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Where Is Cyberspace?

Pan Jeong Lee

In my first CircleID post, I compared the cyberspace to a farmland, which has to be cultivated and developed. I ended by asking: Where is cyberspace?

I have asked this same question from many people, many of whom are internet experts. They all said the cyberspace is in the computers, networks, or servers, or the Internet itself. I agree with these cyberspace ideas. In addition, my opinion is a bit different. For me, cyberspace is within the browsers. Sure, it is also outside the browsers and everywhere, but the greater part of the cyberspace is in the browsers.

I'm saying the greater part of the cyberspace is in the browsers because this is where e-commerce is active. People shop for everything and visit media sites in the browsers. Company websites and SNS are in the browsers, too.

Have you ever heard of the "browser wars?" Read about it on Forbes.com and Economist.com.

What do you think is the cause of this browser war? The browser is a free software, but why do the media call it browser war? What do you think? It is interesting, isn't it?

Now, consider this. In cyberspace, if there is no proper legal system, it is possible for browser company policies to work like the constitution in cyberspace. Then, there will be unfair mechanisms in the internet.

We have to consider the user's rights. Why do the browsers interrupt the customer-to-company connection? When users type exactly a brand name or company name in the internet address bar, they should have direct connection. But for smartphone users, they are always connected to a portal. As a result, they pay extra data charges.

If a user already knows the company name or brand name, then he/she should be able to connect directly to the company without going to the portal. Cause that user is obviously a customer of the company or brand name owner. Governments have to regulate it — for the user's rights and company and brand owners' rights — by Trademark Law and Fair Trade Commission, and Telecommunications Business Act, etc. in each country.

And so I asked in my first CircleID article, "Whose Customers Are Those Typing Brand Names in the Browser's Address Bar?"

In that article, I emphasized that we have to help the SMEs and prevent customer hijacking in the Internet address bar. Perhaps I should just start calling it the Internet entrance bar.

Further, the entrance to the cyberspace is the internet address bar. This is where we connect directly to a company like dialling a telephone number. I would like to encourage everyone to watch the story of Almon Strowger here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efUmnuDdlhQ

There are so many research centers all over the world. I want to suggest to everyone to research and look for clues about the problem in the 21st century economy.

Surprisingly, the browser war is actually a customer hijacking war in the entrance of the cyberspace.

The majority of the victims are the users and the SMEs. And the news and media companies.

The users are charged extra for mobile data cost. The SMEs lose their customers in the entrance of the internet. So, they have to advertise in the portal to get back their customers. They do this repeatedly, and spend a lot of extra money.

Does the cyberspace have extraterritorial rights in each country? The internet entrance bar is not an embassy. It is within the domestic law. So governments must protect the customers, cause the workplaces are fundamentally created by customers.

We have to know what is going on. Governments must not ignore the distorted structure in the cyberspace. We know already where is the cyberspace. Cyberspace is within the browsers. Browsers are within each country's law.

I discussed this topic with a browser company's staff. Their answer is so interesting. They said, there is no institution that takes care of this issue. There is no legal system or regulation that prevents browsers from ruling the cyberspace.

Naturally, this means browsers will follow the legal system, if there are proper regulations on the cyberspace, with regards to the internet address bar.

Once again, I welcome comments about this topic.

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I am not sure what problem you Alex Tajirian  –  Oct 12, 2014 11:23 AM PDT

I am not sure what problem you are trying to solve/address and why it’s important!

We’ve already had the first browsers war in the 1990s between Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape, which obviously was won by the former in the late 1990s. Thus, you might focus on why the problem you are addressing has not been resolved 14 years after the end of the first browsers war.

I think the "problem" he wants to Todd Knarr  –  Oct 12, 2014 5:24 PM PDT

I think the "problem" he wants to solve is that of browsers going to search engines when people type search terms into the search box. He'd rather have the browser go directly to his client's site when anyone types anything related to his client into the search box.

He views search engines as interfering with the proper relationship between his client's customers and his client. I hate to tell him this, but if his client's customers really have a relationship with his client, they don't use the search box. They already have a bookmark for his client's site made and will use that to go directly there. When I use the search box it's because I don't want sent directly to a site because I'm trying to sidestep the obvious conflict: what happens when the same terms are related to one of his client's sites and to another site that's unrelated to his client? I can't trust him to decide which it should be, because the correct answer may be in direct conflict with his interests if what I'm looking for isn't his client's site.

Internet Address Bar/URL Issue Pan Jeong Lee  –  Oct 13, 2014 1:10 AM PDT

Hello, Mr Knarr, Thanks for the comment. I’d like to say that I also use the search bar. When I want to search for content and compare results, I use the search bar. There is no problem there.

But the problem is in the internet address bar. [When I remember the company name and brand name (after using the search bar), then I’d type the brand/company name in the URL/address bar.]

I wish to clarify that when users type company name or brand name in the URL/internet address bar (not the search bar), they should have direct access to the company or brand name’s website.

Lastly, the issue of brand and company names being typed in the URL is — or should be — every company’s interest, not just several persons’ or several companies’ interest. Please take note, I wrote more about this in "Whose Customers Are Those Typing Brand Names in the Browser's Address Bar?"

I hope this helps. Thanks again.

I think you're confusing the search box Todd Knarr  –  Oct 13, 2014 1:59 AM PDT

I think you're confusing the search box (which allows you to enter a brand or company name and find the site's address) with the URL bar (which allows direct entry of the site's address). Or possibly you're confusing the company or brand name with their site's address. Tell me, which site do I want when I type "Google" into the URL bar? Remember that this company/brand has a myriad of addresses for their sites depending on which country's site you want. Also remember that you can't assume based on my local IP address which country's site I want, because a) you don't know what country 192.168.171.101 is in (look up what that netblock is before you object) and b) there are perfectly valid reasons for accessing the site for a country other than the one I'm currently located in (eg. I'm travelling and don't want to laboriously translate from the local language into my native language). Also, if I type say "iPhone", which iPhone do I mean? Bear in mind that when this conflict came up, the courts with jurisdiction first ruled that Apple did not own that trademark, then later that they could use that mark but did not have exclusive rights to it and the original registrant was entitled to continue using it too. Or if I type "Apple", which Apple do I mean? Apple Computers is not, despite what they'd like you to believe, the only entity named Apple out there, and Apple Records would be highly irate if you hijacked their customers and sent them to Apple Computer's site instead.

Similar problems are why we use a phone number instead of just being able to key in a company's name using our phone keypad and be connected to them, and why we use a street address instead of just being able to write a company's name on the envelope and have it get routed to them. In all 3 cases the company's name does not unambiguously identify where your message should be sent to. In all 3 cases we have an intermediary (a search engine, a phone directory or a mailing directory) which allows you to look up the company you want, find the various addresses they receive that general type of message at and select the one appropriate to your specific message (if I'm for instance calling up my ISP it makes a difference whether I call their Technical Support number, their Sales number or their Billing number).

You seem to be taking a very naive view of the situation, handwaving major problems with "It should just work.". I hate to say it, but there is no magic in the world and nothing "just works" without someone having made it work. Sit down for a bit and try to write out the exact logic needed to do what you suggest, producing the correct results for the basic cases described above (note that I said basic, not simple, because they most decidedly aren't simple at all which is the problem).

URL Bar (not the search bar) Pan Jeong Lee  –  Oct 14, 2014 1:21 AM PDT

Thanks for the response, Mr. Knarr. I appreciate your taking the time to comment. Perhaps it was confusing for you.
So to summarize: if you type “google.com” I think you are a customer of Google.
Let me just ask you, if you type without .com — “google” — in the URL bar (not the search bar), whose customer are you? I think you are Google's customer, not another portal's. That is my point. (Definition, destination)

Yes, I'm Google's customer in that case. Todd Knarr  –  Oct 14, 2014 10:03 AM PDT

Yes, I'm Google's customer in that case. But what site do I want? Google has upwards of a hundred different "google.*" sites, each one a different site specific to a different country. When I type "google.com", that's one specific site. When I just type "google", how are you going to decide which specific site I meant? Did I want google.com, or google.co.uk, or google.ca, or google.fr, or google.de, or google.kr, or google.nl, or… the list goes on and on. You're the one proposing this, how do you propose to direct me to the specific site among all of Google's sites that I wanted?

Note that we haven't even gotten into whether, assuming I meant google.com instead of some other site, I meant www.google.com or finance.google.com or voice.google.com or mail.google.com or… again, the list goes on and on, as Google has a different 3LD for each of their products. Since you're changing the behavior of the URL bar, you're going to have to figure out how to handle this situation since it's existing functionality.

Oh, and "Destination, destination" indeed. That's just Todd Knarr  –  Oct 14, 2014 10:05 AM PDT

Oh, and "Destination, destination" indeed. That's just my point: Google is a company, not a destination. "Google Voice for France" might be a destination, although even that may not be specific enough to get you to where you want to go.

Hello, Mr Knarr. Thanks for the comment Pan Jeong Lee  –  Oct 14, 2014 11:54 PM PDT

Hello, Mr Knarr. Thanks for the comment again. You can see – I got the same question from Mr Tobias here.

Nowadays, when the users type google.com in each country, the result is each country’s local google site.
Most of global countries do the same thing. It is also possible for brands and company names.
The Intellecutal Property Law in every country protects brand and company names offline, so each government’s IP law has to protect these names online, too.
When you type “google” in the address bar, and Bing or Yahoo comes out, it means someone infringed on Google’s brand name. If someone intended to hijack another company’s customers to gain money unjustly, it is a crime.
When you type google in the address bar, and you cannot go directly to google, your freedom is infringed on, too. Because you’re already google’s customer.
Nobody should infringe on the user’s freedom.
The URL bar definition is looking for server. So, the URL bar is a direct connection bar. it should be illegal to hijack another company’s customers. And infringe on another company’s rights.
The URL bar is the entrance of cyberspace. Not only just the browser company’s zone. It is a public zone.
The online market is bigger than the offline market so we need to hurry up and protect the brand and company names in the URL bar to save every company’s rights. It gives us some clue on how to rescue the economy from going down to the swamp. That is my point.

Protecting customers of all companies (especially SMEs) in the entrance of cyberspace is much more important cause the online market is bigger than the offline market.

Thanks again for the comment.

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Hello, Mr Knarr. Thanks for the comment Todd Knarr  –  Oct 15, 2014 12:35 AM PDT

In reply to #9:

That redirect, though, isn't a function of the browser. It's a function of Google's Web site and hence cannot be relied on universally since not every site does it. For instance, if I type in "google.fr" I do not get redirected to Google's US site, I get Google France's site as I requested and expect. You didn't address this point, which I specifically mentioned in #7. You're basing your entire proposal around a particular behavior configured into the servers for one specific site, yet you're putting this proposal in a place where it has to work correctly for all sites for all companies in all countries regardless of whether or not the site configures itself for that particular behavior. So, to switch this to a site without any particular special-case coding, how do you propose to take "Silverglass" and direct the browser to silverglass.org or silverglass-tech.com or silverglass-tech.net or apptminder.net depending on which of Silverglass Technical's sites I intended? Or did I intend to go to silverglass.net, which doesn't belong to Silverglass Technical at all? Or maybe I meant silverglass.com or silverglass.co.uk, which are parked domains and so probably don't belong to a real organization at all.

All of this really stems from an assumption you're making, that any entity or brand name maps to one and only one entity or brand. As I noted in the cases of "iPhone" and "Apple", that assumption isn't valid outside one specific country and isn't even necessarily valid within a country. You're making an assumption about trademark law that isn't written into trademark law, and you're failing to address how you're going to deal with that discrepancy between your assumptions and the state of the law and reality.

Bluntly put, this is like claiming that "Todd Knarr" refers to one and only one individual in the entire world, and trying to dance around the fact that as unusual as my name is for an American there is at least two other people named "Todd Knarr" in the US alone and I wouldn't bet money against a few more showing up on a world-wide search. All the dancing in the world won't change the fact that you can't just address a letter to "Todd Knarr" and magically have it arrive where you intend, you have to go to an intermediate directory to find out where the specific "Todd Knarr" you want to send the letter to lives and what address they receive mail at (because I for one have 10 addresses in my history, 9 of which no longer work for me and 1 of those 9 never worked for anything sent via the USPS (although amusingly it worked just fine for UPS, FedEx and the like, and in fact there was an 11th address that you wouldn't even recognize as an address but UPS would get stuff sent there into the right hands anyway)).

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Whose customers... Pan Jeong Lee  –  Oct 13, 2014 1:16 AM PDT

Thank you for the comment, Mr. Tarijian. Your advice is good. Thanks again.

Customers getting lost in the entrance [URL bar] of the cyberspace is the problem. If a user types the IP address, that user is a customer of the IP address owner.

Likewise, if he/she types domain name (samsung.co.kr), then he/she is a customer of that domain name owner. When they type brand names - just for example, Samsung - without .com, .kr, .jp, .cn, .fr, .de (without gTLDs, ccTLDs) in the URL bar, and then they are customers of Samsung. (Samsung brand name is a registered trademark in each country.)

But, now, users are not able to access the brand/company website directly.

Are they Samsung’s customers or the portals’ customers? That is my point.

This is why I’m saying there is a problem for companies and brand owners. I explained more in "Whose Customers Are Those Typing Brand Names in the Browser's Address Bar?"

I didn’t know why there was browser war, like what you mentioned – the first browser war. Because the browser is free. So why should there be a war?

If there is really a browser war, it is probably because there is something lucrative there. That is customer hijacking.

Customer hijacking is like a free ride. It is taking advantage of another company’s efforts and sweat. It is done without effort, so the revenue is earned unjustly.

As to why it has “not been resolved 14 years after the end of the first browsers war,” I think the answer is the lack of awareness. As a result, there are no regulations, as mentioned in this article.

If we can solve this problem, I believe it will help us out of the global economic swamp.

Thank you Mr. Knarr Pan Jeong Lee  –  Oct 17, 2014 2:31 AM PDT

Thank you Mr. Knarr for the questions that you raised although some of them are a bit vague and difficult to understand. [Others would require more than just an article to answer.] Anyway, in this article I just want to point out that the Internet user who types in a brand/company name in the Internet address bar is a customer/prospect of that brand/company. You already agreed with me on that. Thank you again for that important point.

I only wish to emphasize that companies should know that their own revenue is being stolen cause the brand owners do not file a formal objection about it.
Thank you again.
P.S. You mentioned “silverglass,” that is a general term. I will post it in another article.

"Silverglass" isn't a general term, though. As Todd Knarr  –  Oct 18, 2014 4:16 PM PDT

"Silverglass" isn't a general term, though. As I used it it'd be the brand of the business I named that owns the first 4 domains I named. It's also the brand of the businesses that own the other domains I named.

Some full disclosure would be great. Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Oct 27, 2014 5:43 AM PDT

The original poster's profile is blank but does include a link to http://e.netpia.com in the "company" link in the profile.

Netpia being a vendor of keyword technology since 2004 or so, no surprise that he is quite interested in making a case for keywords over, say IDN.

http://e.netpia.com/about_netpia/about07_01_detail.asp?idx=397&GotoPage;=&field;=&find;=&gubun=L

Seeing that company profile link reminded me of the last time I remember that a netpia employee posted on circleid - again asking much the same question, do we need IDN rather than just using keywords.  Didn't go down too well back then, as the previous article name checked James Seng of all people :)

http://www.circleid.com/posts/do_we_really_need_idn/

Customers Pan Jeong Lee  –  Oct 28, 2014 8:32 PM PDT

Thank you for your comment, Mr Ramasubramanian. As an expert in cybersecurity, your efforts,
I believe, are helpful to people’s lives.

Like you, I am trying to make a better world through the internet even when my capacity is limited. I have been trying since 1995.

Some of my views may be connected to my business, but my article is not about my company.

Even if it is connected to my business, sharing my views is a fair thing to do in an analysis site, right?

I think this is the right venue for people to explain their insights about the real situation in the internet.

With regards to my profile, please do not misunderstand it. I simply thought it is sufficient that my company website and blog links are provided.

Regarding Jason, he was one of Netpia’s excellent staff. Thank you for reminding me of him. It is fair for him to express his opinion, but his method may have caused other people to feel uncomfortable or offended.

Still, I believe Jason did not mean to disregard the efforts that many people exerted (still exerting) on IDN.

I was not the CEO of Netpia back then, but I apologize to those who may have been offended. Because I am the founder of Netpia (IBI).

IDN, in my opinion, is a good service, even better than English-only domain name.
In fact, I was at the APRICOT in Singapore in 1999, guided by Kilman Cheon, a respected pioneer in the Internet (also known as the “Father of Internet in Asia”). There, I presented the Netpia solution: ml.ml.ml and ml.ml, and the “ml” brand name only. At the time, my company was called IBI. (Netpia was a brand name of IBI in 1999. Company name was changed to Netpia in 2000.) After this presentation, during the APRICOT conference in Seoul in 2000, MINC (Multilingual Internet Name Consortium) members gathered together. I was one of the first few advocates of the IDN, although it was not called IDN back then (original name was ML.ML). So I really have nothing against IDN.

As for myself, I have no hidden agenda, but I just want to share my view that the Internet is an important tool like the telephone.

I know that Circle ID is a venue where tech experts convene. So I am sharing my insight. It is our responsibility to fix the issues cause we are Internet experts. We have to know what is good or not, what is distorted or not.  And if we know what is distorted, then we have to improve it. Do you think the current structure of the internet is fair and just, particularly for SMEs?

My last point is this. This is a definition, destination and justice issue. Please do not compare the keyword Internet name and IDN. It is not the issue. My key question is: Whose customers are those typing brand and company names in the Internet Address bar?

Customer hijacking has a very bad effect to the economy that is why I want to inform everybody. This is a severe problem.

It has been more than a decade, but this problem has not been solved. Because the mass media power of the portals have convinced many people that this should be normal. I wish more experts would focus on this mechanism.

Thanks again for the comment, and for doing your part in improving the internet technology for the people.

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