It may well be that truly universal speech-based UIs have taken a back burner to a different human priority: peace and quiet. Imagine the cacophony of an entire floor of office workers barking orders into their desktop PCs. Until we solve that problem, voice control will likely remain the province of niche markets such as telecom, health care, the disabled, and Federation starships.
Five years after its launch, Passport, Microsoft’s single sign-in scheme, is down but not out. Microsoft still uses it, for example.
Everyone remembers Passport. What you may not recall is that it was conceived as a model for federated identity -- the authentication pillar of Microsoft’s .Net Web services venture, eventually code-named HailStorm. Unfortunately, while Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates was hailing Passport, a storm was swiftly brewing.
Relying on a “network of trust,” Passport is designed to allow users to travel across Web sites without having to re-enter sensitive personal data, using a single log-in and password. But trust is a fragile thing. Developers and privacy watchers who gave Passport a full-cavity search at the gate were alarmed by what they found.
Two years after Passport embarked on its bumpy ride, Bugtoaster.com, a Windows testing site, reported an OS design flaw that allowed hackers to steal user names and passwords of Passport account holders. In August 2002, the Federal Trade Commission ordered Microsoft to shore up security “inadequacies,” asserting that the company had collected data without notifying users.
Resolute promises from Redmond ensued, but the damage had been done. Adoption rates for Passport headed south, and gold-plated partners such as Monster.com and eBay withdrew. Microsoft took down its online directory of participating sites last year.
-- Richard Gincel
Improving the Internet
We all know the Internet is far from perfect. IP’s addressing problems have been discussed again and again, yet widespread adoption of IPv6 in the United States doesn’t seem to be any closer. And the IP address shortage isn’t the only problem Internet engineers could be solving.
Security is one concern that’s on everyone’s mind. End-to-end encryption on an Internetwide scale has been proposed, but there’s been little movement in that direction. And while former national cybersecurity czar Richard Clarke spoke of the potential for a “digital Pearl Harbor” in 2001, his warnings have gone largely unheeded.
Going further back, the IETF first demonstrated the potential of IP Multicast technology for broadcasting in March 1992. More than 10 years later, even though we’ve seen explosive growth of consumer interest in multimedia broadcasting and streaming, no reliable method of large-scale multicasting over the Internet -- as opposed to private research networks -- exists. And for that matter, what about Internet2? Its stated purpose is to deploy “advanced network applications and technologies for research and higher education, accelerating the creation of tomorrow’s Internet.” So when is “tomorrow,” exactly?
Of course, infrastructure upgrades are the big impediment to any major change in the Internet. The bigger the Net gets, the harder it is for new technologies to become ubiquitous enough to be practical. Still, don’t we have to start somewhere?