Blog Posts for 2018

March 14, 2018 | 0 comments

The developer behind the world’s first online search engine sees his creation’s descendants as the Internet’s biggest strength and weakness. 

While pursuing a post-graduate degree at McGill University in Montreal, Alan Emtage launched Archie in 1990. Derived from “archive,” the site was basically a database of web file names that could be matched with a user’s query. In an interview from 2017, Emtage shared his thoughts on the future of the Internet.

As searching capabilities have evolved from that initial database, the Internet has frequently become a way for individuals to seek out connections that otherwise would not have been made.

“People with very specific needs or interests can now find each other in the world in a way that they couldn’t before,” Emtage said. “If you’re a teenager in Hong Kong and you have a particular interest in one star in the galaxy that you find fascinating, you can find other people who share that fascination with that one star. There may only be 20 of you across the seven billion people across the face of the Earth, but it allows you to build that community. 

“Those communities are not always for good. It’s not just the hackers, it’s the trolls too. It can be the sociopaths who enjoy hurting other people and that’s not a good thing.”

March 2, 2018 | 0 comments

After documenting the ins and outs of the Internet’s early days, Tracy LaQuey Parker does not take cyber security lightly.

Parker wrote two of the earliest best-sellers about the Internet: “The User’s Directory of Computer Networks,” a 1988 directory of academic networks around the world, and “The Internet Companion,” a guide book for users published in 1992. The latter was the first trade book published, and it went on to be translated into eight languages. 

The Internet has evolved substantially since Parker’s initial introduction to cyberspace during her tenure with the University of Texas System, but some of the changes have left her concerned about the platform’s accessibility in the future. 

The first person to successfully sue a spammer after her domain name was forged, Parker said in a 2017 interview that the potential security risks have her particularly worried. 

“I think a lot of people share this (concern), about privacy and security. You have to be pretty knowledgeable to protect yourself,” she said.

“I’m a pretty advanced user, and it’s confusing to me to make sure that all of my security settings on Facebook are right…and so that I don’t get hacked. There’s a lot of pressure on the user to protect himself or herself.”

February 27, 2018 | 0 comments

The recent death of an early self-described “cyber-libertarian” has left some in the tech world wondering whether his dream of an online Utopia will ever come to pass. 

John Perry Barlow, a Grateful Dead lyricist turned online pioneer died in his sleep February 7 at age 70. A frequent poster on the early Grateful Dead chat rooms, by 1990, Barlow was known for his involvement with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit he co-founded with two tech entrepreneurs he met through a chat room. For almost three decades, the foundation was the predominant civil liberties organization for Internet users, filing multiple lawsuits against the federal government in an effort to combat its perceived overreach into online speech and privacy rights, including attempts at blocking peer-to-peer file sharing networks.

Although he never formally renounced his published works that claimed the Internet was free from any single sovereign nation's laws, Barlow conceded by the mid 1990s that such a view was aspirational at best. 

In an opinion piece for National Public Radio, writer Stephen Witt wonders whether Barlow's vision for a fully egalitarian Internet would even be possible in contemporary society thanks to the implementation over the last decade of end-user license agreements and other...

February 12, 2018 | 0 comments

Florencio Utreras retired last June. But that doesn’t mean he has quit trying to solve the connectivity issues facing Chile and Latin America.

Among his pet projects in retirement: developing the backup needed to keep Chile connected when its many natural disasters wipe out infrastructure.

With the country running long and narrow, bordered to the east by the Andes and the West by the Pacific, it has a lot of flooding, not to mention earthquakes and tsunamis.

“It’s very crazy geography,” he said. “So, one of the issues we have is floods that wash out the bridges that carry the lines … And we have earthquakes from time to time.  Every five years or so we have a large one and the fiber is cut, and roads are destroyed.  Everything is damaged. The only way to keep connectivity is to build some backup through another country.”

The closest neighbor is Argentina, and getting there requires crossing the Andes, he said, “and that is very complicated, very expensive, so just a couple of fiber crossings exist so far”.

“I was working a few days ago with people from the National Emergency Office and they told me in the last 10 years we’ve had 28 major emergencies. That’s 2.8 every year – earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding and fires.”

Another issue Utreras remains involved in is the effort to equalize Internet costs and access.

“About 80 percent of Chile’s population has access to the Internet,” he said. “But 80 percent of those people are...

February 7, 2018 | 0 comments

In 2013, John Perry Barlow was  inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame for the important role he played as an early and vocal advocate for a free and open Internet, including his 1996 composition of the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace. Today, we mourn his passing.

Writes the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which he co-founded: “Barlow’s lasting legacy is that he devoted his life to making the Internet into ‘a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth . . . a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.’”

Our deepest condolences go out to Barlow’s family, friends and colleagues as we contemplate his vision and leadership, and mourn his loss.

The EFF added: “He always saw the Internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance.”

His voice will be missed.

Watch John Perry Barlow’s 2013 Internet Hall of Fame...