Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue
Who decides what should appear online? Two articles tackle different aspects of that question. First, Adam weighs in on Adobe's lawsuit against MacNN over publication of Photoshop 6 pre-release information. Then, Kirk McElhearn looks at the hyperlink and wonders if there's any content behind it. We also note the Microsoft breakup ruling, Apple's QuickTime deal with RealNetworks, and releases of QuicKeys 5.0 and Illustrator 9.0.
Copyright 2000 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Comments: <email@example.com>
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
READERS LIKE YOU! You can help support TidBITS via our voluntary
contribution program. Special thanks this week to Scott Tilden,
Andrew Watson, and Ed Miron for their financial support!
WinStar Northwest Nexus. Visit us at <http://www.nwnexus.com/>.
Internet business solutions throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Small Dog Electronics: KDS VS-21e 21" Monitor (demo): $599!
Buy any new iMac DV and get a FREE 128 MB RAM Upgrade: $1,299!
PowerLogix G3 400/200/1MB Daughter Card Upgrade: $269!
For Details: <http://www.smalldog.com/> -- 802/496-7171
Aladdin Systems: NEW Spring Cleaning 3.5 now shipping! Now 13
powerful cleaning utilities! New iClean tosses out Internet-
related clutter like cookies, histories, caches files and more.
WORLD-CLASS DATA CENTER! Send your server to digital.forest's
data center with multiple high-speed connections, earthquake
hardened racks, 24-hour monitoring and security, daily backups,
filtered back-up power, and more... <http://www.forest.net/>
GIGABIT SPEEDS for big file transfers. Turn your network into an
ULTIMATE high speed network with Farallon's Gigabit Switches &
a PCI card for 10/100/1000 Mbps connectivity. Free technical
support & 3 YR. WARRANTY! <http://www.farallon.com/tb/gigabit/>
Judge Orders Microsoft Breakup; Company to Appeal -- U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson last week ordered Microsoft be split into two separate enterprises, one focusing on operating system software, and the other encompassing Microsoft's other business interests, ranging from office applications and hardware to games and online services. This ruling comes during the penalty phase of the Microsoft antitrust trial; Microsoft has repeatedly claimed it will appeal any decision against it, and also says it would resist any government action to bypass the appeals process via an expedited hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court. In his final judgment, Judge Jackson requires Microsoft to submit a divestiture plan within four months and to adhere to a series of interim restrictions on its business practices until three years after the divestiture is complete. Microsoft's spin-off businesses would have to remain separate for at least ten years. Despite the definitive tone of the order, however, don't expect anything to change soon. Microsoft has filed a motion seeking a stay of the interim measures, pending appeal, and the appeals process for the entire case may drag out two or more years before any breakup goes into effect. [GD]
RealNetworks Supports QuickTime -- Apple Computer and RealNetworks have announced that RealNetworks has licensed QuickTime technology and that RealServer 8 will support streaming QuickTime content to Apple's QuickTime Player. Being able to serve QuickTime content is a plus for RealNetworks, whose love-hate relationship with Microsoft has fueled much of the industry battle over streaming media technologies. By licensing and supporting QuickTime, RealNetworks strengthens its hand by gaining access to the more than 50 million copies of the QuickTime 4 Player installed on Macintosh and Windows systems worldwide. Apple benefits by QuickTime becoming a fully supported media type on RealNetworks' media servers, which are widely deployed and used for a variety of online broadcasting applications. The agreement supports streaming QuickTime content to Apple's QuickTime Player - RealNetworks' RealPlayer client itself will not support QuickTime content. A preview of RealServer 8 with QuickTime support is available now; RealNetworks says the final version should ship in the second half of 2000. [GD]
Adobe Draws Up Illustrator 9.0 -- With the release of Adobe Illustrator 9.0, Adobe Systems is working to draw more Web designers to the vector illustration program by providing additional drawing and exporting options. The new version includes features for creating transparent objects, beefed up layer controls, a pixel preview mode for working on Web graphics, and the capability to export into Macromedia Flash and SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) formats. Illustrator 9.0 requires Mac OS 8.5 or later with at least 64 MB of RAM. The full Illustrator 9.0 package costs $400; current Illustrator users can upgrade for $150. Registered users of Photoshop, InDesign, PageMaker, and competitive products can get Illustrator 9.0 for $250. [JLC]
QuicKeys 5.0 Adds Speech Triggers and More -- CE Software has released QuicKeys 5.0, a major upgrade to the company's long-standing macro utility (see "QuicKeys Pushes My Buttons" in TidBITS-492 for a review of QuicKeys 4). New features in QuicKeys 5.0 include speech triggers for macros, support for Multiple Users in Mac OS 9, new day-of-the-week triggers for performing actions at specified times, pop-out toolbars that save screen real estate, a screen lock function for privacy, and tabbed toolbars. Two important limitations have also been lifted - you can now name shortcuts with 250 characters of text instead of 13, and the text tool can hold 8 times as much text as before. QuicKeys 5.0 requires Mac OS 8.5 or higher (with 8.5.1 recommended), and a PowerPC-based Macintosh with 32 MB of RAM. QuicKeys 5.0 costs $100, with upgrades from 4.0 at $40, and a free 30-day demo available. [ACE]
Poll Results: On the Road Again -- Last week's poll asking which computing and communications gear people find most useful while travelling came up with a somewhat surprising winner: while respondents were able to choose among high-tech items like cellular phones, PDAs, laptop computers, and pagers, old-fashioned pen and paper was cited by nearly 70 percent of the respondents. Mobile phones, PDAs, and laptop computers were in a tight heat, being cited by 51 to 57 percent of respondents, while other options like GPS devices and pagers were far behind with only 4 and 8 percent response. Only seven people thought none of these devices were useful. [GD]
Quiz Preview: Out of Your Misery-- Years ago, both Tonya and I struggled with painful and debilitating repetitive stress injuries (RSI): carpal tunnel syndrome for me and tendonitis for her. After several years of adjusting how we live and work, we've both recovered completely, though we still avoid certain activities like fast-paced computer games and bowling. RSI may be far more accepted as a serious medical condition now than in the early 1990s, but a vast number of computer users still suffer pain related to typing or using a mouse, and that pain can spill over into other parts of life. So whether you're currently suffering from RSI or just want to make sure it doesn't screw up your life, visit our home page and test your knowledge with this week's quiz, which asks which of a variety of things can prove effective in helping to prevent or reduce the severity of repetitive stress injuries. The quiz results explain each of the answers, provide links to useful articles related to RSI we've published in the past along with relevant TidBITS Talk threads, and link to a poster (now converted to HTML format too) you can put up near your computer to remind you about RSI-reducing behaviors. [ACE]
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Thanks to an article in the legal newspaper The Recorder forwarded by a colleague, we've learned that graphics powerhouse Adobe has filed suit against the Macintosh News Network (MacNN) based on MacNN's AppleInsider Web site's 30-May-00 publication of details from a confidential document about the forthcoming versions of Photoshop 6.0 and ImageReady 3.0. Adobe is trying to prevent MacNN from disclosing Adobe's trade secrets - which Adobe considers to be both the existence of those versions and their specific features - and is also seeking damages based on reduced current sales and lost competitive advantage.
It's an unusual situation. Although the rumor sites frequently post potentially damaging confidential information that has been leaked, conflicts seldom escalate past requests to remove the offending information or legal threats. In this case, Adobe contacted Monish Bhatia, MacNN's publisher, and asked that the information be removed within 20 minutes or it would file suit. Bhatia merely said he'd look into it, and Adobe filed suit the following day.
Why MacNN? Although Adobe is concentrating its efforts on MacNN, which eventually removed the offending material from its AppleInsider Web site, we were able to find information about Photoshop 6.0 also published by MacUser UK, plus shorter stories at MacPublishing Inc.'s MacWEEK.com and MacCentral, both of which referenced the MacUser story.
There's no telling if MacNN and MacUser came upon the leaked information independently or if one copied the other; neither credits the other in their stories, although MacNN's article was significantly longer and, according to Adobe, includes portions of the leaked document verbatim. The fact that Adobe chose to sue MacNN may also indicate a belief that the leak originated with MacNN, which, like many rumor sites, actively solicits inside information and rumors. However, it also raises the possibility that Adobe felt that it could push the MacNN around more easily than the larger MacPublishing or the UK-based MacUser, which is backed by the large publishing firm Dennis Interactive.
The View from Mountain View -- From Adobe's viewpoint, the lawsuit makes sense, since having features of a forthcoming product revealed to competitors could be problematic. Plus, details of a forthcoming product can cut into current sales as customers decide to hold off on buying until the new product is available.
According to Henry Perritt, Jr.'s "Law and the Information Superhighway" textbook, liability for trade secret misappropriation can fall both on someone who learns of a trade secret as the result of a special relationship (such as being an employee or signing an non-disclosure agreement to receive confidential information) and on a third party "who discovers the trade secret by accident or through the wrongful conduct of another and uses it with knowledge of its trade secret status." MacNN would seem to fall into this second category, but for one fact: MacNN is a publisher and is thus protected by the First Amendment.
Unfortunately for Adobe, it would seem unlikely that the company could win much, if anything, in court. In a recent case that addressed similar issues of a Web site posting confidential internal information, the actions of the publisher ended up being protected by the First Amendment, despite having misappropriated trade secrets. In Ford v. Lane, decided in September of 1999, Judge Nancy Edmunds of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled that although Robert Lane had violated Michigan's Uniform Trade Secrets Act in posting confidential Ford Motor Company documents on his Web site, BlueOvalNews, Ford's request that Lane be forced by injunction to remove Ford's documents from his Web site would "constitute an invalid prior restraint of free speech in violation of the First Amendment."
Moreover, it's not clear what Adobe hopes to accomplish with this lawsuit. Adobe claims in the Recorder article that damages "could conservatively amount to tens of millions of dollars," but there's no way that MacNN has that kind of money. And even if Adobe manages to put the fear of litigation into the gonzo rumor sites, reporters for publications with large legal staffs certainly won't shrink from publishing leaked documents if it means a news scoop. We've even heard rumblings from journalists threatening not to review Adobe software in the future, and no matter what, by suing a member of the press, Adobe may have poisoned the well with many writers.
The ruling in Ford v. Lane was not entirely a victory for Lane and BlueOvalNews. Judge Edmunds upheld two other portions of the temporary restraining order that Ford was attempting to have turned into a preliminary injunction. First, "Lane is still obligated to comply with that part of the August 25, 1999 Temporary Restraining Order which required him to file with the Court, and serve upon Ford, within ten days, a sworn statement (1) identifying with particularity all documents within his possession, custody or control which were originated by or for Ford, (2) identifying the source (by name or description) of each document, and (3) providing details as to how Lane acquired each document." And second, "Lane is restrained from (1) committing any acts of infringement of Ford's copyrights, including unpublished works known by Lane to have been prepared by a Ford employee within the scope of his or her employment, or specially ordered or commissioned by Ford, if not an employee."
Think about those requirements for a moment. They say that:
A) Lane must identify all the Ford documents in his possession, identify the source of each document, and provide details as to how he acquired each document. Lane claimed that he received the documents from anonymous sources.
B) Lane cannot infringe upon Ford's copyrights, including unpublished documents.
Item A gives Ford as much information as is available about the source of the document leaks. If I had passed confidential information on to Lane, even anonymously, I would still be worried. Item B says, at least to me, that Lane can no longer post Ford's confidential information verbatim without being liable for copyright infringement.
Now turn back to the Adobe v. MacNN case. As noted previously, it seems unlikely that Adobe can overturn federal First Amendment protections with an appeal to the California laws regarding trade secrets. (Trade secrets protections generally fall under the purview of the states, not the federal government.) However, it would seem possible that MacNN could be required to disclose information about how it came by the Adobe documents, which could help Adobe identify the source of the leaked document. Adobe, like many other companies, considers revealing confidential information a firing offense, so it's possible that Adobe is looking to make an example of someone. Plus, although the Recorder article didn't talk about Adobe suing on copyright infringement grounds, the fact that Adobe claimed that MacNN reproduced some of the text verbatim could be relevant. MacNN's article neither differentiated between original and copied content nor referenced the Adobe document directly. Adobe's lawyers might be able to make a case for MacNN's copying not falling into the fair use exception to copyright.
The Point of Publishing -- I find myself of several minds in this case. With the Ford v. Lane decision appearing quite similar to the untrained eye, Adobe v. MacNN would seem to be a clear-cut case of First Amendment protection. As a publisher, I hold the First Amendment in the highest regard.
And yet, I'm disturbed by MacNN's decision to publish this information, however they came by it. Certainly Adobe believes publication of the Photoshop 6.0 and ImageReady 3.0 features is damaging, although in the case of a market leader like Photoshop, it's difficult to swallow Adobe's claims of "tens of millions of dollars" in damages. But who was MacNN serving by publishing the information? The standard argument for publishing rumored information in this kind of situation is that it helps users make more informed buying or upgrade decisions. Perhaps I'm not sufficiently steeped in the graphics world, but I can't see how leaking these details directly benefits most users.
In the hardware world, this argument is easier to make, since there's little worse than the feeling of buying a new Mac a week before Apple comes out with an improved and cheaper model. With software, particularly with a program that has as little serious competition as Photoshop, it's harder to justify needing to know about forthcoming features. Discounted or even free upgrades are almost always available for these programs if you've purchased a previous version, especially right before the release, and it's unlikely that anyone would put off a purchase of the current version of Photoshop or buy another product based on the kind of information MacNN published.
So if users reap no benefit and Adobe stands to suffer, publishing this information merely has the effect of helping MacNN make a buck off the ads placed on the five Web pages of the story. Nothing wrong with that, but I still find it depressing that a Macintosh publication would publish information that - for little tangible benefit to readers - could have a negative effect on the Mac community by damaging one of the industry's primary software developers.
If you're not sure that this lawsuit is a big deal, consider where the entire Mac industry might be if the release of the iMac had been leaked. What was a huge surprise announcement that catapulted Apple back into the center of attention could have been yet another product announcement that everyone already knew about. The iMac release was primarily about marketing, and Apple couldn't afford to have its big news diluted by a leak. Since then, Apple has commented in analyst calls reported on by MWJ's Matt Deatherage that rumors of constantly impending PowerBooks caused significant drops in then-current sales. A majority of those rumors - promulgated by highly visible rumor sites - turned out to be false, but they meant that Apple was left sitting on inventory as everyone waited for the next PowerBook that was supposedly due any day.
Remember, in the Macintosh ecosystem a bit of altruism can go a long way.
by Kirk McElhearn <email@example.com>
Links. They're everywhere. All over the Web. Millions of them. It's hardly surprising; after all, links make the Web what it is. The Web is nothing more than an agreement, or a protocol, called HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), that provides a common language. This agreement gives us the capability to travel from one page to another in the blink of an eye (at least in theory).
It's generally assumed that these links are what make the Web so powerful and useful; you can jump from one idea or thought to another. But are these links really powerful and useful? When looking up information on Henry David Thoreau, for example, how do we know that the information found on the Internet about his life and writings represents the meat you're searching for? Much of the time, we jump from factoid to factoid, entrusting often anonymous link creators with the sagacity to sort the wheat from the chaff.
The Web is said to be the library of the future thanks to this system of links and the vast amounts of information that can be made available. But how is the Web of today qualitatively different from an old fashioned paper library? When I look something up in a card catalog, I follow a "link" to a book. The only difference is that I must move my physical body to get to it. In that book, I may see a word, a phrase, a name, or an idea that I want to explore further. If the book is well-organized I may use notes, references, or even an index to do so. To see what others have said on the same subject, I can go back to the card catalog and search for another link, or look on the shelves at the books near the one I have been reading. These links are just an arm's length away.
So while the idea behind links is not new, the implementation is. Using the Web is much easier than trudging through the links in a physical library. Or at least, it was supposed to be when the people who laid the conceptual grounds for hypertext - Vannevar Bush, Ted Nelson, Douglas Engelbart - formulated their ideas for linking vast amounts of information. They felt that the human mind operates by association, and thus the best way to navigate through large quantities of information is by linking related documents. That's probably true, but none of these hypertext pioneers could have envisioned where we've ended up after a few short years of the World Wide Web.
Where Have All the Editors Gone? We have entered the culture of the link - a culture where the links themselves are seen as more valuable than the information to which the links are supposed to lead. The very concept behind portals points this out - portals are designed to be gateways to other content, to lead you to other places through links. Some portals provide their own content as well, but many merely add lists of links to outside sources.
How many times have you surfed the Web, looking for some particular nugget of information, only to find yourself going from page to page, each containing nothing but links? And sometimes, after going through a circle of reciprocal links, you find yourself right back where you started. Yet one could argue that the most useful Web pages are just long lists of links with no inherent content. After all, what do search engines provide? They just spit out a tailor-made list of links.
One problem may be that as the Web has become more commercial, many companies are finding it more commercially viable to provide links than to provide content. After all, links are easier to generate than content, particularly quality content. It is worth considering whether or not this practice merely meets the demands of users. Do people value a long list of links more than a long article? In many cases, yes, because a list of links offers unlimited promise without the immediate responsibility of reading and comprehending text. People are seldom interested in reading long texts online, so maybe lists of links are the only thing that meet the requirement that content be both copious and free.
Writers often complain there are no more editors - and they may be right, in many cases. This is exactly what pages of links show us. Sure, someone has chosen those links, but since the goal is usually more quantitative than qualitative, it is still up to you to weed out the good from the bad.
There are some sites that go to the extra effort of editing their lists of links. One that comes to mind is About.com, which even puts human faces on their "expert guides." There are also Web catalogs, such as Yahoo and even Apple's iReview that not only categorize the content they find, they also choose what to include and in some cases mention why it was chosen.
This is not to imply links are inherently bad. In many Internet publications, they are used sparingly and for informational purposes. Good links can take you to background information, provide product specifications, or show related articles, if they are used intelligently. In large part, venues that use links sparingly and appropriately have editors who focus on original content. Although anyone can be a publisher on the Internet, it seems that all too few people can be editors on the Internet.
Don't Link, Think! Sometimes I wish I could find some dead ends - the kinds of pages that are sufficiently confident in the quality of their content that they don't feel the need to send you off somewhere else. These are the pages that provide information you can use to think for yourself rather than incessantly clicking yet another promising link.
For this is one of the problems with links - they tempt you to avoid thinking, to put it off until later. While surfing the Web, you're like someone on a treasure-hunt trying to put together all the clues so you can grab the gold at the end of the tunnel. But the tunnel has many exits, all of which lead more or less the same way. There is no guarantee that the ideas to which you are directed are objective, or that they present a balanced view of the subject you are examining. In fact, it's more likely that they do not offer a balanced, objective view, instead concentrating on a single aspect of the topic with a specific bias firmly in place. Instead of seeking information on your own, you are just being led to the next pasture, where the grass must be greener. It takes force of will to stop, to look at things and make a clear-headed, in-depth assessment of the materials you've encountered.
What if you wanted to find out about China's policies in Tibet, or issues surrounding prominent political candidates, or the health risks of second-hand tobacco smoke? If you stumble on a Web page set up by, say, the tobacco industry about smoking, you're virtually guaranteed to see only one side of the issue. Plus, any links that you would follow from there would most likely lead you to other pages that express the same point of view, or support it.
And even if you're trying to do research, how did you get to that page? Probably via a link from a search engine. After all, it's easy to find information using a search engine. You enter a few keywords, and the search engine spits back a collection of supposedly relevant links. But the search engines' results aren't always as relevant as they might be - prominent placement is sometimes sold to the highest bidder and there are a variety of techniques for making some pages more likely to turn up than others (which is why seemingly innocent searches often turn up pornography sites). You never know whether the pages you've found even cover the spectrum of possible opinions. But there are a lot of links beckoning you to click, and the context supplied with each link is minimal at best.
Of course, propaganda has existed for a long time in the real world too, and no one is any more excused from evaluating the bias of an Internet source than a real world source. But the preponderance of links on a Web page can actually deceive by offering what would seem to be supporting material and external opinions. In fact, they're just links, nothing more.
Link Me -- What happens when you follow these links? You react with an itchy mouse finger, but not with your mind. Instead of finishing the paragraph you are reading, you're already off to another server to get more information. Your eyes are attracted by underlined text because it stands out - it's different, and must somehow be more important than the plain text that surrounds it. Not only do you not take the necessary time to reflect upon and internalize what you are reading, but sometimes you find yourself following link after link, on a wild spider chase after a completely different subject. Our minds are becoming more and more dispersed by these reflexes, and our attention spans, already shortened by television, are shrinking even more.
I remember how I reacted when I first got Internet access. I have always been a book-lover, and libraries are, for me, places of great enjoyment. I started by searching on the Web for a few authors, composers, and other subjects that interested me. I was awake until very late following link after link, looking to find still more information about my interests. That lasted a week or so before I realized that all I was going to get was the journey itself, and in this case, the journey was a poor reward.
What worries me most is how this clicking reflex has become one of our dominant modes of information retrieval. First we scanned the car radio, then we used the remote control to surf the TV, and now we click links on the Web. We are not taking time to think about what we do; we are just using gut reactions. And our children are being trained to do this through computer games, where they click on hot spots to see something happen. About a year ago, I remember sitting in the kitchen eating lunch with my son, who was then four years old. He had played a game on the computer that morning and was entranced by all the neat things that popped up as he clicked in different places. He asked me what would happen if he clicked on the radiator. I laughed then. I am not laughing now.
Click. Click. Click...
[Kirk McElhearn is a freelance translator and technical writer who lives in a village in the French Alps.]
Non-profit, non-commercial publications and Web sites may reprint or link to articles if full credit is given. Others please contact us. We do not guarantee accuracy of articles. Caveat lector. Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TidBITS ISSN 1090-7017.
Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue