Trademark Association. ICANN must also deal with pre-registration companies, such as Regland.com and Domainscom.de, which have a minimum $20 fee for pre-registration. The issue will likely provoke trademark infringement lawsuits, according to Fenwick & West partner Connie Ellerbach and other lawyers. Others believe all the debate is unnecessary, as the future Internet is unknown. The current confusion could push keyword and speech technology development, both of which could end any such uncertainty, says lawyer Scott Donahey, who assists in resolving domain name disputes for ICANN.
- "Watching for Internet Privacy Law Signals"
Washtech.com (11/17/00); MacMillan, Robert
A major battle over online privacy regulation is shaping up for the next session of Congress. Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.) and the Information Technology Industry Council have arrived at the same conclusion: that online privacy is a much bigger issue than previously thought and one that cannot be defined by a single piece of legislation. Gorton, whose spot in Congress is not yet assured for the next session, has said he plans to support federal online privacy legislation, although he has no idea what type of legislation is best suited for the task at hand. No matter what stance lawmakers take on the issue of online privacy, they will open themselves to criticism, for there are many groups with differing viewpoints on the issue. Hardline privacy supporters include Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), all members of the Privacy Caucus who are fighting under the mantra "privacy legislation now." Reps. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) and James Moran (D-Va.) are on the other side of the privacy fence, and they were responsible for introducing a bill that called for a commission to examine online privacy. Occupying the middle ground is a group led by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.).
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For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy
- "Secure XML Standard Defined for E-Commerce"
InfoWorld.com (11/15/00); Fonseca, Brian
On Nov. 15, Netegrity unveiled its intention to create an XML-based standard to ensure security during e-commerce transactions, known as the Security Services Markup Language (S2ML). The idea behind S2ML is to construct a vocabulary that can be used by all to share user information and transactions across more than one B2B and B2C platform, says Bill Bartow, vice president of marketing at Netegrity. By Dec. 15, the new standard will be given for examination to the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards and the World Wide Web Consortium, according to Bartow. The S2ML specification was authored by a variety of organizations, including VeriSign, Bowstreet, Commerce One, Jamcracker, Sun Microsystems, and webMethods. Through collaboration from the Java platform, security, managed services, and B2B representatives on S2ML's design, the standard will be built right into products and therefore will provide broad open standards dividends, says Gartner vice president and research director John Pescatore. Via XML documents, S2ML defines standard authentication and authorization XML schemes and XML request/response protocol, says Bartow. HTTP and Simple Object Access Protocol as well as B2B messaging frameworks such as ebXML will be supported on S2ML.
- "Thousands of Sites Spared by Decision on .Web Suffix"
Los Angeles Times (11/20/00) P. C3; Chapman, Gary; Kaplan, Karen
One of the major decisions made by ICANN's board of directors when choosing new top level domain names was whether or not to accept the .web TLD. Three different proposals suggested .web, including one from Afilias and another from Image Online Design (IO). ICANN almost awarded the suffix to Afilias; however, ICANN board member Vint Cerf gave his support to IO, which he considered to be a pioneer. Due to Cerf's support of IO, Afilias' .info TLD was chosen instead and IO will be given another opportunity to compete for control of the .web TLD next year. ICANN also voiced criticism of two other applications from the DotNom Consortium and the DotPro Consortium, both of which were supported by Idealab-backed DotTV. Upset that neither application had ICANN's support, DotTV executives spent the three minutes allocated to each applicant to address the ICANN board ranting about a lack of fairness in ICANN's review process. The process not only had deficiencies, but it had a "lack of due process," according to DotTV CEO Lou Kerner. The applications were reviewed too quickly, especially given the $50,000 non-refundable application fee, said Kerner. The statements made by DotTV officials stemmed from those officials being upset that the bid was not supported by ICANN, suggested ICANN board members.
For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html
- "Agencies Urged to Get E-Government Input From Citizens"
GovExec.com (11/16/00); Peckenpaugh, Jason
A new report from the General Services Administration (GSA) says agencies that ask for citizen input as they work to put government services online are in the forefront of e-government. Five federal agencies responded to the survey for "Citizens' Expectations for Electronic Government Services"--the Federal Communications Commission, the Treasury and Justice Departments, the Office of Personnel Management, and the Social Security Administration--but the study also included state, local, and international governments. The report indicates that effective e-government initiatives are based on public demand. Citizens want to access government services over the Internet, but they want several ways to receive key services, and they worry about privacy. The report also says that agencies must address the issue of improving access to electronic services. State and local governments are ahead in trying to meet expectations for e-government, and GSA program director John Clark says that they have done more because they provide more services directly to citizens than do federal agencies.
- "The Case for Electronic Voting"
Wired News (11/14/00); Manjoo, Farhad
The confusion surrounding the paper ballots used in several Florida counties has boosted the prospects of electronic voting machines. This year's election saw the first widespread use of electronic voting in Riverside County, Calif., where registrar of voters Mischelle Townsend implemented a $14 million electronic voting system. A trial run of the Sequoia Pacific Voting Equipment system proved very successful with voters and made impossible the errors that many Florida voters say they made. Townsend said she moved to the electronic system after her county spent $1.4 million on paper ballots in 1998 and had to toss half of those ballots because of low voter turnout. Several other firms are touting electronic voting systems. Votehere.net held a non-binding vote on its new electronic terminals in Arizona and California. The company says that 80 percent of Arizona voters who tried the system said they would prefer it in an actual election. Hart InterCivic has also introduced its eSlate system, a system that is no bigger than a piece of paper and employs push-button controls. However, some believe even electronic voting machines are behind the times. The future must be Internet voting, say officials at Election.com, which specializes in online elections. Election.com officials believe that, even though people worry that online elections would be exposed to hackers and other problems, the events in Florida show that it could not be any less secure or certain than the present, outdated system.
- "Report: Old Line Retailers See E-Biz Surge"
E-Commerce Times (11/15/00); Saliba, Clare
Traditional retailers' Web ventures may have an edge over Internet pure-plays, a PC Data Online study reports. After analyzing the online purchases of 120,000 home Internet users in the United States, Canada, Australia, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, and Italy for the month of October, PC Data determined that half of the top 20 Internet retailers had a physical presence prior to launching their online ventures. "Last holiday season, online retailing was seen as a threat to traditional brick-and-mortar retailers," says PC Data analyst Cameron Meierhoefer. "This year these [brick-and-mortar] retailers are benefiting the most from the growth in online shopping." While pure-play e-tailer Amazon.com's 1.5 million buyers and 21.6 million users were enough to make it the top online retailer for the month, according to PC Data, Spiegel.com scored the highest buy-rate percentage (15 percent) of the top 20 firms, which compares favorably with Amazon's 7.1 percent score. Other clicks-and-bricks retailers to make the top 20 list are JCPenney.com, Sears.com, Landsend.com, and Gap.com. PC Data contends that it is possible that consumers have more initial confidence in online retailers who already have a physical presence.
- "KDE League Gets Down to Business"
eWeek Online (11/16/00); Galli, Peter
IBM, SuSE, Caldera, TurboLinux, and 11 other companies formally announced on Wednesday the formation of the KDE League, an alliance of software developers committed to promoting the KDE 2.0 operating system and its user-friendly desktop environment as an alternative to GNU Network Object Model Environment (GNOME), Windows, and Macintosh. The chief aim is to provide Linux developers and users with more choices, say KDE League members such as Borland product manager Michael Swindell.
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- "FTC to Examine Wireless Net Technology"
Newsbytes (11/15/00); MacMillan, Robert
Privacy, security, and consumer protection will top the agenda of an FTC public workshop on wireless Internet technology to be held Dec. 11 and 12. One of the purposes of the workshop is to gather information on wireless Internet and data technology and how they impact consumer privacy. FTC staff could use this information to recommend "certain courses of action" to the commission, said FTC's Claudia Bourne-Farrell. Indeed, the workshop will take up "many of the privacy and advertising issues previously considered by the commission." However, any recommendations on an official course of action are unlikely to be immediately forthcoming, a government source said. The workshop will also address identity theft, company privacy policies, payment methods, and the use of location information as they relate to wireless technology.
- "Selling Teens on IT"
Computerworld (11/13/00) Vol. 34, No. 46, P. 82; Manfred, Erica
A new campaign called GetTech aims to provide an ample supply of future high-tech workers by convincing children that careers in technology are exciting. Although children are embracing the Internet, they still view tech workers as nerdy men who work long hours. The campaign, launched by the Department of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), and several companies, will feature print and TV ads, information packets, and a Web site encouraging children and teens to prepare for jobs in the new economy. The nonprofit Women in Film in Hollywood is developing TV and radio ads that will try to ease fears about tech careers while sparking interest in cutting-edge technology. GetTech will especially focus on encouraging young minorities and teenage girls to take part in advanced science and math classes. Although girls have increased their Internet usage by 126 percent, the number of girls interested in pursuing engineering careers recently dropped below 10 percent, says NAM's Phyllis Eisen. In addition to targeting children, GetTech's ads will try to persuade parents to encourage their children to enter the high-tech field.
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- "Kings of the Hill"
Interactive Week (11/13/00) Vol. 7, No. 46, P. 16; Brown, Doug
High-tech issues may be just what the 107th Congress and the new presidential administration need to get over their ideological differences. Electronic Industries Alliance President Dave McCurdy, the former U.S. Representative from Oklahoma, says "the technology issues are good vehicles for building bridges and overcoming partisanship." McCurdy also points out that most of the new Democrats in the Senate are New Democrats who tend to back the high-tech industry. As soon as the new session begins, centrist legislators are expected to bring issues such as Internet taxation and online privacy to the forefront of the Congressional agenda. Issues such as intellectual property rights and spam will not be far behind. Just as important will be who heads the House committees of the new Congress, now that Republicans have imposed a six-year term limit on committee chairmen. Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) is likely to become the next leader of the House Committee on Commerce--one of the most important committees for the high-tech industry--when the Republican leadership makes its decision in January. Rep. Mike Oxley (R-Ohio), who will battle Tauzin for the chairmanship, is next in line to head the important telecommunications subcommittee. However, if their battle gets too hot, Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) could best Oxley for the chairmanship of the subcommittee that Tauzin currently heads. The House Committee on Science is expected to have a new chair in Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.).
- "Quid Pro Dough"
Business 2.0 (11/14/00) Vol. 5, No. 22, P. 216; Grebb, Michael
Net Economy companies significantly increased their political contributions in this election cycle in an effort to influence issues such as open access, Internet taxation, research and development tax credits, and H-1B visas. "The spike in contributions from the high-tech sector between 1996 and this year is especially significant," says Campaign Study Group director Dwight Morris. "It's quite interesting considering many of these companies did not even exist four years ago." Microsoft, concerned about its landmark antitrust trial, topped off Business 2.0's list of the top 40 contributors to this year's presidential campaigns. The software giant donated a total of $3.4 million, contributing more than $1.4 million to Democrats and over $1.8 million to Republicans. The second highest contributor was AT&T, which donated a combined $3.3 million this year, up from $2.6 million in 1996. Seeking approval for its merger with cable operator MediaOne, AT&T gave $1.3 million to Democrats, and $1.9 million to Republicans. America Online, which ranked seventh on the list, boosted its political spending to a total of $1.2 million as it tries to push through its mega-merger with Time Warner. Meanwhile, ExciteAtHome came in seventh on a separate list for minor contributors, donating a total of $87,000 in hopes of swaying a number of open access bills in Congress. If these contributions pay off, high-tech companies are likely to further increase political spending in 2004.
- "Help Wanted (And How)"
CFO (11/00) Vol. 16, No. 13, P. 117; Leibs, Scott
Companies trying to adapt to the Internet are really feeling the IT staff crunch. Over 800,000 IT jobs will not be filled this year, according to the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA). IT positions will become the fastest-growing segment of the economy with a 117 percent jump between 1998 and 2008, predicts the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The scarcity of qualified workers "hampers economic growth from the micro level, by forcing companies to delay or cancel IT projects, up to the macro level, by playing a role in interest-tax hikes because the Federal Reserve has announced that one of the factors driving such hikes is the shortage of skilled workers," says ITAA President Harris Miller. The general consensus is that businesses must invest more time, money, and thought in order to end the shortage. IBM and other companies have started hiring IT interns based on a "try-before-you-buy" approach, says IBM's Chris Bahr. The Nasdaq correction as well as the disbanding of several high-profile e-tailers has led to the downgrading of stock options as a recruiting tactic, and blue-chip firms are looking more desirable as a result. So that prospective IT employees do not feel pigeonholed, many companies are promising job rotation programs. The contract worker market is growing as a result of the shortage, and firms such as SkillsVillage and HotDispatch are thriving. Through a global bulletin board, HotDispatch provides a network of skilled people to answer technical queries, and SkillsVillage matches up employees to skill sets via an Internet exchange. ComponentSource offers software modules that can theoretically provide an off-the-shelf approach to custom development.
- "Season of Hope"
Industry Standard--Grok (12/00) P. 94; Mardesich, Jodi
A number of hard lessons have emerged since the heady early days of online retailing. Companies are now realizing that it is much more costly to do business online than was first assumed, and investors are now demanding proof of actual customers--not just visitors--and a good bottom line, not just hefty revenues. As more and more e-tailers fall by the wayside, those remaining need to ensure that they can outlast the competition. One path to survival is partnership; many e-tailers are allying with their traditional counterparts to combine dot-com efficiency with Old Economy brand recognition and fulfillment systems. Companies must also pay attention to their inventory. It has become clear that online retailers need to stock the inventory they are selling, rather than expect manufacturers to deliver. Additionally, companies must realize that some products--especially big, pricey items like furniture--are not appropriate for online sales. Another lesson that has emerged during the e-commerce shakeout is that online customers are less loyal than in traditional retailing, often shopping for deals like frequent-buyer points or convenience. Web retailers must attract a loyal following by making the customer its top concern. To appease customers, companies must provide strong customer service, reliable fulfillment, and a fair returns process.
- "Ready for Recycling?"
Electronic Business (11/00) Vol. 26, No. 12, P. 108; Arensman, Russ
Despite dedicated recycling initiatives from companies such as IBM and Sony--not to mention improved services from recycling firms like Micro Metallics and Waste Management--electronics waste is still building up. Electronics waste comprises roughly 1 percent of the 210 million tons of solid waste produced by the United States every year, the EPA reports. A European study estimates that electronics waste volume grows at an annual rate of 3 percent to 5 percent, with very little being recycled. Complicating matters is the fact that recycling is both costly and unprofitable to electronics companies, while the accelerating pace of technological innovation is spawning a wave of new products with decreasing lifespans. Governments in Europe, Asia, and a few U.S. states have taken steps to regulate waste disposal and recycling, and electronics manufacturers that do not make a significant effort to improve their own recycling programs are likely to face harsher government regulations. The American Electronics Association and the Electronic Industries Alliance are keeping tabs on European directives that require electronics producers to pay for recycling and disposal as well as phase out unsafe materials from their products. Thus far, Massachusetts is the most aggressive U.S. state in terms of its electronics waste disposal and recycling program. The state has banned mercury-containing products and their sale and plans to raise the program's budget, but few other states are making similar initiatives. IBM recycles nearly 90 percent of its mainframe and midrange computer devices at its Endicott facility, while Sony Electronics has launched a program to recycle its own products in Minnesota. Both Diana Benz of IBM and Mark Small of Sony believe that electronics recycling can eventually pay for itself if enough manufacturers finance their own programs to reduce their subsidy.