European Parliament passes strong net neutrality law, along with major roaming reforms

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aderojas:

Such good news from the old continent!

Originally posted on Gigaom:

European fans of the open internet can breathe a sigh of relief: the European parliament has passed a major package of telecoms law reform, complete with amendments that properly define and protect net neutrality.

The amendments (PDF) were introduced by the Socialist, Liberal, Green and Left blocs in the European Parliament after the final committee to tweak the package – the industry committee – left in a bunch of loopholes that would have allowed telcos to start classifying web services of their choice as “specialized services” that they can treat differently.

It’s a good thing the net neutrality argument didn’t sink the whole package, as it also includes new laws to eliminate roaming fees within Europe, creating a truly single market for telecoms services. Now the whole package gets passed through to the next Parliament (elections are coming up in May), then the representatives of European countries for final approval.

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What should social media be like

The best thing about the Internet is that it’s an open network. You can just connect your computer, open your browser and see any website you want -except if you are using some versions of Internet Explorer. You can open your email client or web-mail service, and email anybody you want as long as you have their email address. And of course you can create your own browser or email client knowing that, following the existing standards, it will work.

This quality of the Internet, its openness, is so important we fight fiercely against any attempt to kill it (SOPA, PIPA, Ley Sinde, Hadopi… you name it). Yet we are letting social media destroy the openness of the Internet by creating closed platforms that get so big you can’t just leave them.

Imagine that you could only call or send and SMS to those friends who have the contracts with the same provider than you do. Or that Gmail users could only email Gmail users. That’s exactly what happens with most social media platforms: you need to have Facebook to interact with your Facebook friends, WhatsApp to talk to your WhatsApp friends, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Skype, Google+, Messenger, BBM, iMessage… there is even a whole business of services like Hootsuite or Sproutsocial just to manage all your profiles from one place!

Think about it. How much time do we waste keeping all those profiles up to date and checking if any friend posted something somewhere? How many people would like to quite Facebook but can’t because all their friends and literally 10 years of their life are already there? What’s the point of uploading all your pictures and tagging everyone if sooner or later that platform is going to be done, closed and forgotten? How on Earth are you going to try something new if first you need to convince all your friends to try it too so it actually makes sense to use it?

I believe the need of supreme power and control that companies like Facebook or Google feel is killing our relationship with the Internet. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have your personal profile in a way that you can do whatever you want with it? Just think of a supercharged email system. Some kind of standard format to keep your digital history (posts, links shared, images posted, profile picture, contacts…) in one place, and do whatever you want with it. So if I like Facebook but you are done with it and want to try Google+ we can still be friends and talk to each other without both having to keep two accounts in different places.

This system would also be tremendously beneficial for new businesses. Instead of having to steal millions of users at once from other platforms you could go ahead and create your own system, conquering users one by one. Platforms focused on design and customization, platforms based on ease of use and strong privacy settings, platforms supported by advertising, platforms where users have to pay to keep their accounts…. we could have specialized platforms for small niches with specific needs, something that currently is just unthinkable because it’s not a sustainable business -and because it doesn’t make sense if you can’t talk with everybody else.

In brief, the idea is that with a standardized social media environment the possibilities would be endless. As they always have been with the Internet, and as they should always be.

What do you think?

Si empezase un blog hoy…

Esta semana me han preguntado qué plataforma recomendaría para empezar un blog personal, y me ha parecido interesante compartir la respuesta por aquí por si hay alguien más interesado en el tema.

Para empezar un blog personal tienes varias opciones. La opción con la que seguro que no te equivocas es WordPress (instalado en tu propio servidor, o gratuito -te limitan varias cosas- a través de WordPress.com). La gran ventaja de esta plataforma es que está muy consolidada, lo que significa que no te van a faltar recursos (plantillas para el diseño, tutoriales sobre cómo hacer las cosas, etc.). Además, con WordPress puedo decir que SEGURO más adelante no tienes ningún problema a la hora de llevarte el blog a otra URL o incluso a otra plataforma. Y en mi opinión WordPress le da mil vueltas a Blogger, salvo que tengas un interés especial en tener todo super integrado con tu cuenta de Google.

Ahora bien, hay otras opciones que son interesantes sobre todo para quien quiera dar una imagen más rompedora y cutting-edge. La primera es Medium, que a día de hoy creo que se puede describir como un Tumblr profesional. Las opciones de personalización y diseño son mínimas, pero el resultado es muy elegante y enfocado a la lectura. Por lo que he visto tampoco hay forma de organizar tus propios artículos por categorías o etiquetas, sino que se quedan organizados por fecha de publicación (como Twitter, por ejemplo). Eso hace que a la hora de conseguir lectores todo quede en manos de Google, las redes sociales y tu propia capacidad para captar seguidores artículo por artículo. Medium pone todo el valor en el artículo y la experiencia del lector, y por eso es muy interesante para “pensadores” que buscan tener un sitio donde publicar rápidamente sus artículos, sin importar el tema que traten (de nuevo, la comparación que me viene a la mente es Twitter, sin la limitación de 140 caracteres). Otra cosa que me parece muy interesante de Medium es el sistema de comentarios, que no van en un formato de lista al final del artículo sino “adjuntos” a cada párrafo específico, poniendo así todo el interés en ideas concretas. Como ejemplo, Enrique Dans tiene un blog en Medium, y Dans suele tener muy buen ojo para las nuevas cosas (también es cierto que saca tiempo para probar absolutamente todo).

Pero si yo tueviese que empezar un blog personal hoy apostaba por Ghost. Todavía es un proyecto muy jóven pero tiene muy buena pinta, y ha nacido de la idea de crear una plataforma alternativa a WordPress pero centrada única y exclusivamente en blogs. No hay que olvidar que WordPress es ahora mucho más que blogs, siendo a día de hoy el gestor de contenidos más usado para crear webs de todo tipo, y ya no es tan fácil de usar para tener un simple blog (muchos botones, muchas posibilidades…). La idea de los creadores de Ghost es que sea todo muy sencillo, de nuevo dándole más valor al texto/contenido que a todo lo demás.

En vez de usar HTML/CSS estándar utilize un código distinto (Markdown) para marcar los estilos. Probablemente le haga la vida más fácil a quien quiere escribir y no sabe cómo funcionan los códigos, pero también obliga a aprender a usar esos códigos mientras otras plataformas tienen editores de texto WYSIWYG muy intuitivos. La ventaja de usar Markdown frente a los botones es que el código final es mucho más limpio y por tanto mejor en todos los sentidos. También hay que destacar que con Ghost necesitas un servidor propio (no tienen una plataforma gratuita como WordPress.com o Medium), y como es muy nuevo aún no hay plantillas de diseño y extensiones, pero como el foco está en escribir artículos y no en hacer la web de tu empresa, es un mal menor que en cualquier caso no tardará en ser cosa del pasado, si la idea despega.

¿Qué otras plataformas recomendaríais para empezar un blog hoy?

Duckduckgo for iPhone

Since I decided to open myself to search engines other than Google, I have fallen in love with Duckduckgo. Not only because of the privacy features that high rocketed its popularity after the NSA scandal, but also because of the nice layout, the customizable settings, the lack of advertising of other Google services and the fact that the logo is a weirdly drawn duck. So I was really happy to find the free Duckduckgo app for Android and iPhone. What I didn’t expect was that the app would be so well conceived. I guess I expected just an option to set Duckduckgo as the default search engine (I momentarily forgot that I now have an iPhone and can’t really change things), but this is much more.

duckduckgo app

Duckduckgo app – homepage

When you open the app you get a search bar and a feed of popular articles from a wide list of sources that you can manage. You won’t be able to add new sources, but you can toggle on and off which ones you want from a long list planned to keep you in the loop. To give you an idea, this is what I have activated right now: CNN, BCC, AlJazeera, Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, New York Times, The Guardian, several Reddit feeds, The Atlantic, Medium, Digg, MIT, Slashdot, Ars Technica, Lifehacker, Smithsonian, The New Yorker and The Verge. All these sources are categorized in technology, news, sports, politics, lighthearted, business and a few other categories so you can easily choose what you want to read about. You can also suggest new sources that might get included in the list.

Now, what is really cool about Duckduckgo as a news aggregator is the social factor. What you’ll see from all these sources is their most popular stories: most shared, more active, more emailed, those that reach #1, etc. It really gives you the pulse of what is going on in the world, plus it has a neat option to boost stories related to one region (I set it to “Canada, english”). You can also save articles to read them later, share them straight from Duckduckgo via SMS, email and Twitter, and you can also copy the link or open it in Safari.

In brief, Duckduckgo for iPhone is a complete search, browser and news aggregator app. It makes me feel Internet portals might be back, because it made me realize how much of a pain is to keep jumping from one app to another to read, search or share information when using a mobile device.