This Week In Techdirt History: February 8th – 14th
from the the-roots-run-deep dept
Five Years Ago
This week, let’s start by going global. In 2010, Italy blocked the Pirate Bay (again) while Norway refused to do so. The UK was still grappling with the Digital Economy Bill and its onerous provisions, Australia was trying to make Google censor YouTube videos and Iran was trying to pull the plug on Gmail and offer a state-run email service in its place. Meanwhile in Bollywood, one studio was experimenting with simultaneous theater and YouTube releases. A major Icelandic newspaper banned aggregators, while at the same time the country was announcing plans to become a haven of free speech and journalism. And many countries came together for two things: the Winter Olympics (once again utterly mishandled by NBC) and the ACTA treaty (oh sorry, I mean “executive agreement”).
Today, many US cities are competing for a shot at Google Fiber, but it was this week in 2010 that the project was first announced — though we knew it couldn’t spur real broadband competition all by itself.
In the world of media, you can guess what was happening, because it’s always the same: various companies were struggling to figure things out with varying levels of success and denial. Warner Music was dancing around the obvious fact that hiking the price of music downloads slowed sales growth, and at the same time announcing the end of all free streaming licenses. Meanwhile, the Author’s Guild was still fighting over Google Books, and trying to separate itself from groups like the RIAA — while a former music exec was telling them they were more alike than they realize. One author was complaining that ten bucks is an absurdly low price for ebooks, while at the same time new research showed that unauthorized ebook copies boost sales.
Ten Years Ago
Today, the anti-net-neutrality argument that people don’t need or want faster broadband and wireless speeds is ludicrous, self-serving and shortsighted — but, admittedly, in 2005 things weren’t quite so clear. There was some evidence that people couldn’t find enough to do with broadband and were even giving it up for dialup, and the hype over forthcoming 3G was stymied by the fact that a lot of people weren’t sure why they needed it. Of course, there was also already something fishy about the cable companies trying to downplay the importance of speed and the think-tanks railing against muni broadband. And today we know how things really played out: having all that broadband penetration led to the development of new, robust applications and services that nobody could have easily envisioned beforehand.
Of course, this was 2005, so plenty of people were still clueless about technology, including lots of politicians — the British parliament even banned Blackberries. People were still trying to foist self-destructing DVDs on the public, and cable television was feebly trying to mimic the internet. But we also saw the emergence of trends that are clear and dominant today: the use of email as a persistent storage and filing tool, the abandonment of landline phones, and the fact that musicians don’t make money from copyright (that last one, while clear and dominant in reality, is not necessarily so in the minds of industry folk).
Also this week in 2005: Google Maps was launched, and so was MP3tunes (guess which one is still around!), we saw some of the earliest examples of companies freaking out about negative reviews, and Salon founder Dave Talbot stepped down.
Fifteen Years Ago
In 2000, we see the even deeper roots of even bigger trends. The severity of cybercrime was becoming clear, and DoS attacks were getting lots of attention — but also already often being blown out of proportion with lots of conspiracy theories and rumors of inside jobs attached to various incidents. People were predicting the post-PC era and the death of the newspaper (which still haven’t quite arrived) and the coming wireless web (which absolutely has). People liked to toss around bold proclamations about the internet being dead or not dead or whatever the case may be, it was no longer cool to include “.com” in the name of your company, and people were rightfully asking questions about the future of online privacy. We also started noticing the growth of a questionable (and now extremely common) trend in tech startup culture: companies built with the sole purpose of being acquired for a cash-out.
Seventy-Seven Years Ago
If you’re a fan of Star Trek, or Dr. Who, or Battlestar Galactica, or anything else from the pantheon of television science fiction both old and new, then you should know that it all started this week in 1938 when the BBC aired the first known science fiction TV program. What’s more, the program was itself an adaptation of a monumental piece of sci-fi history: R.U.R., the 1920 Czech play that introduced the word “robot” to the English language and the sci-fi genre.