Tag Archives: web

Shares of Web.com Up Over 13% After Hours On Takeover Rumors

Shares of Web.com (WEB) rose over 13% after hours as Reuters.com reported the company “is in talks with private equity firms after receiving takeover approaches.” The story went on to say “The buyout interest in Web.com comes as its sector has become increasingly crowded, with companies such as Wix.com Ltd, Weebly Inc and Squarespace seeking […]

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Domain Names Are Fading From User View

The internet has changed and evolved ever since it’s ancestors first came to life in the late 1960’s. Some technology fades away and is forgotten; other aspects continue but are overlaid, like geological sediments, so that they are now longer visible but are still present under the surface.

The Domain Name System — both the technology of DNS and the deployed naming hierarchy we all use — are among those aspects of the internet that, although they feel solid and immutable, are slowly changing underneath our feet.

Act I: In Which DNS Fades to Translucent Grey

Internet Domain Names had a good twenty-year run from the early days of the World Wide Web (1995) through 2015.

Some people made a lot of money through domain name speculation. Others made money by wallpapering Google Ad Sense advertisements over vacuous websites. And a busload of attorneys made a good living chasing down shysters trying to make a buck off of the trademarks of others.

And through its perceived control of domain name policy, ICANN grew into a ever-bloating, money absorbing bureaucracy worthy of Jonathan Swift.

But things are changing. The days of domain names as the center of internet policy and internet governance are ending. Domain name speculation will slowly become a quaint shadow of its former self.

What is driving these changes?

It is not that the Domain Name System (DNS) is becoming less important as a technical way of mapping structured names into various forms of records, most often records containing IP addresses.

Nor is the Domain Name System used less then heretofore.

Nor are the knights of intellectual property becoming any less enthusiastic about challenging every domain name that they feel does not pay adequate homage to the trademarks they are protecting.

And national governments continue to believe that domain names are the holy grail of levers they can use to impose their views of right and proper behavior onto the internet.

All of that remains. And it will remain.

What is happening to DNS is more subtle: Domain names are slowly becoming invisible.

For many years internet users could not avoid domain names. DNS names were highly visible. And domain names were everywhere. DNS names were part of e-mail addresses, DNS names were prominent parts of World Wide Web URLs, and DNS names that were based on words formed a rough, but useful, taxonomy of web content.

But the sea-level of internet technology is slowly rising. We now live in a world of web search engines. We now have personalized lists of “contacts”. We now use a profusion of “apps”. And we now spend much of our online lives inside walled gardens and social networks (such as Facebook, Twitter, or various games.)

Even in places where users formerly uttered or typed email-addresses (containing domain names) or web addresses, we now enter keystrokes or words that are used by user interface code to search for the thing we want and make suggestions.

For example, when I send an e-mail, I usually don’t need to type more than two or three characters of the name of the desired recipient; for every keystroke the software goes to my contact list, does a search, and shows me the possible outcomes. Similarly, on web browsers the old “address bar” has become a place for the user to send search targets to a web search company. In both of these examples the user no longer really deals with domain names (even though in both of these examples there are domain names — sometimes visible, sometimes hidden — underneath the search results.)

In the world of Apps, games, and walled gardens there may not even be a way for a user to utter a domain name.

And if a user does mention a domain name it is frequently in the form of a shortened URL that has no resemblance to the actual domain name of the target resource.

You can confirm this by asking yourself: “When was last time I used a domain name while using Facebook or Twitter, or when playing my favorite game?” Few of us have ever used a domain name when giving an order to an Amazon Echo (“Alexa”) or a Google Home (“OK Google”).

Act II: DNS Remains, But Quietly Hovers In The Background

DNS is not being abandoned; the domain name system is as robust, powerful, and important today as it ever was.

However, DNS is being veiled. So that rather than being a central figure, visible to all, it does its job behind the scenes where few but internet operators and repair techs see it.

In days past, you or I may have gone to a web browser and entered a URL that looked like, http://upstairs-thermostat.myhouse.tld/. But today I use an Internet of Things device and say “Alexa, set the upstairs thermostat to 68 degrees.”

Same activity, same request, same devices, but the domain name has gone away and been replaced with a more convenient handle.

I use the word “handle” quite intentionally. One of the aspects of the post-DNS internet is that names are becoming contextual. These new names often exist within the context of a particular person (as in a personal contact list) or a particular walled garden (such as Twitter).

Contextual names let us escape the rules and disputes — and costs — that came from the “globally unique identifier” view of the domain name system. You and I can each use the name “upstairs thermostat”; the context prevents collisions; the context differentiates between your “upstairs thermostat” and mine.

These new names will often be used on software that internally uses domain names to tie things together. There is no doubt that Twitter, for example, has lots of internal domain names. But those domain names have become merely internal gears and wheels, they have become as invisible as the pistons in the motor of a gasoline powered automobile.

The DNS system will remain as a means of using structured names — words connected by dots — to obtain various forms of records that can contain things as varied as IP addresses, geographic locations, e-mail exchange server lists, VoIP PBX locations, etc. But it will be software rather than humans that originates those structured names and uses the lookup results. That software may, and frequently will not, make those underlying structured DNS names, or the lookup results, visible to the human user.

The fading of domain names brings benefits.

Some troublesome things will begin to end.

Domain names will no longer be perceived as being particularly valuable ways to express semantically meaningful labels.

  • This will remove much of the energy that powered the DNS trademark wars that we have seen over the past twenty years. (But don’t expect the trademark protection industry to give up their relentless effort to own even private, local uses of some names — that company in Atlanta will probably want to try to prevent people in their own homes from using the word “coke” to refer to any brown carbonated sugar drink other than their own.)
  • And it will also tend to de-energize marginal internet activities such as typosquatting in order to pick up advertising impressions or click dollars from people who accidentally mis-typed a domain name into a browser.
  • And it will obviate the need for most of the functions of ICANN.

Opportunities will arise for application-specific or community specific naming systems:

  • New names can be more descriptive of classes of possible targets rather than being tightly bound: You could, for example, say “ATM” and not be locked into ATMs operated by wellsfargo.com.
  • New names do not need to fit into the confined strictures of domain names.
  • New names need to be less like “names” and more like “descriptions” — more on that below.

Act III: There’s Still Gold In Internet Naming

The loss of domain names as baubles for speculation does not mean that entrepreneurs and Procrustean government bureaucrats must fold their tends and skulk away in to the night.

Even after DNS becomes merely an internal organ of the internet, there will be plenty of opportunities for fun and profit.

Companies that are presently operating as domain name registries and registrars, are well poised to capitalize on the new systems: they already have much of the customer and user facing “front office” infrastructure that will be required to service whatever naming systems may arise.

There are two broad areas in which internet naming will probably evolve: entity naming and describing.

Entity Naming

The need to attach names to specific things will be with us forever. And there will always be a need to turn names into some sort of concrete handle to those things. This will be, as it always has been, tied to the problems of figuring out where that thing is (i.e. its address) and how to get there (i.e. the route.)

One of the prime values of DNS as it exists today is that almost everybody voluntary chooses to use a single base root. So we have a global shared system that assures that all names attached to that root are unique.

That uniqueness is important, but it is not always necessary — sometimes people want a solid distributed name-to-record lookup system that is not dependent on a global root outside of their control. Sometimes people just want a private name space for some private purpose. DNS technology, as opposed to “the” domain name system, provides a useful tool for these purposes.

The name model of DNS is extremely useful, but it is simplistic: It is a hierarchy, represented by names separated by dots, that leads to sets of records that can contain various types of data. That simplicity has allowed DNS to be robust and reliable. But that same simplicity creates limits.

The world is evolving so that that simple model of names-to-records will become increasingly inadequate. I’ve written a couple of papers on this topic:

  • On Entity Associations In A Cloud Network – The argument made here is that as we move towards cloud based resources the simple mapping of DNS names to a relatively fixed set of answers is not sufficient to accommodate the motion, partitioning, and coalescing of cloud based computing and data resources.
  • Thoughts On Internet Naming Systems ‐ This presentation addresses certain presumed characteristics of domain names that are not necessarily true in practice and likely to become even less true in the future. For example, many of us tend to presume that DNS names will generate the same answers no matter who requests a DNS lookup. And all of us are increasingly aware that DNS names are not permanent, the underlying records, and sometimes even the DNS names themselves, sometimes change or even disappear.

And even though name-to-record look machinery such as DNS will remain valuable, it must evolve so that it can have greater security and consistency.

The larger area of future change lies in the area described by the first of the papers above — in the realm of lookups based on descriptions and attributions.

Attribute and Description Based Systems

Whether in real life or on the internet, often you want something that is a member of a class rather than a specific member of that class. You often just want “a Pepsi” rather than a specific bottle of that drink; you usually don’t care which bottle for your needs, the various bottles are equivalent and interchangeable. A word for this is “fungible”.

As is described in my paper On Entity Associations In A Cloud Network the internet is evolving so that there may be many resources that would satisfy any one of our (or our application’s) needs. DNS is often not the best solution for this kind of resource search. Attribute and description based systems would be better, particularly if they had some leeway to find things that are “near” or “similar to” the description or attributes.

We are familiar with this kind of search. For example, web search engines, such as Google, try to show us web search results that locate the best or nearest solutions, not necessarily the perfect solution. And many apps on mobile devices aspire to discover resources based on their distance to your current location.

We can anticipate that use of this kind of thing will increase.

Descriptions and attributes can be self-published by devices and services as they are deployed (or as cloud entities split or coalesce) or they can be published by those who manage such devices or services. This publication could be in the form of simple ad hoc text, as is done for much that is on the web, or be formalized into machine-readable data structures in JSON or XML.

There is lots of room for innovation in this realm; and possibly lots of room to glue-on revenue producing machinery, much as Google did when it attached advertising to web searching.

Epilogue: The Internet Twenty Years Hence (2037)

Relatively few of us remember the internet as it was twenty years ago when the World Wide Web was just getting started. What will it look like twenty years in the future?

We can be sure that whatever it looks like to users, that there will be a lot of ancient machinery, such as DNS, lurking inside.

It is likely that human users will increasingly interact with computer and networks resources much as they interact with other humans — in ad hoc and informal ways. Humans are notoriously vague and ambiguous; that will not change in the future. This means that our computerized systems will have to become more human in the ways that they resolve that ambiguity into concrete results and actions. This, in turn, means that computerized systems will have to become more aware of context and use fewer “names” and more “descriptions” when trying to satisfy human requests.

The introduction of context into network naming will mean more opportunities for damage to human privacy. The tension between convenience and privacy will increase.

As the network world becomes more contextual, it will become harder to diagnose and isolate problems and failures.

Footnote: What Do We Do With An ICANN That Has Lost Most Of Its Purpose?

The vast bulk of ICANN’s machinery and staff is present to support the domain name selling industry. As this paper indicates, we can anticipate that that industry will shrink and consolidate. And fights over domain names will fade as domain names lose their semantic weight or become hidden artifacts rarely seen by anyone except internet technicians.

The ICANN traveling circus of international meetings will become as interesting as a meeting about the future of Lotus 123.

ICANN’s income stream will shrink; ICANN will no longer be able to support its grandiose office suites, staff, and hyperbolic procedures.

ICANN will have to retreat back to what it should have been in the first place — a technical coordinator, a source of operational service levels for DNS roots and TLD servers, and secretariat for protocol parameters such as DNSSEC keys and IP protocol numbers.

Written by Karl Auerbach, Chief Technical Officer at InterWorking Labs

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New Chapter Working Groups Open Closed Doors

One thing was clear from a recent presentation by the new leaders of the SF-Bay Internet Society (ISOC) Chapter Working Groups: inclusion and collaboration will be the key to these groups’ success.

As Dr. Brandie Nonnecke, the Internet Governance Working Group (WG) Chair said, “We haven’t yet cracked the code on what ‘multistakeholder’ means.” But that won’t stop her and Dr. Jaclyn Kerr, the Data Protection, Privacy, and Security WG Chair, from trying. At a recent Chapter Event held on April 10th, 2017, these two innovative leaders laid out an ambitious plan to bridge silos and foster open dialogue in order to work towards the Internet Society’s mission that the Internet is for Everyone.

Focus Areas

These newly-launched Working Groups will focus on the interest areas of the SF Bay Area Chapter members, as determined by their responses to a recent survey. There are three in total: Internet Governance; Data Protection, Privacy & Security; and Internet of Things (IoT), Internet Technologies & Access.

Internet Governance

For the Internet Governance Working Group, Chair Brandie Nonnecke laid out a plan that includes supporting interdisciplinary research, publishing position papers and policy briefs, organizing workshops, symposia, and activities, and supporting a fellowship programme. The goal is to educate and engage stakeholders not traditionally involved in Internet governance. Brandie is well-suited to achieve this goal: she is a PhD whose research focuses on multistakeholderism in internet governance and information and communication technology (ICT) policymaking at the Center of Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute, UC Berkeley. The WG group is now accepting members; help drive the agenda by applying to join the WG.

Data, Privacy, Security

For the Data Protection, Privacy, and Security Working Group, Chair Jaclyn Kerr discussed the urgency of this issue: due to government surveillance and data breaches, there are serious threats to our online security and privacy. Even at the top level of government, there have been security breaches. Jaclyn discussed working in collaboration with the other WGs and fostering discussion between those involved in tech, civil society, civil liberties, security and academia. Jaclyn is as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Center for Global Security Research (CGSR), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where her research focuses on cybersecurity and information security strategy, Internet governance, and the Internet policies of non-democratic regimes. Apply to join this WG.

IoT

And last but not least, in the IoT, Internet Technologies & Access Working Group, the focus will be on the IoT ecosystem, issues around access, critical Internet infrastructure, innovation and open standards. As more and more devices connect to the Internet, we need to ensure that security concerns, critical resources like IPv4 and IPv6 address space, and technology standards are addressed. Mischa Spiegelmock, who unfortunately could not attend the Chapter Event due to travel, chairs this WG. Mischa is software engineer who currently leads an engineering team at MVS Technical Group Inc., and specializes in information security, database-driven applications, systems programming, UNIX and C. To get involved, apply to join this working group.

Opening Doors

So many decisions about Internet governance, security, and infrastructure happen behind closed doors. The more technical the topic is, the more difficult it is for everyday citizens to get involved, which is a vulnerability for all of us. These Working Groups, the SF-Bay Area Chapter and the Internet Society exist to change that. “The Internet touches every part of our lives and everyone should be equipped with enough knowledge to enable them to have a say in how it is run,” says SF-Bay Area Chapter President and Chair, Susannah Gray. “The SF-Bay Area Chapter provides a neutral platform for you to advocate, learn, educate, and work on these key issues. It was amazing to see so many people come together on April 10 to express their interest, their own areas of focus and their concerns for the future of the Internet: we look forward to working with you all as we continue to build up our Working Groups.”

Get Involved

Get involved today by joining us and almost 2,000 other members (it’s free!), emailing us with your thoughts, applying for open board seats, volunteering, donating, sponsoring the Chapter, or joining one of these powerful Working Groups. There is a reason Board Treasurer Ken Krechmer, one of the Chapter founders, called ISOC the “Continental congress of the Internet.” This is the basis for an open Internet.

You can find the agenda from the April 10 Chapter Event and recording here.

This blog post was written by Jenna Spagnolo on behalf of the San Francisco-Bay Area Internet Society chapter.

Written by Jenna Spagnolo

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SEO Secrets of Keyword-Relevant Domain Extensions

The Domain Name Association (DNA) recently commissioned Web Traffic Advisors, with supporting analysis from Kevin Rowe of Rowe Digital, to do an independent study, Hidden Advantages of Relevant Domain Names, to answer the following question:

Can domain name extensions, especially meaningful or relevant domain name extensions (e.g. .Club, .Online, .Rocks, .Today), have the same opportunity as traditional or more generic ones (e.g. traditional .Biz, .Com, .Info, .Org)?

The answer is yes! Companies that want to compete for visibility in search engines — either organically or through paid search — are discovering that they can do so with keyword-rich domain name extensions. By utilizing relevant, domain name extension that map more directly (on both the left and the right side of the dot) to frequently searched descriptive terms can fast-track search rankings. To view the full infographic and report summary, visit here.

The top takeaway is that keyword-relevant domain name extensions stand on equal ground when it comes to organic search performance. Plus, relevant domain name extensions required less inbound links to rank in the top page search spots than their traditional and more generic .Com and related counterparts based on the case studies and keywords examined.

This finding is a pretty big reveal from a search engine optimization (SEO) perspective because there have been years of speculation and even research around the idea that having the keyword in the URL itself is helpful. While there has always been a lot of evidence that points to that conclusion, it has been a bit of a leap to confirm that a keyword-relevant domain name extension would also be of value in search rankings.

Many marketers have favored sticking with a traditional domain with a keyword to the left of the dot such as healthinsurance.com, over a domain name extension like health.insurance with keywords on both sides of the dot. However, the study confirms that keyword-relevant domain name extensions are doing very well without having to create the same amount of inbound links generated by keyword-rich web pages, content and social media.

So, how is it possible that relevant new domain name extensions can rank so well for high-volume keyword searches and also have visibility for related modified terms? Here’s why:

Good rankings can be achieved by domains with relevant extensions with lower “Domain Authority,” which is a scoring system developed by several technology firms serving the industry that is used to measure the relative number and quality of links pointed to a website’s domain name from pages on other websites. Relevant domain extensions in the study had a low Domain Authority, an average of 4, yet they ranked with near equal results to more established domains with much higher Domain Authority. As a result, unique, relevant domain name extensions rank frequently on top pages of the search results alongside .Coms, which have a Domain Authority average of 33, according to Rowe Digital Research.

This means that relevant domain names have the opportunity to rank well in categories with less overall Domain Authority and inbound links than traditional extensions vying for those top page spots.

Collectively, the research examined four case studies that form a sample set spanning across different industries, including business-to-business, retail, sports and entertainment. Each competes for very high-volume keywords being targeted by marketers and bid on by search professionals for paid search.

For example, Seo.Agency, one of the four case studies (see figure below) is unique because the domain name extension itself is made up of very competitive keywords. According to the research, Seo.Agency has been able to establish a strong relevance for that term and maintain their rankings on the top three search pages with just 30 qualified keywords, attracting eyeballs for the 2,000 searches that happen each month. The rankings achieved for search term phrase “SEO agency” put it on exactly the same playing field as the “pay-to-play” top 10 sites and the other agencies typically ranking in the top five for this specific keyword search or ones very closely relevant, such as “SEO agency New York,” for example.

While all of the SEO agency-related websites across different top-level domains compete very well for terms related to SEO agencies and companies (see figure below), they gain their rankings through different strengths.

Seo.Agency has 26 inbound links and gains its ranking strength from its keyword-relevant domain name. Other “SEO agency” related domain name extensions, like Clutch.co and Topseos.com, generate more inbound links (10,188 and 31,106 respectively) from content, web pages, and social media to rank within the same top page search spots.

According to the study, Seo.Agency is saving approximately $3,000 U.S. per month in cost-per-click advertising (the keyword phrase “SEO agency” costs around $25 U.S. per click through “Pay-Per-Click” in Google AdWords).

Another example, Diamonds.Pro, can compete with websites that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for paid search positioning within search engines.

The study found that the keywords Diamonds.Pro ranks for would cost $236,000 U.S. per month based on the estimated 114,000 organic clicks achieved if the brand were purchasing the clicks using Google AdWords.

However, by providing useful content for people engaged in the diamond-buying process, Diamonds.Pro also ranks well for many additional diamond-related search terms. The domain has garnered nearly 1,000 external links from other websites, which means “two-for-one” value from an SEO perspective, gaining both relevance and authority, or “trust.”

Conclusion

Today, there are more than 1,000 options for domain name extensions. This creates the opportunity to add meaning and relevance on both sides of the dot, which can lead to getting rankings cost-effectively and organically. So if you’ve spent thousands of dollars on an ad campaign and wanted to add a unique domain name to drive eyeballs directly to your URL, a relevant domain name extension could be just the thing to add to your digital marketing strategy.

Written by Chris Boggs, Founder, Web Traffic Advisors

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Don’t Make the Internet Safe for Monopolies

This week I’m going to Washington to argue against regulating Internet access as if it were phone service. Twenty years ago I was there for the same reason. My concern now as it was then is that such regulation will damage the economy and reduce opportunity by stifling innovation and protecting the current dominant players from the startups which would otherwise threaten them.

At that time the proponents of Internet regulation were most regional monopoly telephone companies, who were regulated themselves (and very comfortable living in a regulated environment). The then small Internet industry (including me) argued that startups were not monopolies and could not afford the batteries of lobbyists and regulatory compliance lawyers needed to survive in a regulated world. “Imagine,” we said, “if each new Internet app had to be approved by some commission or another”.

Fortunately, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Reed Hundt, a Democrat appointed by Bill Clinton, and a majority of commissioners agreed with us. The Commission policy on Internet regulation became one of forbearance. The monopolists were right to worry. The Internet was disruptive. If they had won, there would be no such thing as Skype or Vonage; calls to China would still be $3.00 minute; and 800 numbers might still be more important than websites for shopping. Google, Netflix, Facebook, and Amazon wouldn’t be the companies they are today.

Hundt’s successor William Kennard, also appointed by Clinton, listened carefully to all arguments and continued the policy of benign forbearance. Innovation flourished. When Bush was elected, Internet folk were afraid that his FCC appointees would be more responsive to telco lobbying. We could no longer argue that the Internet was a fledgling industry but could and did argue the public benefits of innovation and rapidly evolving business models. Michael Powell, Bush’s first appointee as FCC Chair, and the Commission debated and then issued the “Pulver Order” declaring that Voice over IP was not a telecommunications service. That meant in practice that the FCC, whose mandate only extends to telephony services, would have no reason to regulate the Internet.

The FCC did NOT regulate the Internet from then until now. However, in the waning days of the Obama administration, the FCC promulgated a regulation saying that Internet access is a telecommunications service (regardless of whether voice over IP is involved.). Therefor the FCC has the right to regulate Internet access as it used to regulate monopoly phone service. Big reversal.

Those who now want regulation are Google, Facebook, and other major Internet players. They are good marketers so this regulation is called “Net Neutrality”. Who could be against a neutral Internet where all bits are equal? Ironically it is the telcos and cable companies (ISPs) who are on the other side and against reregulation; they are the ones who will be regulated.

There are four major things wrong with the “Net Neutrality” regulations as promulgated (they are not yet in effect):

  1. All users of the Internet, as well as the economy itself, will suffer if regulation is used to throttle innovation — that’s as true now as it ever was.
  2. This regulation protects the powerhouse incumbents — Google, Facebook et al — from effective and needed competition. It protects them on one side from rich ISPs (why?) and on the other side from would be new providers of Internet access (think mesh networks, access from drones, whatever) who won’t be able to satisfy the regulations made for the technologies they are obsoleting.
  3. There is probably no legal justification for the FCC regulating the Internet. FCC has jurisdiction over basic telecommunications service. They said the Internet isn’t such a service for years; just saying it is all of a sudden a basic telecommunications service doesn’t make it so.

Google may yet regret its call for regulation of any part of the Internet value chain. A Wall Street Journal story last week says that Google is working on an ad-blocking filter for its Chrome browser. Will the FCC next declare browsers a telecommunication service and require browser neutrality?

With all due respect to many people I respect who support the “Net Neutrality” regulations, I’m as much against regulating the Internet now as I was 20 years ago although I no longer have any direct financial interest except as a consumer. I hope both that the legal challenge to this extension of the FCC’s reach will continue and that the current FCC will undo the harm that its immediate predecessors did and return to the policy which has so successfully supported economic growth and innovation for the last twenty years.

See https://www.bna.com/pai-engages-silicon-n57982087000/ for a Bloomberg story on this issue.

This post was originally posted on Fractals of Change.

Written by Tom Evslin

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