TBTF for 1/26/98: A brief history of Net time

Keith Dawson (dawson@world.std.com)
Mon, 26 Jan 1998 21:54:01 -0600


TBTF for 1/26/98: A brief history of Net time

T a s t y B i t s f r o m t h e T e c h n o l o g y F r o n t

Timely news of the bellwethers in computer and communications
technology that will affect electronic commerce -- since 1994

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This issue: < http://www.tbtf.com/archive/01-26-98.html >

C o n t e n t s

Compaq to acquire Digital
Microsoft dodges contempt
Netscape returns to its roots
US government will weigh in on domain naming
A warning on Microsoft (in)security
Antispammers win one but alienate many
Microsoft in Israel and Russia
White House appoints a new crypto czar
A brief history of Net time

..Compaq to acquire Digital

Former minnow swallows former whale

The long-running rumors [1], [2] have fructified. The $9.6B cash/
stock deal [3] is the largest ever in the computer industry, and
will result in the third-largest computer company (after IBM and
HP), with annual revenues of $37B. Digital shareholders will get $30
plus 0.945 Compaq shares for each DEC share owned. Digital will
operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Compaq. The deal must pass
regulatory scrutiny and is expected to be finalized in the second
quarter of this year. This PC Week analysis of the deal [4] quotes
Enrico Pesatori, CEO of Tandem (recently acquired by Compaq), with-
out noting that Pesatori ran Digital's PC business unit from 1993
to 1997. Digital stock rose more than 20% today on the news.

[1] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/01-11-97#s06
[2] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/11-24-97.html#s08
[3] http://www.compaq.com/newsroom/pr/pr260198c.html
[4] http://www.zdnet.com/pcweek/news/0126/26aexecs.html

..Microsoft dodges contempt

Playing chicken with the judicial system

On Thursday Microsoft ducked a contempt-of-court ruling by agreeing
to remove Internet Explorer from the Windows 95 product offered to
resellers, after having argued strenuously that it could not do so
[5], [6]. The next battle will be in appellate court in April, when
the company's appeal of Judge Jackson's December 11 ruling will be
heard. The court-appointed Special Master is to report at the end of
May. Of course the whole question of whether IE can or should be
unbundled from Windows 95 will be moot by midyear, when Windows 98
launches. Judge Jackson's order, if eventually upheld and enforced,
certainly is worded as if it means to include Windows 98. The Jus-
tice Department is widely rumored to be pursuing a new antitrust
case against Microsoft focused around Windows 98 and the company's
deals with ISPs. Here is Yahoo's summary coverage of the Microsoft
story [7].

[5] http://www.wired.com/news/news/business/story/9807.html
[6] http://www.infoworld.com/cgi-bin/displayStory.pl?980122.ehsettle.htm
[7] http://headlines.yahoo.com/Full_Coverage/Tech/Microsoft/

..Netscape returns to its roots

Stops charging for Communicator 4, offers Net developers source
to Communicator 5

On the same day, Thursday 1/22, Netscape announced a new policy of
giving away its browsers [8]. You can now download [9] Communicator
4.04 free of charge and free of guilt. By this unilateral levelling
of the browser playing field Netscape renounces 13% of its revenue,
amounting to $17M in the last quarter. The company is now calling
itself "both an enterprise software company and an online service
company," having morphed its much-visited top page into the free
membership-based Netcenter. This move will begin to put pressure on
the revenues Netscape collects from partner search engines and con-
tent sites.

The bigger news by far is that Netscape will play out a hugely aud-
acious gamble by freely publishing the source to its next-generation
browser [8]. History will tell whether this strategy is a foundation
for 21st-century Net software development or a train wreck. Success-
ful examples exist of "bazaar not cathedral" freeware software dev-
elopment [10], but none is commercial. The majority reaction in the
developer community to Netscape's move is positive verging on the
ecstatic [11], [12], [13] but some notes of caution are appearing
[14]. Coordinating the work of thousands of far-flung developers
will not be a doddle in the park. Analysis from the business commun-
ity is considerably less upbeat [15], [16].

Netscape will release source code for Communicator 5 with its first
beta in late March. The exact license terms were not announced but
the company made reference to the GPL [17], or copyleft, introduced
by the Free Software Foundation in the 1980s. The GPL requires any-
one redistributing modified versions of copyleft code, whether for
free or for fee, to perpetuate its copyleft status. The catalyst for
Netscape's decision was apparently this suggestion [18] posted by
Rob Malda, a college student in Michigan, the proprietor of slash-
dot.org ("news for nerds that matters") [19]. On the day of Net-
scape's announcement Chris Thompson registered the domain name open-
scape.org [20] and put out the shingle as a collecting-point for
folks interested in working on Netscape code. (Netscape said they
will set up their own site to distribute source code and collect
enhancements, so it's not clear what part Openscape might play. "If
in 30 days it seems... frivolous and unnecessary, I'll glady delete
the domain name and walk away," Thompson said.)

[8] http://home.netscape.com/newsref/pr/newsrelease558.html?cp=nws01flh1
[9] http://cgi.netscape.com/cgi-bin/upgrade.cgi
[10] http://www.ccil.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-paper.html
[11] http://language.perl.com/versus/hats.html
[12] http://www.scripting.com/davenet/98/01/netscapeSource.html
[13] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,18386,00.html?pfv
[14] http://www.theobvious.com/
[15] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,18392,00.html?pfv
[16] http://www.upside.com/texis/mvm/news?time=archive
[17] http://www.fsf.org/copyleft/gpl.html
[18] http://www.slashdot.org/slashdot.cgi?mode=article&artnum=499
[19] http://slashdot.org/
[20] http://www.openscape.org/

..US government will weigh in on domain naming

The Feds want to get out of running the Net, but how -- and how
slowly -- will matter a lot

The long-awaited report of the Ira Magaziner task force on domain
naming is expected out sometime this week. Its content has been the
subject of rumors and leaks since the first of the year. I have no
hard news to share on this subject -- the report will be the subject
of a Tasty Bit of the Day once it's published -- so will content
myself with pointing you to this recent Wired coverage [21] and this
TechWeb story [22] on the companies that have signed up with CORE,
the Council of Registrars now carrying the standard for 2-year-old
IAHC plan to expand top-level domains [23]. If you want to hear Mr.
Magaziner you can tune in to this 1/19 RealAudio news conference
[24], but be warned that he spends 16 minutes saying general things
about the proper role of government in the Net and not much about
domain naming.

[21] http://www.wired.com/news/news/politics/story/9867.html
[22] http://www.techweb.com/news/story/TWB19980123S0012
[23] http://www.tbtf.com/threads.html#Tdnp
[24] http://www.pcweek.com/radio/0119/srl0123a.ram

..A warning on Microsoft (in)security

Basic crypto weakness undermines all claims to security, expert

Longtime readers know that TBTF has been reporting on security weak-
nesses in Microsoft's products, particularly Internet Explorer, for
more than a year [25]. Now a security expert from New Zealand, Peter
Gutmann, has posted a paper [26] claiming that the flaws are so ser-
ious that Windows 95 users should entirely refrain from using the
Web. Among the problems Gutmann points out is a critical weakness in
the way Microsoft software protects (or does not protect) users'
master encryption key; this weakness undermines all other encryp-
tion components in Web servers and browsers. Gutmann outlines how a
cracker could quietly retrieve the private key from a victim's ma-
chine and break the encryption that "protects" it in a matter of
seconds. The attacker has, Gutmann says, then "effectively stolen
[the user's] digital identity, and can use it to digitally sign
contracts and agreements, to recover every encryption session key
it has ever protected in the past and will ever protect in the
future, to access private and confidential email, and so on."
TechWeb coverage is here [27].

[25] http://www.tbtf.com/resource/ms-sec-exploits.html
[26] http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/breakms.txt
[27] http://www.techweb.com/wire/story/TWB19980123S0007

..Antispammers win one but alienate many

The king of spam pokes an eye above the trenches and the
antispammers shoot it blind

TBTF for 11/24/97 [28] reported on spam king Sanford Wallace's plans
to form a backbone network, called Global Technology Marketing Inc.,
to revive the operation of his much-despised Cyber Promotions after
he was booted off AGIS Internet. The threatened network has not ap-
peared, but Wallace and partner-in-spam Walt Rines did quietly set
up a GTMI Web site to serve as an advertising billboard. This act
of merely raising a periscope above the trenches promptly attracted
withering fire from anti-spam forces. They deluged GTMI's hosting
ISP, Galaxy Net, with complaints and veiled threats; they applied
pressure through Galaxy's upstream provider, GeoNet. Within hours,
Galaxy reluctanty pulled the plug on GTMI, despite the fact that
the spammer site had broken no rules. The scorched-earth victory
won the anti-spammers no friends or admirers at Galaxy Net. Read
more about it here [29].

[28] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/11-24-97.html#s01
[29] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,18233,00.html?pfv

..Microsoft in Israel and Russia

Three thoughtful essays on the state of software, and Microsoft's
position, in these markets

Three readers sent thoughtful responses to EM Ganin's article on Mi-
crosoft's Hebrew versions of its software, published in TBTF for
1/19/98 [30]. One, from Alexander Gagin <gagin@cityline.ru>, editor-
in-chief of the Russian magazine Internet, ran as Tuesday's Tasty
Bit of the Day. These are collected [31] on the TBTF archive along
with two other missives, from Gil Rimon <gil@rimon.org> in Israel
and from Dr. Anton Nossik <anton@cityline.ru>, editor of the Rus-
sian-language Evening Internet Daily. A thread running through the
commentaries is the role of rampant software piracy in establishing
Microsoft as the dominant player in these countries.

[30] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/01-19-98.html#s03
[31] http://www.tbtf.com/aresource/moft-il-ru.html

..White House appoints a new crypto czar

His charter may be more limited than that of his predecessor

The new advisor is Steven Honigman, brought in from his position as
general councel to the Navy [32]. It's not clear how far his port-
folio extends beyond policy and implementation for government pro-
curement of cryptography products. Honigman's predecessor David
Aaron lasted less than a year before moving to a position in the
Commerce Department. Aaron demonstrably failed to obtain coopera-
tion, or even acquiescence, from US allies [33] on a policy of ex-
port limitations and key recovery. (After a year-long legal battle
the Electronic Privacy Information Center has obtained from the
State Department 500 pages of Ambassador Aaron's travel logs; they
have not yet been posted on the Web.)

[32] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,18142,00.html?pfv
[33] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,18079,00.html?pfv

..A brief history of Net time

A timeline of first mentions

Keith Lynch <kfl@clark.net> has been on the Net for longer than
anyone I know. He's been squirreling away email messages and
Usenet posts since 1975 and from them has constructed a succinct
timeline [34] of first mentions of products, jargon, terms, con-
cepts, and items of Net culture. Some excerpts:

1981 aug "Usenet" (mentioned on the ARPAnet)
82 feb "Internet" (then called ARPAnet)
86 mar "netiquette"
88 jan Year 2000 problem (i.e. lots of software will break)
88 feb perl
89 nov world.std.com (ISP, the first directly on the Internet)
91 mar cyberspace (referring to the net, not to sci-fi)
92 mar "Web" (as in World-Wide)
92 jun "WWW"
92 nov Linux (an operating system)
93 feb Wired magazine
94 jan "intranet"

[34] http://www.clark.net/pub/kfl/timeline.html

S o u r c e s

> For a complete list of TBTF's (mostly email) sources, see
http://www.tbtf.com/sources.html .

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Keith Dawson dawson@world.std.com
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