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.
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 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.
Sneak loves updating his browser. In fact it happens so often these days, with Chrome 37 this, Firefox 32 that and Internet Explorer...no, let’s be serious, even Sneak doesn’t use IE.
New browsers are great, though. They offer new features and functions and protect you from old security woes that came to light on older platforms. Some folks, though, bless em, like to stick with old, nay, ancient browsers, covered in dust, sat on the desktop.
Google clearly wants these people to join the modern world, and so instigated an ingenious – some might say devilish – plan to scare these people into upgrading. By showing them old versions of Google pages. You can just imagine the manic laughter of the coding team that came up with that idea.
A Google forum saw panicked users wonder if they had been hacked or if Google was having problems when they saw old versions of the home page.
“A few minutes ago, Google's homepage reverted to the old version for me. I'm using Opera 12.17,” wrote a concerned user. A flurry of activity saw people test out the issue on other browsers, with Safari 5.1 also found to be affected.
Eventually, though, like something from an episode of Scooby Doo, a Google rep popped up, revealing it was Google all along, writing: "I want to assure you this isn't a bug, it's working as intended.
“We’re continually making improvements to Search, so we can only provide limited support for some outdated browsers. We encourage everyone to make the free upgrade to modern browsers – they’re more secure and provide a better web experience overall.”
Users were not too impressed with this, though, with the post receiving 109 little downward red vote thingies, compared with only 31 green uppie ones.
Sneak can’t help but wonder if Microsoft may have more success getting people to upgrade from Windows XP if it had tried a similar trick on users, perhaps forcing them to see all websites as they were in 2001 to force them to update. It probably wouldn’t have worked, though.
Sneak's heard some good excuses for internet downtime in the past – such as the old lady in Georgia who chopped through a major connection with an axe – but a shark attack is a new one.
Such is the menace of these creatures of the deep, though, that Google is said to be planning to reinforce its connections that run under the sea with Kevlar, in order to stop the fishy-blighters from chewing through connections and bringing down the internet.
Sneak wasn't really convinced such activity really takes place, so he turned to YouTube (owned by the put-upon Google) where he came across this video that shows just how much sharks really do hate the internet.
No-one is clear on why sharks hate the internet so much, but from the above evidence it's pretty clear that they're no fans of Facebook, Dropbox or indeed YouTube. Or perhaps its a warning to adopt IPv6 sooner rather than later.
Google's move to use super-tough Kevlar is a wise one, as the company is now planning another major project to boost internet capacity across the Pacific Ocean, to the tune of $300m.
If those web-hating sharks get wind of the project a great shiver of sharks (Sneak looked that up on Google – don't tell the sharks!) may head for the site of the cable-laying and start attacking it in frenzy.
The course of true love never does run smooth, but the news that OkCupid purposefully tried to set users up on bad dates certainly gives off some mixed messages.
Sneak was surprised to see that the founder of OkCupid Christian Rudder so enthusiastically admitted to this behaviour, given the recent furore that surrounded Facebook when it was found to have done the same thing.
However, entitling his post ‘We Experiment On Human Beings!’, Rudder is clearly not shy in coming forward. The exclamation mark also suggests a fun, outgoing, GSOH-kinda guy.
"We noticed recently that people didn’t like it when Facebook 'experimented' with their News Feed. Even the FTC is getting involved. But guess what, everybody: if you use the internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That’s how websites work."
What Rudder went on to say was that his site, like millions of others online, constantly changes its algorithms and sometimes likes to experiment with this to see just how accurate its love matches are.
So, it deliberately gave users who were bad matches information that suggested they were actually made for one another, and others who should probably have scored ‘Soulmates’ were told they were chalk and cheese.
“We took pairs of bad matches (actual 30% match) and told them they were exceptionally good for each other (displaying a 90% match.) Not surprisingly, the users sent more first messages when we said they were compatible. After all, that’s what the site teaches you to do,” he wrote.
“When we tell people they are a good match, they act as if they are. Even when they should be wrong for each other.”
However, this worried Rudder as it meant that, really, OkCupid had no ‘scientific’ merit to its matching claims, and was just helping people hook up through the power of suggestion. So it roped good matches into its experiments
“We told people who were actually good for each other, that they were bad, and watched what happened.”
What happened was that those who were told they were not good matches, but were in fact potentially a good couple, did still exchange messages, although perhaps not as many as they would have had the true score been presented.
Pleasingly, though, those with a 90 percent match, who were told of this, were most likely to share the most messages. This suggests, to Rudder at least, the site’s profile scoring system does have some merit after all as strong matches turn into potential connections. Phew.
Some users were heartbroken over the news, though, with many ending things with OkCupid by proclaiming the experiments creepy. "This is not OK. I just cancelled my account," wrote one, while others said the company should be ashamed for messing around with people's love lives.
Others, though, were fine with it, and said anything that could, ultimately lead to more matches, dates, walks in the park and marriages, was welcome.
To Sneak, this all sounds like a lot of hard work just to arrange a drink at a branch of Slug and Lettuce.