For years the web has bumbled along with a motley crew of domain suffixes such as .com, .net and co.uk playing the ‘bottom half of the cow’ to the top half of www.
However, 2014 will see this change as the humble web domain suffix grows up and starts to change the face of the internet forever. As V3 noted last week, the .london domain is now up for grabs and interest is already said to be high.
This new domain is just one of over a 1,000 that are being made available by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) alongside others such as .technology, .cloud and even company-specific ones such as .Apple and .Google.
Furthermore, Nominet, the organisation responsible for domain addressing in the UK, has now announced that a new, shorter .uk suffix will be made available from 2014, which could mean many firms are forced into some tough branding decisions.
A website such as V3 could change from V3.co.uk to V3.uk, for example. But Nominet has said no old suffixes will go, so many firms may choose to stick with their existing setup. However, that could lead to an imposter stealing the similar .uk domain and causing confusion for customers.
To stop this happening, Nominet is giving firms with existing .co.uk domains the chance to have the .uk version of their domain first, and they have a five-year holding period to decide if they want to use it. After that, though, anything goes.
For firms, this poses some questions. Do you take the new domain and just run it in the background, and if people head to it they’ll end up on your site anyway? Or should you make the short domain the new brand for your firm? Or try and use both at the same time?
And what about the new top-level domains on offer from Icann? Is it worth splashing out for an entirely different type of domain – one that internet users may not realise exists – or should you just stick with the same domain you've been using for years and trust that no-one will come up with a domain brand that proves better for marketing?
It may take some years for this all to happen, but the web as we've known it looks set to change forever.
By V3's Dan Worth, who's the master of his own domain
Politicians love to bang on about being “open”, “transparent” and “accountable” for their actions. These words, in essence, mean nothing, but somehow give that warm and fuzzy feeling that they’re honourable chaps and chapesses.
Of course, though, often these words are later ignored as the politican in question backtracks, flip-flops or U-turns on what they previously said, leaving themselves in a horribly contorted mess of contradictions.
Having speeches available online is one surefire way of running into this mess, as it makes it easy for some meddlesome man or woman from the press to check what you previously said on a subject and ask why you’ve changed your tune.
One way around this would be to simply erase all of your speeches from the web so no-one could ever check what you'd promised, claimed or opined. It sounds like the sort of thing the mad despotic ruler of a totalitarian state would do. Or the Conservative party.
Yes, the Tory party has removed every speech given by its members from over the last decade, with only speeches from 2013 now archived on its site, according to Computer Weekly.
The folks in the party really don't want those old speeches found, as they've even made it impossible for archive services to find the old speeches thanks to some nifty blocking code. Odd. We asked the Conservative party why it had done this, but hadn't heard a peep by the time of publication.
While accessing past speeches given by the Tories is a rare desire, it is a worrying state of affairs as it will make it a lot harder to check what has been said, and undermines previous claims by David Cameron and his cohorts that the government wants to be open and transparent.
Speaking at a Google conference in 2006, Cameron said: "You've begun the process of democratising the world's information. Democratising is the right word to use because by making more information available to more people, you're giving them more power. The power for anyone to hold to account those who in the past might have had a monopoly of power – whether it's government, big business or the traditional media."
How, pray, Mr Cameron, does one hold government to account when everything you and your chums have ever said over the past decade has been removed from the web?
08 Nov 2013
Mozilla is celebrating the 9th birthday of its Firefox browser this weekend with the release of a blog detailing the "nine gifts we've given the web over the past year".
However, we prefer to celebrate Firefox as the browser that broke Microsoft's stranglehold on web access for the Windows market, even if it seems to have lost its way of late and been overtaken in the innovation stakes by Google's Chrome.
Firefox was born out of the wreckage of Netscape, the browser developer whose Navigator app was eventually killed off by Microsoft's practice of bundling Internet Explorer free with Windows.
Once Netscape was no more, Microsoft saw little reason to bother too much with browser development, and five whole years elapsed between the release of IE6 in 2001 and its successor, IE7 in 2006.
The Firefox project went through several versions before the official version 1.0 was released on 9 November 2004. It almost immediately took off and started to eat into Microsoft's dominance of the Windows browser market, as can be seen by this historical listing of browser statistics.
Eventually, Firefox overtook Internet Explorer, but the open source browser has itself faced competition from a newcomer in the shape of Google's Chrome. With a more rapid development cycle, Chrome has now grown in popularity to account for about half of browser usage on Windows PCs worldwide, pushing Firefox into second place.
However, it is Mozilla and Firefox who are largely to thank for injecting a spot of competition into the browser market and jarring Microsoft out of its complacency to start addressing some of the major flaws in its own browser.
Happy birthday Firefox.
Google’s Street View service has been a wonderful addition to the web, as it allows the world to check out landmarks and future holiday destinations in real-life glory, although the images are usually a few years out of date.
The firm has always shown it is keen to expand the services wherever it can, with shots of remote wilderness, canals, rivers and even mountains. Now, the latest location to face the all-seeing eye of Street View is Cern, near Geneva.
V3 has seen the site in the flesh and from the outside it isn’t much to look at, appearing very much like your standard set of offices in the European hinterland. But inside it’s a treasure trove of scientific wonder, with scientists tackling some of the most pressing questions about our universe.
So, the chance to peer around thanks to Street View is a great opportunity, and one that Google was keen to embrace, as Google Street View program manager Pascale Milite explained in a blog post.
"We’re delighted that CERN opened its doors to Google Maps Street View allowing anyone, anywhere in the world to take a peek into its laboratories, control centres and its myriad underground tunnels housing cutting-edge experiments,” she said.
“Street View also lets scientists working on the experiments, who may be on the other side of the world, explore the equipment they're using."
As ever, the images are slightly out of date, with the photography taking place back in 2011, Google said, but the firm did get access to some of the most important parts of the site, which are usually only seen by its top scientists, so we'll forgive them for the lateness.
"You can check out experiments, like ATLAS, ALICE, CMS, LHCb and the Large Hadron Collider tunnel in Google Maps,” she added.
And if you're really lucky, perhaps you'll spot a Higgs boson lurking in the background.
02 Sep 2013
BT has closed its dial-up internet service for consumer customers, marking the end of a notable chapter in the UK’s web history.
For years that weird and wonderful 'bzzt, prrr garrrrrrrrrrr e-donk, tahhhhhhhh, zzzzzzzzzzz' noise was the stuff of wonder and awe, as the worldwide information superhighway awaited. However, it is no more.
BT was keen to stress that none of the 1,000 or so customers that still enjoy this sound would not be left high and dry without a connection, with dial-up still clinging to life as part of its Plusnet subsidiary.
“BT can confirm it has closed its dial up service for consumer customers. This is a legacy product that is only used by a tiny number of customers, most of whom can easily transfer onto broadband for a cheaper price,” it said in a statement. “No-one is being left without the option of an alternative service.”
It is a notable milestone for the nation, though, as it underlines the fact that always-on connections are now the norm in homes across the land, as broadband becomes the fourth utility for households alongside gas, electricity and water.
What's more, with the rollout of superfast broadband services in counties across the UK beginning as contracts are signed with regularity, the idea of 'phoning the internet' and blocking up the telephone line for others in the household will lead to incredulous looks from future generations.
For those of you that miss that melodious sound of dial-up internet listen below (complete with some madcap humour) and recall those halcyon days when AOL CDs littered your desk and Windows 95 was a fresh and funky operating system.
In fair Euston we set our scene, where news has emerged that author Mark Forsyth discovered that newly installed WiFi filters at the British Library have banned possibly the greatest work in the history of the English language: Shakespeare's Hamlet.
The filters were acting overzealously to some of the more bloody elements of Hamlet, which is about murder and revenge, after all. The British Library acknowledged the error, blaming the newly installed WiFi service, which it offers free, for being set too strictly.
"We have recently introduced a new WiFi service. It’s early days in the implementation of this service and we are aware that the new filter has been blocking certain sites erroneously. We are actively working to resolve this issue," it said in a statement.
There’s a nice element of irony in this, as it shows just how ridiculous filtering can become, especially as the government attempts to impose this upon internet service providers, claiming it will protect people from horrible content. The filters may protect them from a few dodgy sites, but they will also stop them reading the nation’s greatest writer.
In honour of this story, and with our deepest apologies to The Bard, we humbly offer this sonnet, telling the tale in rhyme.
In the halls of the British Library
An institute of learning and knowledge
Filled with scholars and students from college
A man uses the WiFi, offered free
He searches ‘Hamlet’, the Bard’s finest tale
Told with wit, charm and artistic license
But also filled with death and violence
So much so it is deemed beyond the pale
By the WiFi filters that have been set –
So nasty and evil sites can be blocked
And rightly too, so users are not shocked –
But they have ended up banning Hamlet!
Shakespeare would laugh at our filter terrors
Calling it a comedy of errors
By V3's Dan Worth, who hopes his creative writing teacher would be proud
The UK’s average broadband speed is now almost 15Mbps. Yes you read that right. No doubt many readers will splutter on their coffee, tea or something stronger as they read that and run a quick speed test to see if they can hit double figures, let alone the 14.7Mbps download speed they should enjoy.
However, Ofcom’s data, from 736 million tests carried out in May seems fairly hefty, and enough to form a good impression of the UK market.
While such numbers garner the headlines, and demonstrate an impressive fourfold improvement since November 2011 when it was a paltry 3.6Mbps, another figure in the release also caught the eye for the wrong reasons: the average upload speed is 1.8Mbps. Yes, you also read that right.
The average upload speed is almost ten times lower than the average download speed, and while downloads are increasing notably each time Ofcom carries out its research, the average upload speed had increased by just 0.4Mbps since the last data was collected in November 2012.
This is highly disappointing, and a tad worrying, as many people are having to suffer upload speeds that render the use of many web services almost impossible. This matters, because putting content online is central to many people’s use of the web.
Think of batch uploading images to Facebook, videos to YouTube, documents to cloud services like Dropbox, and corporate services likes Yammer or Box, which are integral to many people’s working lives.
It’s all very well and good working from home if you can download key files and presentations in the blink of an eye, but once you’ve made amendments or want to upload your own contribution, sitting there watching it slowly crawl online is frustrating.
Focusing on download speeds is the right course of action, as that's where the greater need is for the wider benefits of the web. But in future, once coverage is available for all at high speed, urgent attention must be given to uploads if we're to be a nation that can engage with the web in both directions.
By V3’s Dan Worth, who loves a speedy upload
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a WiFi connection. So starts Pride and Prejudice (Are you sure? – Ed), the most famous work by Jane Austen, who will appear on the new £10 notes from 2017, replacing Charles Darwin.
This is to ensure that there will be a woman represented on UK banknotes, after the decision to replace Elizabeth Fry on £5 notes with Winston Churchill was agreed by the Bank of England.
But while Austen is a worthy choice, it does mean Alan Turing’s chance of financial fame has gone.
V3 has reported in the past how the famed codebreaker and genius of World War Two, who helped the Allies win the war, was a candidate for the new £10, with a petition issued by programmer Thomas Thurman racking up huge numbers of signatures – over 27,087 to be precise.
“Alan Turing is a national hero. His contribution to computer science, and hence to the life of the nation and the world, is incalculable. The ripple effect of his theories on modern life continues to grow, and may never stop,” Thurman wrote in the introduction to the petition.
Sadly, it appears these efforts were in vain, but it was still refreshing to see at the time that so many people wanted to celebrate Turing in this way.
“Most importantly, it got the country talking: people are debating the work of Turing and discussing his legacy, and as long as that continues, he cannot be forgotten,” Thurman told V3 in March.
However, some good news for the Turing brigade has come from the Bank of England's announcement: it will be reviewing the decision-making process for selecting future historical figures, as outlined by governor Mark Carney.
"We believe that our notes should celebrate the full diversity of great British historical figures and their contributions in a wide range of fields. The Bank is committed to that objective, and we want people to have confidence in our commitment to diversity," he said.
Still, if Turing has been denied his chance of wider fame and recognition, the government could at least do the decent thing and quash his historical conviction for homosexuality. Earlier this week Lords called on the government – once again – to overturn the ruling he received after the war he helped them win.
By V3's Dan Worth, who loves a fistful of £10 notes