When plans for new generic top level domains were unveiled a few years ago many firms bridled at the idea that they would be forced to pony up for endless variations of their domains to stop squatters trampling on their turf.
Many found the nagging annoying but, as a case relating to the .horse domain has shown, these fears were not stirring up trouble for no reason.
The incident relates to US supermarket chain Walmart which has finally reclaimed access to the Walmart.horse domain after it had been taken over for longer than Sneak can remember.
The website in question had simply displayed a picture of a horse standing in front of a Walmart store - thanks to the magic of Photoshop. However, Walmart considered this a nightmare of a situation, so it had to take action.
Walmart turned to the World Intellectual Property Organisation, as reported by The Guardian, to try to reclaim the domain, citing the person behind the website as riding roughshod over its brand. In the end the comedian horsing around with the domain relented and handed it to Walmart.
Yes, Walmart made a bunch of false accusations and I didn’t feel like fighting them anymore.— Jeph©˚¨©˚˜˚œ∂¶§∂å˚© (@jephjacques) May 19, 2015
The case illustrates that it's important not just to whine about changes in the technology market, but to study what is going on and lay out whatever is necessary to get the URLs you need to protect your brand, before the horse domain has bolted.
It's a little known fact that Sneak is a master accordionist whose dexterity and hours of wasted time mean that he can play the Minute Waltz on the bellows-like instrument.
So Sneak needs all his fingers in prime condition, as Mrs Sneak does so like to be wooed by the odd candlelit accordion recital. He cannot, therefore, envisage a situation where he would willingly sacrifice a dexterous digit.
But TV and mobile comparison site Cable.co.uk has reported that one in three people would rather lose a finger than their broadband connection.
Clearly there are people who take watching skateboarding dog videos on YouTube and posting pictures of food on Facebook to quasi-religious levels.
Sneak reckons you probably know a few of these miscreants. They're the ones to whom you might wish to introduce a glowing hot poker to a very particular part of their anatomy.
These would-be digit dissecting deviants are joined by a further 25 percent of the people surveyed by Cable who simply could not choose between a severed finger or a cut connection.
Some 46 percent of the respondents said they would rather lose the internet than turn a finger into a cannibal's appetiser. Sneak thinks this means there is yet hope for humanity.
Keen to state the obvious, BT Openreach chief executive Joe Garner said that people see the internet as "vital to their day-to-day lives".
"I used to run a bank and I used to think that it was pretty serious if people couldn't access their bank account, but if people can't access their Facebook account? Oh. My. God," he said, in what appears to be a delectably facetious manner.
"Without the internet people feel socially isolated almost immediately. And that touches a very deep human need. We're a social species."
Sneak doesn't really get the whole ‘social' side of the internet. There are already enough people trying to bother him in the real world about missed payments, accident claims and last Thursday's incident with the office scanner and Harriet from the accounts department.
We've all been there. Your computer is freezing, crashing programmes, running slowly and just basically Not Working.
Most of us all will curse, perhaps give it a light tap on the noggin and do a classic Ctrl Alt Delete restart and hope things go better next time.
However, a man in Colorado Springs has gone one step further, well several steps further, in venting his frustrations with a wantaway computer, shooting it eight times.
Local paper The Gazette reported that Lucas Hinch, 37, took the defenceless Dell machine into an alley - classic gangster move that - and shot it until it was no more. His actions alerted nearby police who arrived to arrest him.
"He got tired of fighting with his computer for the last several months," said Lt. Jeff Strossner, before adding with dead pan delivery: "He was having technology problems, so he took it out in the back alley and shot it."
Hinch was given a citation for his actions, and was apparently "good natured" about the summons, claiming that he didn't know that using a gun in public is a felony in the state. Sneak is surprised by this. Gun laws in the US?
Sneak can sympathise with the man, although he isn't sure that shooting the computer was the best course of action. He prefers putting a failing machine in a sack with some bricks and chucking it in a canal. Less chance of getting caught.
Although you still need to make sure the Environment Agency doesn't spot you or you'll be caught in a net quicker than you can say "splashdown!"
14 Apr 2015
Big news from the Sneak camp this week. He has decided not to apply for a $1,600 ticket to the Apple World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco this year. In fact, he said from behind a filing cabinet, you would have to "bloody drag him there".
No-one wants to drag him anywhere, except perhaps to that place at the zoo where they scrub and hose down elephants, and no one even suggested that Sneak should go to the WWDC in the first place. The news that he was not going would barely have raised an eyebrow had he not made his statement while riding around the office on a scooter listening to greengrass versions of TV theme tunes.
Not invited, probably not wanted, and definitely not in a position to afford it, Sneak is not going because of the impact that the event will have on his civil liberties.
Sneak, you see, has recently adopted some rather trendy characteristics. We suspect that a pamphlet produced by some east London establishment found its way to his office and into his mind, and has, we assume, seized onto the role of office hipster when really what he needs is a hip replacement.
He is wearing a beard that can only be described as roomy, trousers that are too short and could affect his chances of reproducing (a silver lining), a hat at an angle that some spectators have called "provocatively preposterous" and a pair of Google Glass specs. The latter, he says, because they are now retro "like my Zune".
Once this new and unusual Sneak has switched his fixie bike for a desk and a trough of kale soup he lurks online updating a range of social media accounts that he is populating with images of his lunch - before and, sadly, after - and what he is led to believe is a 'selfie'.
Unfortunately for Sneak the informational ‘hip' pamphlet that he picked up includes a repeated misspelling and, rather than take a photo of his face and share it with the world (see selfies), he is taking photos of the office shelves and posting them as shelfies.
No-one follows him online, or indeed in the street - the stench is quite overpowering - so no-one has actually noticed his mistake. He is livid, though, and not just with himself.
To calm him down - it saves on the printers and office plants - we have given Sneak a proper explanation of a selfie, in pictorial form, and provided him with a selfie stick for use at his leisure.
Sneak spent some time getting used to the stick. For a while he hopped up and down on his haunches before using it to attack a black monolith, but within three weeks he had acclimatised to its actual purpose and set about taking selfies like a lost Kardashian.
This, somehow, brings us back to WWDC and one step closer to forgetting about Sneak and his place in the office for another day.
The reason he is staying at home, other than the obvious flight restrictions, is that if he was to attend the event he would be parted from his Google goggles - wearable recording devices are banned - and disconnected from his selfie stick because they are banned too.
"You may not use selfie sticks or similar monopods," Apple said.
"What's next?" he boomed from his office. "Socks and sandals? Man hair buns?"
07 Apr 2015
Sneak is not a man with much to celebrate. He treads a sad and lonely path and is rarely exposed to any kind of news that might be considered uplifting.
Yes, there are Google's balloon plans and, yes, he can see that there is some pun to make on the ‘uplifting' part of that, but even Project Loon and, indeed, Bill Gates drinking poo water have failed to raise even an eyebrow, never mind a smile, on his bitter, beaten visage.
His blog, and live-in lock-up premises, are filled with sad reminders of his errors. And each day as he wakes and navigates his way to a noodle-based breakfast through stacks of books and piles of T-shirts that bear the legend 'I Zune Celine Dion'* (the result of a particularly bad business decision) he waits for a positive break.
So Sneak is delighted, nay overjoyed, as he emerges from his cave today to read the news that monkeys, yes monkeys, are to blame for problems with the internet in India.
Sneak is beside himself at the news. Actually he is beside a tribute that he has made to the great Jeremy Clarkson underneath a rather poorly thought out air conditioning system - a hole in the roof.
The news, which he found on the Reuters pages, says that the northern Indian city of Varanasi is being plagued by temple-dwelling monkeys who have developed a taste for fibre-optic cables.
Sneak, who has been told many times that he needs to increase (or was it decrease?) his fibre intake, is rather amused by this, but understands that prime minister Narendra Modi is less amused.
Modi, with whom Sneak has decided not to share his Mbps (monkey bites per second) gag, is presumably upset at our tiny relatives and can't understand why they want to keep chomping on his cables.
"We cannot move the temples from here," said communications engineer A.P. Srivastava to Reuters. "We cannot modify anything here. Everything is built up. The monkeys destroy all the wires and eat all the wires."
Reuters says the monkeys keep eating and there is not much that can be done about it. Chasing away the problem might annoy the locals, never mind the monkeys, and no one seems keen on herding the simians. Sneak would volunteer, but frankly he loves the sound of the situation.
If anyone would like his advice, Sneak has suggested that cables be dipped in strong mustard or something else that monkeys do not like, or that the monkeys are patrolled and protected by larger monkeys. He is of the opinion that both these options have their merits, and offers them for gratis.
*Withdrawn from sale**
** At boot fairs
Sneak often hears murmurs of technology becoming so advanced that it will reach sentient levels and wipe out humanity in a manner foreshadowed by the Terminator films.
But perhaps the most human characteristics ever displayed by technology were seen after a glitch suffered by the Google-owned internet connected Nest thermostat.
As the UK hopped into the future by an hour last Sunday, some Nest thermostats, clearly not willing to sacrifice 60 minutes of shuteye, went rogue.
But rather than rise up and destroy their human masters, or enslave people in biofuel cells, the Nests simply decided to rollover in their virtual slumber and ignore the clocks going forward. How human is that?
As a result, early adopters of Internet of Things homes awoke to sweltering heat or crippling cold as their heating fired up or powered down at the wrong time.
Some people may have had to make a chilly morning dash from duvet to shower, or haul themselves out of bed gasping for water, but the tech glitch was pretty minor all things considered.
Of course, this slip-up was just too much for some Nest users, who promptly flipped out and dashed to everyone's favourite yelling platform, the web.
Clearly not neutered by losing an hour's sleep, customers posted their annoyance on the Nest community forum.
"My Nest has been ignoring the schedule since the move to British Summer Time. It doesn't even come on one hour later. I am going to call them to register my dissatisfaction," said 'tonycluedo' somewhat formally. He must have had his morning coffee.
Sarcasm fan 'alexmldd' said: "This is not what I expected from such a 'clever' device."
Much like a parent discovering that their child has failed maths, 'mkpv' was "so disappointed" with Nest.
By appearing to ignore customer queries and complaints, Nest did not exactly shower itself in customer service glory either. Perhaps it too overslept?
"Also having the same problem. Would be nice to have a response from nest," typed a seemingly forlorn 'Kenny_G'.
Sneak can sympathise with Nest users getting irritated about temperamental temperature-tweaking tech disrupting their morning routines. He often wakes up all hot and bothered as well, but that's because Amelia from next door does her morning ablutions with the curtains open.
Sneak has a lot of admiration for Taylor Swift, from a technological point of view you understand.
She took her albums off Spotify, thus boosting sales (clever), and has now bought the taylorswift.porn and taylorswift.adult web domains to stop nefarious internet trolls using the domains for unsavoury purposes (even cleverer).
Swift made the move to protect her image as part of a rush by brands to acquire their name and the new domains realised by ICANN, which had decided that domains such as .com and .co.uk weren’t cutting it anymore and released new ones such as .porn.
Swifty (to her friends) is not the only one to realise that she needs to stop her good reputation being dragged through the mud with such domains. Everyone's second favourite pop starlet, Microsoft, bought the same domains for its 'so hot right now' Office brand.
This should stop those who find gratuitous entertainment in filthy Excel spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations filled with smut being able to create a safe haven online to store and access such content.
Brands have plenty of domain buying to do, as the .sucks domain is also up for grabs. This is another domain that has caused controversy after many questioned why anyone would want this for positive purposes, but the website selling the domain claims there are benefits.
"By building an easy-to-locate 'central town square' available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, dotSucks is designed to help consumers find their voices and allow companies to find the value in criticism," it says.
"Each dotSucks domain has the potential to become an essential part of every organisation’s customer relationship management programme."
Sneak agrees. If you have any complaints about his columns please head over to sneak.sucks and leave your comments, where they will be pointedly ignored.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee and The Lord of the Rings. Two of Sneak’s greatest loves. So, when Sir Tim Berners-Lee did an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit, Sneak was there, popcorn at the ready, hoping to hear the great man hold forth on major topics such as net neutrality and how to protect the open internet.
What really brought him joy, though, was when Sir Tim was asked what he thought about memes. Showing a strong command of memes and the power they wield, Sir Tim responded: "One does not simply ask the inventor of the WWW what he thinks about memes."
For those of you who live under a rock, this is a wonderfully witty use of the line ‘One does not simply walk into Mordor’, as said by Boromir, son of Denethor, brother of Faramir, played by Sean Bean.
The Reddit community was quick to turn his response into the very meme he was using to undermine the question put to him about memes.
Elsewhere in his AMA, Sir Tim answered questions on topics such as artificial intelligence and the potential threat it poses to humanity.
"Well, the fact is that machines are becoming smarter. It seems unreasonable not to imagine that they will become smarter than us. What happens at that point is not obvious. That we have to think about it now is clear," he said.
Sir Tim also urged everyone on the net to do all they can to make sure governments and other powers don't try to change its open nature by maintaining a close eye on their work. The full question and answer is listed below:
Q: What is the single most valuable thing I can do on an individual level to help defend the open internet?
Berners-Lee: Great question. Keep asking that question. Don’t take it for granted. Keep an eye on the situation in your town, your country, your company. In each year of using it, spend some time with others working or writing or lobbying or protesting as needed to keep it open.
Sneak agrees, but would argue that a witty meme that goes far and wide would promote this even more succinctly.
You shall not pass ... laws that amend the fundamental idea that the web must remain an inherently open platform that treats all traffic equally to ensure that all ideas have the chance to succeed.