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Jim Morris's Thought of the Week (or month, or year, ...)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Who Will Be The Network Police?

It’s common to describe an operating system as a traffic cop that makes programs share resources fairly. Historically, the resource to be managed was memory. However, in the age of increasingly less expensive memory, we might not need a policeman for that, but we surely do for other things.

Screen space remains a scarce resource, not just because of screen size but also because human eyeballs can only take in so much. The creators of software are motivated to dominate screen space to capture the brains behind those eyeballs.

I once fantasized that Windows might become a screen-space policeman if Microsoft were broken up and the OS part were declared a regulated monopoly. In return for being a sanctioned monopoly, Microsoft would serve as a screen-space policeman. As it turned out, Microsoft kept favoring its own applications in the screen space wars.

Now the closest thing to a good traffic cop is Google, which restricts advertisers to the right side of the screen. Google was the first to discover we didn’t like being accosted by banners and pop-ups.

The need for policing goes much further. As science fiction writer Bruce Sterling observes, cyberspace has become a slum—full of scammers and spies. Now real lawmakers and police are being called in, but they are outmatched by the dark element of the hacker community.

Maybe Microsoft, like the legendary gunslinger, will sign up to be the sheriff now that it is being out-gunned by Google.

posted by Jim Morris @ 9:57 AM 


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