Category Archives: politics

The Economist on the Internet in China

Gady Epstein, who is the China Correspondent for The Economist  has put together a large 14-page special report on the Internet in China. I strongly recommend it.

Gady was also on this week’s Sinica Podcast talking about this special report, which I also strongly recommend: Gady Epstein on The Internet (in China)

Special report: China and the internet

China’s internet: A giant cage
The internet was expected to help democratise China. Instead, it has enabled the authoritarian state to get a firmer grip, says Gady Epstein. But for how long?

The machinery of control: Cat and mouse
How China makes sure its internet abides by the rules

Microblogs: Small beginnings
Microblogs are a potentially powerful force for change, but they have to tread carefully

The Great Firewall: The art of concealment
Chinese screening of online material from abroad is becoming ever more sophisticated

E-commerce: Ours, all ours
A wealth of internet businesses with Chinese characteristics

Cyber-hacking: Masters of the cyber-universe
China’s state-sponsored hackers are ubiquitous—and totally unabashed

Internet controls in other countries: To each their own
China’s model for controlling the internet is being adopted elsewhere

Assessing the effects: A curse disguised as a blessing?
The internet may be delaying the radical changes China needs

2012 update to the 2007 Cost of Monoculture in Korea

Back in 2007, I published the cost of monoculture, a blog post that was the first English-language explanation of the situation in South Korea where a series of independent decisions created a de facto monopoly for Microsoft Internet Explorer. The blog post was widely covered in 2007, in Salon, Slashdot, Boing Boing, etc.
Fast forward 5+ years to the late part of 2012 and basically nothing has changed. In fact, things are so bad in Korea that a candidate for the President of Korea, Ahn Cheol-soo, has taken the position that if he were voted in, he would abolish the laws that have locked Korea to Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Ahn Pledges To Wipe Out South Korea’s Outdated Internet Encryption Rule – Korea Real Time – WSJ

Internet Explorer becomes Korean election issue • The Register

Sure this candidate is from the IT/software field, but the fact that his platform has this position says that this is still a painful issue for most people in Korea today. It’s stunning that the Korean government has not proactively moved away from Active-X plugins when Microsoft themselves are deprecating this technology in Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10.

 

English subtitles for Tristan Nitot’s e-G8 comments

Pierre Equoy has been kind enough to provide an English translation of Tristan Nitot’s comments at the e-G8 event.

Mitchell Baker and Tristan Nitot at e-G8

Mitchell and Tristan are interviewed at the e-G8 meeting by OWNI.

Mitchell Baker (in English)

 

[EN] eG8 – Mitchell Baker – Chairperson of the Mozilla Foundation from OWNI on Vimeo.

Tristan Nitot (in French)

 

eg8 – Tristan Nitot – Fondateur Mozilla Europe from OWNI on Vimeo.

No choice of browser in South Korea

UPDATE: Marcis has kindly provided a Belorussian translation of this post – НЯМА магчымасці выбіраць браўзар У ПАЎНОЧНАЙ КАРЭІ

As has been in the news this week and mentioned on many Mozilla blogs, the European Commission is working with Microsoft and other browser manufacturers, including Mozilla of course, to launch the web browser ballot in the EC.

To those critics of the browser ballot who would rather the free market be left completely to Adam Smith’s invisible hand, I would present to you the example of South Korea. In short, South Korea is a sad example of a Microsoft monoculture where the course of history and the lack of anti-monopoly oversight have created a nation where every computer user is a Windows user and banking or ecommerce or any secure transaction on the Internet with South Korean entities must be done with Internet Explorer on a Windows OS.

The situation in South Korea has gotten markedly worse since the government, bowing to pressure from the citizens who wanted to use the smart phones that were sold elsewhere in the world, relaxed a rule that previously required a Korea-specific middleware called WIPI, that was never going to be implemented by smart phone makers outside of Korea. Now that the WIPI requirement was gone, manufacturers like RIM and Apple can now sell Blackberries in Korea and iPhones in Korea.

But as I suspected last fall when the iPhone’s official sales in Korea was announced, the browsers in these new smart phones (be it the browser in the iPhone, the Blackberry, or the Android devices that are on sale in Korea) can’t interoperate with the Active-X based security requirements that Korean banks and ecommerce stores require. So it’s not surprising to me at all that the news from Korea since the launch of these smart phones has been universally negative regarding the requirement to use Active-X for secure web transactions in Korea.

Here’s a selection of quotes from 3 recent articles in the Korea Times:

Korea Paying Price for Microsoft Monoculture (09-23-2009)

But the land of ubiquitous broadband, feature-happy “smart” phones and ultra-cool computing devices doubles as a crusty regime where Linux, Firefox, Chrome and Opera users can’t bank or purchase products online, and where Mac users buy Windows CDs to prevent their devices being reduced to fashion items.The bizarre coexistence of advanced hardware and an outdated user environment is a result of the country’s overreliance on the technology of Microsoft, the U.S. software giant that owns the Korean computing experience like a fat kid does a cookie jar.

It is estimated that around 99 percent of Korean computers run on Microsoft’s Windows operating system, and a similar rate of Internet users rely on the company’s Internet Explorer (IE) Web browser to connect to cyberspace.

Mobile Banking Monoculture? 01-10-2010

At the center of the controversy is the [Korean] Financial Supervisory Service’s (FSS) guidelines on the safety of financial services provided on smartphones, which were finalized and announced last week.The new rules can be summarized simply ― all financial transactions on these advanced handsets will be subject to the same security requirements that control online transactions on personal computers.

The problem with this, according to critics, is that the existing legal framework was precisely what allowed Microsoft to establish a virtual monopoly in computer operating systems and Web browsers here, which is now blamed for having computer users stuck with outdated technologies and exposed to larger security risks.

Rigid Regulations Retard Mobile Wallet Era 02-10-2010

In essence, the current law states that all encrypted online communications on computers require the use of electronic signatures based on public-key certificates. And since the fall of Netscape in the early 2000s, Microsoft’s Active-X controls on its Internet Explorer (IE) Web browsers remain as the only plug-in tool to download public-key certificates to computers.

So we can see in Korea today that the lack of choice of web browser (not to mention the lack of choice of computer operating system), indeed the lack of interoperability of Korea’s secure transaction protocol on the web, means that the smart phones of today, that don’t support ActiveX, are useless in Korea for secure transactions. That means if you are an iPhone/Blackberry/Android user in Korea, you cannot bank online with a Korean bank, you cannot trade stocks on the Korean markets, you cannot shop online with a Korean Internet site. You can’t do many of the key things that these smart phones were designed to do.

So when people ask you, “why is the choice of a web browser important?” tell them that in South Korea, people don’t get a choice of what operating system to use or what web browser to use.  After you explain to them that a place without choice is South Korea, ask them again if they’d like to not have a choice and why the choice of a web browser is important.

I hope to have better news from South Korea soon.  Please watch my blog for updates on this issue and other issues facing Mozilla and the open web in Asia.

In the meantime, please be sure to visit Open To Choice.org where Mozilla’s Chair, Mitchell Baker and Mozilla’s CEO, John Lilly, explain why we at Mozilla believe that the choice of browser is a critical right for all Internet users worldwide.

opentochoice.org

Here’s a list of things that the Mozilla community is doing and which we encourage everybody to do:

• Comment on the open letter at opentochoice.org;
• Follow @opentochoice on Twitter;
• Write a post on your blog;
• Use your favorite social network to spread the word;
• Write to bloggers that you know, to local media
• Start a thread in technology and OSS related forums and mailing lists about the browser choice screen;
• Offer to localize the open letter (send an email to contact -at- opentochoice.org)
• Are you participating in local events where you can talk about choice? Do a talk, organize a booth, distribute flyers in the welcome pack, put a banner on the event page;
• Become a browser choice screen watcher: did you see the browser choice screen pop-up on your screen? send us an email, post it on your blog, Tweet about it. Give details (country, time of day, choice of browser).

bad news on web browsers in China

Two pieces of news regarding web browsers in China, unfortunately neither of them good news.

China Tech News is reporting that Kingsoft, a software security package, and 360 Browser, which purports to be a more secure browser from Qihoo, are no longer working together as they had claimed to do earlier this year.

Browser War: China’s 360, Kingsoft Cease Tech Security Cooperation

While I haven’t been to the mainland recently (since 2007 in fact) I think a lot of the problems around software security and piracy are still par for the course.  That two “security” software vendors can’t work together just means that the user loses.  Kingsoft also claimed to be working with Maxthon earlier this year, Kingsoft, Maxthon To Jointly Develop Secure Browser- we’ll see if that ends up a better partnership than with Qihoo.

Then there is more ominous news from the BBC and The Register regarding the fact that Opera has forced all users of Opera Mini in China to use the Chinese language Mini. This comes with a new proxy server that is filtering access to websites like Facebook and Twitter, which used to be accessible.

Opera web browser ‘censors’ Chinese content


Opera plugs hole in Great Firewall of China

In fact Twitter users in China were complaining of this a few days before the BBC article was posted. There’s a lot to dislike about this outside of the fact that it looks like Opera is working with the Chinese government to filter the web for Chinese users. It also means that if you are an expatriate in China, and you’re more comfortable with an English interface for your web browser, you can’t use Opera Mini in English in China.

This is a sad day for the open web in China.

Open Source as a Model for Business Is Elusive

While this is ostensibly about European Union politics, I wanted to make sure that Planet readers saw this interesting Ashlee Vance story in the NY Times on business models in open source software that mentions Mozilla and Firefox.

Open-source software has thrived and played a prominent role in the building of the Internet’s infrastructure. Many companies rely on Linux-based computers and Apache Web server software to display their Web pages. Similarly, the Mozilla Firefox Web browser has emerged as the most formidable competitor to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

The grass-roots nature of open source has led advocates to view the projects as a populist foil to proprietary software, where a company keeps the inner workings of its applications secret.

But in the last decade, open-source software has become more of a corporate affair than a people’s revolution.

In some cases, dominant technology companies have used open-source projects as pawns. Google, for example, has needled Microsoft by providing financial support to the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation, which oversees of the development of Firefox. I.B.M. has been a major backer of Linux, helping to raise it as a competitor to Microsoft’s Windows and other proprietary operating systems.

Open Source as a Model for Business Is Elusive

Chosun Ilbo op-ed on Korean Microsoft monoculture

A Chosun Ilbo columnist (a leading Korean news provider), Kim Ki-cheon, has an op-ed regarding the Microsoft monoculture in Korea:

Korea’s Internet Is Mired in a Microsoft Monoculture

Korea is at the cutting edge in technology, the state of the art in e-commerce, an early adopter of third-generation wired and wireless communication, broadband and personal media. Yet 99.9 percent of computer users are on Microsoft Windows. Mac users cannot bank or shop online, nor do these users have access to government websites. The same goes for users of Linux, the free user-generated OS, and those using Mozilla Firefox or Opera to browse the web.

The observation comes from an early 2007 entry on a Japanese blog, written shortly after the blogger’s disappointing visit to Korea. It is not an unfair assessment nor is it borne of jealousy. Korea’s Internet monoculture has been a subject of concern here for some time and remains an issue. In a recently published book, Kim Ki-chang, a professor at Koryo University, says that Korea’s Internet environment is so unsound that nothing like it can be found in any other country in the world.

What is the problem? For one thing, accessing many Korean websites requires jumping through hoops not found anywhere else in the world. This may mean installing unfamiliar software programs, one to ensure secure access, another to protect against keystroke tracking, another for personal firewall protection, and on top of that, an antivirus program, all to be able to do some banking online. Nowhere else are websites so complicated and inconvenient.

It is also a uniquely Korean peculiarity that the programs needed for access to secure websites are compatible only with Microsoft Internet Explorer. Many are based on the ActiveX framework from Microsoft. And while there exist other technologies that perform the same function, none are in use in Korea. As a result, web browsers such as Firefox used by over 20 percent of users worldwide have no presence here.

Not much new here that has not been covered by me in the past but it is news to me that Kim Keechang has published a book on this topic.

Mozilla signs pro-Net Neutrality letter to FCC

As reported by a number of sources including the WSJ, Facebook and Twitter Founders Join Net Neutrality Wars, Mozilla has signed a pro-Net Neutrality letter (pdf) that was sent to FCC Chair Julius Genachowski. Please view the letter to see the 24 signers of this letter of support including John Lilly of Mozilla.

October 19, 2009

The Honorable Julius Genachowski, Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Genachowski:

We write to express our support for your announcement that the Federal Communications Commission will begin a process to adopt rules that preserve an open Internet. We believe a process that results in common sense baseline rules is critical to ensuring that the Internet remains a key engine of economic growth, innovation, and global competitiveness.

An open Internet fuels a competitive and efficient marketplace, where consumers make the ultimate choices about which products succeed and which fail. This allows businesses of all sizes, from the smallest startup to larger corporations, to compete, yielding maximum economic growth and opportunity.

Asia-related links I am reading

China’s censorship arms race escalates – Excellent coverage on Internet censorship in Mainland China by Rebecca Mackinnon.

Why and How Facebook should come to Southeast Asia – Bernard Leong’s excellent treatise on Facebook in SE Asia. If he wasn’t running his own SNS, Facebook should hire Bernard ;)

Google Losing in China as New Users Go to Baidu – Google losing search market share in China.

Forbes: The Man Who’s Beating Google – Long portrait of Robin Li, Founder & CEO of Baidu.

Japan’s PPC ad market will reach $2 billion by 2013 – Decent, but it could/should be bigger.

E-Commerce Is Getting Chinese to Loosen Their Purse Strings – NYT on ecommerce trends in China. Ecommerce and the related Internet advertising to support ecommerce will be key to a more vibrant web in China.

South Korea Approves Sale of Apple’s iPhone – Channy has been waiting for this day for a long time :)

South Korea Clears Way for iPhone Sales – No one has still explained how S. Koreans are going to do anything on the iPhone that requires a secure transaction if no Korean web services support SSL.

Vietnam’s rebounding economy – V not yet for victory – Economist on Vietnam’s macroeconomic challenges.

Software piracy costs Vietnam $275 million every year – Vietnam has done well with open source software but could do a lot more.

Want to live like Commons people?
Joi Ito talks about Creative Commons, Twitter, and the White House – Guardian UK interviews Joi Ito.