Virgin Media attacks Net Neutrality

Remember what was at stake with Net Neutrality and the nature of business in the coming ‘Internet’ economy?

Virgin Media is, like SFR in France, an Internet Service Provider, but also property of an entertainment company – Virgin is like Vivendi-Universal among the biggest in this industry. I think it’s in their interest to lock the Internet into some kind of great catalogue to the content they’re getting royalties with.

Well, it’s what Virgin Media has clearly announced in its plans for United Kingdom. Some links,

The need for legislation on Net Neutrality is now vital!

The Web, metalanguage

My understanding of the Web is apparently not shared by everyone. Considering discussions going on about, the Web as a public resource, or the promotion of an “open” Web; I decided to give my point of view on this, and to show what issues are at stake here. So first, here is my definition,

The World Wide Web, or what we refer to as “the Web,” is all that uses a common metalanguage: the Web metalanguage.

  • This metalanguage is like every language. Nobody owns it, everyone can speak it and understand it.
  • Like every language, it has its rules: grammar and orthography. For the Web, this rules are what we call the web standards, formalized by the W3C. The W3C is like L’Académie Française for the French language.
  • However, grammar and orthography allow creativity, flexibility. You can make of words whatever you want, you can transform them, use them for other purposes, invent them. Some of your inventions will become mainstream, some will be forgotten… It’s how the language evolves over time; just like the Web has moved from a hypertext system to a hypermedia system with pictures and soon videos.

In order to read this language, all you need is a Web browser. The Web browser is just here to give an “easy version” for most people. That’s where it becomes important to respect standards. However, today, a lot of Web browsers aren’t just Web browsers.

The Web, as a metalanguage, allows hypermedia publications and for that, it uses a set of transport protocols: http being the main one currently. However, all that uses this transport protocol is not necessarily the Web. There are some things parasitizing these protocols and parasitizing the Web.

This things are clearly something else than the Web. It is software, using other things than the metalanguage. The question whether it is Free Software or proprietary software doesn’t change the fact that it’s not the Web.

When you have a Flash video embedded in a website, it is something clearly different. It’s just a proprietary applications delivering content to you through the same Internet protocols that the Web uses. And you can only read it if you decide to install a proprietary program – or a plug-in in addition to your Web browser.

The difference between proprietary and Free Software here, is that while proprietary software doesn’t have any good impact on the Web, Free Software can improve the Web because it is also something you can read, study, share and improve. However, this should not be recognized as part of the Web until it becomes a web standard.

So what’s important is to make sure that this language is good enough to prevent anyone from having to use other programs in order to communicate on the Internet.

Distinctions to make

For the reasons above, I think we should avoid some words such as “open.” To me, there’s no such thing as an “open” Web. Because there is no such thing as a “closed” Web. The Web is this hypermedia system that uses a common language. A language is neither closed nor open! There isn’t such distinction as a “binary” language and a “source” language. There is just language.

However, there is an important distinction to make. If you take into account my definition, facebook is a part of the Web just like my blog is a part of the Web. Some people however would refer to facebook as a closed Web. Here, the distinction is about public and private, not about open and closed.

That’s why I think we are mistaken when we think of the “open” Web or “the Web as a public resource.”

The Web as a metalanguage is a common good, but the World Wide Web, all these hypermedia publications are not a public resource.

Bye bye Skype, here comes XMPP!

So far, we already had excellent reasons to refuse using Skype. Indeed, this protocol is closed, but most of all it doesn’t allow any interoperability, which is the height for a communication protocol! Imagine you could make phone calls only to people subscribed to the same telephone operator.

We already had an excellent protocol for instant messaging: an open standard, perfect to achieve interoperability. Its name is xmpp, the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol. On top, a lot of services are already used by millions of people: Jabber, on which is based Google Talk (and soon Facebook Chat) among many others, but also other interesting things such as, a social network completely based on the xmpp protocol.

But now, besides that, we also have a technical reason to say bye bye to Skype 🙂

Indeed, a lot of people were still making use of Skype because it was more convenient to have a video-conversation. It worked better and often between different operating systems. It was the only way for people using Gnu/Linux to have a video-conversation with people using Microsoft Windows: every other software was lacking stability and was often randomly working.

But a lot of effort have been put into improving this. And following the specification of Jingle, came the implementation of multimedia sessions. This implementation took time. But now, it’s getting to the end.

We can now have video-conversations using xmpp and it works just great! The main thing is that it is now possible with Microsoft Windows users! Using Empathy, you can now call people using the Gmail Web interface, see their face and hear their voice.

There aren’t any technical barriers left toward free video-conversation anymore!

Bye bye Skype, Welcome XMPP!


Does Microsoft care about their customers’ security?

A few days before the launching of Microsoft’s last operating system, FSFE wondered about users’ security since an important vulnerability has been silently ignored. I then asked myself the question, in what way Free Software is different regarding security?

It appears that our allegations were true and should have been taken seriously. As an article in Computerworld reports, Microsoft finally issued a security advisory about that high-risk vulnerability three days ago. The problem is still not fixed though.

What’s important there is that this vulnerability already triggered a warning (en) by the BSI agency more than a month ago! Despite the consequences, Microsoft meanwhile decided not to tell its customers in order to avoid bad publicity around the launching of Windows7.

Such despise towards their customers’ security has led me to ask: Does Microsoft care about their customers’ security less than they care about their good image? This experience proves the answer is yes. Microsoft has made the choice to keep their customers in ignorance and in the same time has put their systems at risk. This is yet another perfect illustration that proprietary software hijacks users: Microsoft is ready to sacrifice your security for their commercial purposes.