Browsing: Alistair Fairweather

Death and taxes now have a third, unavoidable friend, the Internet. Even the poorest people on the globe are touched by it, if only by the proceeds of online charity drives. But, like a typical youngest child, the Internet is already at odds with one of its siblings — the taxman.

Virtual. Cyber. Avatar. These are the kinds of words we still use to describe the Internet, and by extension our interactions with each other when we use it. They speak of fantasy and unreality, of a place disconnected from the gritty business of real life.

If you ask a 20-year-old in 2020 to spot the odd one out of this list — TV, radio, mobile phone, Internet — they may not be able to. We’re accustomed to think about these mediums as separate entities, and in terms of production they still are.

You have to hand it to Rupert Murdoch. Love him or hate him, his business decisions often make for interesting reading. His most recent diktat — that his newspapers begin shutting off their Web content to all but paying customers — is a giant public experiment in the future of online revenue models

“Where’s the business model?” echoes the cry of that most thick-skinned of beasts, the greater suited market analyst (Homo economicus). Part war cry, part mating call, we’ve grown accustomed to hearing this phrase every time a website with no obvious revenue stream starts to attract attention. For years, each mention of Facebook brought out a squawking chorus of them. But Homo economicus is now deathly silent.

One of the most curious and unintended side effects of rapid innovation is on language. Rather than making words up, we prefer to frame things in analogy and reference. That’s why we still talk about “opening a window” on a computer, and why we “cut and paste” text and save “bookmarks”

We human beings are an irrational bunch. When anything new comes along we tend to take one of three basic positions: deify, deny or demonise. It takes time for us to recognise the nuances that allow us to integrate this new force into our world view — be it a pop star, a politician, an idea or a

Predictions are a tricky thing. Fifteen years ago, when the Internet was first flexing its gobal wings, futurists were predicting the end of all “traditional” media, particularly television. And while the dot-com bust deflated a lot of expectations, some of those predictions finally seem to be coming true. Time spent on everything from newspapers to cinema has been falling while Internet usage has been climbing inexorably higher.

If you sued one of the world’s largest companies for defamation and won, you might expect a bit more than €5 000. But in the case of “Mr X” vs Google, which was recently tried by a French court, it is a full €5 000 too many. The rather sordid tale of Mr X began when he was arrested and tried for allegedly raping a 17-year-old girl.

Blockbuster Video. It’s a great name, isn’t it? For nearly two decades it has ruled the video-store roost, both in the US and around the world. But now, after years of billion-dollar losses and with its share price in tatters, it is filing for bankruptcy. What happened? Well, many things, including corporate bloat (it has more than 6 500 stores), some questionable management decisions, and much stronger competition from cable television. But if we have to pick a villain here, it’s the Internet.