Welcome to the promise of the Internet at 10,000 metres - and the questions of etiquette, openness and free speech that airlines
and service providers will have to grapple with as they bring Internet access to the skies in the coming months.
This gets into a ticklish area, said Vint Cerf, one of the Internet's chief inventors and generally a critic of network restrictions. Airlines have to be sensitive to the fact that customers are (seated) close together and may be able to
see each other's PC screens. More to the point, young people are often aboard the plane.
Technology providers and airlines are already making decisions. Some will block services like Internet phone calls altogether while others will put limits and install filters on content. And traffic management tools that are frowned upon on terra
firma could be commonplace in the air.
Panasonic Avionics Corp., a Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. unit testing airborne services on Australia's Qantas Airways Ltd., is designing its high-speed Internet services to block sites on "an objectionable list," including porn and
violence, said David Bruner, executive director for corporate sales and marketing. He said airlines based in more restrictive countries could choose to expand the list.
The company also is recommending that airlines permit Internet-based phone calls only on handsets with wireless Wi-Fi capabilities. Bruner said the company believes Wi-Fi handsets use less bandwidth than telephone software that runs on laptops.
Airlines, he said, also could block incoming calls - and the annoying ring tones they produce - or designate periods of quiet time.
U.S. airlines are largely taking the opposite approach. With possible exceptions for crew and federal air marshals, flights on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines won't have access to Internet-based phone services like Skype.
Virgin America is also considering a ban: An airborne environment is a confined environment, s aid Charles Ogilvie, Virgin's director of in-flight entertainment and partnerships: You don't want 22B yapping away or playing on a boom box.
Meanwhile, American, Alaska and Virgin have no plans to filter sites based on their content. At most, an airline may manage traffic and delay large downloads, or in Virgin's case give passengers the option of enabling controls for their kids.
We think decency and good sense and normal behaviour will prevail, said Jack Blumenstein, chief executive of Aircell which is launching service on some American and Virgin flights in 2008.
In many ways, airlines are facing issues similar to those encountered by Wi-Fi networks on the ground - at airports, coffee shops and other public places.
Glenn Fleishman, editor of the Wi-Fi Networking News site, said operators of public networks generally do not filter because users are conscious that others can see what they surf.
Airplanes, however, are different because customers are in closer quarters and are more likely to include kids.
Allowing porn could subject an airline to harassment complaints much like an employer that refuses to clamp down, said John Palfrey, a Harvard Law School professor: I think they have a right to (filter), but I come up short of saying they have
the responsibility. I'd rather have the responsibility in the hands of passengers and require them to be accountable for what they do on laptops and airplanes.
Airborne Internet activities - such as hacking and piracy - could raise new questions about which country's laws apply.
Widely credited with helping to fuel early adoption of both VHS and
standard-def DVD, adult video distributors been surprisingly slow to embrace either of the next generation disc formats.
Although there was much speculation in the early months of the high-def format war that the adult video industry would be a major factor in determining which format would prevail, thus far there have been scant few porn releases on either format.
Today, DVD Empire lists just sixteen adult titles on HD DVD, and only three on Blu-ray.
Industry observers point to several factors in the genre's slow high-def build, including the higher cost of next-gen disc production and an apparently growing belief among distributors that they'd be better served leap-frogging over the high-def
disc formats altogether, and instead focus their efforts on next-gen IP-based delivery of high-def content.
Beware, clip joint!
The Soho Cabaret
Great Windmill Street
Text messages and emails warning passers-by they are entering an area where clip joints masquerading as sex bars operate are to be sent out under a
pioneering new scheme.
Westminster City Council will use Bluetooth technology to send a message about the dangers of Soho's notorious clubs to the owners of mobile phones or BlackBerrys who wander within a 30-metre radius of three venues.
Beware, clip joint!
The warning reads: £5 to get in, £500 to get out. Criminals operate some of the hostess bars in Soho. Don't enter without knowing what you'll get for your money.
Clip joints are a well established Soho scam and Westminster has been campaigning for years to drive them out of the West End.
Customers are lured inside with false promises of "adult entertainment" - only to find a shabby room, no bar and no entertainment.
Beware, clip joint!
Great Windmill Street
They are presented with huge bills for entry and soft drinks and menaced into paying. Those who refuse risk being frog-marched to cash machines.
Westminster's initiative will see the message issued between 500 and 1,000 times per day, targeting the last three remaining clip joints in the area - Twilights in Rupert Street and Illusions and The Soho Cabaret in Great Windmill Street.
A Westminster spokesman said: "It's hard to close them down. They are unregulated and do not need a licence because they do not sell alcohol or provide any entertainment: It's difficult to gather evidence against them because anyone who
does come a cropper is too ashamed to go to the police or council. In the past we have managed to close them down using property laws and health and safety laws. For example, we can shut them down if they don't have proper fire exits. The
remaining ones will go eventually but in the meantime we need to warn people about them.
People will be asked if they want to read the message from the council before it is displayed in full. The technology allows it to be sent out only once to each device. Leaflets warning people about the bars are also regularly distributed in the
area by the council.
The university researchers who began construction on
the Internet some four decades ago never imagined the power their creation would have today. They toiled away in their labs quietly, and few outside cared.
That won't be the case with a next-generation Internet. Commercial and policy interests will likely play a bigger role this time as researchers explore "clean slate" designs that scrap the Internet's underlying architecture to better
address security, mobility and other emerging needs.
The bulk of the work is still being done in ivory towers, with grants from leading high-tech companies and government agencies.
Stanford University, for instance, has partnered with Cisco Systems Inc., Japan's NTT DoCoMo Inc., Germany's Deutsche Telekom AG and other companies, though for now they are limited to advisory and sponsorship roles.
Participants in a new network also could include law-enforcement officials, who are already demanding that Internet service providers retrofit the existing network to ease wiretapping of Internet-based phone calls. Governments around the world,
including the United States, also could seek ways to block porn and politically sensitive Web sites - and better identify those who distribute the forbidden.
Former Justice Department official Mark Rasch also believed the system could be better designed for law enforcement. But to do so, he said, would be like redesigning a federal highway system with the goal ... of catching people fleeing a bank
robbery. You would design it to be one lane, so you wouldn't be able to get away quickly.
The Internet governance organisation, ICANN has again
rejected a proposal for an “.xxx” internet domain.
Proponents of the measures found some solace in the views of some board members who felt that the agency was too timid to embrace controversial ideas.
It was the third time the suggestion had been rejected by the agency, whose members are selected by the US.
The most fundamental value of the global internet community is that people who propose to use the internet protocols and infrastructures for otherwise lawful purposes, without threatening the operational stability or security of the internet,
should be presumed to be entitled to do so, said Susan Crawford, a member against rejecting the plan
The VCR is not dead yet. To make way for the DVD and eventually HD
DVD, the industry eliminated the VCR as a device of preference for time shifting television programs. A few brave manufacturers attempted the next logical step by making the D-VHS machine. This was promptly opposed by the Motion Picture
Association of America (MPAA), which I believe effectively pressured the industry to stop production. Sharing anything from television is almost criminal according to the MPAA, which believes everyone should pay each time all the time.
The DVD player/recorder would seem to be a logical replacement for the VCR; however, if you have ever worked with consumers, you would soon find out that the DVD recorder has been a flop. I am sure that there are early adopters (like myself) who
figured out the beast and can time-shift TV programs. For many, though, the device is an infernal contraption, confusing to operate and seldom used to record. Using a DVD rewriteable disc as a medium involves formatting and erasing if previously
used — not as convenient as popping in a tape and hitting record.
I recommend that everyone snatch up VCRs whenever you find them at retail and horde them as a hedge against the Brave New World changes being forced upon us.
P.S. There may be a little light at the end of the tunnel, as RCA announced at International CES that they would make a VCR with a digital tuner for a while. I wish them well.
Vivid Entertainment Group will become the first adult-film maker to put
out a movie in Blu-ray Disc when it releases Debbie Does Dallas...Again in late March, but it's not saying who is helping it make copies of the discs.
Most porn industry film makers have not been able to find replicators to make Blu-ray Disc copies for them, and have instead turned to rival format HD DVD. The two formats are vying to replace DVDs as the high definition format of choice.
In fact, Vivid is the only company in the adult film industry using Blu-ray Disc right now. Other companies say they were rebuffed by Sony and other companies that replicate Blu-ray Discs.
Steven Hirsch, co-chairman of Vivid Entertainment, said it wasn't easy finding a replicating partner, but Vivid did. There are eight companies worldwide able to replicate Blu-ray Discs, said Hirsch. Two of those companies are controlled by Sony,
which won't allow them to handle pornography. Five other companies have contracts to replicate discs for the Walt Disney, which stipulate that they cannot handle adult films if they want to work with Disney.
That leaves one possible replicator for the adult industry, and Hirsch is keeping its name a closely guarded secret. He doesn't want to give rivals easy access to a company it was hard for him to find.
Sony has already said it won't handle adult film titles. In markets where Sony operates around the world it won't duplicate any movies above a certain rating or that have not been certified by a local motion picture association.
Hirsch believes Vivid succeeded with Blu-ray Disc where others failed because it is one of the top names in adult-films. But Blu-ray Disc may have a short life in the adult film industry unless Vivid succeeds with strong sales of its title.
Blu-ray is extremely expensive to work with, said Hirsch. Authoring in Blu-ray Disc is about four times more expensive than HD DVD, he said, while replicating is three times as expensive. Authoring is the process of combining video and
audio into a format that a disc player can read.
The authoring process is far different than DVD because Blu-ray Disc is a completely new technology, while HD DVD is an extension of DVD technology, so it's not as complicated, Hirsch said.
The company has plans to release four more adult-films on Blu-ray Disc this year, but it won't if Blu-ray doesn't fare well in the market.
Online payment services provider, StandardPay, announced one of its EU banking partners has obtained a cross-border license, allowing EU adult merchants to acquire direct merchant accounts and process transactions.
StandardPay, formally known as Anext Solutions, previously was only able to process transactions for adult merchants incorporated in Spain.
The idea of a ".xxx" web suffix for porn sites is the internet's
vampire: it seems nothing can kill it. Censors often oppose it because they believe anything that can be construed as legitimisation of pornography will hinder their efforts against it. Civil libertarians oppose it on grounds such as the threat of
it being used to marginalise a wide range of material having to do with sexuality. Adult webmasters widely view it with suspicion, as anyone who has a ghettoisation scheme to "help" them usually isn't doing them a favour.
In fact, it is very difficult to find any lobbying group in favour of .xxx, with one notable exception. Namely, a company called ICM Registry, which would hand out .xxx site registrations, and would be given a money-making machine.
Too much of the punditry about this consists of repeating clichés about kids and red lights. But, leaving aside where one stands on issues of censorship, the .xxx domain is a bad idea purely from a business standpoint. To begin with, it provides
no additional technical value. Labelling schemes have been around for years, and there already are systems that provide all .xxx could do. Putting such a label into a domain extension accomplishes nothing useful and gives the registry a monopoly.
Furthermore, many sites that already exist would not want to switch their names. If they already have a user base, why do anything which could disrupt operations? If the new domain is truly voluntary, a purchase would have to pass a cost-benefit
analysis. But ICM Registry still has a virtually guaranteed market. Three notable groups would rush to purchase .xxx domains:
Corporations not associated with pornography who will want to protect their trademarks. They will register their trademark names as domains for defensive purposes. This is a perpetual stream of income for the
registry, and at the planned price of $60 (£30) for each domain, it will be a big chunk of money.
Domain-name speculators who will want to get common words for potential resale value. These people don't want to run a site themselves, they want to resell the name to others.
Bona fide pornographers, who will register the .xxx domain names corresponding to their existing .com domain names to avoid speculators, or so a competitor doesn't do it to cause market confusion, or as insurance
in case some future law makes the .xxx domain mandatory for their content.
None of these registrations and associated registration revenue has anything to do with protecting children. It's all about fear that someone else will use the names, or greed to resell the names. Essentially,
whoever gets the .xxx registry is playing the above groups against each other in a game of fear, uncertainty, and doubt - and collecting a large fee no matter who wins.
And pointing to the amount of preregistration claims shouldn't be used to imply that anybody actually wants the .xxx domain. Again, speculators may want it, but not for a reason anyone else would endorse. (Comments can be made to ICANN until
February 5at email@example.com and viewed here). Surely, if everyone from civil libertarians and censors to adult industry webmasters says .xxx is a bad idea then maybe we can all agree it's a bad idea, and finally put a stake through
NetCash has recently launched an anonymous payment solution that can be
purchased online and at more than 52,000 retail outlets in the US.
NetCash added its first group of merchants in November 2006 and now boasts an expanding roster of adult and mainstream merchant partners. Its adult clients include YanksCash, Atlas Multimedia (PornStarDollars), CuriousCash, Sex On The Side, Real
Sex Cash, ARS and Blazing Bucks.
I think all types of consumers are worried about Internet transactions, NetCash CEO Peter Shapiro told XBIZ. There’s ID theft, and on the adult side there are anonymity concerns. Plus, who wants to fill out long forms and give out credit
card information to numerous websites? By using NetCash, consumers can feel safe knowing that their transactions are safe, secure and anonymous.
NetCash works in a fashion similar to a debit card. Consumers can purchase NetCash in increments of $25 (with a maximum of $100), which gets them an access code and PIN number that can be used on NetCash’s merchants’ join pages. If the consumer
signs up for a paysite with recurring billing and their NetCash balance doesn’t cover the total cost of the transaction, the consumer’s credit card on file with NetCash will be charged until their NetCash account is replenished.
Shapiro points out that what he believes sets NetCash apart from the competition is the payment solution’s availability at more than 52,000 retail locations. While NetCash is not a physical card, online shoppers can print out a confirmation page
from the NetCash website, bring it to a participating retailer, pay cash for NetCash and their accounts are activated instantly.
On the NetCash consumer-side interface, customers can manage all their payments, debits and recurring transactions in one window. NetCash supports all types of billing platforms, including single purchases, subscriptions, trial offers and
recurring billing. NetCash customers also can cancel their recurring billing accounts through the interface to avoid confusing cancellation instructions, Shapiro said.
NetCash is free to consumers and makes its money by charging merchants a sliding fee per transaction.
The X-rated industry has gotten too graphic, even for its own tastes.
Pornographic movie studios are staying ahead of the technology curve by releasing high-definition DVDs. But they have discovered that the technology is sometimes not so sexy. The high-definition format is accentuating imperfections in the actors —
from a little extra cellulite on a leg to wrinkles around the eyes.
Hollywood is dealing with similar problems, but they are more pronounced for pornographers, who rely on close-ups and who, because of their quick adoption of the new format, are facing the issue more immediately than mainstream entertainment
Producers are taking steps to hide the imperfections. Some shots are lit differently, while some actors simply are not shot at certain angles, or are getting cosmetic surgery, or seeking expert grooming.
Despite the challenges, pornographers — who distributed some 7,000 new movies on DVD last year in the United States alone, selling discs worth $3.6 billion — are rapidly moving to high definition.
One major company, Digital Playground, plans to release its first four HD DVD titles this month, and plans four new ones each month. In March, Vivid plans to release Debbie Does Dallas Again, its first feature for both HD DVD and Blu-ray.
Vivid, like Digital Playground, has been shooting with high-definition cameras for two years to build up a catalog of high-definition movies. Both studios have released the movies in standard definition but plan to make the high-definition
versions available as compatible disc players and televisions become more popular.
The studios said their experience using the technology gives them an advantage in understanding how to cope with the mixed blessing of hypercrisp images. Their techniques include using post-production tools that let them digitally soften the
actors' skin tone: It takes away the blemishes and the pits and harshness and makes it look like they have baby skin, said the director known as Joone, who made Pirates , which will be available this month in high definition.
Netintelligence (Ni) Cloud Clean is a network-based system which
prevents access to supposedly illegal sites without the user realising they have been actively blocked. Instead, an error message is displayed when someone tries to access an illegal site.
The software manages web addresses supplied by a law enforcement agency, a media rights or copyright owner, or another licensed provider of illegal website addresses, eg the Internet Watch Foundation.
Phil Worms, director of products and marketing at Netintelligence, said: We can take the URLs of these sites and add them to our database, so that when someone tries to view a Premiership match illegally via a website, or access paedophilic
material, all they see is an error message saying ‘website not found.
Whilst I understand that this system may raise concerns about personal choice and censorship, our view is simple, “if its illegal its illegal.” With the many of the media companies becoming internet service providers in their own right, BskyB,
for example, it makes sense for them to protect both their end users and their intellectual property at the same time.
There Joone, founder of the company Digital Playground and director of
extremely popular HD porn movies, declared that his company would from next week on be publishing movies on HD DVD on a regular basis.
This is a U-turn for Joone, who at last year had declared his support for the Blu-ray Disc format. Asked about his change of attitude the director responded that he had in fact wanted to publish his movies on Blu-ray Disc, but that all Blu-ray
Disc copying facilities in the United States had refused to cooperate. The companies had unanimously declared that Sony had threatened to withdraw their Blu-ray licenses should they stoop to making HD copies of pornographic films.
As a consequence Digital Playground now intends to release HD DVD products at a rapid rate: Thus between now and the first week of February the company, with Island Fever 3 , Pirates , Teen America
and Island Fever 4. Thereafter up to the end of the year the company will aim to release four HD-DVD titles a month.Each disc will probably cost 5 US dollars more than its DVD counterpart.
Update : A Sony prohibition rather than a Blu-Ray prohibition
The Blu Ray Disc Association say that the wider body do not have a problem with porn on Blu-Ray and that the prohibition is down to replicator companies influenced by Sony. Eventually more companies will come on line
that are more independent of Sony's wishes.