MediaFile

SOPA, the Internet, and the benefits of a mutual enemy

That giant sucking sound you hear is the life being drained from SOPA and PIPA.

In an astonishingly effective campaign, a number of prominent websites decided on Jan. 18 to act as though they were being censored. SOPA — the House Stop Online Piracy Act , and PIPA, the Senate’s Protect IP Act  — would, in fact, have little or no impact on U.S. sites but the message was clear: The Net is one seamless organism. An attack on my friend, or even my enemy, is an attack on me.

The big players that made a big show of support for the anti-SOPA/PIPA cause included Wikipedia, which completely shut down its U.S. site, and reddit.com and wired.com (I work for the latter, and both are owned by Condé Nast).

Some big players did not get involved in the protest, including Twitter (which even belittled Wikipedia’s demonstration as “silly”) and Facebook.

Google, a vocal opponent, redacted its name on Google.com but did permit searches. (Again, in the interest of full disclosure, Google sponsored the redacted wired.com homepage illustrated above.)

But the fact that arguably many of the biggest names in the internet business didn’t participate much or at all in the “blackout” makes it all the more fascinating that nearly 20 senators – and now all four remaining Republican presidential aspirants — now suddenly say they are against it. Friday morning Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was delaying a scheduled vote on PIPA.

Tech wrap: Wikipedia, Google protest anti-piracy bill

The English homepage of Wikipedia went dark and Google’s search page ran the logo “Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the web!” in protest of legislation designed to stop copyright piracy but the free online encyclopedia says “could fatally damage the free and open Internet.” Big tech names including Facebook and Twitter declined to participate in protests of the House of Representatives’ Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate’s PROTECT Intellectual Property Act, despite their opposition to the legislation, unwilling to sacrifice a day’s worth of revenue and risk the ire of users.

European regulators will decide around the end of March whether to file a formal complaint against Google for misuse of its market position, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told Reuters. Until this point officials had been playing down expectations of an early conclusion to the informal investigation stage, although there still could be a long way to go. Antitrust investigations typically take several years.

EBay’s fourth-quarter profit jumped as the e-commerce company saw solid growth in its online marketplaces and an increase in transactions processed through its PayPal electronic payments business. The operator of the world’s largest online marketplace reported fourth-quarter net income of $2 billion, or $1.51 a share, compared with $559 million, or 42 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 35 percent to $3.38 billion.

Despite tough economy, Wikimedia raises $20 million in donations

Wikimedia Foundation is marking the new year with a hefty deposit into its coffers.

The San Francisco-based non-profit group that maintains Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia, officially closed its annual fundraising drive on Tuesday. The total amount raised: $20 million.

That’s a record, and a step up from the $16 million Wikimedia raised last year during a nearly two-month-long fundraising effort.

Google’s Brin, wife donate $500,000 to keep Wikipedia going

Very few have missed Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales’ picture looming on all of the pages of the user-generated information website.

But that may soon go away, thanks to Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife Anne Wojcicki.

The duo donated $500,000 to the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia and its sister sites, through their Brin Wojcicki Foundation.

On swine flu, Scribd calls itself the “anti-Twitter”

Use Twitter’s name even when you’re dissing it: that could be a good way to ensure some publicity, given the hype around everyone’s current sweetheart. But maybe Scribd, the social publishing startup that lets you upload all kinds of documents online and embed them into blog posts, does have a point about the misinformation that Twitterers could be putting up in 140-character bursts.

After all, at the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) conference last week, CUNY J-school professor Sandeep Junnarkar did begin his workshop on Twitter for journalists with a caveat: “Everything you find on Twitter is rumors, false information. That’s the default position.” Kind of like what journalists and students are always told about Wikipedia.

A press release that landed in my inbox from Scribd seeks to distinguish the San Francisco-based startup as “anti-Twitter” — the antithesis of Twitter. Scribd is “quickly becoming a trusted source for unfiltered, detailed information about the swine flu,” the release says.

Ad market finds the upside of down

There have been plenty of doomsday forecasts about 2009 advertising spending, brought on by the financial crisis. Especially when online advertising, so long on the rise even as print ad revenue fell, started falling too.

Now, Adweek threatens to mess up the picture:

So far, the first months of 2009 aren’t looking as dire as once predicted for the online ad market, according to buyers and sellers. However, many report that business has slowed down, resulting in intensifying pressure on pricing, particularly in the ad networks space.

But the abysmal first quarter that many anticipated — one in which shell-shocked clients either delayed all decision making or went into budget-slashing mode — hasn’t happened, said many industry insiders.

Wikipedia wants non-geeks for posts

Here’s a blog entry from our San Francisco technology reporter David Lawsky:

Geeks who can write a bit do fine at Wikipedia, but the online encyclopedia thinks that non-geeks often have been scared off. That insight has translated into an $890,000 grant for Wikipedia from the Stanton Foundation.

It will use the money to smooth and simplify software for posting on Wikipedia and to attract volunteers who are good writers but not-so-great technical computer users.