Obama will appoint tech officer to cabinet if elected

Business Week reported on Oct. 19 that, if elected, Barack Obama will likely appoint the first Cabinet-level chief technology officer because he feels the country “is not doing nearly enough to create jobs through technology.” The CTO’s job would be to expand broadband service to even more parts of the U.S., especially rural areas into which broadband doesn’t yet penetrate.

On his blog, Andrew Keen, author of Cult of the Amateur, responds to claims that expanding broadband is comparable to the building of railroads in the 1800s. Keen, who is often critical of the Web, writes:

[B]roadband provides a very different kind of transportation — one that allows individuals to escape their physical communities, to create virtual loyalties, to lose their identities in the narcissistic chaos of cyberspace.

I can’t agree wholly with Keen. Surely more broadband access in rural areas will not kill everything local. People will not revert to keyboard-potatoes, wasting away in front of their computer screens without ever visiting their local stores or picking up the local paper. Besides, the benefits of greater connectivity in currently unconnected areas — provided people aren’t just using the Internet for Ebay and celebrity news — will be too great to ignore.

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Government likely to antitrust Google

The Justice Department may sue Google over its upcoming advertising partnership with Yahoo, the Wall Street Journal reports. The department has hired high-profile lawyer Sandford Litvack and has been deposing witnesses and gathering documents about the deal for weeks.

Under the ad partnership, Yahoo would show the valuable Google ads along with its own ads. The prices will be set by auction and the companies would share the profits, Bloomberg reports.

It is uncertain whether any antitrust suit would address any of Google’s other advertising business.

Google counts a trillion URLs

Google reported today that its Web index now contains a trillion unique URLs. On its blog, Google said that this is more a statistical milestone than anything — the company has no way to visit all trillion sites to see how many of them offer unique content, for example, neither should this be taken as a count of Web pages out there in the pipeline. It is what it is, a big number that is pretty impressive and, to me, represents a kind of unthinking and unnecessary wastefulness that’s hard to put into words.

Microsoft and Yahoo may yet do business

A new transaction may soon be on the table between Microsoft and Yahoo, one that does not involve Microsoft acquiring all of Yahoo, the companies announced Sunday.

In a written statement, Yahoo said that Microsoft “is not interested in pursuing an acquisition of all of Yahoo! at this time.” At the same time, Yahoo is still open to “any transaction which is in the best interest of our stockholders.”

Microsoft confirmed this in its own statement saying, “Microsoft is not proposing to make a new bid to acquire all of Yahoo! at this time, but reserves the right to reconsider that alternative depending on future developments and discussions that may take place with Yahoo! or discussions with shareholders of Yahoo! or Microsoft or with other third parties.”

The software giant initially offered Yahoo $31 per share in late January, a little more than 150 percent what the Yahoo stock was worth at the time. Microsoft withdrew its initial bid to buy Yahoo on May 3 after negotiations between the two companies stalled.

Alphabet Soup: CBS buys CNET

The Financial Times (and every other major Web-news outlet) reported today that CBS has bought CNET for $1.8 billion. The move by CBS is one in a string of older media companies, which are slowly losing customers, buying Web portals, which are gaining customers. CNET, whose family of sites includes News.com, claims a monthly audience of 160 million.

Wikileaks.org ordered offline

A California court recently ordered that the whistleblower site Wikileaks.org be removed from the Internet after a Swiss bank said the site had posted information about its offshore activities.

Wikileaks allows its users to anonymously post government and corporate documents to the pubic. The Swiss banking group Julius Baer said several hundred of its documents were posted to the site.

A judge ordered the domain registrar that controls Wikileaks to remove all traces of the site from its servers and turn over Wikileaks’ account information.

Wikileaks was founded in 2006 and claims to have published more than a million documents. Versions of the site hosted in Belgium and India can still be accessed online, the BBC said.

The site’s administrators said the court order was “unconstitutional” and that the site had been “forcibly censored,” the BBC reported.

Free Press

In the wake of the New York Times dropping its paid Times Select service, there is news today that the Wall Street Journal’s Web site may drop its pay wall as well.

Again, the role of liberator is being played by advertising revenue. The WSJ, purchased recently by Rupert Murdoch, a closely monitored development that had many journalists worried that the end of the world had arrived, hopes that revenue from advertisers will cover the loss of about $30 million a year in subscription fees.

Why keep a newspaper’s Web site behind a pay wall? To make money, of course, but that only works if readers continue to use the paid Web sites. If users can get equally well-written news cheaper (read: “free”) elsewhere, they will.

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