I am writing the FTC on behalf of the above referenced non-profit public advocacy organization, so as to provide a series of comments regarding anti-competition in the eCommerce Internet and on the web in general. This is a work in progress, because commenting on anything of this magnitude, given the degree of knowledge we possess of it's causes, is at best, next to impossible. This chapter will not focus on marketing in such a way as automatically precludes the ability of a lesser competitor to compete. Fundamentally overwhelming marketing practices, or simple tie ins with threats of exclusion, are well known. There is a more severe problem that needs addressing first.
So what good is it to listen to them, without considering the "little guy's" view?
The ACSA is an ad hoc group of computer scientists and other scientists who work together towards making improvements in the computer and other industries, public advocacy and other such things.
Speaking for myself for a moment, as a 30 year veteran of the computer industry, I have a greater knowledge of the technological constraints of the technology of Unix communications, Windows systems, servers and programming, than the majority of the population of the United States. And, I have a greater awareness of past anticompetitive practices that have taken place among the larger computer hardware and software businesses, organized crime that has endeavored to gain footholds in our industry and even from third parties who've lent their services to the computer industry giants to help them maintain and attain a foothold and monopolize a particular industry.
By way of addressing the background of the present controversy, it becomes critical to understand the lineage of the computer and communications industry. Barring knowledge of the forces at play there, one can not begin to understand how I might be writing the FTC and opening up with a phrase that tends "we are all doomed." I do not mean to suggest this in a paranoid fashion. I mean to suggest it in a PRAGMATIC manner, attempting to clear the air for all to know the GRAVITY of the present situation, as small businesses and jobs fall like flies on a no-pest strip due to our failure to truly understand the role of small business and competition in our Economic System, without which it can not thrive.
For, were I to categorize the Internet's eCommerce Arena today, I'd call it the world's largest No-Pest Strip, and that within it, upstart or small businesses entering the arena in a field where large businesses are already present, those upstarts and small businesses are treated like the Pests and the internet and the rules and methods it operates by and some of it's denizens are the STRIP. Frankly, Chairman Greenspan can alter the indexes for interest all he wants, he'll only be able to prevent the obvious arrival of the wrong kind of "-flation" (to quote the parlance), he will be singularly unsuccessful in ascertaining how to instigate a major turnaround in our economy, because the Federal Reserve and Chairman Greenspan do not govern the Internet, and the Internet has become the pivot point, the buttress and may even be the controlling, guiding force to the United States, perhaps even the Globe's Economy, thrust upon us all without adequate precaution or foresight in it's design.
Not enough of us "pros" were listened to, and too many "cons" out there had their recommendations used as right of passage: inadequate work was done designing it to it's minimum level - provision of authentic, confirmed, and proper transactions from reliable, admittedly small or even tiny merchants at the point of economic affordability that would stimulate the economy. It has become a literal SEA of dysfunction and danger, the web has, and the public that surfs that sea is far from the most likely candidate to become a drowning victim as the SEA overwhelms the Net's occupants who fall victim to it's ill design and it's leveraging by anticompetitive interests.
The matter of fact is: the MERCHANT is the number one VICTIM to be found on the Internet. Merchants, in order just to put up basic, profit making ecommerce, regularly spend as much as one would to build a small Pizza restaurant. Having done so, one finds oneself LOCKED OUT by the basic design of the web: it's CRIPPLED as there is no where to go to gain publicity. If you send unsolicited email to potential customers, you'll get called "spammer" or could even be prosecuted in some states. If you try and gain placement in a Search Engine, the price is higher than the previous Pizza Restaurant. And you are competing for a space about 2 inches tall at the top of computer screens, with every other business in the country and world. What likelihood is it that you are going to gain visibility?
We estimate that any small business who starts an eCommerce promotion today, HAS LESS THAN A 1/100th of 1 Per Cent likelihood of actually being successful at promoting their product or service. The contention for visibility at the Search Engines, Auctions like eBay, and services like AOL, MSN and PRODIGY, is so intense, that the market price is closer to buying a Rolls Royce, than it is for placing a wholly useless Classified Ad.
There is no FLAT PLAYING FIELD, the INTERNET has become a room full of empty rooms, millions of them, with too many simultaneous choices for anyone to really spend too much time. This is what happens when you try to make one network to link the world, you end up with 200 million businesses all trying to get the SAME CONSUMER to look at them.
Below, you will see our recommendation that you localize support for Small Business in a way that creates a lifeline to it's survival. We propose an Internet Chamber of ECommerce for State and Municipal economic development organizations be wholly subsidized to create OUTREACH PROGRAMS to link Consumers with their Local Small Businesses so they can leverage Webcams to see merchandise, and internet to help them scout for what they need for their homes, offices and family, so the Municipal Businesses can be as successful as a kind of Municipal Hive, as can National Trusts like Drugstore.com and eBay, at offering merchandise cost efficiently.
And, foremost, we are recommending a single CENTRAL FREE DIRECTORY for all DOMAINS, with full blog descriptors and categories and geographies be added as an extension to the Web Registration Process, so Web Merchants have one place ANYONE can go to and stand a reasonable likelihood that the public can find a RELEVANT and HONEST self-representation of their domain, without paying huge conglomerates like YAHOO to try and gain presence on the web. Today we face an unfair circumstance brought about by DELIBERATE planning by commercial forces who wanted the Internet to appear to be about freedom and competition, while secretly planning to take it over, to commandeer it. But, more about that later.
HOW COULD THIS FLOOD OF ANTI-COMPETITION HAVE HAPPENED IN AMERICA??
I think all of us in our industry understand precisely how such technology can, by those illuminated with the understanding of how "the chips will fall" when ordered in a particular manner, be leveraged to the advantage of one company and the disadvantage of everybody else. By nature, the very largest businesses in any industry do tend to drive a particular industry forward, and those companies tend to absorb the ideas of their employees and contractors. As a result, agendas pop up pretty quickly in our field, often oriented towards the needs of a particular company. In our field, there really are two "keretsu's" that tend to dominate the field. One is the IBM & GE oriented group of businesses. The other is the AT&T & Xerox oriented group of businesses.
You can note that each has it's own banner operating systems: IBM & GE tend to be wearing the flag of Microsoft Windows, while AT&T & Xerox tend to be found wearing the flag of Unix (or as we call it today: Linux). This is not to say they don't use or promote the opposite camps "wares", in fact IBM sells AIX, a derivative of Unix, and Apple Computer, more of an AT&T and Xerox oriented company, sells Apple MAC/OS which while running atop a Motorola (AT&T oriented) platform, is actually using a chipset designed and implemented by IBM Corp similar to the one it sells AIX on, the RS6000.
More of Apple's software appears to have come from IBM and Microsoft, than anyone seems to realize. Companies like Sun, while possessing a clearly unique version of Unix and their own language, Java, are AT&T and Xerox oriented by nature, yet historically, their product tends to derive from a prior company that was created out of a kind of joint venture involving both IBM and AT&T, called Apollo ( firm lost in time ).
These traditional "competitive houses" have a wide variety of business affiliations that manage to make up the peculiar fabric of the computer industry, spanning the globe. Of all of them, in our industry, IBM Corporation tends to be the most powerful, and for those of us who've been in a competitive situation with them: the most dangerous, which is not to suggest that AT&T and the Regional Bell Operating Companies that formerly comprised it, loosely affiliated, can be any less dangerous in a competitive situation, given the strength of these companies, and their respective modern affiliations, Verizon for instance strongly affiliates with Microsoft, in it's Internet products, despite it's being the core part of the original AT&T Bell System that lives on today.
Even so: both camps inherently descend historically from some element of a single financial influence of the so-called financial giants, the Rockefellers and the Morgans, whom many in our field call "Morgan-Rock" for short, since Rockefeller and Morgan both collaborated on Trust Building back in the first half of the 20th century, giving rise to the huge "agglomerate" as some have coined a phrase. It is quite clear they have developed a scale of competitive behavior that ranges from maintaining the appearances of being independent, descending all the way down to deliberate efforts intended to anti-compete with any threat, all scaled on the basis of the economic threat a particular competitor represents.
By basic design, the Internet historically derived from technology that was originally developed for fault resisting AT&T networks of smaller timeshared minicomputers, like the PDP11 and VAX and later on, the RS6000, and Servers running Unix from Sun and running NT systems from Microsoft. From it's very beginning a natural "agenda'd" selectivity took place among the manufacturers ranging from IBM and Krell to Sun and HP to Microsoft and Oracle and Novell, in how databases would be transported to the web, how various tools would be implemented and how relationships would evolve between the major corporate technology interests, and the major purveyors of means to promote one's product using the Internet.
Suffice to say, that "agenda" focused on all the features of such systems, relationships and implementations, and bred a competitiveness based on yielding the maximum strategic benefit for either the company delivering such web related technology or server, or for it's so-called "Keretsu Parent", to borrow a term from the Japanese business community. In this case, Sun, Compaq, Oracle, Netscape and Apple, all found themselves predominantly in the so-called "pro-Unix", "pro-AT&T, pro-Xerox" camp. And Microsoft, Intel, Krell, HP, and others all found themselves in the "pro-Windows", "pro-IBM, pro-GE" camp. Even though Apple derives most of it's technology from IBM sources or Microsoft, let us not kid ourselves when we describe these companies as "all of a particular marketing design by design."
So, these giant computer hardware and software businesses and their two loosely affiliated camps who appear to compete with each other, really represent a what at times is true competition and times is anti-competition and at other times, individuals from these camps will themselves stoop to deliberate anti-competition of the worse kind, designed to drive all other competition from the marketplace or force them to sell to one or both of the two camps, while working to eliminate any resistant competition from the top down, while always insuring that at least two apparent competitors survive in the marketplace, both materially under the control of the one of the two camps that descend from "Morgan-Rock".
Having worked for it as an employee or having contracted to IBM and AT&T, I can tell you that this many headed, or two headed, beast we call "Morgan-Rock" in our industry, is very good at what it does, and has come to the aid of this country in times of war and economic decline repeatedly. Yet historically, the same beast has also sold technology to enemies of the US National Security Interest, as did IBM during WWII and before.
The camps they belong to are far from limited to the computer technology field in their expansive nebula, they control banks, auto companies, aerospace, home furnishing, food manufacture, oil, travel, you name it, they have built competing and dominant entities within it. In broadcast, they have created ABC, NBC, and others. They've created peculiar alliances between companies among their "garden" of companies, such as MS-NBC.
They've enormous footholds in the Newspaper industry, Radio, TV, Print Media. Unfortunately, this country's economy is dominated by Trusts, today, but they are "pseudo legalized" by very clever lawyering and brilliant "corporate engineering" to such an extent that the government is simply unable to produce sufficient evidence to prosecute them, and anyone who decries them publicly, such as I am doing, are inevitably attacked by Morgan-Rock's "anti competition" defense mechanisms. It is remarkable how thorough they really are.
I would present to the FTC that even the FTC must accept that COMPETING WITH THE MORGAN-ROCK MULTI-INDUSTRY CONGLOMERATE TRUST is, essentially an impossibility, and breaking up any part of it, is more likely to harm American technological industries and the economy, than it is to accomplish anything. If you indict a company like Microsoft, for example, for in essence providing IBM a way to expand it's technological presence into computer operating systems without the restrictions associated with IBM's Consent Order from it's own Anti-Trust case in the 60's, you run into the tiny problem of the fact that on the surface IBM and Microsoft are two entirely different companies, and you'd be hard pressed to suggest otherwise.
The same thing would apply to IBM's creation of the Power Macintosh and today's Apple MAC OS. And even the very licensed intellectual properties you find on every Personal Computer company's products. Yet what I describe is so: the fact is, Morgan-Rock manages to dominate the show, and it's principle Generals, General Electric, IBM, AT&T, Xerox, Microsoft, Sun, Apple, Krell, Compaq, HP, Micron, Intel, AMD and Gateway are all strongly entangled in each others businesses to such an extent, that all the competition that's left, after they gang up on competitors in the field, is the armored PC stores and distributors of the so-called "gray market" populated mainly by independent computer consultants and contractors, and the strong influx of Chinese and other oriental business people who use their acumen to keep themselves in business.
For some time now, we in the computer industry have come to know, that this beast, this Morgan-Rock Conglomerate Trust, this Two Headed, or Many Headed (depending upon how you look at it) has so carefully embedded itself into our business, industry, science, technology, education, government influence, and so on, that even identifying it for what it is, is fraught with peril. I do so now, without any intention of criticizing it, because frankly, I don't know how to create a criticism of something this enormous, intricate, clever, and deceptively designed.
I'm not even certain I am in a position to morally judge Morgan-Rock for attaining the dominate position of top two or more competitors in nearly every industry. I'd have to compliment them, as business men, lawyers and management. They've overcome every obstacle, even the ire of the Department of Justice and the State Attorneys General, if one were to judge the Microsoft, AOL and INTEL cases with some degree of afterthought.
I wouldn't begin to know how to criticize them. However, when I look at it's influence on the internet, and the "copy cat" position others attempting to follow in it's footsteps are taking, I can well understand why the FTC has opened these hearing: it is misfortune that in this moment in history, this giant loosely organized, yet tightly coupled Trust has elected to attempt to leverage economic downturns since 9/11, and manipulation of the Internet, to engage in "squeezing all competition out" of the marketplace and wringing it dry for every market share it is worth to them. I'm saddened to comment to you today that that is EXACTLY what IBM and GE, AT&T and XEROX are conspiring to do, while still infighting with each other at all levels over that market share, in an effort to displace all other competitors, small and large, from the world of internet driven markets and ecommerce.
That includes driving costs sky high for internet solutions, manipulating the Visa/MasterCard, Novus and Amex credit card associations, so as to try and weaken security that harms the little merchant far more than these giants, biasing the cost of advertising and buying as much of it as is readily available up for their own use, driving out the less economically equipped competitor, both in print and internet media, and TV and Radio, and even interfering with actual companies web presence. They also use their position as providers of the very fabric of the web, to bias the software and hardware capabilities.
Long ago, for example, we could have had password protected buddy email, had Microsoft and Eudora and Sun elected to implement it. This form of email requires you to register as a "registered mailer" with someone you wished to confidently email to. All other email would be deemed "junk email" and placed into either a "blocked" or "junk mailbox" repository on either your mail server or your PC, either way, all you'd be compelled to read was the email from those who'd registered with you, something surprisingly easy to maintain and extraordinarily difficult to "pick" by spammers. This "padlocking the inbox" of users and mail servers, so as to only receive authorized email seems somewhat extreme, but today, a similar method is used to block unauthorized chats with chat agents used by AOL, Yahoo and MSN. So why not email?
Because Morgan-Rock's many heads must have some kind of economic investment in seeing SPAM and it's threat and DoS and it's threat continuing. It is TRAGIC that Spam could be eliminated by adoption of Chart (Instant Messaging) forms of "buddy registration", would Microsoft and Sun add that to their products, in a USABLE MANNER (that, too, can be a problem, what good would be implementing something that is too difficult?) yet they appear reluctant. I, for one, don't want to receive any spam, yet I can't block spam without righting "yet another filter" every day, and I still get 4000 Spams a week at each email account I have that's publicly accessible. This is a travesty caused by improperly designed eMail systems, and it is a tactical flaw that enables spam and flooding and DoS to be used ANTI-COMPETITIVELY and that's just plain wrong.
Clearly, the Internet is based on technology that, like prime numbers, and galactic star charts, has its positive and negative economic circumstances, depending upon who controls the outcome of the user's interaction with it. By design, it can be TOO OPEN and by other design, NOT OPEN ENOUGH.
We need privatization of our eMail boxes so only authorized users can send to us. But we need better publication of our Web Domain Names so people can find our businesses without our having to spend a King's Ransom on trying to promote them to the so-called Search Engines.
And, alas, by very clever moves, very canny influence of it's design and very controlled influence not only of the internet, but of the internet economy, and the internets many services, and facilities, Morgan-Rock has positioned itself as controller of it, at least domestically, and is working today to eliminate competition and dominate as many segments of market, service, facility and technology as it can, so as to protect it's own position as reflected in the Internet, and on the Internet, of it's Real World Bricks and Mortar circumstance as the dominant business force in our country, and perhaps on our planet.
Speaking as someone who used and developed software for use on the Internet back in the 60's and 70's, and visualized the commercial internet in workgroups back in the 80's and pushed for its establishment quietly among my clients throughout the technology community, I can tell the FTC that I did repeatedly warn my peers about the potential for restraint of trade and anti-competition in the form of restriction that could, by design, lead to the present untenable situation. I am sad to think that it has come to the current head, where it is not only restricting competition, it is also undermining the economy, and was deliberately, in my opinion, manipulated by Morgan-Rock and many other larger financial interests, to lure competition into the Dot Com community, only to withdraw all the capital backing from it, leading to a contributing factor within our present economic circumstances of economic slump in the US.
This has repeated internationally, by the way.
NO MAJOR BUSINESS LIKES UPSTARTS OR STARTUPS
TO INVADE THEIR "PRIVATE MARKET"
The fact is, none of the major bricks and mortar corporate interests want upstart "Amazon-like" or "eBay-like' businesses to emerge on the web and take out their precious market shares. And those who have interests in entertainment and other volatile markets such as communications, are willing to sustain about any damage to their business in an effort to obtain control over a major market segment "provider", AOL being a case in point, CompuServe before it, Netcom and Mindscape and Earthlink, and even AT&T and Comcast, and MCI and Northpoint, and so on.
All of these factors have contributed to a ground swell in attainment of dominance over segments found on the Virtual Internet eCommerce Space, and that attainment, once in the grasp of a ground swell internet enterprise of making by one of these powerful forces, such as Morgan-Rock, or it's affiliates, then leads to efforts to maintain the attainment, using whatever technological and other resources are at their disposal.
"THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE" --
AND IF YOU ARE AN UPSTART AND YOU DO SUCCEED, WITHOUT SELLING OUT
TO THE MAJOR TRUST INTERESTS, YOU ARE CLEARLY IN TROUBLE FROM
THE VERY START.
By way of providing the FTC with an example of what can and does happen, I'd like to draw upon personal experience.
Some while ago, a company I was heading, did attempt to break the lock held on Internet Popularity inside of the Computer Field, by staging a bit of a marketing fiat, after judging that between 1995 and 2000, that over 60% of the users of the Internet, were by demographic, also largely inclined to believe in Aliens and things ranging from the casual Star Trek or X-Files-like fan'isms, to as far a-field as Alien Abductions and Implants to actual need to Writ Mandamus the Governor of Virginia demanding he call out the Militia. And so, we decided to attempt to market through websites that had a distinctly "UFOlogy" orientation, out of wanting to be topical. It's not like any of us knew anything about the genre. The closest any of us were to the field of "extraterrestrial paranormal phenomena", was some of us watched Star Trek or had read the occasional SCI FI book. However, we quickly learned the dimensions of this particular field.
We raised several rather controversial questions, without conclusions, adopted the jargon of the field and generally went about supporting these folks personal interests by giving them electronic havens to discuss them, and as a result, that company, American Computer Company, became quite popular and well known among the public interested in paranormal phenomena, for it's being gutsy enough to support and endorse a user segment on the web, that believes we are not alone in the Universe, e.g.- what we thought were about 60% of the Internet user base.
Bear in mind, these are also people who are made fun of regularly by anyone whose preconceived notion of the Universe suggests we are the only form of intelligent life within it, and in some peoples' minds, anyone who believes thinks that about the Universe is crazy. Our demographics research had told us that we were marketing in such a way as provided identification with about 60% of the users of the Internet. That, by the way, turned out to be a mistaken notion, our polls have since determined that more like 88% of the population of the web either believe publicly we are not alone in the Universe, or harbor the suspicion privately, which finding rather startled us.
In any event, American Computer Company suddenly was receiving 60,000 visitors a week, and calls were made to the company asking us to appear on various news stations and talk shows. Kindly bear in mind, all we had done was publicize a very interesting story that asked in question form, if there was any likelihood the date of the alleged so-called Roswell Incident of which we'd all read (July of 1947) and the date of the alleged discovery of the Transistor at Bell Labs (December of 1947) was more than just a coincidence.
This was accompanied by some tongue in cheek conjecture that Bell Labs was surrounded by an elaborate network of Anti-ICBM/Anti-Bombardment Silos and Sites in Central New Jersey, all of them pointed into Space, had in 1949 been given management control of all of America's Space Based Nuclear Defense Programs, already provided the US Government at the time materially all of it's then Telephone Services, and was deeply involved in the development of hardware and technology for what later became known as NASA, among other things.
In addition, reference was made to the claims by Lt. Col. Phillip J. Corso, of Army Intelligence, who'd gone public claiming he took technology the War Department obtained from the alleged Roswell Space Craft, and proliferated it to companies throughout the US military industrial establishment of the day, including communications parts that he claimed were analyzed by AT&T and became the basis of many AT&T Bell Labs inventions, backed by similar elements of expose made by the well know former government nuclear physicist, Stanton Friedman.
Apparently, the story, the references, and the questions amounted to creating an enormous stir, particularly as it was at the time, in 1997, the 50th Anniversary Date of the so-called Roswell Incident, and a vast celebration had just weeks before taken place, and the participants were by the tens of thousands just returning home and logging into their computers.
A Brazilian Artist by the name of Philippe Van Der Putten, having noticed this curious addition of Public Interest and Entertainment on the American Computer Company web sites, and what he felt was an intriguing look questioning the era and all the many and varied aspects of this rather long argued subject in the Aerospace and Paranormal Phenomena Communities, submitted the American Computer websites to a number of Major Domo and other List Servers that regularly sent out email news about UFOs and so forth, to tens of thousands of enthusiastic amateur investigators who proliferate the so-called "Ufology" field. That explained the sudden 60,000 weekly visitors.
However, what transpired next was classic in the strange arena of web anti-competition. American Computer's newfound popularity apparently upset the rest of the computer community. In no time at all, it became the object of targeted harassment, explicit harassment, spamming, flaming, even marketing personnel working somehow for IBM Canada planted articles in Globe and Mail, someone named "Ron, a private citizen" filed multiple FCC complaints, EPA complaints claiming we were illegally building unregulated "alien" devices in our factory.
Our landlord (one of the Northeast's very largest corporate building owner operator management companies, a well known public company) was besieged with demands to verify that we were really a one person company operating in a home, rather than the prestigious corporate address in the Cranford, NJ Business Park, Apple related marketing personnel attacked the company by posting to newsgroups and bulletin boards, Motorola (AT&T/IBM related) personnel took it upon themselves to write us incredibly nasty email and post harassing commentary on our own Bulletin Boards and News Server, so many corporate peers sent us nasty grams it began to feel like everyone was doing everything in their power to attempt to undermine the popularity of the subject matter and bash us with the consequences.
This rash of electronic, telephonic, personal and threatened assault continued from July 1997 right through to, well, the present day. And it appears that it may never end. We even had someone break into our offices and search them, unfortunately breaking through the main glass doors to our building here, costing tens of thousands to replace.
We found business peers were even getting friends to issue nasty web pages and plant them in the Search Engines so they appeared FIRST and American Computer Company appeared later in every search one did. When that didn't work, it got quite a bit more personal, by the way. How can you sell computers, when the first five Yahoo indexes are all about how horrible you are as a business for having in your Online Entertainment Service, slandering you and libeling you and misrepresenting information about you, backed up by false items appearing on scandal oriented websites used by these competitive peers for Haven Spamming?
I note that at the time, AOL, CompuServe, MSN, AT&T and IBM ALL HAD SIMILAR SUBJECT MATTER GROUPS within their online services, but none of them were being singled out the way American Computer Company was. ACC was powerless to overcome this.
The HAVEN SPAMMING reached flood level proportion by December of 1997 and it has not declined since: maligning the company and originating at a few key peers, calling it everything from Satan to Christ Killer to Nazi to Commie to, well, you think of a name or a fake story, that's what surfaced. And all of it dutifully indexed by Yahoo and Lycos and other search engines to appear ABOVE OUR LISTING in any search one tried. The indexes continue, at a slightly less rate, today.
IF BEING ASSAULTED ISN'T ENOUGH, YOU ARE DUPLICATED, AND SOME
DUPLICATES ARE BAD AND TARNISH YOU, OTHERS ARE WELL PROMOTED
AND STEAL FROM YOU. (AND IF THAT'S NOT ENOUGH, YOUR WORK IS
STOLEN AND YOU ARE THEN ACCUSED OF STEALING IT FROM THE THIEVES...)
Interestingly, we also discovered another strange affair. My company's domain name, CompAmerica.com at the time, is trademarked. It is interesting to note that companies like CompAmericapc.com showed up shortly after in Tustin City, California, put it's adds in the same publications we at the time advertised in, and promptly closed it's doors, but not until after it had sent boxes of unassembled parts to many customers who responded to it's ads and submitted orders for PCs on it's website. They burned so many customers, that we were getting calls about it, and the FBI, who became involved, had to be informed that we were not CompAmericaPC.com, or like the owner of that company, we might have faced indictment for consumer fraud.
Similar such events have taken place with domains "CompRamerica.com", "CompuAmerica.com" and even American-Computers.com, which company was advertising in Military Post Newspapers, and from Virginia, was shipping computers on "time payments" which Soldiers were finding seemed to go on in perpetuity. We've received hundreds of phone calls from such members of the Military looking to end the allocations, having paid out over $3000. Upon investigation, we discovered a Southern computer sales company who by phone refuses to acknowledge it's sale of those computers and financing through affiliated banks in Colorado, yet sold these poor members of the Military, sans any formal written agreement short of a signed form, an $800 computer for what could have cost them a monthly payment for the rest of their career and many years beyond! We estimate the scam the firm was pulling, was converting $800 computers into $3000 financing agreements, at 21% interest! And the victims were directing their searches our way, due to name similarity. Oddly, someone from Ohio was impersonating us, and then contacting these victims and harassing them. So it became clear that someone was deliberately poisoning the brew and sending the victims to look at us, even though we weren't even involved.
We then discovered that the company in question from Virginia or North Carolina operated under a completely different name than "American-Computers" or "American Computer Hardware", was clearly scamming these unfortunate government employees and then were hoping to redirect them to us, an uninvolved third party, to take the heat, by using names so similar to our own, that the Military employee when searching for the party deducting $100 a month from his pay every month for years on end, would contact us looking to resolve a matter we were uninvolved in. This is yet another example of what's been going on, due to lack of safety and Central Directory in the Internet. We had to argue our non-involvement for hours with callers who were absolutely certain in their minds that we were really in North Carolina on our 800 number, not NJ. And it did not stop there.
The natural orientation towards protecting privacy, has allowed companies like CompAmericaPC and Computer Connections A/K/A Military Acceptance Corp A/K/A "American Computer Hardware" to masquerade as completely uninvolved companies, by using a name sufficiently similar to ours, that the can avoid detection, and getting away with whatever scheme they intended to defraud the public with, leaving those of us with similar company names at risk of being dragged into a dispute we were never a part of. And it even seems like the copycats get all of our Search Engine space, stealing our commerce, which suggests who is really behind it.
I recall recently reading a book about Thomas J. Watson that described precisely all of the above and below strategies for anti-competition as being EXACTLY what the man implemented for IBM between 1920 and the 1960's (he and his son, that is), so I would not be surprised at the involvement of major companies like IBM and their peers in doing just that: anti-competitively crushing any competitor who emerges on the Internet. Interesting perspective, coming from an ex-IBM Professional Services guy, right?
American Computer Company experienced several classical cases that clearly define where the design of the Internet has gone wrong.
Not only can one be mistaken for anyone with a similar name and held accountable for their deliberately negative business activities, or have them steal your popularity, anyone with sufficient clout can organize a lynch mob to engage in anti-competitive activities against you. We had pages from our website copied by developers at one competitor, they added their own graphics, and then turned around and through a lawyer who represented them, ordered us to take OUR PAGES DOWN for copying theirs.
A famous celebrity came to us to develop his website at the request of either IBM or AT&T, he never paid his bill, and turned around, while on IBM and Microsoft's payroll, and sued us for "cyber-squatting", despite the fact that his assistant testified to having met with us and that we presented the site and he approved it and it's institution on the web at a time when we were really doing the guy a favor, as he was in a major technological competition with IBM Corporation, and needed the support.
This was not just an ungrateful behavior of a bully, as we'd even guided Microsoft to design an entire piece of their MSN system to be able to eventually support him, which he did, but IBM and Microsoft deliberately used whatever was forthcoming, without payment, and used him as a so-called cut-out, to setup and rebuff us for being independently involved in competitive and creative hardware, software and internet at all. This defined a pattern of such activity that dates back in time throughout the history of IBM, so it's nothing new to us. But the use of third parties and deliberate manipulation of the Internet context to serve anticompetitive interests is a new thing.
You see, all during these activities, there were the death threats, aimed mainly at ACC, me, my family, my employees, my counsel's family, my counsel and young children in our families, coming from what at first appeared just to be anti-Semitic Supremacist organizations or just plain trouble makers.
But, a bit of looking further, determined that one person who created a "jackshulman.com" website and impersonated me engaging in Hitlerian and anti-Semitic content, pornophilia and other such things was a fairly low level computer service tech and student, who had suddenly been given a scholarship by the ACM under IBM's tutelage, both of whom had arranged for the aforesaid "celebrity" whose name is not worth mentioning, to get us to develop his website and give Microsoft heads up on a site to support him, despite the fact that that "celebrity" later perjured himself about whether he'd done that at all, in order to avoid paying his bill.
BUT IF YOUR COMPANY PERSISTS AGAINST THE STORM, ANYWAY, THEN
IT GETS A WHOLE LOT MORE PERSONAL.
So aside from stealing from us the services and creative efforts, our competitors turned around and convinced a someone to create an abusive "jackshulman.com" website. I say "our competitors" because, frankly, given their involvement in it, I can't seem to separate those competitors into separate camps, in entirely. Somehow, this harassing young man who created the Electronic Impersonation by website, suddenly has a run of "Good Luck": he gets a full IBM/ACM sabbatical that compensates him in an open ended manner and adds his name to treatises composed by others, and finds himself being sponsored for assistant professorship, despite lacking any relevant background, at University of Miami and later USC Berkeley. According to his department head at FSU, all of a sudden the student's name appears to have changed on their formal computer records (right after we sued the perpetrator and obtained a judgment, by the way) and today, they claim they have no idea where he is, or actually, was at Florida State University, Miami. Hard to imagine a college loosing an entire "kid"? While, FSU claims they have. And yet, the public records of his FSU based IBM Sabbatical underwritten by the ACM live on in the real world without FSU.
Kindly bear in mind that he was only "the latest edition": he had been preceded by another such person who regularly from 1997 to 2003 threatened to "shoot my eye out from the top of my building" and called me live on the air and in millions of Spams: "a Jew who spat on Christ on his way to the Cross", and demanded I be put in jail, and American Computer Company staff sent to jail, all because of the entertainment website. He arranged for a very questionable UCLA assistant teacher to publish his articles about me on the web as if they came from UCLA.
Today, this guy, who appears to be very obsessed with himself, is (without any relevant background) a promoted Talk Show host on Radio on an Oklahoma City Station on night time radio, one of Citadel's properties, where he purports to be an expert in the Paranormal and UFOlogy and other oddball subjects. These two individuals engaged in such irascible extortion, threatening, harassing and interfering behavior that they forced us to sue them and obtain judgments in Superior Court, a half million dollar judgment in one case.
These clearly were somewhat extreme cases, yet the felonious intent of "the competition" in this case was quite apparent. Someone at IBM even took it upon himself to respond to efforts to help the FBI here at ACSA. He noticed our publishing supportive articles in our News Center online about the FBI's effort to capture the UNABOMER. He also noticed our offer to host a reward notice from IBM. We had called Mr. Gerstner's office and made a suggestion that IBM do that to help the FBI catch the UNABOMER back before he was captured.
Stories about it appeared on our News Center: offering our own rewards for information helping the FBI capture the UNABOMER.
That IBM employee, one James Cannavino, a Vice President who apparently had something to do with the above harassment as of yet undetermined, took it upon himself to call our town police, and report us as "somehow involved with Terrorism" and "trying to extort a million dollars out of us at IBM", even though we were on our own, simply trying to expand the amount of publicity the FBI's UNABOM campaign got into areas the NY Times and Washington Post and LA Times don't cover, without asking anyone for money for ourselves. All was done voluntarily.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO YOU, IF IBM'S CEO CALLED YOUR
SHERIFF, LIED AND TOLD HIM YOU WERE A TERRORIST?
Now, you have to understand something about Small Town, NJ. IBM is our neighbor here in Cranford, NJ, and one of the largest Taxpayers, and when the Vice President of Logistics above the Security Department calls in to our Chief of Police an, albeit false, crime report like that, our local police treat it like an invasion of the Red Army (during the Cold War) and were all over us like Dogs to a bloody steak. It's not as if any of our local police knew anything about the Computer Industry much, nor knew our little Computer Association. But apparently, because the two major computer associations, ACM and DPMA, have something to do with IBM, just routinely, ACSA became an anticompetitive target to IBM, I guess.
It took some explaining to convince the Police that IBM was just playing a dirty trick on us, but the Police did catch one: we were fortunate enough to know the then Mayor of the Town personally. He was able to explain to his Chief of Police that competition in the Computer Industry can be so fierce, that sometimes the reports made to the Police are not made entirely with proper candor when someone at IBM calls them in.
Subsequently, after leaving IBM shortly afterward, to join Apple and EDS, that VP allegedly instructed someone to wrap a Video Tape in a Number 4 Jiffy Bag and send it to our Network Operations Center where we were busily publishing information about the UNABOMER INVESTIGATION at the FBI in one of our News Centers, hoping to reach people that would not ordinarily read about the then un-apprehended mail bomber in the Times, might read about it on our center. We had high hopes of triggering a memory in someone that might lead to the UNABOMER'S capture.
That Jiffy Bag so resembled a typical mailing by the UNABOMER, that it resulted in the FBI sending in the Bomb Squad, and the fire departments and police from the three communities on which the business park resides. Of course, it was not a UNABOM, but it did scare a lot of people, particularly the police who'd the week before sent the SWAT team in to investigate whether we were involved with Terrorism (this was long before the WTC disaster, in the mid 90's, btw, so times were a bit different.)
Note that even though being materially forced to leave IBM because of the report he'd falsely made to the local Police, he followed up with another prank, allegedly sent from California in the very town where the UNABOM's often came from. So, it was even more strange that just about two weeks later, a CompuServe user claiming to know someone who might have authored the UNABOM manifesto, emailed and called our News Center looking for more robust copies of the Manifesto with all of it's pages intact. Instead of providing him that document, I turned his email in to the FBI, on a hunch. Sure enough: he turned out to be crucial to their subsequent apprehension of Ted Kaczynski, irony that such consequence may represent. Note, however, that when word surfaced of our being the source of the referral to the FBI, once again the Web based harassment took on an even uglier turn.
So, the case of the missing FSU student who created the fake "jackshulman.com" and associated impersonations and harassment (and monetary demands) and had a real world sabbatical from IBM, was accompanied by the case of the disappearing IBM Vice President guilty of filing false crime reports and lying to the Police who ended up leaving IBM and ending up in high paying jobs with EDS and elsewhere..
As previously mentioned, CRIME APPEARS TO PAY ON THE INTERNET, particularly if done to help the IBM fatherland and it's Morgan-Rock keretsu.
IN A FREE OPEN INTERNET, YOU DISCOVER NOTHING IS FREE,
THE OPEN PART MEANS YOU'RE WIDE OPEN TO ASSAULT
AND THE INTERNET PROVIDES THE MAJOR ANTICOMPETITIVE
COMPANIES TO DRAIN YOU DRY WHILE POUNDING YOU SENSELESS
In any event, I'm sure the FTC gets the general picture. We here at ACSA and in our local businesses, have found there are many tools these harassing anti-competitors can use that presented themselves as tempting tools of racketeering harassment:
a) Spamming, Defamation Flaming, Web-Haven Spam. These are tools that can be used to direct the public to horrific stories about smaller competitors of IBM, Apple, Sun, Motorola, and so on. They can call attention to everything from the nature of the individual leader of a company being of a particular faith, intent upon disenchanting those who hate that faith, and levering it, or something as simple as claiming that a logo is a Satanic figure, or trying to induce those who are Hateful, to take pot shots at employees, families and reputation. This is not just using SPAM. It is fundamental DECEPTION OF THE PUBLIC into believing misrepresentations about the object of an Anti-Competition Campaign.
b) Bulletin Board Promotion, Website Impersonation, Web-Broadcast Radio, and other modes of media confrontation. Mr. Lamphere recently started broadcasting content aimed at harming me personally, he had done so previously with the assistance of two associates, Todd Andrews and another associate, who'd appeared on Radio Shows promoting Mr. Lamphere's opinions. For so long as this form of assault is possible, and is not legally pursuable until after the damage is done, Lamphere (and Ranney, who created the jackshulman.com) have demonstrated the perils that go along with the lack of Authentication, that allows someone to create a fantasy oriented Web BBS and then, appearing to be an Authority, libeling the hell out of you, pardon my French.
c) Defamation Websites. Websites like "UFOMIND.com" by a man known as Glenn Campbell, "RATBAGS.com" by one Peter Bowditch, and even the Hamas website, all purport to be authorities on a particular subject, and all actually engage in Commercial Harassment of targets aimed at reducing their market value in the Internet eConomy, in Hamas's case, it's the entire state of Israel that is their target. These sites live by filling in the inadequacies of information available on the web, by plugging the gaps with misinformation, libelous comparisons, name calling, and harassment. I'd venture a guess that behind at least two of them, you'd find either organized crime interests supporting a major Morgan-Rock company, or an actual Morgan-Rock company's backing.
d) Threatening, Extortion and Unlawful Behavior. Since, as we all know, it is difficult to establish authenticity on the Internet, because their is no standard for doing so at the present moment that meets the test of law, if an individual wants to, they can easily disguise their ownership of a website, and render it impossible short of Subpoena, and often impossible thereafter, to ascertain their identity, if they wish to. Furthermore, by hiding one's identity behind a fake name, fake id, or a so-called "beard", in the trenches of the Information War (Infowar, to use the parlance), these individuals greatly gain advantage by being able to engage not only in threatening content, but actual unlawful behavior.
Mr. Ranney, for instance, voiced a demand to me, personally, for about $600,000, cash in unmarked bills, for him to take down the "jackshulman.com" website and eliminate the offensive impersonations, NAZI harassment and publication of family and counsel's family members addresses and routes taken by children to school. I was obviously shocked to learn that he derived his advancement in life and income primarily from an IBM / ACM sabbatical scholarship which appears to be related to the anti-competition and criminal extortion he engaged in. Apparently, he earned his keep. We even had someone using IBM Lotus's computers gain entry to one of our eCommerce sites and redirect the final order email by sending a copy to an address at IBM Lotus. Lotus claimed it was "a complimentary email account we gave out to customers", but we came to doubt the veracity of their excuse.
There is even a reasonable likelihood that larger businesses will resort to falsifying criminal complaints to local authority, and even involve strong arm mob tactics to extort smaller businesses. For example, certain laws, such as in New York State's Martin Act, require only the ratification of two deputy attorney generals to delivery an indictment, without any actual grand jury or grand jury hearings involving a defendant. In such cases as occurred there in prior decades, companies like Loral Electronics and others were offering campaign fund contributions to attorney generals such as Robert Abrams and several of his staff, to bring "easy to ratify" Martin Act (a real estate law prone to be used for abuse) indictments against CTO and CEO's of small, startup computer and other technology companies, in order to force them to accept indentured servitude agreements (that's: work with no pay, and turning over all their technological innovations) as an alternative to further prosecution "frame up" style. Abrams later left the NY State AG's office, but the state failed to prosecute him for all the corruption and false indictments he brought, apparently fearing lawsuits from his victims.
In the case of American Computer, repeated efforts by "Ron, a private citizen" to file false complaints with Police, EPA, Health Department Officials and so on, created a constant state of being questioned about various issues, until the business who had created this phony persona, ceased and desisted. However, they've continued to reference the falsely filed complaints in documents to the company, demanding it respond to the "allegations" they themselves falsified, right to the modern era. One company, Landmark Education, allegedly a spin off of the Church of Scientology affiliated with organized crime in NY, St. Louis, and elsewhere, apparently specializes in creating these prosecutorial hallucinations and using them to hound and harass individuals for larger competitors, for a living, among other forms of predatory behavior. Such labor racketeering behavior is not uncommon, as it was also accompanied by simultaneously originated Fraud committed by two actual Organized Crime associates, one Robert Cross and one John DeMarzo, so-called "associates" affiliated with the DeCavelacante / Luchesse Mob Families from Northern New Jersey purportedly in the employ of Mob Bosses Anthony Rotundo and the now incarcerated John Riggi, in what can only be described as a "tag team" of allegedly IBM related, Landmark related and Mafia related criminal harassments of a company. In most cases, today, the harassment is not accompanied by traditional "protection money" demands, and may also be insinuated by individuals, as in the case of Cross and DeMarzo, who engage a company by purchasing products from them, it isn't until later, having run up a tab, that payment ceases, and the victim is left high and dry. It appears that IBM simply wants to be rid of the competition, and such reflects in the behavior of those dispatched to dispatch a particular competitor. And Organized Crime involvement in the anti-competition found on or used against companies found on the Internet is not all that uncommon.
Despite that, the likelihood of obtaining assistance from either the FBI or the local authorities, is a nullity - they spend all their time arguing against complaints that are filed with them, and/or accusing the complainant of potential wrongdoing, just to be rid of what the FBI apparently believes is a "minor nuisance". The usual initial response of the FBI to this form of anti-competitive racketeering notification, is to question: "What did you do that caused this?" -- apparently all FBI agents are trained to attack members of the public who file complaints, verbally, by nature, and to reject all reports of intelligence value information, by design. Further pursuit, and the FBI refuses to discuss it, or if they do discuss it, do nothing at all about a particular complaint, no follow up, no investigation, nothing that will not contribute to career building or empire building appears to rule at the FBI. Even in the case of where the FBI was involved in a pre-existing investigation of the people involved, there will be no follow up. And what good is follow up, if as reputed, the FBI fails to adequately pursue suspects..? Ted Kaczynski, Eric Rudolph and the Amerithrax investigations are among the many the FBI has failed to pursue adequately, properly, or pursued the entirely wrong subject, their system of snitches is so riddled with liars and those who would misdirect them, and their own organization riddled with intelligence operatives loyal to foreign lands, for example "Jan Dickerson", a Turkish Intelligence Operative who was hired by the FBI as a translator to translate surveillance tapes of the very Turkish Intelligence Agents who employed Ms. Dickerson (who now resides in Belgium) that it is a wonder the organization can pursue anyone or even investigate any terrorism affairs, much less anti-competition across the web. Hopefully Congress will see it within it's responsibilities to allocate greater budget to training, and background checks and developing other methods of law enforcement investigation for the FBI other than their basic snitch system, so they can learn to be more effective and more intuitive.
In the case of local authorities: they find their jurisdictional hands tied, or find themselves to be hindered by lack of resources.
e) Over-billing for Telecom Services and Planned Disruptions, Tie ins. We found that during the course of it, our local DSL providers were taken over so many times by larger telecom companies who subsequently dumped us and other small businesses off the web, that our commerce systems or web access were down 1/3 of the time from early 1997 to 2002. This included Flash, Red, Northpoint and others, and even included our local cable supplier who when EXCITE went under, was unable to provision his business customers for seven months, but was quick to bill his customers for nonexistent and nonfunctioning services. We also note that Verizon and others have begun tying Yellow Pages ads to web Yellow Pages, to White Pages, to local equipment services to Web Hosting to DSL, all in an effort to cause a small businessman to be fearful were he to move his web hosting to a competitor, or his DSL to one. Small business FEARS losing telephone services or yellow or white page ads. And so, Verizon has once more instituted a policy of tying it all together under the SuperPages logo, causing the sort of lock in plus tie in that was the reason why the Bell System was both deregulated and broken up to allow for competition.
The fact is, the RBOCs are once again tying it all together, and AT&T and others are busy rounding up cable and other access ways to the web. Combine that with a PRACTICE of over-billing for wireless cell phones, internet services and local and long distance calling behind the backs of their customers, and you have once again the worst example of why we need abatement, equalizing and increased fairness in how the Internet operates. The RBOCS are completely in control, along with the Cable and Long Distance Companies, of the ACCESS and INTER-COMM connections between the Web POPs, and have instituted a program that will guarantee they dominate all forms of local, long distance and global internet and telephony product delivery to the end user and the Hosting provider for all time. I do not know off hand how the FTC is going to stop this.
Frankly, the only thing about the FTC and FCC can do is drive the prices down so low, and the cost and penalties for double dipping and over-billing so high, that it becomes unprofitable for them to overcharge, slam, overwhelm and otherwise milk the internet of it's customer's cash entirely dry. The Baby Bells and Long Distance companies represent the single greatest threat to Fair Competition, and they are the Morgan-Rock element that will inevitably catch the falling chips of Web-Existence, no matter what the FTC does.
So, frankly, they MUST be regulated as to how they compete with lesser businesses, so that the COST of the INTERNET starts to FALL, or it isn't the Internet anymore, it will become just another form of BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS: overpriced, and likely, useless to stimulating the economy. American Computer experienced no less than six rounds of over-billing. It was over-billed by Sprint to the tune of tens of thousands, by Verizon twice in the amount of $1500-3000 depending upon who you listen to, by AT&T for cell phones used by an employee it tied improperly to the business, by Sprint Long Distance tens of thousands, and by others. It had to file repeated BPU complaints. And the death of so many DSL providers led to losses in the thousands as paid out contracts' lines went dead and bankruptcy courts gave away the paid for networking to AT&T, MCI and SPRINT, leaving us, who paid for their existence, high and dry.
HOW DO YOU DEFEND YOURSELF AGAINST A BELLIGERENT
PACK OF COMPANIES WITH ANNUAL REVENUES FROM $5 to $155
In each case of anticompetitive experience, the only methods we had to defend ourselves was to return Haven Spam with expose site, email spam floods by prosecuting the ISP, take complaints to the BPU, and complain to Bankruptcy Magistrates with singularly deaf ears. Our overall efforts ended up being the basis of three successful State level lawsuits we filed against the "hired guns" and their associates, leading to a minimalization of their ability to continue to harass us some time in 2002.
We fought the telecoms who were deliberately over-billing us, and when Verizon stole web hosting customers away with threats about that small business's phone ads and lines, we offered the customer rates 1/5th that of Verizon just to take them back, but we had no local phone service offering to compete with.
All told, between anti-competition litigation and BPU complaints, related to the Web, and communications, it took Ten YEARS and it cost American Computer Company so much to defend it's existence and honor and right to be paid for it's work and equipment, that it collapsed as a result. There was no honor in what the Bell System and IBM and their peers did, and that it took just over Ten years is testimony to our persistence, and any of us who resisted their incessant effort to crush our competition, could resurface anywhere, anytime if we chose to.
However, this dishonorable and un-American behavior by Bell and IBM and the rest of Morgan-Rock, just towards American Computer Company, describes for the FTC what the nature of the crime is that is being committed by these GIANTS. It is a fundamental crime against the US Constitution and the livelihood rights of the Public, when a company can't exist just because these GIANTS refuse to allow a small business to prosper in a little suburban town in middle New Jersey. And American Computer Company is far, far from their only victim. With all the strategies being deployed by them to crush competition on the web, we're talking hundreds of thousands of such victims, including all those people lured into failed DOT COM companies, that, too, was "part of the plan".
I'm unfortunately having to relate this story to the FTC without concern for my own safety, because I have an obligation to the Public as do you.
These GIANTS do not deserve the right to anti-competitively dominate the INTERNET. They deserve the right to be prosecuted for doing so. Yet there is this "Internet Immunity Syndrome" my lawyer is fond of describing to me. It seems that it protects the malevolent, while making it possible for the innocent to prosecute the guilty for the worst form of sabotage of their business, existence, reputation and even their right to breath.
Now clearly, I'm defining above some pretty clear cut cases of INFO WAR engaged in by individuals with, what in my opinion was, sanction from a major interest within my industry, the dominant player, in this case we believe that the computer industry has a governing entity in the form of the role within it played by IBM Corporation.
My relationship to IBM Corporation over the years has been both as competitor and as contractor, and I know the company very well, having contributed many technological efforts to it's existence and competed with it and, on a transactional basis, always been able to succeed at competing with it, against it's better wishes. I feel that if anyone should be taken to task, it is the Morgan-Rock empires that dominate Computing, like IBM, and Telecom, like Verizon, AT&T, Verisign, Sprint, MCI, and the very Web, such as Yahoo, Lycos, eBay, and so on, because it is ALL OF THE ABOVE who maintain a steady progression in the direction of monopolization for their own gain, of the Web, domination of it's visible surfaces, and control of the eCommerce "rights of passage", exacting a serious tax on the modern large business, and a serious and severe backlash against the poor "Pests" - the small businesses who have become mired on their Internet No-Pest Strips of web INFOWAR.
Without elaborating on this "INFOWAR" phenomena any further, I'd like to comment on some of the other measures I've observed that once taken, represent tools for anti-competition, that were clearly either designed in to the WEB by intent, added by the naive nature of the earliest implementers (or their lack of knowledge of law), or put there as specific stop gaps.
THEY SAY CRIME DOESN'T PAY. IT APPEARS TO PAY WELL ON THE WEB.
YET, BEING AN INNOVATOR DOES NOT, BECAUSE INNOVATION IS JUST
ANOTHER FORM OF COMPETITION TO THOSE WHO ENGAGE IN ANTI
COMPETITION TO CRUSH IT.
I'd like to mention a few affairs from my own past history, that will serve to explain our opinion about these "stop gaps" and implementation oddities that have turned anti-competition into open hunting season in eCommerce. I'm not just talking about price fixing, by the way, or use of bumper sites to push people to buy from companies using bait and switch. Compared to what's really going on, that's pretty old hat.
I can speak from experience that the Internet emerged from intellectualization in the early 70's about it's future existence. For example, I first proposed an INTERNET with PERSONAL COMPUTERS and SERVERS to AT&T's Chairman in 1971 when I was an early collegian. I'd had a relationship with Bell Labs since I was in High School. In 1971 I analogized that Bell Labs could implement "online Operator and Directory Services" and "online TEXT-GRAPHIC versions of the Yellow and White Pages, even Newspapers and eventually TV Stations" by building minicomputers into Picture Phones and connecting them by higher speed networking to others that provided services to them in a National Wide network to succeed the Telephone System.
I even suggested that Companies could add their own "Electronic Catalogs" to this "Information Space", which I called the next generation telephone system, in so many words. I suggested that Electrifying the New York Times Crossword Puzzle would "attract readers to this Picture Phone Computer Network". I was a collegian at the time, doing work for one of NY Times' Wil Weng's crossword puzzle editors, Ed Julius, who had his own Bantam One A Day Crossword Book series, and it had not escaped me how computers might be able to automate Edward's idea of marketing his Crosswords, not to mention the famous Mr. Weng's. The Internet (at the time Arpanet) was very young and still had most of the potential and my idea to promote the concept would today be thought of as fairly ordinary.
However, I think most of the persons I shared this with thought me a bit daft for suggesting that Picture Phones could be rendered successful by automating them with small computers (e.g.- making them PCs) and service computers which, like the Telephone Company's own switches, could deliver Newspapers electronically, handle electronic postal mail, and even serve to link businesses like AT&T the way "Inward Watts" and "Band Zero" were used by the Bell System at the time.
Clearly what I said must have made some form of impact, because shortly thereafter I noticed that I was being set about on professional tasks for clients or employers implementing variations of the ideas I'd argued for back in my meetings with the then Bell System Chairman and Bell Labs MTS's. I had had this "crazy idea" that a Picture Phone's screen could when automated with a small computer, be broken up into "apertures" each of which could implement a "program" or "directory" or "catalog", and later built a very early prototype which became used by Citicorp as a Federal Funds Trading System after vain attempts at my convincing early Word Processing Companies like Vydec, Xerox Alto and Wang to adopt this idea for their Office Systems of the early 70's.
The reason I'm mentioning this, is because my efforts to change the way computing was done, during the 70's, is in many interesting ways, reflected by how the PC Industry and the Internet have evolved, both by implementation of these metaphors (for example: SuperPages.com, or even the New York Times online Puzzles that mothers across America find so dear each day...) It is just that the natural. What was obvious to me in 1970, became obvious to a lot of other people around the time that the Personal Computer and Macintoshes became quite popular in 1985.
However, as in all things, evolving systems tend to adopt the historical traditions that they are laden with, as holy grails, when they do evolve. And commercial competitors, if they happen to be the sole provider of such "holy grails", will do anything to defend their primacy over them.
It's the story of the Frog and the Scorpion, all over again:
THE PROBLEM WITH THE WEB IS: YOU ALL TRUSTED
THE MAJOR TECHNOLOGY COMPANIES TO IMPLEMENT
THE WEB WITH FAIRNESS IN MIND. THEY DID NOT.
AND NOW, THE MASSIVE FLOOD OF ANTI-COMPETITION
IS THE RESULT. HOW CAN YOU TRUST THE COMPANIES
WHO WOULD PROFIT MOST BY DESIGNING IT TO FACILITATE
ANTI-COMPETITION, NOT TO DO SO?
The problems at the Internet began when it was rolled out without any real way to authenticate who was using it, neither providing any proof who was offering something on a Web Site, nor proof who was sending an email nor proof who was even logged into it. Such is the mind boggling nature of Computer Systems, the software invented prior to and adapted to the Internet, was developed for use in more or less PRIVATE networks, where every person at every terminal was a known employee, teacher, or student.
As a result, the name listed next to a particular user account could generally be believed, and the users were able to be absolved only if someone breached their password. Unfortunately, that kind of "disassociative" phenomena does not make for a PUBLIC network where everyone can essentially roam freely without any accountability. We are not, by definition, a trustworthy enough species, for that, as we've all learned the hard way these past five or six years.
Whether it be people impersonating Credit Card Holders, or the above cases of Web Harassment where to this date we're not even sure there really is a person named Mike Ranney who was a registered student and sabbatical assistant professor at FSU Miami, that was the person we obtained a judgment against in NJ State Superior Court. If the person who perpetrates ANTI COMPETITION uses a phony id, is careful, and never shows up for Court when sued, there is short of hiring private detectives and catching the person punching the keystrokes on film, virtually no way to ID such a perpetrator. It is quite clear that companies engaging in the hiring of persons to engage in ANTI COMPETITION know this.
So, about the only recommendation one might make, is to level the playing field by creating a distinct system of lookup directories that no one BUT the originating Domain Holder gets to place content within. That is not what the Internet is all about today: the Search Engines are exercises in negligence, economies of scale and greed.
Many are just excuses to get you to opt in for some auto responding business offer offering to register you for money, or worse, obtaining your email address to sell to Spam companies. The problems in Search Engine design, implementation and usage are many, approaching an epidemic of uselessness today, except as a tool to look for things, they do not serve the purposes of the people advertising within them, or are entirely unaffordable.
I mentioned a moment ago, "leveling the playing field" and I'd like to fall back on the Telephone Company business model for a moment. To begin with, the only way you or I can find out someone's telephone number other than by word of mouth, is to consult one of the following, at least prior to the advent of the modern Internet.
a) The 555-1212 or other telephonic or printed phone directory system.
b) A business card
c) Our Rolodex
d) A Print Media Ad such as classified, product ad or article
e) A TV or Radio Ad
f) Junk Mail or other mail solicitation
g) A Bulletin Board
h) A Government Source
i) The business or individual themselves
j) Some other direct display (such as a bathroom wall, or paper placed under my windshield wiper), Tee-shirt, Automobile or Truck, etc.
Were I to place the methods of telephone number publication into a priority oriented hierarchy so as to characterize the search pattern the average person uses to find a telephone number for a business or individual, I'd have to call it: the "Hierarchy of How to Find It". The fundamental rule seems to go like this: He Who Controls How to Find It, is in control of the entire show, if he chooses to.
In general terms of breadth, the 411/555-1212 system and phone directories (Ruben Donnelly, etc.) had, prior to the advent of the Web, the largest controlling share of authoritative telephone numbers, and they were in essence and extension of the Telephone Companies, a regulated monopoly or monopolies consisting of Utilities, who by design had to provide some basic listing that you could find someone through, and who offered enhanced listings that tended to make one more visible, like a Yellow Pages AD, for a price.
Second, the Print Media, TV, Radio Media world came second, and they didn't have to offer you any basic listing at all, everything was for a price. And everything else seemed to fall into public view as a derivative of one of these two or similar sources. Clearly, I am speaking in generalizations. But my basic point is, this:
a) The Telephone System maintained an equal level Directory Service you could find anyone or any thing so long as you knew their formal name and/or what general region they were resident in. That extended slightly with the Toll Free Watts system in the 70's, to "popular identity" and 800 number and even vanity telephone numbers (like 800-GOFEDEX for example.)
b) At least if you found out intuitively or collaterally or by whatever means, about a business's existence, you could find out who or where they were located, by calling Directory Services, or even calling people living in their vicinity and asking questions.
c) With the internet, while the assumption may have been made that one could do that on the Web, that was only a condition of the early efforts by Yahoo and Google and Lycos and other major Search Engines to ATTAIN A DOMINANT POSITION in the web.
Today, to gain a listing, with most such commercial directories we call Search Engines, you either have to submit your site blindly hoping you get listed at all, and wait 1 to 2 months for a listing, but if you want immediate listing or enhanced listing, you have to pay anywhere from $200 to $500 just to enter a single domain into that Search Engine and be guaranteed any listing, and you have to pay more per web page (which can be very disconcerting for a company with 1200 pages on a website, covering 200 products) and more for position, and more for location, and more for keywords, and more and more and more... until the company spends all of its available cash on just finding a way into the top 10 Search Engines, let us not mention the 10,000 or so more all fighting for their own position as a Search Engine on the Web Today.
THE LARGEST PROBLEM IS WITH SEARCH ENGINES...
The fact is, there is no way that any of the claims regarding either position, or tools offered to grant one position, in a Search Engine, could be claims that are true. Were every company in a field to do so, before long, the only companies anyone would notice were the top two who could afford the dominant position on what is left of the Search Engine Page that one can view in an open Browser Window, aside from all the pop ups and banners.
And the problem is caused by the fact that the Public has learned it's Internet Literacy on the basis of Ad Hoc Experience, which has led them to use AOL or COMCAST or MSN or EARTHLINK or NETZERO, and has led them to Search the Web by CONVENIENCE ONLY, which has given control over that fundamentally REGULATED 411 / 555-1212 System Metaphorically, in the Internet Context, to the power of Yahoo!-Inc, Google.com (who, by the way, appears to want $5 to respond to an inquiry email, it appears), Lycos and the other top 10 Internet Search Engines.
About the only open foundation search engine, DMOZ, appears not to be in the spotlight in any manner, and is still subject to mismanagement or manipulation as it is edited by individuals whose qualifications are screened by unknown persons involved in it's management. And while one can still submit domains to lesser Search Engines and hope for the best. Unfortunately, such encourages people to attempt to diversify the subject matter of their websites to such an extent that they can simultaneously obtain a prominent position and be visible in a subject where there are few others, but where the public will still want to look to find whatever they have to offer. This is VERY UNFORTUNATE and represents the single greatest impediment to development of the Internet: inadequate breadth and limited search resources.
THE NEED FOR REGISTRATION TO BE EXTENDED TO A
FREE CENTRAL DIRECTORY THAT HOUSES THE NAME
OF ALL DOMAINS AND THEIR DESCRIPTIONS SO ANYONE
CAN FIND ANYONE
To be frank with the FTC, the web's registration system was definitely designed incorrectly. Unless an individual wishes to have a domain that is unlisted, so to speak, all domain registrations should have a means to store keywords, up to six categories, site description and title that overrides the content page for the default URL page for that domain. And, a mandated FREE search engine that all registrars are required on a monthly basis, to post these user managed keywords and descriptions, should list ALL non-private domain names, in a properly organized fashion, searchable in a large variety of methods.
Such should include the ability to limit a search by TLD extension (for example: .com or .org or .info or .name), and by categories. Long ago, law or ICANN should have passed a restriction on all Adult Content domains to share specific TLDs such as .adult and .mature, by the way, making it easier to block and filter adult content. Accordingly, such a central Directory automatically posted to by the Registrars, could be segregated in it's manner of searching, with filtering requiring a username and password with the Directory to search for adult content. This is not a restriction on Freedom, it is protection of underage minors from adult content. But, back to intervention against anti-competition measures at the Search Engines.
The Central Directory I'm proposing would be automatically established and steadily improved, with the usual "Outline of Categories", "Search", "Advanced Search" and "Browse" modes, but it should include ALL REGISTERED DOMAIN NAMES and point to their default page, display their Title, Description, and be accessible by up to six categories, the keywords and the content robot'd by the CD. Furthermore, the Registrars need to do something more than just charge $10-40 a year to provide registration services. They need to provide the account holders screens to manage the "current copy" of the Title, Description, Keyboards and Categories decided upon by the party registering and owning the domain in question.
Registrars should be given the right to enforce abuse of this feature, but users should be allowed to store that with their registration and have the Registrar regularly push that "updated profile" (which would accompany the current Organization, Administration, Technical and Zone info) to the Central Directory, which would be searchable by everyone. Users not wishing to be listed, or who had not yet input valid information into their profile, should by default and election be allowed to "opt out" of the Central Directory. Furthermore, users should be allowed to override the listing of their email addresses within both the "whois" and the Central Directory of all Domains, to provide resistance against spamming.
To contact them, THE REGISTRAR should provide a forwarding mechanism that allows someone to send one email (one) to a particular Registered Domain's "public contact email address" for administrative purposes and that email account forwarder should have anti-spam resistance built into it's design (e.g.- the sender should receive a confirming email back and have to click a link to confirm their intention to send an email to the party in question, to eliminate bulk or flood problems.) The usual privacy and security methods in use by the Registrar's account software today, should be sufficient to add a page to the registration process that can be freely updated by the registering party to include overriding keywords, title, description, and categories.
Now, the commercial search engine companies like Yahoo, are not going to like this enhancement to the registration process, particularly since the descriptors about a domain's content end up under the control of the user and placement and search-ability is under the control of the Central Directory. However, it is because companies like Yahoo and others charge significant fees for their placement of registrations into their search engines, that they have caused this necessity, since only the very largest companies can afford them, which is by nature, in restraint of trade.
It is my feeling, and that of my association, that Yahoo will still be able to offer competitive search engine indexing of multiple URLs, unlike the Central Directory, and can incorporate the Central Directory's registration lists in order to confirm and strengthen their own offering. Since we are only proposing the DOMAIN NAME and TLD be the key factor and since only one listing for any DOMAIN NAME and TLD would be listed, along with what it points to, it's "whois" info (less masking) and it's "profile" including title, description, etc., it might actually help Yahoo improve it's services, since it's really a Central Directory of "whois" data with the Search Engine "description" and "title" added to the listing, with a link to "whois" a domain, which does not directly compete with Yahoo's listing of every URL on the face of the earth (so to speak, at least those Yahoo is willing to place where Yahoo wants.)
Furthermore, regular weeding is not done by the Search Engines, this will be a way to compel them to remove out of date or bogus search material.
Once a Central Directory System is completed and linked DIRECTLY to the Registration and storage of Registered Domains processes, so long as it is maintained properly, weeded regularly, and arbitrarily organized, it can work at steadily improving it's internal organization. It's public search-ability can be made simple, easy to use as the commercial search engines and will openly encourage competition in the free market, as companies strive to add domains and good descriptions and titles to attract customers. And Yahoo and Google and Lycos, having to compete with it, will be forced to offer more add on services and might even have to reduce the price of entry of multiple URLs into their search pages, making them affordable for small businesses once more.
For example, today geographic information is relatively ad hoc and random in it's precipitation within Yahoo and Google, its up to either Google or the registering party to orient a category by geographical location.
If people know that their geographical locations could be provided as an additional feature within the Central Directory, then their addresses and phone numbers could be added as "for public contact purposes" to the Registration Process, and pushed to the CD.
It's also interesting to note, that people have complained that someone might harvest the Central Directory for mailing list purposes.
If the CD uses a graphical mode of display using methods commonly defined to make routine OCR and other strategies invalid, that should not be a problem. It's when text mode of display of lists of domains and addresses and emails take place, that such a problem gives rise, which is why we're suggesting the option to mask out emails in the Registrar's WHOIS listing and provide a Registrar driven forwarding that mirrors "service on the division of corporations" approach to notifying a domain holder of something formally.
Either you know who owns the domain and contact them directly, or you contact them "by serving a notice on the registrar, indicating you are mailing it to 'firstname.lastname@example.org' in your To: line" and then have to confirm it. This would go a long way towards eliminating use of harvested emails as spam targets, by the way, and would allow the Registrars to put timing and confirmation by email link into the process.
All in all, a Central Directory linked to the Registration Process under the express control of the Registering Party, would be the best way to GROUND the Internet, particularly if private advertising and other forms of intervention (like Domain Name Spamming) could be prohibited in some way.
THE PROBLEM WITH REGISTRARS.
The foregoing, particularly if it gives registrars a reason to further justify themselves by the quality of their support for the Central Directory, might go over big. Today, they do remarkably little for the huge sums of money they make holding a name, two or more DNS addresses, and four names and addresses of various role players, linked to the Master DNS. However, there is an issue here that must be faced by the Federal Trade Commission.
Some while ago, I and many others started trying to "Back Order" Domain Names as hoping to purchase used ones once they became available. Such a service costs about $19 and it attempts to make you the first person to secure a domain name, once it leaves the purview of being owned by it's registrant, meaning, the registrant no longer wants to renew his lease on it.
Well, we all discovered something remarkable. The Registrars are automatically changing the registration, for free, to one whereby their affiliated Previously Owned Domain Name Parking Lot, of which there are numerous, took title to the domain name. At that point, the price of such a domain rapidly elevates. Network Solutions, by the way, moves it to their Great Domains parking lot and then demands, from what I hear, at least $680 offer for any domain that expires within the Network Solutions registry. Others have other fees.
It almost feels like Highway Robbery, that a domain that you thought would become available for the $9 to $35 fee, that you backordered, and that you fought to get, gets AUTOMATICALLY TRANSFERRED BY MEGAHERTZ SPEED SERVERS to that Registrar's PARKING LOT.
I think it's Criminal. It seems an abuse of public position. It would be as if to suggest that all cars whose registrations expire without renewal are seized by the State DMV and sold for the highest price. Except, these are private companies and they are opportunist. The moment someone backorders a domain and the registrar improperly transfers it to their Parking Lot instead, the price wanted for it seems to skyrocket. It does appear that all expiring domains should be "open season" and immune from "grabbing" by the Registry's, particularly when someone backorders them, they should get the expired domain if first in line, for the regular price, not some extortionately high price.
This seems to define the problem with REGISTRARS. I don't recall the last time we were able to obtain an expired domain from a registrar.
It seems for the price we pay a Registrar to process three electronic forms with a Java program or C++ program, the cost of maintaining a few hundred bytes in a massive database each year, that adding the requirement to store a Domain Description Profile and allow the user to edit it regularly and to have it updated in a Central Directory would not be that burdensome. It seems to us like REGISTRATION BUSINESSES are all about profit, not loss and not much by way of expense.
THE LACK OF NAME DIVERSITY, AND HOW TO SOLVE IT.
Having a Central FREE Directory maintained in the above fashion by Registrars and a Central FREE Directory Search Authority, would go a long way towards equalizing the anti-competition. Perhaps you can hire DMOZ.org to implement a truly FREE Directory of Authenticated Domains with search tools they have readily at their disposal, and to provide the Registrars with templates they can use to implement the Registration upgrade it would take to allow every Domain Holder to input their keys and descriptors and categories and so forth. Again, I am not suggesting this be a Directory of every URL, just the Domain Names. That will allow EVERY COMPANY and EVERY PERSON who holds one, to at least insure they are categorized properly, geographically listed properly, and have enough probability of being found, that anti-competition at the Search Engines caused by their business models and practices might come to an end.
However, there is another problem. There must be 250,000 convenience stores in the United States. While 711 can claim it's trademark, and Quick Check theirs and so forth, what about generic terms like "ConvenienceStore", or "DrugStore"? Is it really right that only one company can have such a name? Or even 12? DrugStore.com, DrugStore.us, etc? There is a horrific lack of name diversity within the Web. And worse, major businesses don't want diversity because in order to adopt a particular market segment, they need to control the words it is known by. Hence: Drugstore.com. Converse to that, are the fact that among the most successful Internet businesses are those with Memorable Names (Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, come to mind). Yet, all the time, the "CompAmericaPC" like commodity seems to emerge in the form of "Yaho.com" and the reserving of misspellings to try and grab at popularity.
It seems that unless we find a way to distinctly name domains that is both memorable and capable simultaneously of sufficient diversity and protection of Trademarks and well known naming, then the FTC and this industry has not done it's job.
Top Level Domains such as ".nj.us" and ".info" are not enough, because were I to use "Kodak.us", were it available, I'd be getting a call from Rochester pretty quick. And yet, we don't even create restricted TLDs, like .adult or .mature, to help keep our kids safe from improper content, for fear of restricting someone's freedom of speech... and that's a tragedy, because too many children, before they are ready, are exposed to poorly portrayed matters of adult consequence and come away with all the wrong ideas, many times depriving them of their youth and harming them.
It occurred to us that DNS's and the entire notion of the Namespace we call the Internet, needs a revision.
Long ago, I'd developed, myself, a means for identifying people on a rather vast network with considerably larger numbers of nodes, than found in our 32 Bit IP Address System. We were using a 96 Bit address at the time, so we found we could actually issue a unique number to every single node in the network, and a unique address. That second number was correlated to a unique HANDLE that owned that address and secondary number. That's what happens when you have more digits to use than you need. In any event, by encoding that number, all data transmission From and To that node automatically referred to that receiving party's registered HANDLE, and in reverse, the HANDLE referred to the secondary number.
That way, a domain HANDLE could have many IP addresses associated with it, while it's Domain Naming Servers identified where the roots of it's origins were and what it's FORMAL NAME was.
In the present Internet, the limits of IP and the limits of the present DNS, do not allow for the provision of both a Domain Name and a Domain Handle, nor for backwards and forward looking pointers.
However, it would be useful if one could address IBM Corporation or the US Government simply as IBM: or GOV: or USA: by allowing parties to purchase at a reasonable price, handles to represent their enterprise, no matter what Domains within their Enterprise were in use.
Another interesting attribute of this system I came up with, was that one could string Handles together, followed by a URL like name of an "object" and it would find whatever you were trying to access.
For example: IBM:GOV: would refer to a private IBM handle called GOV: not the USA registered handle GOV:, and GOV:IBM: would refer to a US Government private handle "IBM:" within the GOV: handle.
In this manner, each HANDLE that was registered could string along other HANDLES found only in local HANDLE SERVERS found within that HANDLE Owner's 'dominion'.
Some have asked me how this might implement within the Web to achieve name diversity.
Well, to begin with, Trademarks not reserved for Government or Internet use, would automatically be accepted as HANDLES.
So, KODAK, would be known as KODAK:... and it could locally manage it's disposition of handles.
The use of Http:// and "www" and so forth would not be a part of this scheme.
The problem with multiple Trademarks all alike would have to be arbitrated.
So: ACSA and ACSA (the American College Student's Association) might have to agree that
ACSA.ED: and ACSA.CS: were acceptable for each of us, and that otherwise, people might have to use the HTTP form of addressing.
In the scheme above, the principle of naming your designated target by some symbolic string, first, followed by a path to their web page, could change things on the web as we know it. GOV.USSS: and GOV.DOJ: would if not further qualified, bring you to the proper location for the home pages for what are today: http://www.usdoj.gov server. And GOV.US.NJ: to New Jerseys and GOV.US.NJ.DMV to NJ's Department of Motor Vehicles.
The issue however, is that these HANDLES would operate concurrently as "shorthand" to identify entire enterprises and premises.
So, Matt Drudge could easily register DRUDGE: and the NY TIMES might be able to get NYTIMES:.
Now, this sounds odd, to be proposing a second registration system, but, when you think about it, it does add a feature that the web does not have: simplicity and identify-ability (or recognizability of many name forms, it brings it into focus...). Furthermore, since one's Handle would be broader in scope than one's domain names, one could easily have domain names with titles like "H59H.com" or "R311.com" and by connecting them properly through HANDLE MANAGEMENT and proper administration, be a KODAK: and known by KODAK:ROCH:MAINLAB: and have that go to mainlab.r311.com/rochester/public/html/index.html
The fact is, we do not have such a capability today, and if properly implemented would streamline the naming system more, yet make individual names and trademark associations more visible and more able to be protected.
COMPAMERICA: would be accepted because it was a trademarked name, for HANDLE registration.
COMPAMERICAPC: would probably not, unless suddenly the USPTO was up to issuing two trademarks so similar in the same field.
Of course, this would not be a panacea, but, it could bring about change, since the order of priority for obtaining one of these prestigious HANDLES or Nicknames might be
a) Trademark and Service Mark
b) Appropriateness to use and company name and not intended to confuse one's identity.
c) No contention for use or misrepresentation or intent to block from a proper party's use
with challenges that would not disable someone's web domain (since the HTTP form would still be valid) but might lead to someone using WHITEHOUSE: for an adult site to have to give it up.
The idea is to have these nicknames be expressly for holders of Trademarks and Service Marks and those NOT trying to block use of a HANDLE for competitive reasons.
Since NAME SPACES and such are really a function of HOW WE PROGRAM THEM, and the protocol limits are as well, it would be very key for the FTC to commission industry experts to study this kind of thing, to provide for such redundancy and express administration of a Trade Name oriented solution, without all the technology (e.g.- http://www and .com) getting in the way for trademark and service mark holders.
We can arbitrate the issues of multiplicity of Mark usage at another time and in another way.
Aside from all of the above, in eCommerce in daily use, we have discovered a near Encyclopedia of other problems that we'd like to mention and perhaps provide testimony in a later document (as this is quite long.)
a) SSL's AT INCREDIBLY HIGH PRICES: WHO has the right to administer SSL and other Digital Certificates and Secure IDs and Why are they so EXPENSIVE? We are who we are, and pricing the cost of confirming that so high that we're talking about thousands and thousands of dollars just to do it once, is inappropriate and has been clearly defined by Verisign and others to be ABOVE the attainability level for most small businesses and below. As a result, no general public activity is authenticated today by such technology. I question Verisign's motives as well as why anyone would approve such a thing. Authentication needs to be NATIVE to the Internet, it's the GENERAL PUBLICATION of identity that needs to be obscured, except to those whom someone engages in a transaction that requires them to authenticate it, such as purchasing with a Credit Card, or transferring money.
b) THE CREDIT CARD AUTHENTICATION CROCODILE. Why are Credit Card Companies refusing to compel their association of card issuers to provide sufficient authentication on a private basis across the Internet? This could have been set up as a collective activity, with a single, secured interface for each Card Association, to verify the identity of a card holder confidentially and securely, using Secure Session Logic and 128 Bit Encryption DIRECTLY BETWEEN THE CARD HOLDER AND THE CARD ISSUING BANK/ASSOCIATION long ago, to protect eCommerce Merchants.
NOTE: it's a very inexpensive thing to do, versus the alternative. Yet when you raise this kind of issue with the VISA or MASTER CARD association or AMEX, like we have practically every single Month since 1994, we get a kind of blank stare and a "well, under the MOTO agreement, if you take cards over electronic media, that's the risk you run, we can't do anything about that.' Yet, were the FTC to issue a mandate insisting that the Credit Card Companies adopt DIRECT CONFIDENTIAL CONFIRMATION adjunct interfaces that eCommerce systems could EASILY (and we mean easily) integrate at no extra charge, to confirm Card Holders' identity, then the present day TIDAL WAVES of eCommerce Fraud Attempts all of us in the industry have to face, WOULD GO AWAY almost immediately. The software can be increasingly secured to do this, but it has to be done DIRECTLY BY the CARD ISSUING AGENCY, since only they may know the privacy information of the Card Holder.
c) THE VISA/MASTERCARD BLACK LIST. (MATCH LIST, CANCELLED MERCHANTS LIST) I recollect that at it's height, American Computer Company saw from 10-40 times as many attempted Credit Card Frauds as it receive legitimate Credit Card Purchases, and some of them were so sophisticated, that a chargeback depended solely upon the fact that the Card Holder himself, used an "M" for his last name's first character versus a "V". As you well know, the name "Milani" and "Vilani" can be easily confused over the Telephone. As can the spelling of S and F. Or names like Geof and Jeff, Jon and John. And charge-backs can be obtained by insisting that the Merchant hadn't even gotten the right first and last name.
This is why it is CRUCIAL the FTC take it upon itself to marshal the Credit Card Companies to TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR AUTHENTICATING CARDHOLDERS and issuing an "all's clear" to a Merchant so the Merchant can properly accept such instruments. The situation is entirely out of hand, and the Credit Card Companies borderline on between nearly Schizophrenically Paranoid and Abusively Harassing in how they manage their Card Systems. They also utilize illegal blacklists that list a merchant with one large chargeback that no one lost anything on, in the same category as a merchant who passed stolen credit cards with.
A friend of mine's business was ousted by one Card System because he sold merchandise to another unrelated company in the same building, because the Card System assumed they were the same company, wrongly I might add. I can assure you that larger companies know they can arrange for a convenient purchase and chargeback or two as a means to deprive a lesser competitor of their Merchant Account, because once Visa or Master Card blacklist you, Discover and JCB and CARTE BLANCH follow suit and it's not long before you're only able to accept checks and wired funds.
d) BLOCKING. This is an obscure issue we'd noticed. We tested some companies complaining that they weren't getting any traffic at all. In some, they had as many as 150 links pointing to their website. But, we noticed, that the Search Engines NEVER returned their domain, unless you placed their Domain name explicitly into the Search form. In other words, to find something like CXX.NET, you had to type in CXX.NET in the Search Engine. No other method existed that returned that domain name. The domain had ample so-called "Metas" (used by search engines to define a domain or url), yet it remained unlisted. In one case, the firm had paid YAHOO $500 and more, and was still only incidentally listed.
We note that the term BLOCKING above may be looked at as BIASING, which seems to be happening not only at Search Engines, we find it at Auction Companies, particularly if that Auction Company has an affiliation with a company that competes with the firm being BLOCKED. For example: American Computer Company tried vainly to offer it's products with UBID.COM in it's heyday, and found itself continuously cut off, blocked out and eventually terminated over and over again, as UBID was redesigned by CMGI. Oddly, companies like Sony, HP and Compaq, with strong relationships in business to CMGI had no such problem.
We theorized that Sony, HP and Compaq were paying UBID in some manner, to block us off. So, the traffic available through UBID, gradually became unavailable until UBID would no longer even accept our applications, demanding to see certain documents they claimed determined that "we even existed". The BIAS was quite apparent. Within eBay we found another problem. No matter what we did, we could never get far enough forward in the eBay listings to be in the first few pages of any category where people actually searched for merchandise. This behavior reflected the problems we found with Yahoo.
Furthermore, we found that ads placed with eBay were constantly receiving bids from people who had no physical existence, or people who seemed to be trying to trip us up into making a deal outside of the Contract we had to use the eBay service. It took us a while to determine that eBay and uBid and other Auction sites surreptitiously employ these kinds of strategies to test customers and to encourage them to believe that eBay or UBID or other Auction Site represents a true ecommerce advertising opportunity. I note, however, that none of the Auction Companies will routinely allow a merchant to advertise the existence of their own website, apparently fearing that they will use eBay or such as a Traffic Driver to gaining Brand Equity.
Frankly, their fear of that should have been ameliorated by the BENEFITS of BUYING FROM eBAY, but I won't go into the unaddressed area of Fraud on EBay and problems with the Auction Business Model. There are numerous other elements of BLOCKING, ranging from an inability to get one's Press Releases carried by Press Organizations sufficient to draw attention to one's eCommerce Website, to other problems with Auctions. Whether explicit, implicit, actual or conceptual, BLOCKING and BIASING are serious problems that can only be solved by leveling the playing field, and supporting the initiatives of organizations like BBB Online, FSORG.ORG and so on.
e) MISINFORMATION RINGS and PHONY SCANDAL MONGERING. Self Explanatory.
f) USE OF SPY-WARE, SURVEYS, and ROLE PLAYING, AGGRESSIVE MARKETING PLOYS THAT EXCLUDE ALL COMPETITORS THROUGH STRONG ARM THREATS TO CUSTOMERS, AND SIMILAR SCHEMES...
g) INFLUENCING OF SERVICE PROVIDERS. One day, I came into work, only to find American Computer Company, who'd used the same ISP to co-locate it's servers, no longer had any content on it's servers. 1700 pages of advertisement and ecommerce were oblivion, even though it was sitting on a complex supercomputer with an EMC2'd "Guaranteed Fault Tolerant" and "Automatic Backup" fully redundant server. It's original ISP, IPP, had been bought by VSAT, Larry Brilliant's former company. And in a matter of weeks, American Computer Company was no longer in possession of a website. Actually, at the time, head of a Business Incubator, I was on my way to Princeton University to meet with their and another University's Incubators, when my staff called me and I had to spend an hour and a half on a phone call, followed by a week of down time, as I had it explained to me why one of the most
-- and the list is endless.
WE RECOMMEND IMMEDIATE ACTION BE TAKEN.
This is the first in a series of information that I and others at ACSA would like to provide the FTC. One of my colleagues recently took ill and is recovering, I'm sure he had many areas he'd have like to have added to this document.
In the meanwhile, we strongly recommend the following areas be considered for FTC intervention, even if only by means of obtaining an agreement with the industry forces and organizations overseeing the Web that they implement, under FTC oversight, FAIRNESS, something that is singularly lacking.
a) The CFD. the CENTRAL FREE DIRECTORY of DOMAINs with user managed descriptions and keywords and geographies and categories maintained as an upgrade to the Registry System. One that reflects what a domain owner wants the public to find out about his Domain, not what Yahoo or Lycos decides to publish.
b) THE DOMAIN NAME. Expansion of the IP and DNS system to include HANDLES for registered Marks and other significant users, without disabling HTML naming, in other words redundancy sufficient to focus where US PTO's Title 17 should be allowed to determine who gets a PUBLIC HANDLE, the idea being that the redundancy will allow large merchants to segregate, yet redundancy will still allow a smaller merchant to have a distinct name like "ACSA.net".
c) CREDIT CARD AUTHENTICATION. Reform of the presently near criminal negligence in the Credit Card Association's management of their AUTHENTICATION SYSTEM, by implementation of a Web Wide Secure and Confidential way for Card Associations to render a BINDING "all clear" to a Merchant, that can then enable the merchant to confidently accept credit cards.
d) THE IP ADDRESS. Expansion of the 32 Bit IP address to a 96 Bit Address, with a segment reserved to refer to the HANDLE SYSTEM above. This would allow for at least 48 Bits to be used to expand the present day IP Addresses of aaa.bbb.ccc.ddd to one with a rrr.sss:aaa.bbb.ccc.ddd structure, 24 Bits to identify where needed a link to a particular PUBLIC HANDLE, thereby localizing the 48 Bit IP address further, and a 24 Bit field used to provide additional FUNCTIONS such as expanded security and type casting of a request for service from a source to a destination.
This rather large number would not be needed when addressing a domain in the sense of calling it's number out to your browser, but would be internal to a more sophisticated internal protocol, that implemented the rrr.sss "range" and the xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx "domain", as well as the optional "xxx.xxx.xxx:" Handle number, and an optional "hhhhhhhhh" function management or security or request type string built into each address, depending upon context. Obviously, over time, if needed, one field or another could be expanded or shrunk, as the need for direct addressing on the Internet expanded.
When I was working on some related projects between 1981 and 1983, we had planned to upgrade IP and X.25 addressing in this manner, but for some reason, never got around to it. A similar kind of address structure was used in the Apollo Computer (presently a retired technology owned by HP-Compaq) during that period, by the way, and it is quite apparent we need more flexibility out of IP without preventing backwards compatibility. The above overviewed scheme is clearly backwards compatible.
e) BUSINESS INTERRUPTION AND INTERJECTION BY INTERVENTION. Encouragement to Municipal and State Governments to more aggressively sponsor local business community advertising web sites to their local consumer communities via the Internet, along with Internet Chamber of Commerce approach. We believe each municipality should not only have a Chamber of Commerce, but an Internet Chamber of Commerce (or Chamber of eCommerce, as it were) to help promote the leveraging of Internet to help drive business.
People should feel as confident using the web to cam in and look at merchandise in the local hardware store and get advice, order and take delivery at home, as they do dealing with the big chains like ACE and TruValue. We feel that this "open encouragement" and "subsidizing" of communities to do this MORE, will go a long way towards helping small businesses continue to grow. We need to proactively do that which will prevent them from being preempted by larger chains who leverage TV ads and the Web to interject themselves between the consumer community and the object of their interest: whether it be a new car, appliance or computer, or a service.
We feel that by commandeering the Web, larger businesses have been able to do so, and the FTC has an obligation to encourage solutions which counteract that problem. This, by the way, singularization of source that takes place when larger businesses through multi-headed web presences, steal away the business community in a particular region, is at least a part of the cause why our Economy is suffering from sluggish growth and slump right now.
Whether it be loss leader products, for example, a very cheap, yet not really competitive one at $500 offered over the web, repressing interest in a competitive product that is well built for $799, or just someone making a product look so cheap elsewhere, that confidence in it fails and local sellers can't sell their wares at reasonable prices, or some other variation. All of this tends to aggressively repress economic growth and consumer confidence, and it is mistakenly played upon by major companies in their quest to dominate the eCommerce market.
Bear in mind, major companies have no interest in anything BUT selling their products as far and wide as they can, and they have all the economic muscle they need to dominate and fight only with each other. But in a country whose economic growth depends upon small businessmen to fuel us, we can NOT allow the Small Businessman to become an Endangered Species.
f) The Chamber of eCommerce. Federally Subsidized STATE and MUNICIPAL Chambers of eCommerce. Encourage the overcoming of anticompetitive practices, by creation of LOCAL INTERNET BASED CENTERS to support the culture of Senior Citizen care, day care, ambulatory transportation, medical assistance, emergency assistance, pharmaceutical assistance, etc. We have an enormous body of uncared for Senior Citizens who are trying to make do with their own self support, some with a more severely ill spouse.
To ongoingly SUBSIDIZE LOCAL COMMUNITY ACTION PROGRAMS that can use the web to reach out to these Seniors, could go a long way to making crucial resources open to them. For example, some can't make it to the store. Simply put, they may be partially crippled or worse, even non-ambulatory. To be able to provide them through local Chambers of eCommerce, tools for selecting products at the local stores and having them delivered without being overcharged or unfairly taken advantage, would go a long way towards growing interest in using INTERNET to fuel LOCAL ECONOMIES. Once this caught on for seniors, it might even be palatable to homemakers to use it to streamline their effort to keep their home properly equipped and a way for individuals to be able to obtain local contractors to work on anything from landscaping to snow shoveling to coming in to fix a flat tire, to cutting down that storm damaged tree or painting the house.
Web Cams, for instance, while just beginning to attain popularity due to the advent of high speed internet, do have their places outside the adult industry. And, by using the Internet as an alternative to telephoning around the neighboring communities to find something, would add the dimension of being able to look at merchandise using the cameras in a store, seeing something is far more encouraging, than just hearing about it on the phone, in most cases, and could save people a lot of time and wasted effort.
Reduction in shopping load, and travel, would allow people to focus on their health, work, family life, entertainment and economics, and would reduce over consumption of fuel for incessant local area short trip taking (which while it might not appetize the energy companies, would relocate the demand for power to power companies and telecom power suppliers, so the net reduction in use for local shopping would probably result in an increase in travel for entertainment, vacationing, health, education and so forth, since localized shopping is a nuisance in terms of time.) Web Cameras can be used UNIDIRECTIONALLY to display merchandise and answer questions, even when talking with someone on the phone or by Web Phone.
g) CONSUMER ENHANCED BUYING HABITS THROUGH EDUCATION. Computer Based Education is a crucial tool in overcoming anti-competition, as it educates the marketplace as to what it is they are looking at, when they become more computer literate. As a result, it becomes more difficult for them to be fooled by anticompetitive marketing - they don't run to a national website to buy a low cost product just because it is advertised on the Web or TV, because they realize what they are looking at has been provided as a loss leader, when it comes to computer technology. As to general Education, it takes, we believe, ignorance to breed consumer acceptance of the kind of strategic marketing of anything from Junk Food to Bad Consumer Electronics. Education makes a more selective consumer who wants more services and more features in a product than a mass marketer trying to monopolize a market can afford to implement. Accordingly, the local, small business is reserved a market, when the marketplace consumer becomes better educated, in all respects.
Today, our dependency upon College as the ultimate solution, fails to recognize that we are not doing as good a job in educating Americans as we should be. Accordingly, the ACSA feels that in fighting the consumer acceptance of anticompetitive "glossy" marketing, requires initiatives to ENHANCE EDUCATION, at the High School, and College Levels with Distance Learning Programs. We believe the FTC should openly encourage Computer Literacy education so that people understand the computer they are using better. And we believe the FTC should openly encourage Distance Learning to ENHANCE EDUCATION as provided by High Schools and Colleges, in fact it should be a MANDATORY ENHANCEMENT that requires students to constantly stay in touch with their Distance Learning Programs IN PARALLEL with their High School and College Curricula. Furthermore, the same thing ought to apply to pre and early year educations. As a result, a smarter, wiser consumer base without the tendency to faddism and impulse buying of low quality mass merchandise, might yield the kind of better consumer advocacy and selectivity that leads to more discriminating buying habits. When discriminating buyers emerge, more competition is considered. When more competition is considered, more competition have an opportunity to appeal to the tastes of the more discriminating buyer.
Clearly, the above is only the tip of the ice berg. The ACSA has started building a Central FREE Directory System, called "URL411.ORG", which will offer the Registrars the ability to allow their domain name holders entry into it's Central FDS in the event that no one else does this. We may ally with one or more of the Open Source Search Engines so as to provide this very special "level the playing field" adaptability. The problem seems to be, that we may find the Registrars and ICANN unwilling to cooperate with the process. In that eventuality, it's up to the FTC to pass regulations that would require it.
Today's system, to quote one of the major Registrars of Domains management, of Search Engines only works for those: "who have enough money to pay a lot of it to the Search Engines in order to get properly listed." That is one Monopoly that needs to be busted by creation of the Central Free Directory System that is open to EVERY DOMAIN HOLDER to describe their domain, to store pages created during Registration and after and provide easy to use tools to search. If you do nothing else, eliminate the hold that Yahoo, Google, Lycos, Webcrawler, and the other top 20 Search Engines have over us all.
The ACSA will periodically update this comment document with additional information. We hope the FTC can use the information we're providing here effectively to work with us all to a more open internet with more fairness in the availability of eCommerce for eVeryone.
REFERENCE MATERIAL Monopoly Power on the Web: A Preliminary
Note: these references are for discussion purposes only, ACSA neither endorses nor necessarily disagrees with any of the contentions within them. Please note that the so-called "History of the Internet" is neither guaranteed as to it's accuracy, nor criticized as to any inaccuracies. The source of much information in it comes from technology companies in whose best light they wish to appear. Please be forewarned that some or all of these documents may be removed from the internet at some time now or in the future. Please note that the book "IBM and The Holocaust" by Edwin Black is included because it represents a view of how technology can be used to monopolize human potential in a different way, through enslavement, military misbehavior, criminal leadership, and the creation of slave/death labor camps. The book seems to demonstrate what happens when one institutes the aggressive marketing dictatorship of a technology company leader like Thomas J. Watson, translating it into the form of a delusional military dictator who knows no bounds, like Adolph Hitler, and provide him the technology to see his "Kampf" or story through...
Investigation of Search Engines
Carneigi Mellon University
Monopoly Power on the Web: A Preliminary
World of e-business: Whose rules rule in this uncharted territory?
Debra Susca, Portland, Ct
The History of the Internet
The Moschovitis Group.
The Court Decision regarding Instant Messenger
and the AOL Time Warner Merger
Internet Wine Sales: Old Monopolies Fight Against New Bottles
by Ben Lieberman text at:
Fidel Castro: "Internet, a Weapon to destroy
Communication Monopolies" (from Pravda)
Note: the ACSA awarded President Castro the
"Things are not quite as you think they are!" Award in March 2003.
Regarding Legal Research and Public Safety--
EVALUATING THE QUALITY OF INFORMATION
ON THE INTERNET: a Checklist, by Genie Tiburski
(Ballard Spahr Andrews Ingersoll LLP)
Possible Anti-Competitive Efforts to Restrict
Competition on the Internet
State of Michigan's Remarks
By Assistant Attorney General Irene M. Mead
FLAME SPAM DOT ORG: fighting anticompetitive
attacks on individuals and businesses on the internet
by "FSORG.org (constantly evolving the forefront of public awareness,
about bringing an end to deliberate cyber-harassment)"
Antitrust punishes the successful businesses by branding them
"monopolists" regardless of how they achieved that success
By Capitalism.org (which describes itself as being "radical capitalist")
An alternative perspective: "No one has a right to buy whatever they wish,
one only has the right to buy what others choose to sell to them."
Where to report frauds and scams on the Internet
(with all the places to report it, the ACSA wonders how many of
those places are open to abuse by those who libel companies?)
NO ONE INVOLVED IN FORMULATING OR DRAFTING THIS COMPILATION OF COMMENTS, RECEIVED ANY FORM OF COMPENSATION RELATED TO IT'S AUTHORSHIP OR PREPARATION. Please note that Typos in this draft and any correspondences are unintentional.
Copyrighted Material may be reproduced freely without modification for non-commercial purposes.