Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Internet

Several weeks ago, I came across an article in the Economist that briefly described some unrest and concern among members of the busines community. They were basically concerned that China was sponsoring the development of a new kind of programming language based off its characters rather than the traditional xhtml or javascripting. Now, why is this worrisome? Well, internet browsers from Los Angeles to New York, to Paris, to Chinai, to Tokyo all translate the terms <> and < / em > (without the spaces) as meaning "I must italicize the word/s falling in between the two commands". If China successfully both develops and implements this new language, their computers will be using something that the rest of the world won't be able to use, at least until they offer to teach it to us.

Again, why do we care? Because Chinese nationals and more importantly, Chinese businesses will likely once again become incommunicado. The government will have stricter control over what can and can not come into the country, even over the internet, which as their recent battle with Google indicates, is already a concern in China. It would also represent a loss to the business community because they would no longer be able to sell software products to China, which despite IPR problems, does still generate revenue. China would essentially become even less dependent on imports than it already is, which has real consequences for the American capital account defecit, raising the question, "If China no longer has to buy what we're selling, what are we going to do?"

How likely are they going to be able to implement this new language? No one knows. Other initiatives have existed elsewhere, particularly in France, but most of those fell through due in no small part to the need for their computers to talk to American computers to have access to that market. Hence, no one really took them seriously. China, however, is a horse of a different color in that sense because it's got a stronger hold on the American markets. We will buy their cheap goods and try to sell them ours, so long as we can make a profit. Plus, China has stricter control over its citizenry than other individuals from other places, so the possibility that China will develop its own internet is all the more real. However, no one really knows what's going on over there on this issue, but it's still an interesting question.


gunny said...

As I see it, this would be more useful in prohibiting content from being published. We would still be able to see there pages, but might not be able to understand them, or publish pages in China. The net uses a host of protocols to run like the famous tcp/ip or less well known ATM. Since a lot of the DNS servers reside in the US and with other EU countries, the effects of this would be marginal. That being said it would hurt the new national security policy of promoting free speech. On the other hand China currently has 30,000 people surfing the net just to limit questionable material, so new html or not promoting freedom thru the net in China is a tricky affair. I think this is another attempt by China to control there own population. I don’t think China would do anything to damage its economic standing. I also think that a lot of people would not use it. I think one of the argument could be that it would exclude foreign business from China’s mass population. I think the only way that could be done, would be if the new html was better than what’s out there now. I doubt that to be the case. I also doubt that China will use this new standard only. There is just too much money to be lost. Not to mention the fact that the DN servers have got to know the names of the websites, and that’s the key, ICANN could black mail them to straighten up and they are located right here in the US despite the EUs’ best attempts to move them some where else. Of coarse all of this is being said with out the benefit of reading the paper. Still very intresting.

Meow said...

I do agree, and I certainly don't see any real reason for them to shift to the ATM. Too many people rely on standard TCP/IP protocols.

However, I don't know that it's necessarily new html. The article in the Economist was unfortunately not very specific, but it was very concerned about the business implications.

I do agree that this is yet anohter way they're using the internet to control their own populace's access to information, but I do think there could be business ramifications. If you can't read Chinese websites, you might have less access to information you, as a business owner, might need to interact with your Chinese counterpart. More and more business is conducted in datastreams, and I'm not all that comfortable with a nation controlling its datastream.

Finally, I'm also relatively certain that the Chinese government would LIKE strong control over who does business with "foreigners" and who does not, again to control the populace.

As for the ability of ICANN to blackmail...I'm not so convinced, frankly.

However, it's an interesting tidbit of information.

Anonymous said...

If I were U.S. business men I would not be too worried about the chinese protocol. If they are foolish enough to try and develop an alternate platform that no one else in the world uses, then they only damage their own business interests. Its the equivalent of making all business people wear pink hats when conducting business. It creates a barrier to business activity and will limit their economic capability. If they do not want to trade with us anymore, fine, we'll do more business with India.