Journalist, Commentator and Technology Critic
Joined on September 9, 2004 – United Kingdom
Total Post Views: 158,112
New media pioneer Bill Thompson has been working in, on and around the Internet since 1984.
He currently writes for Internet Magazine, has a weekly column on the BBC WebWise site, and contributes to other publications both on and off-line, including The Guardian, The Register and The New Statesman. His inappropriately-titled 'billblog' appears weekly on BBC News Online in the technology news section.
Bill appears weekly on 'Go Digital' on the BBC World Service, fortnightly on The Big Toe Radio Show on BBC7 and occasionally on other BBC radio and television programmes.
He is a visiting lecturer at City University where he teaches Online Journalism in the Journalism Department, an external editor for openDemocracy.net and a friend of the Work Foundation's iSociety programme.
A former programmer, he was a senior manager for training company The Instruction Set before moving to PIPEX, Britain's first commercial Internet Service Provider, in 1993. At PIPEX he set up the training division before becoming the company's Internet ambassador.
In 1995 he established Guardian Newspapers' New Media Lab and was head of new media during 1996, before leaving to pursue a freelance career. He was technology correspondent for BBC Radio 5's 'The Big Byte' (1996-9) and Campaigns Editor for Internet Magazine (2001-2).
In the 1980's he was chair of the Community Computing Network, a non-profit organisation aiming to extend the use of information and communication technologies within the voluntary and public sector. He was a member of the IBM-funded Social Inclusion in the Network Society (INSINC) working group.
He was an advisor to the Labour Party on its Internet policy and helped to write 'Communicating Britain's Future' in 1995. He was technical director of Nexus, the virtual think tank, and hosted policy debates for the Prime Minister's Office, the Arts Marketing Association and the Times Higher Education Supplement.
Bill has developed Websites and worked on Internet strategies for Comic Relief, Anne Campbell MP, the Regional Arts Boards of England, and ArtsProfessional magazine among others. He has written three books for children: Your Own Website (1999), Your Own Chat Room (2000) and Homework Busters (2000). In 2000 he wrote a pamphlet on 'e-mutualism' for the Co-operative Party.
I recently had an opportunity to re-read a pamphlet I wrote in 2000 for a series on new thinking about mutualism published by the Co-operative Party. In 'e-Mutualism, or the tragedy of the dot.commons' I talked at length about the co-operative basis of the Internet, the need for online public spaces which are not controlled or dominated by commercial interests, and the opportunities that the network offers for mutual organisations of all sizes, from small co-operatives to retailers like John Lewis... Re-reading it now I wasn't too embarrassed by my ten-year old analysis. more»
Peer to peer download services are still popular with music-loving kids, it seems. The second annual survey of young people's music consumption by pressure group UK Music found that three-fifths of the 1,808 18-24 year olds who took part said they used p2p services, and four-fifths of those did so at least once a week. This is almost the same as last year's result, and would seem to indicate that the efforts by the music industry to offer a range of licensed alternatives to Limewire and other p2p services have failed to have any real impact. more»
The announcement that Google's chief executive Eric Schmidt is standing down from the Apple board hardly came as a surprise. Google's Android is already powering smartphones that offer an open alternative to Apple's iPhone, while the recent announcement of plans for Chrome OS, an operating system that will directly challenge Mac OS, makes Google a direct competitor to Apple in its core market... more»
The latest report on young people's online music-finding habits from consumer research company The Leading Question has attracted a fair amount of coverage for its headline finding that UK teenagers use of filesharing services has dropped by a third... Music industry pollsters will inevitably look for a silver lining in the cloud of consumer behaviour, and a focus on the growth of legal services is to be expected. But even with that caveat in mind, there has clearly been a shift in behaviour as more young people find licensed ways to listen to the music they want, watching YouTube videos, streaming songs through MySpace and Spotify and generally using legal avenues to find and enjoy the music of new bands like Florence and the Machine. more»
It must be tricky to be an advocate of transparency when your job involves selling serious encryption tools to government departments, large and small companies, hospitals and people who are concerned about having their bank account details hijacked from a home PC. After all, the point about good encryption software and the systems that surround it is that they provide a way to keep your secrets secret, while open government and the effective regulation of financial services would seem to require the widest possible dissemination of all sorts of operational data... more»
President Sarkozy of France recently managed to get his 'Création et Internet' law passed by the National Assembly, and if all goes well in the Senate then French internet users will soon find their activities being supervised by HADOPI, the grandly named 'Haute Autorité pour la Diffusion des Œuvres et la Protection des Droits sur Internet.' The rights it is concerned with are not those of ordinary net users but of copyright owners, and especially the large entertainment companies that have lobbied so hard and so successfully for the power to force internet service providers to terminate the accounts of those accused of downloading unlicensed copies of music, films and software... more»
BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones must be hoping that his near neighbours don’t decide they want a larger family. He recently spent ages setting up a high-speed wireless network at home, documenting the whole tortuous process on the BBC Technology blog, but all his hard work could apparently be ruined by a single baby listener in the neighbourhood... more»
History is littered with manifestos, the public statements of principles and intentions that announce policies, revolutions or ambitious visions in politics and the arts... And now we have a new manifesto for the modern age of distributed computing. The ‘open computing manifesto’ was launched this week with the support of some very large computer companies including Cisco, AT&T, Sun Microsystems and Telefonica as well as over fifty other players in this growing market, all under the leadership of IBM. more»
The Conficker worm will be active again on April 1st, according to an analysis of its most recent variant, Conficker.C, by the net security firm CA. This malicious piece of software, also known as Downup, Downadup and Kido, spreads among computers running most variants of the Windows operating system and turns them into nodes on a multi-million member ‘botnet’ of zombie computers that can be controlled remotely by the worm’s as yet unidentified authors. more»
When I heard that full episodes of The Prisoner TV series were available online I immediately headed over to the AMC website to wallow in nostalgic enjoyment and remind myself just how cool Patrick McGoohan was as he stumbled around Portmeirion trying to avoid a big plastic ball... I would happily have watched online and let AMC advertise to me in return, but sadly it was not to be. When I got to The Prisoner page on its site I saw only an unfriendly message, shouting at me... more»
One of the throwaway remarks I sometimes make at conferences is that "Google knows you're pregnant before you do". I can say this because the things you search for will change as your life changes, and search engine providers may well be able to spot the significance of these changes because they aggregate data from millions of people. Now Google's philanthropic arm, google.org, has shown just what it can do with the data it gathers from us all by offering to predict where 'flu outbreaks will take place in the USA. more»
A number of large technology companies, including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!, have announced that they have signed up to a voluntary code of conduct on how they do business in countries that curtail freedom of expression like China and Singapore... It's not surprising to see this sort of self-regulation being proposed as otherwise political initiatives like the Global Online Freedom Act, passed in one US Senate committee but currently floating in legislative limbo, could actually make it into law. more»
Anyone concerned about the security of their computers and the data held on them might sleep a little uneasily tonight. Over the past few weeks we've heard reports of serious vulnerabilities in wireless networking and chip and pin readers, and seen how web browsers could fall victim to 'clickjacking' and trick us into inadvertently visiting fake websites. The longstanding fear that malicious software might start infecting our mobile phones was given a boost... And now a group of researchers have shown that you can read what is typed on a keyboard from twenty metres away... more»
While Google is as secretive about its internal processes and systems as Apple is about product development, every now and then senior people post articles on the official Google blog and offer their thoughts on the development of the web. In the latest posting, two Google engineers, Alfred Spector and Franz Och, look at how search strategies will benefit from the faster computers, greater volumes of data and better algorithms we are likely to see in the next decade, speculating that "we could train our systems to discern not only the characters or place names in a YouTube video or a book, for example, but also to recognise the plot or the symbolism." more»
In the last few weeks we've seen two very different approaches to the full disclosure of security flaws in large-scale computer systems. Problems in the domain name system have been kept quiet long enough for vendors to find and fix their software, while details of how to hack Transport for London's Oyster card will soon be available to anyone with a laptop computer and a desire to break the law. These two cases highlight a major problem facing the computing industry, one that goes back many years and is still far from being unresolved. Given that there are inevitably bugs, flaws and unexpected interactions in complex systems, how much information about them should be made public by researchers when the details could be helpful to criminals or malicious hackers? more»
The approach is growing in popularity, and Google, Microsoft and Amazon are among the many large companies working on ways to attract users to their offerings, with Google Apps, Microsoft's Live Mesh and Amazon S3 all signing up customers as they try to figure out what works and what can turn a profit... In the real world national borders, commercial rivalries and political imperatives all come into play... The issue was recently highlighted by reports that the Canadian government has a policy of not allowing public sector IT projects to use US-based hosting services because of concerns over data protection. more»
Jonathan Zittrain's recent book, The Future of the Internet -- And How to Stop It, has spurred a lot of discussion both online and offline, with blog posts lauding his insights or criticising his over-apocalyptic imagination. The book itself makes fascinating reading for those who have watched the network grow from its roots in the research community into today's global channel for communications, commerce and cultural expression... One of the reasons that Zittrain puts forward for the growing popularity of closed or, as he prefers 'tethered', devices, is that they are less vulnerable to hacking, security flaws, malware and all the other perils that face any internet-enabled system. more»
One of the more persistent founding myths around the internet is that it was designed to be able to withstand a nuclear war, built by the US military to ensure that even after the bombs had fallen there would still be communications between surviving military bases. It isn't true, of course. The early days of the ARPANET, the research network that predated today's internet, were dominated by the desire of computer scientists to find ways to share time on expensive mainframe computers rather than visions of Armageddon. Yet the story survives... more»
The advance teams are already gathered in Tunisia ahead of next week's second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, and those of us on the press list are being deluged with announcements, releases, notices and invitations to meetings. The meeting, which runs from 15-18 November, is an opportunity to look at the progress that has been made since December 2003, when representatives and heads of state gathered in Geneva. more»
Last month Wired News, the online service that grew out of Wired Magazine, decided that it was going stop using an upper-case 'I' when it talked about the internet. At the same time Web became web and Net became net. According to Tony Long, the man responsible for their style guide, the change was made because 'there is no earthly reason to capitalize any of these words'. In fact, he claims, 'there never was.' ...Forgive me for saying, but those who choose 'internet' over 'Internet' are as wrong as those who would visit london, meet the queen or go for a boat trip down the river thames. more»