The online community showed they are not just about the lols this week, as several major sites staged vocal protests against the US government’s controversial SOPA and PIPA anti-piracy bills – and, apparently, were heard.
As of last Friday, websites Reddit and icanhascheezburger had both promised to blackout for 12 hours on Wednesday January 18 to protest the bills. While both are influential among the online community, they needed the support of a site with mainstream recognition.
That support came in the form of Wikipedia, which began the week promising to blackout all pages in English for a full 24 hours, from midnight Tuesday to midnight Wednesday. Instead of the usual user-generated information, the site instead offered a message explaining why the blackout was taking place, and offering links for people to learn more about the bills.
Of course, it was still possible for people with a little know-how to access Wikipedia, but for the millions of people who hadn’t heard of SOPA or PIPA, this was their wake-up call. Others contributed too – Google posted a note on its home page, and blacked out its own logo for American users, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg blew the dust off his Twitter account to encourage people to take action.
Just before the protest began it emerged that the SOPA bill was in fact lagging, with the White House promising not to support legislation that ‘undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet’, and Democratic congressman Darrell Issa cancelling a related hearing, reporting that House majority leader Eric Cantor had assured him anti-piracy legislation ‘will not move to the House floor this Congress without a consensus’.
PIPA, though, was and is still on the table, and with authorities determined to enact some sort of legislation in order to appease the music and film industry lobbies, this won’t be the last we hear of the debate.
In other news, Apple held one of its famous media presentations this week, and the slick, sexy technology was out in force. There had of course been plenty of speculation about what the ‘education announcement’ would hold, and it turned out to almost all be correct, with Apple introducing a new, textbook-friendly iBooks 2, a new ebook publishing app called iBooks Author, and an upgrade to its course delivery tool, iTunes U.
It all looks very impressive, and students and education professionals should definitely check it out. Apple New Zealand is even offering students a special incentive to purchase a new Mac computer or laptop, in the form of a $125 app store credit.
Among all this drama a significant story nearly passed completely under the radar this week, as the worldwide Internet Society set the date for the transfer from IPv4 to IPv6. Most devices that connect to the internet do so via an IPv4 IP address, but the number of addresses available on the protocol has run out. IPv6 will offer trillions of addresses when it goes live – on the appropriate date of June 6 (6/6) – and many consider the switch to signify a new era in the life of the internet.
Finally, Nissan this week announced a piece of unbelievable technology – a self-healing iPhone case. Based on paint technology developed for use on some of Nissan’s top cars, the case will react to fine scrapes and scratches, physically healing the finish in anything from a week to a few hours, depending on the extent of the damage. We won’t know how well it works for a while; at this stage it’s just a prototype, with Nissan planning to send a few out to journalists and the like to get an idea of what people might pay for them. The company’s other option is to just sell the technology to handset makers, which would make a lot of clumsy smartphone owners very happy indeed.
Have a great weekend all, we’ll be back on Monday.