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AUSTIN—The knight who invented the World Wide Web came to SXSW to point out a few ways in which we're still doing it wrong.

Tim Berners-Lee's "Open Web Platform: Hopes & Fears" keynote hopscotched from the past of the Web to its present and future, with some of the same hectic confusion that his invention shows in practice. (The thought that probably went through attendees' heads: "Sir Tim is nervous at public speaking. Just like us!")

But his conclusion was clear enough: The Web is our work, and we shouldn't put our tools down.

The British scientist led off with some candy for the audience at the Austin Convention Center, in the form of stories about developing the Web on the "beautiful magnesium box" that was his NeXT workstation. Did you know that the Web's original default port was 2784 because low-numbered ports such as 80, today's default, needed root access?

"The Gopher people had 79, which was so much less cool," said Berners-Lee, drawing knowing laughter.

But the most important part of the Web's origins was its simple open-ness. Before writing a program that could connect to a program on another computer, he said, "I didn't have to ask anybody."

That paved a path to Berners-Lee's points on preserving the Web as a space where any compatible device works. As he put it: "The Web worked because HTML didn't say anything about the platform you were on."

Part of Berners-Lee's sermon involved encouraging people to see the Web as the ultimate app store.

Local apps can easily do things like access a phone's camera, but the mobile Web is catching up with standards to let HTML apps talk to components such as accelerometers, which let programs respond when we tilt or shake our devices.

HTML5 is also pulling in such media capabilities as video conferencing; Berners-Lee pointed the audience to WebPlatform.org, a hub for those efforts.

Web apps, in turn, comply with Berners-Lee's "principle of least power," a rule of simplicity, security and interoperability he defined as "If you're going to transmit something, you should use the least powerful language that you can."

He did not, however, present himself as an opponent of digital locks. During a post-talk Q&A, he defended proposals to add support for "digital rights management" usage restrictions to HTML5 as necessary to get more content on the open Web: "If we don't put the hooks for the use of DRM in, people will just go back to using Flash," he claimed.

Berners-Lee's biggest fear is not a mobile experience dominated by iOS or Play Store apps, but one in which the basic protocols of the Web are eaten away by ISP interference and state surveillance.

Deep packet inspection, for example, allows third parties to "look at all the stuff you're looking up on the Web, and store it, and use it." An Internet provider might employ that to sell ads or charge some sites and services extra; a government could exploit it to slow or disconnect sites it considers harmful.

In all of those warnings, exhortations and technical digressions (such as the virtue of coding in Objective-C, the declining cost of displays that may leave taxis "covered in pixels," the perils of "Turing-complete" languages), however, Berners-Lee didn't emphasize one of the most important features of his invention: the fact that it was also open-source. It fell to introducer John Perry Barlow to make that point.

"One of the more important things that Tim Berners-Lee was what we didn't do," added the Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder. "He did not say World Wide WebTM"

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Design A Website 1 Designing A Website Above The Fold
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Jobs considers the impact his ouster from Apple had on his feelings in 1985. "I hired the wrong guy. [John Sculley] destroyed everything I spent 10 years working for."

In 1995, Steve Jobs gave a rare interview to Robert Cringely for a PBS special called Triumph of the Nerds to talk about the genesis of the personal computer. Most of the hour-long interview had been cut down to a few minutes to use for the three-part special, and the original master tape was thought to have been lost after production. Shortly after Jobs' death in October 2011, however, director Paul Sen found a VHS copy of the entire interview in his garage. Cringely and Sen worked to clean up the footage and presented "The Lost Interview" in a handful of art house theaters across the country. Magnolia Pictures eventually picked up the remastered footage for wider release, and made it available via iTunes and Amazon Video on Demand this week.

During the interview, Jobs was "at his charismatic best—witty, outspoken, visionary," according to Cringely. Jobs certainly wasn't pulling any punches, blaming Apple's poor performance in the mid-'90s on then-CEO John Sculley's mismanagement, the mediocrity of computing on Microsoft's lack of taste, and a glut of poorly designed consumer gadgets on companies overrun by "sales and marketing people."

To place the interview in context, it was taken about a year or so before Apple bought NeXT for its NextStep operating system, which became the basis for Mac OS X and later iOS. The acquisition also brought its estranged co-founder back to lead the company from near-bankruptcy to soaring profits and market share, with Apple becoming a leader in portable music players, notebook computers, smartphones, and tablets.

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How can we make sense of it all?
A few weeks ago, I had dinner with Saumil and Sailesh, co-founders of LocBox.* Instagram had just been acquired by Facebook and there was speculation (later confirmed) about a big up round financing of Path. The recent large financing of Pinterest was still in the air, and the ongoing parlor game of when Facebook would go public and at what price was still being played. A couple of months prior, Zynga had acquired OMGPOP.

Sailesh wondered aloud, “How much time do we have for any of these?” “How many of them can coexist?” and “Do we really need them?” My answers were, respectively: “A lot.” “Many of them.” and “No, but we want them.” That dinner discussion prompted some observations that I am outlining here, and I invite you to share your own observations in the comments below.

In a nutshell, the Internet has evolved from being a need-driven utility medium with only a handful of winners to a discovery-driven entertainment medium with room for multiple winners. The necessary and sufficient conditions for this evolution are now in place — broadband, real names and tablets are the three horsemen of this New New Web. As consumers, entrepreneurs and investors, we should get used to the fact that the online economy is increasingly blurring with the offline economy, and in the limit, that distinction will disappear. As a result, just as in the real world, the Web of entertainment will be much bigger than the Web of utility.

A Theory of Human Motivation
One framework for understanding the consumer Internet is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which Abraham Maslow put forward as a way of explaining human behavior at large. The core premise is that once our basic needs of food, shelter, safety and belonging are satisfied, we tend to focus on things that are related to creativity, entertainment, education and self-improvement. A key aspect of this framework is that it’s sequential: Unless the basic needs are met, one cannot focus on other things. As an example, a study in 2011 showed that humans who are hungry will spend more on food and less on non-food items compared to those who are not hungry. Using this framework, we can see how consumer adoption of the Web has evolved over the last 20 years, and why all of the ingredients are only now in place for consumers to use the Web for what Maslow called “self-actualization” — a pursuit of one’s full potential, driven by desire, not by necessity.

1992-2012: Web of Need
Between the AOL IPO in 1992 and the Facebook IPO last month, the Internet has largely been in the business of satisfying basic consumer needs. In 1995, the year Netscape went public and made the internet accessible to the masses, I was a young product manager for a consumer Internet company called Global Village Communication. We were a newly minted public company and our hottest product was a “high speed” fax/modem with a speed of 33.6 kbps. Back then, using the Internet as a consumer or making a living off it as a business was rather difficult, and sometimes simply frustrating. In the subsequent years the basic needs of access, browser, email, search and identity were solved by companies such as AOL, Comcast, Netscape, Yahoo, Google, LinkedIn and Facebook.

2012-?: Web of Want
Today, the billion users on Facebook have reached the apex of Maslow’s hierarchy on the web. All of our basic needs have been satisfied. Now we are in pursuit of self-actualization. It is no surprise that on the Web, we are now open to playing games (Zynga, Angry Birds), watching video (YouTube, Hulu), listening to music (Pandora, Spotify), expressing our creativity (Instagram, Twitter, Draw Something), window shopping (Pinterest, Gojee*) and pursuing education (Khan Academy, Empowered*).

The Web Is Becoming Like TV
How do we make sense out of a Web where multiple providers coexist, serving groups of people who share a similar desire? Turns out we already have a very good model for understanding how this can work: Television. Specifically, cable television. The Web is becoming like TV, with hundreds of networks or “channels” that are programmed to serve content to an audience with similar desires and demographics. Pinterest, ShoeDazzle, Joyous and Alt12* programmed for young, affluent women; Machinima, Kixeye and Kabam programmed for mostly male gamers; Gojee* for food enthusiasts; Triposo* for travellers; GAINFitness* for fitness fans and so on.

In this new new Web, an important ingredient to success is a clear understanding of the identity of your users to ensure that you are programming to that user’s interests. The good news is that unlike TV, the Web has a feedback loop. Everything can be measured and as a result the path from concept to success can be more capital efficient by measuring what type of programming is working every step of the way — it’s unlikely that the new new Web will ever produce a Waterworld.

Why Now? Broadband, Real Names & Tablets
As my partner Doug Pepper recently wrote, a key question when evaluating a new opportunity is to ask “Why Now?” Certainly, companies like AOL, Yahoo and Myspace have tried before to program the Web to cater to interests of specific audiences. What’s different now? Three things: Broadband, real names and tablets.

The impact of broadband is obvious; we don’t need or want anything on a slow Web. With broadband penetration at 26 percent in industrialized countries and 3G penetration at about 15 percent of the world’s population, we are just reaching critical mass of nearly 1B users on the fast Web.

Real names are more interesting. In 1993, the New Yorker ran the now famous cartoon; “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” This succinctly captured the state of the anonymous Web at the time. Reid Hoffman and Mark Zuckerberg changed that forever. Do we find Q&A on Quora to be more credible than Yahoo! Answers, celebrity profiles on Twitter more engaging than Myspace and pins on Pinterest more relevant than recommendations on early AOL chatrooms? I certainly do, and that is largely because Quora, Twitter and Pinterest take advantage of real names. Real names are blurring the distinction between online and offline behavior.

Finally, the tablet, the last necessary and sufficient piece that fuels the “Web of want.” The PC is perfect for the “Web of need” — when we need something, we can search for it, since we know what we are looking for. Searching is a “lean-forward” experience, typing into our PC, either at work or at the home office. The Web over the last decade has been optimized for this lean-forward search experience — everything from SEO to Web site design to keyword shortcuts in popular browsers makes that efficient. However, smartphones and tablets allow us to move to a “lean-back” experience, flipping through screens using our fingers, often in our living rooms and bedrooms, on the train or at the coffee shop. Tablets make discovery easy and fun, just like flipping channels on TV at leisure. These discoveries prompt us to want things we didn’t think we needed.

Early Signs
This thesis is easy to postulate, but is there any evidence that users are looking to the Web as anything more than a productivity platform? As has been reported, mobile devices now make up 20 percent of all U.S. Web traffic, and this usage peaks in the evening hours, presumably when people are away from their office. Analysis from Flurry* shows that cumulative time spent on mobile apps is closing in on TV. We certainly don’t seem to be using the Web only when we need something.

Economy of Need Versus Want
The economy of Want is different from the economy of Need. We humans tend to spend a lot more time and money on things we want compared to things we need. For example, Americans spend more than five hours a day on leisure and sports (including TV), compared to about three hours spent on eating, drinking and managing household activities. Another difference is that when it comes to satisfying our needs, we tend to settle on one provider and give that one all of our business. Think about how many companies provide us with electricity, water, milk, broadband access, search, email and identity. The Need economy is a winner-take-all market, with one or two companies dominating each need. However, when it comes to providing for our wants, we are open to being served by multiple providers. Think about how many different providers are behind the TV channels we watch, restaurants we visit, destinations we travel to and movies we watch. The Want economy can support multiple winners, each with a sizeable business. Instagram, Path, Pinterest, ShoeDazzle, BeachMint, Angry Birds, CityVille, Kixeye, Kabam, Machinima and Maker Studios can all coexist.

Investing in the Web of Want
The chart below shows that over a long term (including a global recession) an index of luxury stocks (companies such as LVMH, Burberry, BMW, Porsche, Nordstrom) outperforms an index of utility stocks (companies such as Con Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric that offer services we all need). The same applies to an index of media stocks (companies such as CBS, Comcast, News Corp., Time Warner, Viacom) which outperforms both the utilities and the broader stock market. Of course, higher returns come with higher volatility — Nordstrom’s beta is 1.6 and CBS’ beta is 2.2, compared to 0.29 for PG&E. It is this volatility that has cast investing in the Want business as a career-ending move in Silicon Valley for the past 20-plus years. As the Web evolves from serving our needs to satisfying our wants and, in turn, becomes a much larger economy, sitting on the sidelines of the Web of Want may not be an option.

Let’s Not Kill Hollywood
With a billion users looking for self-actualization and with the widespread adoption of broadband, real names and tablets, the Web is poised to become the medium for creativity, education, entertainment, fashion and the pursuit of happiness. As the offline world shows, large, profitable companies can be built that cater to these desires. Entrepreneurs and investors looking to succeed in the new new Web can learn quite a few lessons from our friends in the luxury and entertainment businesses, which have been managing profitable “want” businesses for decades. The fusion of computer science, design, data, low friction and the massive scale of the Internet can result in something that is better than what either Silicon Valley or Hollywood can do alone. It is no wonder that the team that came to this conclusion before anyone else is now managing the most valuable company in the world.

Epilogue
When we go see a movie or splurge on a resort vacation, we don’t stop using electricity, brushing our teeth or checking our email. The Web of Want is not a replacement for the Web of Need, it is an addition. Many of the Internet companies that satisfied our needs in the last 20 or more years of the Web are here to stay. In fact, they will become more entrenched and stable, with low beta, just like the utilities in the offline world. Microsoft has a beta of exactly 1.0 — it is no more volatile than the overall stock market. And for those longing for the days of “real computer science” on the Web, do not despair. Just keep an eye on Rocket Science and Google X Labs — there is plenty of hard-core engineering ahead.

Disclosures: * indicates an InterWest portfolio company. Google Finance was used for all of the stock charts and beta references.

Keval Desai is a Partner at InterWest, where he focuses on investments in early-stage companies that cater to the needs and wants of consumers. He started his career in Silicon Valley in 1991 as a software engineer. He has been a mentor and investor in AngelPad since inception. You can follow him @kevaldesai.

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Sean Gallagher

This Q&A is part of a biweekly series of posts highlighting common questions encountered by technophiles and answered by users at Stack Exchange, a free, community-powered network of 80+ Q&A sites.

Robert Harvey asks:

My team and I are rebuilding a site we developed around ten years ago, and we want to do it in Agile. After I've spent a lot of time reading (probably not enough), I am having trouble with the question of how to divide work between developers.

I'll be more specific and say that the site is divided into separate modules which don't have much integration between them. What is the best/most accepted way to divide the work between the developers?

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It starts as just another toy to play around with in a few minutes of distraction in your Web browser – as if the Web were short on distraction. But then, something amazing can happen. Like a musical Turing Test, you start to get a feeling for what’s happening on the other side. Someone’s stream of colored dots starts to jam with your stream of colored dots. You get a little rhythm, a little interplay going. And instead of being a barrier, the fact that you’re looking at simple animations and made-up names and playing a pretty little tune with complete strangers starts to feel oddly special. The absence of normal interpersonal cues makes you focus on communicating with someone, completely anonymously, using music alone.

Dinah Moe’s “Plink” is the latest glimpse of what Web browser music might be, and why it might be different than (and a compliment to) other music creation technology. You can now create private rooms to blow off steam with a faraway friend, or find new players online. It’s all powered with the Web Audio API, the browser-native, JavaScript-based tools championed by Mozilla. That means you’ll need a recent Chrome or Firefox (Chrome only at the moment; this is a Chrome Experiment), and mobile browsers won’t be able to keep up. But still, give it a try – I think you may be pleasantly surprised. (Actually, do it right now, as you’ll probably be doing it with other CDM readers. I expect greater things!)

http://labs.dinahmoe.com/plink/

Thanks to Robin Hunicke, who worked with multiplayer design and play at That Game Company’s Journey on PS3 and now on the browser MMO Glitch. I think her friends were more musical than most, because the place came alive after she linked from Facebook.

The browser is becoming a laboratory, a place to quickly try out ideas for music interaction, and for the code and structure that describe music in a language all their own. As in Plink, it can also benefit from being defined by the network and collaboration.

Dinah Moe’s experiments go in other directions, as well. In Tonecraft, inspired by the 3D construction metaphor of Minecraft, three-dimensional blocks become an alternative sequencer.

http://labs.dinahmoe.com/ToneCraft/

There are many reasons not to use Web tools. The Web Audio API still isn’t universal, and native options (like Google’s Native Client) have their own compatibility issues, stability concerns, and – because of security – they don’t do all the things a desktop application will. Desktop music tools are still more numerous, more powerful, and easier to use, so if you’re a reader out there finishing a thesis project, you might look elsewhere. (Actually, you’re probably in trouble, anyway, by any nation’s academic calendar, given it’s the First of May, but I digress.)

But think instead of this as another canvas, and the essential building blocks of interface design, code, and networking as shared across browsers and desktop apps. Somehow, in the light of the Internet, its new connectedness, and its new, more lightweight, more portable code and design options, software is changing. That transformation could happen everywhere.

If you need something to help you meditate on that and wait for a revelation to occur to you, I highly recommend watching a soothing stream of dots and some pleasing music as you jam with your mouse.

Of course, in the end, like a digital mirror, it might inspire you to go out to the park with a couple of glockenspiels and jam the old-fashioned way. But maybe that’s another reason to make software.

(Here’s a video, in case you’re not near a browser that supports the app!)

More, plus reflections on adaptive music:
http://labs.dinahmoe.com/

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Through the eyes of satellites, roving Google trucks, aerial imagery, and more, we have plenty of eyes on our planet. But what does it sound like here on Earth?

In a Web application and accompanying art installation, the world turns as it echoes sounds recorded around the world on Creative Commons-licensed site Freesound.org. It’s stunning to hear our world’s acoustic diversity – in some strange way, even more than seeing it, in that sounds can instantly give you a sense of place and time. You can load a version on your browser or on the iPad; then, from the world’s cities, listen as sounds mix automatically from one locale to another in an ambient sound score.

Browser Version (animates a bit slow for me, but works)
iPad World Sound Mix app [free | iTunes]
(via Hermann Helmholtz – great tip!)

The basic notion is something we see repeated regularly, even with this visualization; this is a fantasy those of us who work in sound routinely entertain. But it’s doubly worth mentioning, in that it’s an excuse to mention the lovely Japanese label/artist/laboratory 43d.

43d engages sound through a variety of tools. In the 43d laboratory, the spinning Earth interface finds its way into an installation (video below), iPad app, and browser app, as workshops send participants into the field to listen to their environment and gather more sounds. Such exercises have an added bonus for us electronic musicians, of course, as collected sounds can easily become the raw materials of music in any genre through the wonderful alchemy of our machines.

http://labs.43d.jp/

The installation and sound mix project:

“World Sound Mix for BankART LIFE3″ is a sound visual installation, generating new soundscape around the world. This work continues mixing the sounds at selected two points somewhere in the world from the database of huge quantities of environment sounds and generating new soundscape.

For this exhibition, we set up a magic box that resonates mixed soundscape in Sapporo and somewhere in the world. During the exhibition, a globe in the box keeps turning and resonating sounds in real time.

About sounds data:
World Sound Mix is based on a sound database from Freesound project, its sounds have been recorded and gathered by sound hunters around the world. The use of sound data is under the CreativeCommons Sampling+ 1.0 License. By the username and “freesound sound ID” shown on the globe, listener can refer to original content.

http://www.43d.jp/wsm2011/

Freesound.org, a terrific source of sounds:

http://www.freesound.org/

But what I especially like about all of this is that the environmental sounds don’t have to exist in a vacuum. 43d is also an ambient music label, the work of artist Junichi Oguro:

A sound artist who widens the realm of music. Born in Sapporo in 1974.
He started to compose music since his childhood, and received a grand prize at a national contest. In 2006 he visited Berlin for making music in various fields from commercial music for TV spots to sound space design in various areas of Europe. He also showcases sound art pieces in the realm of the contemporary art. He manages an ambient label “43d” which was established for creating leading edge sounds.

The just-released “Unfield” is breathtaking, turning effortlessly from rough-shod digital glitches to icy-sweet ballads and intimate, gorgeous vocals by Malloy Nagasawa. It combines custom software and control with more conventional recording techniques:

http://www.43d.jp/releases/

Have a listen:

Hope to hear more from this whole project.
43d.jpg

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A week or so ago I shared a couple of trailers for my friend Niko‘s upcoming TOKYO X CREATIVES video series, and here’s a third trailer, this time for the episode that will feature the gaming/clothing shop Meteor, located in Kichijoji. Niko did a presentation on the project at last week’s PechaKucha Night Vol. 89, and it should be up on the PK site within a week or two.

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The Pirate Bay announced more than two years ago that it would stop supporting .torrent files in favor of magnet links. Today TPB made the change official.

The Swedish file hosting site replaced all .torrent files being shared by 10 users or more with magnet links. The magnet links are a type of “trackerless” torrent that pre-calculates a torrent hash (the code helping downloaders find peers with the file they seek) and places the hash within the link. Users looking for a file can then request it in a decentralized way, rather than ask a centralized torrent server to connect the user with another peer.

Most current BitTorrent clients support magnet links, and the Pirate Bay previously made magnet links the default method of posting and acquiring files. Users of older BitTorrent clients might now find themselves frustrated. Certain file-sharers have been resistant to the idea of magnet links because it takes a longer time for the download to get going.

The Pirate Bay sees the move from .torrent files to magnet links a method of survival. Ditching the larger original torrent file cuts down on server space significantly, meaning copies of the Pirate Bay site can be made more easily. Ultimately, this prevents anti-piracy laws in any one country from shuttering the site at a moment's notice.

This is not the end of .torrent files, however. Torrents shared by fewer than ten people will remain on the site, so files that might have been created on clients that don't support magnet links can still be accessed.

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