Web Devout tidings

Archive for February, 2006

New server

Monday, February 27th, 2006

Web Devout has moved to a new, faster, more reliable server. The fact that you can see this message suggests that you have received the DNS update.

Edit: Visitor statistics information is being taken only from the new server location. At the time of posting this, it appears only a few visitors have received the DNS updates, meaning the statistics are currently showing near zero visitors since the move.

Browser security graphs

Saturday, February 25th, 2006

The Web browser security summary page now includes graphs showing the relative number and severity of known unpatched security vulnerabilities in time since November 2004 in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Opera. The graph is updated automatically as time goes on and as new security vulnerabilities are discovered and fixed.

It is interesting to note that, although usage share of Firefox and Opera continue to rise, the number of vulnerabilities seems to be in an overall decline. Meanwhile, the Internet Explorer vulnerability count continues to be on the rise.

Open for comments

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

Nothing gets my goat quite like a poorly researched news article with no public commenting system. This is the year 2006 and the era of weblogs and open communication on the Web, and we have developed a certain expectation for interaction with our news sources. Those in technological fields know quite well that errors in news stories are all too common, and some form of public review is essential to ensure that less knowledgeable readers don’t get a heap of misinformation.

For a large part, news organizations get it. The provision of some form of commenting system is very much the norm on online news sites. Whether they’re called comments, TalkBack, public discussion, or reader responses, most popular online news sources have some form of public feedback system that gives readers immediate access to the responses.

However, there are still plenty of news sources — some of them quite major — that haven’t caught up to the times. Often they will simply link to their generic message board system, which significantly discourages both the posting of responses and the reading of those responses, as the messages are not directly linked with the article. In other cases, they will only provide a way to privately contact the author of the article or the editor, and you will find that your response very seldom affects the content of the article in question, even if the author confirms that you are right.

Luckily, this is a problem that seems to be slowly dying away as the news industry has generally recognized this change in culture and the benefits it has produced. Market forces may also be playing a role, as people will naturally flock to sources where they can see more discussion on the subject and even participate in said discussion. This concept was at the core of Tim Berners-Lee’s original vision of the Web, and it seems inevitable that it is the direction in which the Web will continue to progress.

Google’s China stance commendable

Saturday, February 18th, 2006

Google has come under fire regarding its recent move to set up a server in China. While many see this action as bowing down to a tyrant, I for one applaud their decision.

Here is the current situation: Chinese residents more or less have access to the Google.com server, completely unfiltered by Google. However, Chinese ISPs have been creating complications, and the availability of Google.com to Chinese citizens is unreliable due to factors outside Google’s control. Google could only work around these problems by providing a server on Chinese soil. As a result, this server would be subject to all of the local laws of the land, including the self-censorship laws.

So Google basically has two options: either continue to provide Chinese residents with an unfiltered but unreliable service, or provide a reliable service that makes as much information available to the Chinese residents as it can by law and notifies the user whenever something has been filtered, all while still making the completely unfiltered Google.com service available as before.

The question ultimately comes down to whether Google should maximize the information it makes available to the Chinese residents or hold out on them due to principle. As Google has relatively little influence in China (compared to most of the free world), a boycott of China would have little or no effect. It seems to me that the action that most benefits the people of China is to provide them with as much service as Google can, which unfortunately is not perfect.

Change in China will not likely happen due to boycotts, but by the people of China learning what it means to be free. The more exposure the Chinese citizens gets to the Internet, the more pressure it will put on the ruling party to let go of their stranglehold on the people. Google is trying to give as much information to those people as they can, and will no doubt push further as their influence grows. This decision is not hypocrisy; rather, it is more in line with their promise than perhaps anything they have done before: to make all the world’s information universally accessible. The Chinese government has been fighting to keep Google from doing this, and Google is now fighting back.

Edit: It is worth noting that Google has promised to not keep on Chinese soil any information which could be used to incriminate users under Chinese law.

Edit: Here is a nicely-written article on this subject: Google founders grow up — just like the rest of us.

Web Devout downtime

Friday, February 17th, 2006

I apologize to those of you who have been experiencing some downtime on this website recently. My host has been working on gradually moving to a new, more powerful server, but we ran into a few unexpected bumps. The situation will hopefully become stable in a few days as we complete the process.