We know space is big, but trying to understand how big is tricky. Say you stare up at the sky and identify stars and constellations in a virtual planetarium, you can't quite fathom how far away all those stars are (previously, twice). Even if you could change your point of view and zoom around in space to really see 100,000 nearby stars (autoplaying ambient music, and there are actually 119,617 stars mapped in 3D space), it's still difficult to get a sense of scale. There's this static image of various items mapped on a log scale from XKCD (previously), and an interactive horizontal journey down from the sun to the heliosphere with OMG Space (previously). You can get a bit more dynamic with this interactive Scale of the Universe webpage (also available in with some variants, if you want the sequel [ previously, twice], the swirly, gravity-optional version that takes some time to load, and the wrong version [previously]), but that's just for the scale of objects, not of space itself. If you want to get spaced out, imagine if If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel, and travel from there (previously). This past March, BBC Future put out a really big infographic, which also takes a moment to load, but then you can see all sorts of things, from the surface of Earth out to the edge of our solar system.
"But having survived myself, what I want to do now is help other victims of the shame game survive too. I want to put my suffering to good use and give purpose to my past."Monica Lewinsky gives her first major public speech to speak out against online abuse. Full transcript here.
POODLE (Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption) is the latest exploit found in SSL, a protocol used widely across the Internet for secure connections. Engineers at Google discovered the exploit, and they have written a white paper discussing it. In response, Google is disabling SSL in all Google products. Some are calling this the death of SSL. For web users, disabling SSL in your browser is recommended. Here is a tool to identify if your browser is potentially affected by the POODLE exploit.
Imagine you're hungry for dinner, stuck at home and don't really want to cook. But you're also deeply ambivalent about what to order--Chinese? Pizza? Sushi? Well, Mike Lacher has you covered. Give his new web app Seamless Roulette your Seamless.com account details and a maximum cost, and it places an order for you at a random nearby restaurant, for something it randomly selects from the menu. If you like surprises and giving up the power to choose your own meal, this might just be for you.
Search for word usage in movies and television over time.
Movies and television shows often reflect cultural trends of the time they are made in. Even movies that take place during the past or future can say something about the present through metadata or production style. Using the Bookworm platform, Benjamin Schmidt, an assistant professor of history at Northeastern University, provides a tool that lets you see trends in movie and television dialogue.
The Online Legacy of a Suicide Cult and the Webmasters Who Stayed Behind. A short history of the Heaven's Gate Millenarian Cult and the (ex?) members who still keep the page running seventeen years after their last contact with the leader and members.
The Republican Party began selling new web domains ending in .gop today at www.join.gop. Public interest has definitely been sparked, but perhaps not for the reasons Republicans have hoped. [more inside]
"Advertising is not well. Though companies supported by advertising still dominate the landscape and capture the popular imagination, cracks are beginning to show in the very financial foundations of the web. Despite the best efforts of an industry, advertising is becoming less and less effective online. The once reliable fuel that powered a generation of innovations on the web is slowly, but perceptibly beginning to falter. Consider the long-term trend: when the first banner advertisement emerged online in 1994, it reported a (now) staggering clickthrough rate of 78%. By 2011, the average Facebook advertisement clickthrough rate sat dramatically lower at 0.05%. Even if only a rough proxy, something underlies such a dramatic change in the ability for an advertisement to pique the interest of users online. What underlies this decline, and what does it mean for the Internet at large? This short [PDF] paper puts forth the argument for peak advertising—the argument that an overall slowing in online advertising will eventually force a significant (and potentially painful) shift in the structure of business online. Like the theory of Peak Oil that it references, the goal is not to look to the immediate upcoming quarter, but to think on the decade-long scale about the business models that sustain the Internet." [more inside]
In 2003, Andy "waxpancake" Baio created Upcoming, "a collaborative event calendar focused on interesting arts and tech events around the world, curated by its community. It surfaced weird and wonderful events that usually fell under the radar of traditional event listings from newspapers and local weeklies." In 2005, it was acquired by Yahoo!, who killed the site last April with little warning, and no way to back up events. Fortunately, the complete site was saved by the Internet Archive. But Upcoming isn't dead yet! Two months ago, Yahoo! offered to sell the domain back to Baio. And now, with a fully-funded kickstarter, he's planning on "rebuilding it for the modern era using tools and platforms that weren't available when it was first designed." Welcome to the brilliant life, stupid death, and improbable return of Upcoming.org. [more inside]
Obby Breeden, husband of The Devil's Panties and Geebas on Parade's Jennie Breeden, on what happens when the web advertising industry decides that an occasionally foulmouthed webcomic is equally "Adult" as a porn streaming site, as well as how to find your own site's score.
The Colonel's Home Page! It's a home page that spans the Colonel's many interests, including homebrewed card games, jingle compositions, ASCII maps of NES games, how to deal with abusive parents, and puzzles. [more inside]
Having taken pictures of more than 6 million miles’ worth of road, Google is more than doubling the amount of global Street View imagery by adding all of its archive photography. The company’s Google Maps Web application will now include a time machine feature where users can move a slider to see all historical images of a place. As much as possible, pictures of the same place have been aligned so they have the same perspective as one another.
Ars Technica reports on malicious extensions on the Chrome web browser, which install advertising-based malware that hijack links and inject ad content. Further speech recognition exploits (source) leave open the opportunity for malicious sites to record sound captured by the user's web browser without permission.
Peter Scott (February 14, 1947 - December 30, 2013) worked in the Systems Department of the University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, Canada) Libraries from 1976 to 2005. One of the early library weblog writers, Peter is most well known for HyTelnet, an interface for Telnet services he developed from 1990. In his 1991 video, Peter demonstrates a later version of HyTelnet, while an archive lists the resources available through the service. [more inside]
That lack of expertise explains why in building healthcare.gov, the government turned to industry contractors; in particular, to CGI Federal, a subsidiary of CGI Group, a Canadian company. To those uninitiated in the dark art of government contracting, it seems scandalous that CGI, a company most Americans had never heard of, a company that is not located in Silicon Valley (where President Obama has plenty of Internet superstar friends who could have formed a dazzling brain trust to implement his signature legislation) but rather in Montreal, could be chosen as the lead contractor for the administration’s most important initiative. While right-wing news outlets have focused on the possible relationship between Toni Townes-Whitley, senior vice president for civilian-agency programs at CGI Federal, and Michelle Obama, both of whom were 1985 Princeton graduates, CGI’s selection is probably more an example of a dysfunctional system than it is a scandal. “A lot of the companies in Silicon Valley don’t do business with the government at that level [the level required for federal contracting],” explains Soloway. “It is very burdensome, and the rules make it very unattractive.” Indeed, government contractors have to meet a whole host of requirements contained in a foot-thick book, including cost accounting and excessive auditing, to prove that they are not profiting too much off the American taxpayer. Hence, there tends to be a relatively small, specialized group of companies that compete for this work, even on such critical matters as healthcare.gov. - Accounting for Obamacare
"Information is increasingly being distributed and presented in real-time streams instead of dedicated Web pages. The shift is palpable, even if it is only in its early stages," Erick Schonfeld wrote. "Web companies large and small are embracing this stream. It is not just Twitter. It is Facebook and Friendfeed and AOL and Digg and Tweetdeck and Seesmic Desktop and Techmeme and Tweetmeme and Ustream and Qik and Kyte and blogs and Google Reader. The stream is winding its way throughout the Web and organizing it by nowness."[more inside]
Japan and other Asian countries have moved from SMS to smart phone messaging apps, with great success for all.
Having trouble coming up with an idea or a SEO friendly title for your next web article? Portend's Content Idea Generator comes to the rescue.
Renegade Studios, the team behind the 2008 fan film "Star Trek: Of Gods and Men", has released a teaser trailer for their next web series project: Star Trek: Renegades. [more inside]
Demand Media, once valued higher than the New York Times, is seeing a rapid decrease in profits because of Google changing its search algorithms. Does this mean the beginning of the end for "content farms"?
Imgur began as a photo sharing site to be used by Redditors. It now outpaces Reddit in total traffic. What's next for the site?
"In 1967, The Public Interest, then a leading venue for highbrow policy debate, published a provocative essay by Paul Baran, one of the fathers of the data transmission method known as packet switching [and agent of RAND]. Titled “The Future Computer Utility," the essay speculated that someday a few big, centralized computers would provide 'information processing … the same way one now buys electricity. Highly sensitive personal and important business information will be stored in many of the contemplated systems … At present, nothing more than trust—or, at best, a lack of technical sophistication—stands in the way of a would-be eavesdropper.' To read Baran’s essay (just one of the many on utility computing published at the time) is to realize that our contemporary privacy problem is not contemporary. It’s not just a consequence of Mark Zuckerberg’s selling his soul and our profiles to the NSA. The problem was recognized early on, and little was done about it... It’s not enough for a website to prompt us to decide who should see our data. Instead it should reawaken our own imaginations. Designed right, sites would not nudge citizens to either guard or share their private information but would reveal the hidden political dimensions to various acts of information sharing." -- MIT Technology Review on The Real Privacy Problem
When Turntable.fm launched in 2011 it served as a unique way to listen to music virtually with friends on the web. It works on the basis of groups that let users play music on virtual decks with a queue system, chat room, and the ability to search and upload music. Two years after its introduction, its creators are fighting to keep it alive.
"Twenty years after people began using the web en masse, it’s time, Williams said, to accept that the internet isn’t a magical universe with boundless potential. It’s just another engine for improving quality of life." Twitter, Blogger and Medium founder Evan Williams on the triumphs and dangers of convenience.
Arcade Fire are back with a groovy single, Reflektor, accompanied by an amazing interactive experience. [more inside]
Real-time tracking of emoji use across twitter. Click on each emoji to see who is using it.
Arena.Xlsm is the fever dream of a Canadian Chartered Accountant with a love of roleplaying games (Hat tip to Special K over at mefightclub!)
Mike Merrill decided to sell shares in his life. He now has 160 shareholders who can tell him what to do.
Stop Using Small Font Sizes "I'm calling you out. All of you. The hackers, the designers, the code monkeys, the word-smiths, the editors, the CSS gurus, and everyone else who works on content management systems and style sheets for news sites. Stop using small font sizes." [more inside]
"Its not like we all sat in silence and stared blankly at our TVs waiting for the Internet to show up. We have probably always had vernacular webs of communication." Digital studies scholar Robert Glenn Howard talks about vaccines, the Christian right [PDF], AC/DC guitar tutorials and other "born-digital folklore" on the "vernacular web."
As Microsoft prepares to retire its unfashionable Hotmail in favor of Outlook.com this summer, let's remember the viral marketing revolution that Hotmail invented. Journey back seventeen years to Hotmail's origins, the birth of the dot.com millionaire, and the boozy optimism of a pre-crash web industry in full-growth mode (Wired, December 1998) .
Play Dune II in your browser.
Twenty two years ago today, a British physicist, former trainspotter, science fiction fan and computer builder, with the help of Robert Cailliau and other colleagues at CERN, executed the first successful communication between a HTTP client and server on the Internet. [more inside]
"To the credit of today's social networks, they've brought in hundreds of millions of new participants [...] but they haven't shown the web itself the respect and care it deserves, as a medium which has enabled them to succeed. And they've now narrowed the possibilites of the web for an entire generation of users who don't realize how much more innovative and meaningful their experience could be." Anil Dash laments The Web We Lost, and offers some suggestions for moving forward.
"It feels strange to be active and highly visible on the Web for 15 years but it was only when I joined Facebook that someone from elementary school or high school ever contacted me." In which on Ev Williams's platform, Mr Haughey compares his experiences of Facebook and Twitter. [more inside]
"Dog owners have a dog park where they can show off their dogs, but cat people don't have that," she says. "The Internet is where people who love cats can go to say, 'Look how cute my cat is.'" On cat videos on the Internet, and maintaining the popularity of Henrí and Maru, while designers of the Scratching Post note how how some owners start writing in a first feline style. [more inside]
As I watched my anonymous photo upload, I felt a naughty pang–the type you have surely felt if you, like me, have ever cast your sexual desires out into the two-dimensional, glowing, public/private hybrid world that is the Internet. That first time you pressed “send,” there was a panic that it could all go very, very wrong—but it’s worth it, you think, because you’re kind of horny. [more inside]