HUA HIN, Thailand - This week has
been one of partnerships, with deals done between
Microsoft and Amazon and between Yahoo and
Twitter, while Google continues to devour the rest
of the Internet on its own.
agreed to pay Microsoft an undisclosed sum as part
of a patent cross-licensing agreement that will
enable both companies to each others' patent
portfolio. The deal covers Amazon's popular
e-reader Kindle and company use of Linux-based
servers and software, the implementation of which
Microsoft claims infringes on many of its patents.
Microsoft stated that its licensing program is
designed to give other companies access to its
research and development efforts and its growing
portfolio of patents. It
has entered into more than 600 licensing deals
since 2002. Microsoft alone secured 2,906 patents
in 2009, according to IFI Patent Intelligence.
The Twitter train keeps gathering momentum
with the micro-blogging website now recording a
staggering 50 million tweets per day - that's 600
per second. From 5,000 per day in 2007 to 300,000
in 2008 to 2.5 million per day in 2009, the site
has shown a phenomenal growth rate. Yahoo wants a
slice of this action and has entered into a deal
with Twitter in an effort to win back web surfers
by sharing content across both websites. Users
will be able to update their Twitter status and
share content from within Yahoo's portal, and
tweets will start appearing in its search results.
Similar sharing agreements were made last year
between Google, Microsoft and Twitter.
significance of social networking websites such as
Facebook and Twitter has never been stronger, so
traditional players such as Yahoo are vying for an
ever increasing slice of this social web traffic.
Google's efforts with its Buzz social
networking services got off to a shaky start
following a number of privacy concerns. The
company made the monumental blunder of
automatically linking people's Gmail contacts with
Buzz without considering the fact that millions of
e-mail users wouldn't dream of sharing the same
information with all of the people in their
Buzz also infuriated
thousands of parents whose children began
inadvertently sharing personal details over the
web, which resulted in new "followers" of very
Privacy Information Center, a privacy watchdog
group, filed a complaint urging the Federal Trade
Commission to investigate Google's new social
networking tool for violating the company's user
A number of humble
apologies later and the disabling of the
"auto-follow" feature and Google's Buzz is just
another social networking tool again. Still the
Internet Goliath can't have suffered too much, at
least everyone using the web now knows more about
Buzz than they would have without the adverse
media attention otherwise!
currently under siege in Europe where it is facing
an onslaught of anti-trust cases, many of which
stem from privacy issues such as the recent Buzz
fiasco. An Italian court this week dispatched
six-month suspended jail sentences to three Google
executives over video content that violated
privacy protections within the country. The French
government is hot on the heels of the Internet
giant for its scanning and digitizing of books and
Germany is not pleased about the introduction of
Google's Street View virtual mapping and
ground-level street photographing services.
Google is also under fire from the
European Commission following a number of
complaints that the company manipulates its search
results to favor some companies and punish others
(such as its competitors). It came as no surprise
that Microsoft was at the front of the queue to
file a complaint in Brussels; after the endless
court cases filed against Microsoft, the software
company clearly felt it was about time that Google
had its fair share.
report released this week by the United Nations
Environment Program warned of an alarming increase
of hazardous waste from electronic devices in
developing countries. E-waste could cause serious
environmental and health problems in India and
China where it is predicted to rise by up to five
times in the next 10 years.
A huge rise in
demand for computers and mobile phones has added
to the mountain of e-waste in India, where the
amount of e-trash is expected to have jumped by
500% this year from 2007 levels. China is also
being buried under a pile of circuit boards and
components. This year it is expected to produce
2.3 million tonnes of the stuff domestically. Over
half of this comes from discarded TVs, with
300,000 tonnes coming from personal computers.
Despite having banned e-waste imports China
remains a dumping ground for developed countries.
The improper handling of e-waste is a
major concern; much of it is incinerated locally
in backyards, where small quantities of precious
metals such as gold and copper can be recovered.
Toxic by-products are often released into the air
and water system wreaking havoc on the health of
the local environment and population.
report calls for new urgency in establishing
ambitious, formal and regulated processes for
collecting and managing e-waste via the setting up
of large, efficient recycling facilities in China
decision to get prudish and ban over 5,000
applications from its mobile devices for their
inclusion of "objectionable material" could only
help rivals such as Google that are still testing
the waters of the smart-phone market. The fruity
company has also been accused of double standards
as apps such as "video strip poker" and the like
got the chop last week while saucy offerings from
big companies such as Playboy, FHM and Sports
Illustrated remain in Apple's App Store.
The company is also notoriously secretive
about its policies on what is or is not acceptable
for the online mobile applications store, often
leaving developers disappointed when their app
gets rejected for undisclosed reasons. Many
developers have been angered by Apple's recent
actions as it directly affects their income; they
are likely to start diversifying by writing
applications for rival platforms such as Android,
which is good news for Google.
Internet In another round of web
crackdowns, the Chinese Technology Ministry have
introduced a draconian directive that requires
individuals to meet with government regulators
before launching a website. It also requires
webmasters to submit their ID cards and personal
photos to the government.
claims that the new law has been introduced to
curb online pornography, but the rest of the world
believes otherwise. Reporters Without Borders
stated that the move was a disturbing step
backwards for China, which aimed to tighten
political control over the Internet.
has the world's largest online population, with
more than 380 million users; it also has the
largest prison population of bloggers, with over
70 Internet users and cyber dissidents currently
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.