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Quietly, the first phase of one of the most important lawsuits of the year concluded Tuesday.
No, I'm not talking about the Affordable Care Act. I'm talking about the petty and overly litigious suit being brought against Google by Oracle, the owner of Sun Microsystems and proprietor of the Java programming language. Most of the world's phones are built on Java. It's a hugely important language. Ars Technica has great coverage of the ongoing arguments here.
The case against Google is that it copied certain elements of Java's API in designing its own Android phone operating system. The API is an enormous collection of built-in functions which any Java program can call at any time. Basically, Oracle claims that certain parts of Android's programming look too much like the inner workings of the Java API.
Google's defense rests on two claims. First, that the API is totally central to Java. Without the functions provided by the API, you could basically add and subtract numbers. I'm not enough of a Java programmer to know if you could print those numbers to a screen, but I think the answer is no. The fact is, Java is designed around its API, the standard library of functions available to any program, and the two really are inextricable.
Google further claims that programming languages cannot be copyrighted. This is perhaps more arguable. But it's certainly in line with their unofficial corporate motto, Don't Be Evil.
To say that programming languages cannot be copyrighted is to say that a method of problem-solving is not intellectual property. To me, that's a pretty cool position. It's also the one that Oracle took when it released Java to the world in the first place, as Google keeps reminding Larry Ellison. Let's work towards a world where we can solve problems together, without worrying about infringing on someone's rights to make money off of the process.
And MSNBC's tech blog points out that Google "is now better equipped to help out law enforcement officials and the government when it comes to finding out about you."
But the alarm is unfounded, or too late. Google's new privacy policies simply merge many of their previous policies together, and in doing so allow them to share the information they were already collecting on you across their own services. Now words in your Gmail emails (which were already tracked so Gmail could advertise related topics) could also lead to advertisements on Youtube. And subjects you've searched for using a Google toolbar could affect advertisements you see on Google Voice.
Yes, having one aggregated place for law enforcement to check (as opposed to the police having to check YouTube and Gmail separately!!) is easier for them, but all of this information was already available to law enforcement and government agencies prior to any consolidation. The time to raise an alarm was when Bush signed the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act. Without Google, CIA operatives would just Bing you.
And Google is far from the first company to collect private information to better target advertisements. Every time you key in a phone number at the grocery store, or use a credit card, the store in question is tracking your purchases for their own potentially nefarious purposes. (Maybe think twice about those impulse buys.) Target's data collection mechanisms are so accurate they knew a teen girl was pregnant before her father.
So while the concern may not be timely, people wary about Google's
new ongoing tracking methods can find out how to clear their web history here.
Badda-Bing-Badda-Boom, guess who just got an exclusive look at Google+. Yes fine sir and/or madam, the answer is me. Today is my (and now in turn your) lucky day cause we get to see what Google has cooked up for its new social media platform. Google’s new social network, dubbed Google+, combines a bit of Facebook, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, and Skype- spitting out a fantastical mass of google-ness. (Aka Facebook + Tumblr + StumbleUpon + Skype = Google+ doing some pretty sweet addition). Google has decided to take a different fork in the road than many platforms, aiming for a one-stop-shop experience that allows both the "internet you" and "real life you" to coexist like never before.
Google+ approaches friending differently than its social media counterparts with the introduction of Circles. Google says: don’t just amass friends in one great big pile - categorize them and keep their pretty faces stored in a light blue loop. Only the user knows how their friends are sorted, and only the user can decide who is worthy of your deeply personal soliloquies and who only gets to see your latest obsession with pictures of running basset hounds. AKA you can control who can see what's in your profile.
Take this new Circle and throw a multi-person video chat & texting convo at it. BAM you have now achieved what Google has coined Hangouts and Huddles. The only question left is do you want to Hang & Huddle, or Huddle & Hang? Oh Google, you are such a tease (also a tad creepy).
Google+ continues to differentiate itself from other social media platforms with my totes fav part of this alternate Internet universe -- Sparks. Think of it as a StumbleTumble, where an endless amount of cool things you are interested in exist. Yes, I just said that Google+ will provide you with an endless amount of cool things, and I don't regret it.
Runner up to Sparks as my fav Google+ feature is Instant Upload, which makes all those pretty pictures on that expensive phone you just bought magically appear online in a private album. Meaning you can share every moment of your life online, like right this second, without creating a whole new horror story about spending the last 12 hours uploading last nights pics. Win.
Suffice to say If Google+ adds anything more it might just push Google over the edge from taking over the Internet, to taking over the world. It will be interesting to see how other platforms (ahem, Facebook, ahem) respond to this new medium. Google+ takes a slightly different, and more customizable approach to Social Networking, but with an increase in overall content some users might be turned off by the sheer volume. Time will tell how it all shakes out.
Addendum: Facebook just partnered with Skype to add it's own video feature. And the game is afoot...
Net Neutrality often feels like the prototypical "I've heard of it; no idea what it means" political issue. And the whole thing can get pretty wonky, but the truth is: it's hugely important right at this very moment, especially for us young folks.
Net Neutrality, at its core, is an attempt to keep the fundamental open nature of the internet intact. As it currently stands, the internet is an open space for new ideas to circulate and a central part of our culture and economy. It is the birthplace of everything from Google to lolCatz. If internet providers gain control of both the content and the distribution of internet (be it wireless or wired), Net Neutrality proponents fear that corporate conglomerates like Comcast and AT&T will prioritize come content over others. In other words, the fancy Verizon homepage might run much faster than, say, hipster puppies (if they take away my hipster puppies...). At its worst, content providers could actually block access to certain websites. If an internet start-up threatened the business model of a large telecom company, the corporate giant could conceivably slow down or block the start-up effectively killing competition. Net Neutrality allows new internet start ups an opportunity to compete with the corporate powers that be.
Net Neutrality legislation would prevent major telecom outfits from discriminating against content that either can't pay, or they don't like. Net Neutrality supporters are imagining a future world, much like our own, except the roads of the internet (proverbial, I'm well aware they are actually tubes) are split between an express lane for some (selected by corporate boardrooms) and the 520 bridge at 5:30 pm for everyone else. So why is it suddenly getting whole new levels of attention? Well, Google, a longtime proponent and beneficiary of the open internet, has recently turned around and partnered with Verizon to be the first to threaten Net Neutrality principals. Check out the Daily Show's thoughts on the deal.
You can see Google's response here.
So what's going to happen? Well at the moment, things could be better for lovers of the open internet. All 95 candidates who signed the Net Neutrality pledge lost in their elections this year. Although, congressman Jay Inslee, Washington state congressman and not warlock, has been all kinds of boss when it comes to open internet legislation. Really the best hope for Net Neutrality lies in the hands of these suit-wearing peeps below:
Those dashing folks are our illustrious FCC commissioners! They could well indirectly decide whether or not you're brilliant Tumblr idea will ever really succeed out their in the interwebs. The commissioners have indicated they support net neutrality regulations on the whole, but aren't sure whether or not they have the power (read: the guts) to do it in the face of crazy amounts of corporate lobbyists. Organizations like Free Press are pushing hard to convince the FCC to take action, and they could use all the help they can get. Want to join the debate? Well thankfully the New York Times has compiled a nice collection of information covering both sides of the argument. You can also here Obama's thoughts here. Use the power of this open internet of ours!