IM ink Newsletter January/February 2012. This issue covers a follow-up on the SOPA/PIPA and OPEN, the mandatory IE updates issued by Microsoft, and the convenience of modern computing.

The Convenience of the Modern Web

by Administrator Kevin Weslaski

While planning a New Year’s Eve outing for my family, I recalled a conversation I had with my brother-in-law nearly two decades ago and came to an interesting realization: websites have made our lives considerably easier. Sure, everyone under the age of 21 knows this on some level, but when you take a moment to think about it, the very existence of websites effectively takes much of the hassle out of information gathering.

I’ll never forget the day back in 1995 when my wife's brother asked me when I’d be purchasing a home computer. My answer was a genuinely puzzled, “Why?” He replied, “The Internet is a great tool for looking things up.” I then informed him that between the dictionary, phonebook and my local library, I had all the info-gathering tools I needed. It wasn’t until purchasing my first PC in 1997 that I realized just how far ahead of the curve my brother-in-law truly was.

Case in point: last New Year’s Eve, I was able to look up the Pettit Ice Center’s hours of operation, peruse Milwaukee Ale House’s dinner menu and purchase tickets to a play at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater in less than 20 minutes. Before the advent of the Internet, ascertaining all this information would require me to spend at least an hour on the phone, to say nothing of all the time I’d spend flipping through the Yellow Pages beforehand. I also had the option of forgoing the phonebook and instantly driving up my telephone bill with a few calls to 4-1-1. And just imagine how much time I’d have spent on hold if I was foolhardy enough to call such popular hotspots on the busiest night of the year!

Reflecting on the unrivaled convenience websites have brought into our lives makes me take pride in what we do here at Image Management. The sites our company builds from the ground up are aesthetically attractive, easy to navigate and provide visitors with a bevy of useful information. Although the Internet is in a constant state of evolution, its core purpose remains unaltered: to inform, educate and make people’s lives easier.

The Impact of
Web Legislation

by Web Programmer
Brandon Edmark

After an intense backlash from major Internet companies such as Google and Wikipedia, as well as millions of grassroots supporters, legislators postponed voting on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP (PIPA) Act. However, they have not rejected the bills completely. Website developers and owners should remain wary of legislation like SOPA and PIPA. These bills are overly vague and place an undue burden on domestic Internet-related companies.

SOPA and PIPA, which are heavily promoted by the Motion Picture Association of America, are meant to combat online piracy and copyright infringement from foreign sources. This is an admirable goal. However, the bills attempt to accomplish this by disruptively targeting domestic companies that host and provide access to Internet sites. They would grant copyright holders the ability to seek court orders against websites that "enable" infringement.

Their loose definition of "enable" is where the problem lies. Under SOPA and PIPA, an entire website that contains even one page of infringing material could immediately be banned from the U.S. Search engines would have to remove all links to the site, and Internet service providers would have to block access to the site. Sites could file counter-notices against false accusations, but they would have only five days to do so. This would make large websites which thrive on user-generated content, such as YouTube and Facebook, impossible to operate in the U.S. Smaller Internet companies could be buried under expensive lawsuits. As Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of news aggregate Reddit, said to the Christian Science Monitor, the bills are equivalent to "trying to take action against Ford just because a Mustang was used in a bank robbery." Of course, it is unlikely that enacting SOPA would lead to an immediate shutdown of all public sharing sites. However, a law which allows for this possibility within its language is unfit to pass.

In the wake of SOPA and PIPA, U.S. Representative Darrell Issa proposed an alternative bill called the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act, or OPEN Act. The OPEN act would be enforced by the United States International Trade Commission, rather than the Department of Justice. It allows the ITC to forbid payment processors like Paypal or American Express from issuing payments to foreign websites intended to aid piracy of U.S. intellectual property. Many of SOPA's most prominent detractors, such as Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter, support OPEN as a reasonable compromise that opposes foreign digital piracy without stifling freedom of speech. Visitors to OPEN's website can suggest changes in the language of the bill.

The success of such legal online media distribution platforms as iTunes, Netflix, Spotify, and Hulu proves that consumers will gladly pay for digital media. To thrive in the Internet era, media conglomerates ought to adapt their sales model to the Internet, rather than push poorly-considered legislation to control it. Intellectual property must be protected without damaging the open nature of the Internet.

Microsoft to Pack Browser Updates

by Web Programmer
Richard S. Joswick

Modern web browsers offer enhanced computer security while conforming to the latest web standards. Microsoft decided to include mandatory updates to their popular web browser, Internet Explorer, as a part of their Windows Update for the month of January. Internet Explorer can now be updated at the same time as the Windows operating system.

With this IE update occurring in January, many readers may already be surprised by the shape and function of their new Internet Explorer. Since Microsoft is distributing these updates via their Windows Update, those who have opted out of the automatic updates will have to manually upgrade their systems. Those who are still using Windows XP will be upgraded to version 8 of IE, while Vista and 7 users will be automatically upgraded to version 9.

Internet Explorer 6 and 7 are old technologies. IE 8 is the first browser offered by Microsoft to be compliant with web standards. In a connected world where users are demanding easier access to new technologies, Microsoft isn't doing anything new here. Google automatically updates its Chrome browser in the background while it is running. Other browsers automatically prompt for updates upon being launched. It makes sense for Microsoft to leverage its platform to bring customers a more secure and better browsing experience, while at the same time trying to resolve its past cavalier attitude towards web standards.

For example, Microsoft has committed to the latest web development standards of HTML 5 and CSS 3 -- the backbones of any web page. Yet these are evolving technologies. As Microsoft continues to innovate new technologies (or callously ignore established standards depending on your point of view), it needs a way to stay current in an environment where some technologies become standardized as others are discarded. Automatic updates to the IE web browser allows Microsoft to remain agile in these competitive web browser fights.

The goal of these updates is to ensure Microsoft users are accessing the web using the fastest and safest browser out there. The Internet Explorer platform hasn't always shone brightly, and there is still a lot of progress to be made. Nonetheless, Microsoft is definitely taking its web browser in the right direction and should be commended for these recent commitments. However, if these mandatory updates have left you disappointed with the new look and feel of Internet Explorer - don't go back to an old version of IE before trying out one of the other major browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, or Opera.

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