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The Future of the Internet

Vinton Cerf, one of America's most influential computer scientists, predicts the future of the Web. Also, a new social enterprise is launched, plus the rest of today's news.
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Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today:

Vint Cerf, inventor of the Internet, predicts the future of the Web. In a telling interview with The Wall Street Journal, Vinton Cerf, widely credited as one of the Internet's founding fathers, talked about his concerns over digital privacy, the role of the Internet in Egypt, and online censorship in China. On digital privacy, Cerf noted that the biggest challenge right now is the browser, which "allow the malware to get into computers and infect them." Interestingly, Cerf seems to favor government regulation, noting that there "needs to be some regime that is overseeing access to broadband to make sure we have openess, otherwise, there is a risk it won't be open anymore." As the conversation shifted towards China, Cerf made it clear that the success of Chinese businesses will be their ability to restructure their focus to the Web. "This sort of transformation of economics is forcing some companies to rethink their business models," he said. "Whenever a big change in technology comes along, it causes this kind of big transformation."

Cue the laughter. What was comedy on TV before the laugh track? Funny thing: It was pretty awkward. Live audiences were unreliable: "They would laugh at the wrong lines, laugh too long, laugh too loud, or not laugh enough," Mental Floss reports. And that could throw off performers. That's until Charley Douglass, a CBS sound engineer got sick of the audiences' "God-awful responses" and started recording crowds laughing to feed into his invention, "The Laff Box." It was something like a cross between an organ and a sampler, using different tracks, controlled by a foot pedal. Think it doesn't make a difference? Check out Friends without the laugh track.

Blame the mall? As we hear that Delia's, the catalog company and retail store for teenage girls, is soliciting interest from buyers, we can't help but wonder: Did the mall do in the company? It still has a market value of about $60 million, but Delia's, started in the '90s by a pair of Yale grads as an innovative direct-mail catalog-order company hawking trendy takes on designer fashion for reasonable prices, has been loosing money lately, the New York Times DealBook reports. Sure, the teen fashion space is tighter than a pair of jeggings, but Delia's growth to include 115 mall stores in 33 states could also be at issue, as suburban mall traffic slowed dramatically during the recession.

A new take on microfinancing. The Adventure Project, a non-profit social enterprise founded in 2010, is launching its Keep It Clean project in an effort to increase access to clean drinking water around the world. To achieve this goal, The Adventure Project is raising $22,000 worth of donations and Keep it Clean soap purchases to help WaterAid, an international NGO, train female mechanics in Northern India to fix broken water pumps. Call it "microengineering." Adventure Project founder Becky Shaw tells Fast Company of the program's success so far. "With some of the [female] mechanics, their husbands thought it was inappropriate," Shaw says. "One woman made so much money that she could help her husband open a store and help her girls go to school. Now her husband isn't saying anything anymore about it." The Adventure Project's campaigns change every quarter. Next on the agenda are projects dedicated to agriculture followed by work to support textile workers in Malawi.

Instagram opens its doors to developers. The mobile photo-sharing service Instagram, an application exclusive to the Apple iPhone, will now expand beyond its single platform. According to The New York Times, "The new A.P.I. will let developers gain access to photos taken on Instagram once they are uploaded by Instagram's users. Developers can then cull these images through a few different criteria, including monitoring photos taken by a specific person or photos that are marked with tags, similar to how hashtags are used on Twitter." Earlier this month—only four and a half months since its launch—Instagram reached two million users and earned $7 million in funding from venture firm Benchmark Capital.

A shake-up in Google search. In the midst of an antitrust investigation for favoring its own businesses and advertisers in search results, Google has announced a substantial change to its search algorithm.  The company is responding to complaints from users who've been frustrated with the low-quality sites they've gotten from search results. "Google said Thursday that it had made a major change to its algorithm in an effort to improve the rankings of high-quality Web sites in its search results—and to reduce the visibility of low-quality sites," The New York Times reports.  "While the company did not say so explicitly, the change appears to be directed in part at so-called content farms like eHow and Answerbag, that generate articles based on popular search queries so they will rise to the top of the rankings and attract clicks."

Myspace attempts to attract suitors. While AOL is rapidly acquiring healthy media companies, News Corp. is attempting to shed some dead weight. The Wall Street Journal reports that Rupert Murdoch and company are considering the future of Myspace, and will be opening the company's books to prospective buyers this week. Still no word on whether Mark Zuckerberg is interested in acquiring his former competition.

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Last updated: Feb 25, 2011




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