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Volume 2, Issue 27:  Wednesday, March 8, 2000

  • "Report Criticizes Viability of Internet Oversight Panel"
    New York Times (03/06/00) P. C6; Clausing, Jeri

    The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers will face a crisis during its September board election this year if the organization fails to improve its plan that would give computer users from across the globe the ability to participate in the election, according to a report from two public interest groups, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and Common Cause. Under the terms of ICANN's plan, any computer user above the age of 16 who has an email and postal address can cast a vote to elect the members of a special council. These council members are charged with selecting nine of the organization's 18 board members. The report criticizes ICANN's mission as being too vague and contends that a lack of checks and balances leaves the special council vulnerable to the tug of special-interest groups. "This plan clearly is not ready for prime time," says CDT executive director Jerry Berman. The report argues that ICANN must take time to think through the issues surrounding the election and urges the group to hold direct elections to vote in the nine board members. ICANN interim Chairman Esther Dyson says the report is "sensible," but adds that her organization must move forward and cannot afford to heed the report's advice to go slow.

  • "Internet Registrar to Be Sold for $21 Billion"
    New York Times (03/08/00) P. C2; Fisher, Lawrence M.

    Internet security company VeriSign yesterday signed a $21 billion deal to purchase Network Solutions, marking the most expensive purchase of an Internet firm to date. Many analysts question the wisdom behind VeriSign's decision to pay such a high price for Network Solutions, a company that no longer holds a monopoly in the registration of Internet domain names and faces growing competition in the area. Some experts feel VeriSign may have better served its interests by partnering with Network Solutions. Such analysts say rivals of Network Solutions have now become rivals of VeriSign, creating a situation that severely limits the potential for VeriSign to foster beneficial relationships with other businesses in the field of Internet address registration. Regardless, the acquisition will enable the companies to pool their resources and offer a range of services, including domain registration, global directory listings, basic Web site creation, and security for online transactions. VeriSign CEO Stratton Sclavos says Network Solutions is "one of the most undervalued assets on the Internet by any of the standard metrics--number of customers, type of business model, revenue growth, profitability, cash flow."

  • "Microsoft Boosts Salaries to Keep Talent in Hot Job Market"
    CNet (03/06/00); Davis, Jim

    Microsoft has increased the salaries of its Silicon Valley employees by 15 percent in an attempt to prevent turnover and make the corporation more attractive to people playing the "job lottery" in the area. The "geographical differential" pay raise became effective in February and represents the first instance in which Microsoft has deviated from its tradition of paying salaries based on the cost of living in Redmond, Wash., the corporate headquarters, regardless of employee location. Although Microsoft places its turnover rate at 7.5 percent, lower than the industry average of 15 percent, many company employees no longer feel the company's stock options are sufficient to balance its lower wages, especially when Microsoft stock is considered in light of the recent federal antitrust case and the skyrocketing stock prices of Internet startups. Regardless of the pay increase, some Microsoft employees are still choosing to leave. In fact, the turnover rate in Microsoft's marketing group is almost 100 percent following the departure of co-founder Steve Perlman. There is a shortage of engineers at Microsoft, which means the company does not have as many resources to devote to the development and testing of new products. Microsoft's WebTV division appears to be hardest hit, with many opting to seek employment at a startup, lured by the fast pace and excitement of building a business from the beginning. PowerTV CTO Dr. Ken Morse believes the departures at Microsoft are due to the expiration of "golden handcuff" agreements and also to the fact that many of the original employees no longer feel comfortable in the reorganized corporate structure.

  • "Alternative Net Protects Pirates"
    Wired News (03/08/00); Kahney, Leander

    A new open-source network is being developed that its creators contend will offer utter anonymity when sharing documents and files over the Internet. Freenet does not have any centralized administrative infrastructure of domain name servers and IP addresses, which are the two most common identifiers of an Internet user. Ian Clarke, a Scottish programmer who designed Freenet, says that he expects the first public version of the system will be available by spring. The server is almost complete, but the system currently contains no browsers. Clarke says that he created Freenet in order to protect free speech from government censorship, and while many privacy advocates have lauded Freenet for its potential in aiding dissidents and others with unpopular views, critics say that it may be become a vehicle for copyright violations. This is because Freenet was designed to store data on several servers at the same time, making it virtually impossible to discover where files are physically stored or to remove a file once it is in the system. However, Clarke says that the system is so decentralized, even if copyright violations did take place, no one could be held responsible.

  • "Intel's New Perk: PCs for Employees"
    Reuters (03/07/00)

    Intel has announced plans to provide all of its employees with free PCs, printers, unlimited Internet access, and services for home use. After Ford, Delta, and American Airlines' AMR announced programs to provide workers with home PCs and Internet access, Intel decided to follow suit. The company plans to provide computers with 667 MHz Pentium III chips, a 20 GB hard drive, and 128 MB of RAM. The computers will also be equipped with speakers, office productivity software, and one Intel Play product of the employee's choice.

  • "You Assumed 'Erase' Wiped Out That Rant Against the Boss? Nope"
    Wall Street Journal (03/07/00) P. A1; McCarthy, Michael J.

    Corporate surveillance techniques now include software that monitors and records every keystroke a computer user makes. Although companies claim they monitor employee activities to prevent abuse of corporate time and equipment, increase worker productivity, and avoid legal difficulties stemming from employee violations of federal and state workplace policies, many people are questioning where to draw the line on monitoring activities. Richard Eaton, maker of a keystroke recording program called Investigator, says, "There's no legal qualm about it," since several courts have ruled communications written on company computers are not private, but "there may be an ethical one." Eaton's Investigator program is available for only $99 and is connected to a computer's system before the keyboard driver. Once installed, the program is instructed to look for "alert" words, chosen by the computer manager, and automatically email documents containing any one of those words to a designated recipient who is then able to review them. Investigator does not generate a monitor icon and is quite difficult to find among a computer's files. The program does have an onscreen notice a computer manager can choose to have displayed or not, depending on the circumstances. Adavi's Silent Watch is another keystroke recording program on the market. In addition to keystroke logging, the Silent Watch program is able at any given moment to recreate on a manager's computer screen exactly what is displayed on an employee's screen. To date, nearly 5,000 Investigator software licenses and 1,000 Silent Watch software licenses have been sold.

  • "Anti-Hacker Center Fights for Respect"
    Los Angeles Times (03/05/00) P. A1; Piller, Charles

    The federal government created the National Infrastructure Protection Center in 1998 as a way to safeguard the country's computer networks. However, security experts contend that the agency, which is overseen by the FBI, can do very little with the $18.5 million budgeted for it this year. Experts also say that the agency has another, more long-term problem, in that it desperately needs the help of the technology industry, a sector that it has previously alienated with its sole focus on using criminal law to solve all of technology's problems. Although many security experts see law enforcement as a valuable secondary tool, most agree that other more proactive solutions, such as better computer encryption, are the keys to combating cybercrime. Regardless of the solution, cybercrime is still rising, with 57 percent of large companies and public agencies reporting some computer attack over the Internet in 1999, as compared to 37 percent in 1996, according to the Computer Security Institute. The agency's caseload has faced a correlating increase, with 200 cases in 1996 as compared to 800 in 1999. Although the center has had some notable successes, including the discovery of David Smith, responsible for the Melissa virus, it has also had its share of problems, such as not being able to pay high enough salaries to lure computer specialists away from the private sector. Critics also contend that the agency might be more effective if it was based out of another federal department, such as the Defense Department.

  • "Internet Access Over Power Lines Nears Reality"
    CNet (03/06/00); Borland, John

    Utility companies could join telecommunications giants in the race to dominate the high-speed Internet access market if the powerline strategy of Germany's Oneline proves to be a success. Through Oneline, the German energy conglomerate Veba and the U.S. home networking firm Enikia will be launching trials for a new service that offers high-speed Internet access over power lines in both countries this summer. And by the end of the year Veba and Enikia expect a full commercial release of the new service in Germany. Because electricity wires are the most common connections to home power lines, they have the potential to be the new communications infrastructure if the companies can make them more efficient than Internet and telephone connections. "Most utilities don't understand that they're sitting on a gold mine," says Phil Hunt, a powerline communications expert and senior manager at Cisco. Still, Oneline will be facing hurdles such as transformers and network interference in its attempt to deliver a stable, high-speed system of data transmission over power lines. Nortel was once involved in powerline technology but the strategy did not make sense financially. Currently, download speeds over power lines are a little faster than the speediest dial-up modems. The companies say hardware designed just for powerline networks will bring improvements. At least one of the large long-distance companies in the U.S. is interested in partnering with Oneline.

  • "Europe's Top IT Official Expounds on E-Europe Plan"
    Newsbytes (03/07/00); McGuire, David

    During a luncheon address given today, European Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society Erkki Liikanen discussed strategies Europe should adopt to help close the Internet commerce gap between itself and the United States. Liikanen said most important is the need to reshape the European business culture to encourage greater venture-capital investment and spur entrepreneurial startups. Other issues Europe needs to address before it becomes a major player in the new economy include the management of e-commerce disputes, how to apply the value-added tax to Internet purchases, the liberalization of the European telecommunications system, and the establishment of regulations that protect European citizens without hindering growth of the e-commerce industry.

  • "The Higher Stakes of Business-to-Business Trade"
    New York Times (03/05/00) P. 3-3; Oppel Jr., Richard A.

    There is much debate over whether technology providers such as software companies and dot-coms will play a commanding role in the exploding B2B market, estimated to total $7.3 trillion in transactions by 2004. Analysts are unsure that the revenue these technology providers will earn from helping other companies build and maintain online marketplaces will be enough to justify the large amount of stock market interest and investor capital such technology providers have generated. The stakes are high for many B2B technology providers to succeed in the field. Although the revenue has the potential to be quite large, many analysts feel the probability these providers have for success is rather small. There are simply too many competitors and too many traditional companies who are becoming wise in the ways of e-commerce. Technology providers increasingly encounter situations in which they must be content with smaller shares in a venture than desired or expected. However, it is doubtful that a traditional company will give its technology partner such a small stake in a joint venture that the project no longer becomes meaningful or worthwhile for the technology provider. At the moment, the huge demand for Internet software and technology may be enough to provide B2B technology firms with sufficient leverage to negotiate very lucrative terms for a marketplace partnership. Perhaps technology providers will encounter the least amount of difficulty in fragmented industries in which there are large numbers of both buyers and sellers needing to quickly find a means of cheaply and effectively communicating with one another.

  • "Can E-Commerce Police Itself?"
    E-Commerce Times (03/07/00); Dembeck, Chet

    President Clinton reportedly recently told a group of Silicon Valley executives that they needed to rapidly create an industry-wide set of basic consumer privacy standards, or else the government would have to step in with its own regulations. The consensus among the executives was summed up by AOL CEO Steve Case, who said, "It would be better if companies could do it on their own." The Online Privacy Alliance, a consortium of high-tech companies and associations, is currently using the same argument to persuade the FTC to allow the industry to regulate itself. However, Chet Dembeck writes that the industry is not capable of regulating itself, as no sanctions have yet been placed on companies that routinely violate consumers' privacy rights. Dembeck cites the controversy around the advertising firm DoubleClick as an example of not only how widespread spying on consumers is in the e-commerce world, but also as an example of the impotence of the industry's self-regulation mechanisms. Dembeck suggests that any self-policing standards adopted by the e-commerce industry be modeled on those of the National Association of Security Dealers. He says that any company deemed guilty of violating consumers' privacy should face a six-figure fine, which would then be divvied up among those consumers whose privacy has been invaded. Regardless, Dembeck contends that the field of e-commerce is too young, divided, and arrogant to properly police itself, and he maintains that the government will have to eventually step in and curb the industry's excesses itself.

  • "Big Players Join Forces on Desktop Diagnostics Standard"
    VNUNet (03/07/00); Geralds, John

    IBM, Microsoft, and Intel have allied with PC diagnostic toolmaker PC-Doctor to create a standards-based framework to remotely identify computer problems. The architecture, called the Common Diagnostics Model (CDM), is intended to support all computing environments. Using the Diagnostic Application Program Interface, also under development, companies will be able to add their own diagnostic tools, third-party test modules, and system information modules to the CDM platform. CDM is based on the Common Information Model (CIM), and will be overseen by the Desktop Management Task Force, an industry body that aims to unify desktop management standards. The companies aim to make their technology available to all systems, old or new, said PC-Doctor co-founder and CTO Aki Korhonen. "Companies can buy a new PC which is CDM-enabled. IBM is pushing to have this or it can go to a company such as PC-Doctor, which will make the system CDM-compliant," said Korhonen.

  • "Design for the Digital Revolution"
    Fortune (03/06/00) Vol. 141, No. 5, P. F-10; Joy, Bill

    As society functions in an increasingly technological universe, designers need to understand how to create objects that compliment humanity by simultaneously being beautiful, pleasing, and useful. The progress of digitization currently follows a path paved with the trends of pervasiveness, which involves the appearance of more and more networks that connect more and more disparate devices, and disintermediation, which involves the disappearance of the actual physical contexts traditionally associated with a particular behavior. For instance, the dog collar of the future may have a cellular phone within it to allow owners to "call" pets home. Retail spaces are getting smaller as businesses rely more upon e-commerce. Yet there is a danger that this technology will eliminate privacy and anonymity. Society can avoid this fate by adopting an object-oriented programming approach to design in which products are viewed as objects with behavior instead of protocols and applications. In order to accomplish this harmonious relationship between object, user, and environment, there are three emerging digital landscapes that need to be redesigned to be more human. The first is the virtual world of the wide-band Internet, which should be modified from its current text-and-graphic form to become an immersive experience. The second landscape includes those places where people live and work. The technological components of these spaces should be designed to be one giant interchangeable network rather than a collection of separate objects. A cellular phone should have the ability to utilize the components of a car stereo to create sound, and a PDA should have the ability to detect the existence and location of surrounding objects. The third digital landscape is the way in which new devices affect the appearance and function of public places, cities, and outdoor spaces.

  • "Technology Issues Get Campaign Attention"
    InfoWorld (03/06/00) Vol. 22, No. 10, P. 20; Jones, Jennifer

    High-tech issues such as Internet taxes, privacy, security, education, and immigration are playing a large role in the current presidential campaigns. "It is clear that technology and technology policy are going to be critical in the next election," says Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology. However, Zuck and other experts have noticed little difference in the candidates' high-tech policies, with the contenders mostly trying to demonstrate that they will not hamper technological progress by interfering in the industry. However, the candidates have each selected a few high-tech pet causes to distinguish themselves from one another. For example, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) says he would establish a unilateral, permanent ban on Internet taxes, and objects to laws that would require Internet filters in schools and libraries. Gov. George W. Bush (R-Texas) promotes his record of being friendly to industry, as well as his early support of IT outsourcing in trying to hand over Texas' welfare computer programs to private business. Meanwhile, many people consider Vice President Al Gore to have the best technical understanding of the Internet and credit him with moving the Internet to the private sector. Gore has backed legislation aimed at fostering global high-tech markets, technology in the classroom, and funding for federal research and development programs. Finally, former senator Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) focuses on creating a high-tech workforce through educational programs and closing the digital divide by providing technology and training to low-income people.

  • "Outsourced Security on the Rise"
    InternetWeek (03/06/00) No. 803, P. 9; Yasin, Rutrell

    Following the recent wave of hacker attacks on several popular Internet sites, many organizations lacking a large IT staff have become more conscientious of threats to the security of their operations. Numerous providers of managed security systems have responded to this growing concern by developing new outsourced services and products. In fact, the security consulting market is expected to total $14.8 billion in 2003, an increase Gartner Group analyst John Pescatore attributes to the fact that "As the bad guys get more sophisticated, so do [security] tools." RIPTech next week plans to unveil eSentry, a service that combines real-time monitoring of firewalls and intrusion-detection systems with continuous analysis of the data by RIPTech's security team. MYCIO.com is creating a single hardware unit, available for under $1,000 per month, that features managed Firewall ASaP, VPN, and virus-protection services. Exodus now offers a security package with the added features of internal vulnerability scans, server hardening, and customized risk assessment.

  • "Stuck in the Middle"
    Industry Standard (03/06/00) Vol. 3, No. 8, P. 129; Wasserman, Elizabeth

    The database protection debate appears as if it will be another protracted battle between the old and the new world. The Internet is the source of the wedge that has been driven between established companies and Net upstarts that is threatening the livelihoods of middlemen. Opposed to the potential for direct sales to consumers that the Internet seems destined for, Realtors, travel agents, car dealers, beer and wine wholesalers, legal and business publishers, newspapers, broadcasters, movie studios, sports leagues, and the like are taking their concerns to the courts, state houses, and Congress. Citing the right to database protection, the old-worlders are worried that the value of their content will be reduced if startups are allowed to use the Internet to copy or distribute their copyright information. For example, the National Association of Realtors has already swayed House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) and other important figures on the issue of protecting the proprietary information of Realtors. The 700,000-member group wants a bill that would include criminal penalties for those violating the rights of those who initially gather information. Two weeks ago the American Society of Travel Agents filed a complaint with the Justice Department. Car dealers in nine states have gotten tougher laws on the books in the past 12 months. And when challenged by iCraveTV, a coalition of television networks, movie studios, media and sports organizations had a federal judge step in to keep the Canadian Web site from rebroadcasting their programming over the Internet. "The skirmishes may be just the tip of the iceberg," Legg Mason Precursor Group director Scott Cleland wrote in a recent report. "The big copyright owners are terrified that they may be the Titanic that could sink if the Internet blows a hole in their control over how their product is distributed and paid for."

  • "Meeting Online Can Save Money, Boost Productivity"
    Computerworld (03/06/00) Vol. 34, No. 10, P. 32; Tapscott, Don

    Online conferencing is emerging as a valuable solution to corporate communications and training, says Don Tapscott, chairman of the Alliance for Converging Technologies. The usefulness of online conferencing was evident during IBM's recent e.forum2000, a three-week conference held entirely online. Conference participants--which totaled 2,500 employees and business partners from 90 countries--could enter their comments at any time of the day or night, from any Internet-enabled device. The online conferencing solution enabled IBM to more than triple the number of participants, while reducing costs by more than 60 percent. The advantages of online conferencing include more than the savings in cost and travel time, says Tapscott. IBM uses the solution to reach more people and create reusable educational sessions. At e.forum2000, for example, participants could view an online presentation at any time, pausing and referring back to specific remarks or even extending a presentation over a period of several days, says Tapscott. The ability to record and reuse company knowledge adds significant value to a company in the information age, says Tapscott. He warns that in today's fast-paced business environment, companies can no longer rely on sporadic meetings to share knowledge within a company or among business partners, and must instead create ways to encourage continuous dialogue.

  • "Europe Dials Into VoIP"
    Tornado-Insider.com (02/00) No. 10, P. 48; Hershman, Tania

    International telecom companies were taken aback by the introduction of Internet telephony by Israeli company VocalTec, but once the technology's poor sound quality became apparent, it was viewed as less of a threat. Now, Internet telephony has matured. Internet telephony will generate $23 billion in revenues by 2006, compared with $140 million last year, according to Frost & Sullivan analyst John Cha. This potential spawned the creation of several upstart Internet telephony firms in Israel. Delta Three is one of them. The company has a 30-country service area and has moved into the unified messaging arena. ArelNet is also an Israel-based company with a unified messaging focus. Instead of transmitting traffic over its own network, the company offers customers a complete technological package for Internet telephony. AudioCodes and MiBridge are two equipment suppliers that provide the hardware and software necessary for Internet telephony transmissions. Billing is also an important part of IP telephony. Real-time billing and customer support are essential for IP telephony, according to Barbara Frank, IP telephony billing marketing manager for Mind CTI, an Israel-based IP telephony firm.

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