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30th June 1997
Regulation and the Net, do we need it?
The Communications Decency Act (CDA) has been well and truly stomped on by the US Supreme Court, Trevor Rogers anti-porn/bomb bill is still active but no longer making the headlines it once did and there's a slow but sure move towards finalising the ISP Code Of Practice.

Has the net reached the size, complexity or power that demands regulation?

I guess we should ask ourselves - "why regulate?" What are the reasons that any one would want to regulate a medium that has become what it is today largely through a lack of control and regulation?

There are of course a number of answers.

Control... In the eyes of many, the Net is the very epitome of anarchy. An environment where the individual is free to do more or less what they want without any responsibility to friend, foe or Government. Already the taxman has twigged to the fact that there's the potential for a growing loss of revenue through sales and purchases performed in the kind of borderless economy that the Net offers.

Protection... time was when the Net was solely the domain of the academic and computer nerd. Now our schools are connected and surveys indicate that the Net is one of the factors associated with an overall reduction in the number of hours spent watching TV. It could be argued that we need to protect the young and impressionable Net user from information which might be bad for them.

Likewise as more businesses discover the Net as a cheaper, more convenient method of communications and marketing, it's easy to make the case that there should be regulations to control the minimum levels and standards of service offered by those industries which purvey such services.

Who do we trust?
As any Net user will confirm, those who seek to draft and impose regulations on the Net are often self-appointed and least qualified to do so.

Until recently, our politicians, with only a few exceptions, have been incredibly ignorant of the Net, its technology and its culture. I don't think they should be left to draft any kind of legislation without some kind of consensus. And.. I by consensus, I mean something a lot better than a few tax-payer funded junkets around the world and a couple of beers with some of the local industry figureheads.

If government really wants to pass laws to control the Net then they should use the net to get some kind of consensus and feedback from the estimated 100,000 Internet users in New Zealand. The good sense and knowledge of 100K Net users has to be a lot qualified to make such decisions than a handful of ill-informed and overworked MPs or committee members.

Who will make the rules?
Self Regulation?
Of course, this is the best option. Let's hope that the ISP COP gets sorted and implemented very quickly so as to head off much of the need for Government intervention and hip-horray for initiatives such as WDNZ who are seeking to set some kind of minimum standards within the Web design industry.

Given the growing number of "cowboys" that are saddling up as so-called Web designers, and the number of naive companies getting their fingers burnt as a result, perhaps it's time for a push in the area of certification - even if it's only voluntary and backed by a public awareness campaign.

It's also interesting to note that even the experts such as NZ's oft touted expert, Dave Blyth now consider Web design more than just a single discipline. Dave has decided to specialise in the Web graphics field and leave the technicalities of things such as CGI and HTML creation to others. Look for an increase in this type of single-field specialisation as the industry continues to grow. As standards rise it will be no longer acceptable to use a "Jack of all trades" in the creation of top-quality sites. Increasingly, sites will be built by teams of experts, each specialising in one aspect of site design and implementation.

Another Security Threat!
Over in the states this week one of the key stories has been the way in which some Net users were caught out by a "Trojan horse" program which was disguised as a screensaver.

Unsuspecting AOL users who downloaded the screensaver found that their login IDs and passwords had been automatically sent off to the program's author who was then using their Internet accounts.

This is something to be very wary of. I know that the prospect of just such a risk occurred to me when I installed the Dunce redialer program on a machine here. It knows your login ID, asks for your password and openly admits that it's going to send info back to its author the first time you run it... still you've got to trust people at some time or another I guess.

Giddy up!
I can't believe it's true!
Come on Paul!
Hey.. what's this? This week, Paul Reynolds gives readers in his weekly Infotech Column a bit of a run-down on the NZ Web awards sites such as SODA and Wammo - but where was Aardvark's "I Can't Believe It's True" award?

Come on Paul.. it's almost as old as Wammo and based on the feedback I get, just as popular as the other awards. More importantly, it's not just another "didn't they do well" acknowledgment.

I Can't Believe It's True!
What do you do when there's no news? Just publish the same stories several times? Well it seems that's what's been happening across at @IDG.

Quantity has a quality all it's own

Yes, I know it's just a technical hitch - but it's been that way for several days now.

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