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Thursday, April 25, 2002

DPR at 8:48 PM [url]:

Serviceless networking

The words we use often make it hard to think clearly. Though the "horseless carriage" quickly gave way to the automobile, the use of "wireless" to describe radio networks illustrates how people get stuck in old habits that makes it difficult to see change.

The Bell System sold a "service", not the equipment that provided it. That required the ownership of a huge amount of capital, and investors required a return on that capital. It wasn't until the 1970's that people began to see that the service was a straitjacket on innovation.

The Internet is not a "service", nor is it created by a company. You can argue what to call the Internet (a standard, an architecture, a collective project, ...) but it is not a service (despite what the FCC is trying to say lately in classifying the "internet service on cable" as an "information service"). Most of the industry successes in the Internet understand that - Cisco, UUNet, Earthlink, Amazon. Whatever product or service they sell, it is not the Internet. The Internet is something they exist in relation to, not a service.

Yet when we start talking "wireless" it is assumed that we must have a "service" and a company to buy "it" from.

Wireless LANs are a combination of signalling schemes using electromagnetic fields (remember there is not even an "ether" out there), and equipment that understand those schemes and implement protocols.

There is no obvious reason we need to think about radio Internet as a "service" provided by company. It is just something that companies relate to. Various pieces of capital equipment may be operated as a service, in the sense that Internet has "access provider services" and "backbone services", but people like Boingo are no more than a "billing service" for "access providers", and not a "wireless service".

We may be better off if we discard the archaic terminology entirely. Stop talking about wireless Internet, wireless LAN, radio services, ...

Boingo and Joltage may or may not succeed, but they are not selling radio networks - they are selling login identifiers and billing systems.

802.11b is not a radio service - it is a protocol used among a set of digital radios.

One can communicate over a network without a service. Perhaps we should call this "serviceless networking", but I prefer to call it the Internet.

BobF at 3:24 PM [url]:

The FCC In Context

In reading Commander of the Airwaves in Forbes it struck me that politics is treated as a sport and the story focused on winners and losers in a game.

But the FCC needs to be viewed in a context. Rather than picking winners and losers, we need to reexamine the context that the FCC operates within.

What makes the FCC unusual, if not unique, is that we now have the ability to rethink this context in terms of a simple concept -- connectivity.

In fact, we must if we are to be educated participants in public policy. If we reexamine the context that defines the FCC, we have an opportunity to make it an effective agent of change rather than a steward of a dying industry.

For more see my essay "The FCC In Context".

Monday, April 22, 2002

DanB at 6:34 PM [url]:

News is used differently on the go

Dave Winer posted a link to a new, experimental weblog today to test out some new code. The weblog consists of the latest headlines and summaries from the New York Times. As he explains, "All these articles appear on the Times website, but they can be hard to find unless you know where to look. If the NY Times had a weblog, this is what it might look like."

Photo of the weblog on the Treo screenI tried reading it on my Handspring Treo 180, a PDA/cell phone/Internet thing. (I reviewed the Treo on my other web site.) Looking at the headlines on my normal, desktop browser, after doing a refresh or two, I realized how appropriate this page is to my use of the Treo. I find that one of the uses for the Treo's Internet connectivity that I like is to take those few minutes when waiting for something (like a waiter to bring food, or someone I'm with to go to the bathroom or buy something) to check "What's new?" in the world. When I find out, it's something that adds to my interaction with the people I'm with -- I'll usually mention some news that they care about, too -- unlike those "traditional" wireless applications like checking stock quotes or buying something. Even saying "nothing new" is news. This type of news feed, with reverse-chronological headlines, summaries, and links to articles in real-time, is good for catching up. It's different than a normal news page, sorted by what's most important, where the new stuff may be at the bottom. Breaking stories have frequent updates, and they show up as that. I get to know what's happened in the last few hours. (The Userland NYTimes feed may not be the best for that, but it's what I looked at and covers lots of the topics I care about all together. I bookmarked it on my Treo.) So, yet another example of how when moving to mobile and wireless you have to really think things through and look for "Aha!" moments -- remember that it's not just a small desktop. Thanks, Dave, for the "Aha!" help.

For more, see the Archive.

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