The Times They Are a-Changin'
The winds of change have been blowing in Silicon Valley and beyond today, bringing a whirlwind of metamorphosis that has certainly shaken things up. In that spirit, let's get shakin'.
First up is perhaps the most surprising reversal of the day. Comcast — the company that has defended its BitTorrent blocking policy all the way to Capitol Hill — has pulled a major flip-flop with the announcement that they will stop throttling P2P traffic and will work with BitTorrent to redesign their network to be more "agnostic." What has sparked this revelation in policy — and apparently, broadband religion — you ask? Comcast would have us believe it's their love of all things free, but we're guessing it had a lot to do with the FCC investigation and the recent announcement of Verizon's new P2P-friendly network. There's nothing like corporate competition and government sanctions to get big business thinking about the little guys.
Next up we have Adobe — not exactly well-known for protecting the little guy — with the somewhat unexpected unveiling of a free web-based, platform-independent version of its popular Photoshop software, one of the applications most frequently requested for porting to Linux. The move scoops Google and CodeWeavers, who announced an initiative last month to bring Photoshop to Linux via the Wine compatibility layer. Whether the project will go forward in the face of a free Adobe-sponsored version will remain to be seen.
Continuing on, we have news of dramatic developments at Motorola, with the company announcing that it will undergo a form of corporate meiosis, splitting off its slowly-dying handset division into a second publicly-traded company sometime in 2009. The move is hardly surprising, given the company's public admission last month that it was considering a split, and the rampant rumors of its immanence bombarding every interested party on the internet — except, perhaps, Comcast customers.
Even the legal world was not shielded from the tidal wave of change, though the change comes as good news. The powers behind the wonderfully-successful Software Freedom Law Center have decided to extend their exceptional expertise to the for-profit world. With the founding of Moglen Ravicher LLC, the power duo of Eben Moglen and Daniel Ravicher will now represent Open Source-supportive for-profit ventures that are barred from getting the free services provided to not-for-profit groups by the SFLC. In true Free Software style, the firm will be wholly owned by the SFLC, and all the money raised through those billable hours will fund the Center's pro bono efforts.
The legal world may find itself quite busy — though we doubt it will be the SFLC's sort of clients — if new social-networking reforms make the cut in the United Kingdom. The release this week of a report on internet safety commissioned by the Prime Minister comes with a laundry list of changes to the way the internet does business, in the name of keeping kids safe online. Among the changes ordered by the report are the immediate closure of websites promoting self-harm, eating disorders, and suicide, the imposition of mandatory take-downs of "unsuitable" material within twenty-four hours of a complaint, and a government council to regulate all content online. While the proposal certainly sounds as though it would create an internet devoid of objectionable content — indeed, likely devoid of any content — it will be interesting to see how the UK government and Dr. Byron, the report's creator, manage to police the entire internet and shut down websites in jurisdictions far from the sceptred isle set in the silver sea. For our part, we think it'll be a spectacular battle here in the U.S., where enforcement against U.S.-based sites would likely be a fight to the death with the First Amendment.
We conclude with one final change: us, from desk to sofa.