Category Archives: Week 12

The Evolution of Fear and Power in the “Appified” Internet


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The internet, which was once a vast expanse of possibility, home-brewed programs and web-pages, is now akin to a digital suburban network. Just as citizens fled cities, which were crowded with opportunities for interaction and expression, for the systemically spread out and commercialized relative safety of suburbs, so too have users fled from the wildness of Apple II to the sterility of the iPhone. The average person’s interaction with the internet is now through producticized devices and applications. As the internet has transformed from a “generative” network to a more “applianced” network, the fears and threat of bad faith actors leveraging the power of the internet have changed significantly (Zittrain, pg. 8).

Now, this isn’t to say that the “appification” of the internet is entirely horrible. Mobile computing, even though through proprietary, appified interfaces, has enabled more people to reliably, safely engage in computationally mediated work and socialization. Without the admittedly sterile, commercialized modern internet, the internet might not have penetrated as deeply into our society. The plausible network power accessible to those online becomes greater and greater as more users partake in an internet-mediated existence. However, as I mentioned earlier, the fears and threats of an appified internet are just as present, if not more potentially devastating, than the wild-west version of the early generative internet.

When I was growing up, in the early ages of the internet, the monster that stood as a manifestation of the fears of being online was a shady hacker in his mom’s basement who was out to steal my identity. I could code my own profiles and web pages as a key component to my online experience on even commercial sites such as Neopets and MySpace, but this freedom was at the cost of having to remain vigilant of this ever-present hacker, just out of sight, who wanted to steal my information. As a result of this consensus of fear of viruses and hackers, internet and tech corporations began creating user interfaces with the internet that were more secure at the cost of less generative freedom and increased surveillance (Zittrain, pg. 4-5). More users began to interact with the internet as it became safer, but in reality, they were just transferring potential power to corporations and governments. While users feel safer from rogue hackers and identity fraud, they are at a greater threat from surveillance and subtle capitalistic manipulation.

People, or at least people engaged in meme-culture, are aware of this power trade-off. The omnipotent surveillance that the appified internet affords has led to the popular emergence of the “your government agent” meme, a meme in which users lovingly refer to the imagined government agent assigned to surveil them online as an ever-present, engaged companion.

 

Bibliography

Zittrain, J. (2008). The future of the Internet and how to stop it. New Haven, [Conn.]: Yale University Press.

Apple Website and its Appification


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Tianyi Zhao

World Wide Web (WWW) is an assembly of protocol layers, including HTTP and various web service protocols, enabling intercommunications between Internet servers and individual connected devices with web software. Apple website have implemented many design rules of web. For the web hypertext and hypermedia system, the network deliverable files are encoded for web browsers. It is the latest HTML 5, an independent file definition metadata structure, that realizes “a flexible nesting of content and structure layers, embedded media types, interactive functions…” (Irvine 3) In the graphical interface, it is clear to identify and linked-encoded displayable objects because the keywords are colored or marked with icons, indicating they are active for users. On the introduction webpage of iPhone, it is obvious that users can get access to further details by clicking “learning more” and order online by clicking “Buy,” which have been colored in blue and underlined. If we continue to scroll down, here comes a stream video. The little triangle button under the headline indicates it is playable.

Figure 1. Hypertext on Apple website 

(Source: http://www.apple.com)

Figure 2. Hypermedia on Apple website

(Source: http://www.apple.com)

As for the URL http://www.apple.com of Apple website, it comprises of five parts with different meanings. The “http” indicates that Apple website is one on the World Wide Web using HTML. The “://” notifies the browser that the actual URL follows next. The “www” obviously identifies the website is a part of World Wide Web. The “apple” as the domain name is quite unique so that it can only indicate Apple Inc. as the company registered with. The “com” means business. For Apple website in different countries, the URL ends with the a top-level name referring to the specific country, such as “cn” for China.

With the rising of application, more websites have developed their applications with the carriers of various mobile devices. As the application version of Apple website, “Apple Store” is pre-installed on every iPhone, serving as a part of Apple ecosystem. Appification, fragmenting the web browser’s integral functions, allows developers more easily monetizable by maximizing the focused interaction and preventing users being distracted by other functions like website does. For example, “Apple Store” app is designed for user purchasing so that it has pruned away unnecessary functions such as Apple Leadership and Job Opportunities. For the interface design, however, the “Apple Store” not only owns all the features as an app, but also keeps the similar user experience in the function of “Discover” as browsing on the website. Paradoxically, this similarity is based on the websites’ evolving by absorbing the advantages of apps. To attract users and fix their attention, headlines and pictures become bigger; one-page sites are emerging, making it easier for users to scroll than to click on the navigation item and wait for a new page to reload; and shorter content, like only a sentence or several keywords, makes users easier to read and digest. When you open Apple website and “Apple Store” app at the same time, you will find they look the same. So the relationship between websites and apps is interplay and drivers for mutual evolvement.

 

Works Cited

Irvine, Martin. “Intro to the Web: Extensible Design Principles and ‘Appification’.” 2018.

White, Ron. “How the World Wide Web Works.” How Computers Work. 9th ed. Que Publishing, 2007.

Janna, and Lee Rainie. “The Future of Apps and Web.” Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, March 23, 2012.

Airbnb, belong anywhere


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ZIJING LIU

When people go traveling, instead of searching for hotels, more and more people tend to rent a house for a short-term stay. It is cheaper, more home-like. It is Airbnb.
The market cap of Airbnb reached $30 billion in 2017, causing a huge threat to its hotel running competitors. And the number is still growing.

Source: Sharespost Research; Google Finance; data as of Jan.31, 2017.

Airbnb follows the design rules of the Internet
What made Airbnb possible are two key design principles of the Internet. Firstly, extensible of unforeseeable future applications. (Irvine) Airbnb was launched in 2008 while the Internet has already evolved for almost 30 years. The Internet has bred numerous applications, one of which is Airbnb, utilizing the shared house renting information through the world. The globalization of the Internet provides worldwide access to Airbnb. Secondly, scalable for adding new users, nodes, agents and Web-deliverable services. (Irvine) In March 2009, Airbnb had 2500 listings and close to 10,000 registered users. But now Airbnb provides access to 5+ million unique places to stay in more than 81,000 cities and 191 countries.

Airbnb as house searching media
Airbnb is designed with modularity. It did not need to invent digital photo, digital map, transaction processor — instead, Airbnb only combined these existing technologies together and mediated them in the whole sociotechnical system. One of the biggest differences of Airbnb in the webpage and mobile devices is the collaboration among different modularity. If the user changes the range of housing price, the house listing information and their location on the digital map change with it too. Users are able to easily check the location and price of the house by moving the mouse onto the photo, then the corresponding price icon would be highlighted. Computational thinking is also involved in the affordance — it is “coding” the digital map with lodging prices.

Airbnb as transaction mediation
Transaction is another essential part of Airbnb because it is a pre-paid application. A distinct affordance is the payment methods embedded in Airbnb. It changes the payment method to adjust local sociotechnical situation. For example, when I used Airbnb in China, the payment method supported Alipay — the dominating transaction tool run by Alibaba — when I chose it, it jumped to Alipay to fulfill the payment. After I came to the U.S., I found the payment method was changed to Google Pay automatically. According to Airbnb’s official website, Airbnb now supports multiple payment methods based on users’ current region.

Resource: https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/126/what-methods-of-payment-does-airbnb-accept

Airbnb as social media
Once completed the online transaction, pre-communication between the hosts and guests is particularly important. Based on the demand, Airbnb expands its affordance to messenger, so that hosts and guests can send messages immediately. This affordance is especially crucial for people who intend to travel to a different country, which means they may not share the same communication tool and they cannot get quick response via email.
Additionally, Airbnb can serve as social media in mobile phones, which is one of the merits of using mobile devices over webpage. One can share their favorite housing list through multiple applications such as Facebook and WhatsApp through their phones so that the list can be opened in another mobile terminal and checked via Airbnb.

References

  • Martin Irvine, Intro to the Web: Extensible Design Principles and “Appification”
  • Ron White, “How the World Wide Web Works.” From: How Computers Work. 9th ed. Que Publishing, 2007.
  • World Wide Web Timeline (Pew Research Internet Project)
  • Airbnb. (2018, February 23). Airbnb Doubles Down on Experiences, Expanding to 1000 Destinations and Adding New Passion Categories in 2018. Retrieved from https://press.airbnb.com/airbnb-doubles-down-on-experiences-expanding-to-1000-destinations-and-adding-new-categories-in-2018/
  • (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/126/what-methods-of-payment-does-airbnb-accept

How Google Docs Works


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Assessing the interfaces that are designed into a web hosted word processing platform such as Google Docs  includes identifying the products that contribute to the operations of the platform.  The first product is the URL of the website- docs.google.com which allows users to access the website for Google Docs and create new documents . The website is powered by HTML which “allows a flexible, unlimited nesting of content and structure layers, embedded media types, interactive functions, and behind the scenes communication with multiple network sources and services for fetching and updating real-time data (Irvine, Page 3).” For Google Docs, this means that the HTML is designed so that users when users initiate the creation of a new document they can format text in the file. Users can also include graphic and videos that are hosted on the server itself or in Google Photos.

Multiple people are allowed to view and edit a Google Doc at the same time because once a document is created, a unique url is generated as well as cookies for each user. These cookies signal to Google Docs when each unique user is accessing or editing the document. Based on White’s explanation of transmission control protocol( TCP) and user database protocol(UDP), it seems like Google Docs is designed with UDP. Occasionally, when there are multiple users of the same Google Doc, there may be a lag in the appearance of edits or new text. If Google Docs was designed with TCP, then the doc would be suspended from edits until one editor of the Google Doc was finished. However, this does not happen which seems like an indication that Google Docs is designed with UDP; it is more likely that when there are multiple users of the same Google Doc the edits may not appear until one user refreshes his or her browser.

The design of Google Docs heavily resembles traditional word processing software like Microsoft Word. The designers of Google Docs clearly de-blackboxed the software so that they could embed similar features into the web hosted word processor. Google Docs was likely designed to be integrated into Google Chrome and other Google Products. This explains why the translate function in Google Docs and Google Translate return similar results to user interactions in a different language . The Googlebot referenced by White is also likely integrated into Google Docs as well, if not Googlebot then some similar software program. Because Googlebot is designed to “crawl” the internet for web pages when a user submits a query, Googlebot is likely also designed into Google Docs so that users can find the definitions of unknown terms and suggest synonyms. Googlebot may also be the feature that is included in the design of Google Docs to alert users when there is a misspelling or grammatical error in the text of the document.

 

Martin Irvine, Intro to the Web: Extensible Design Principles and “Appification”

Ron White, “How the World Wide Web Works.” From: How Computers Work. 9th ed. Que Publishing, 2007.

WWW and its architecture


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We encounter WWW, aka the World Wide Web in daily bases. In the morning, we open the web to look for today’s weather, and read through daily top news to fill out the miss of news during our sleep, and get a basic connection with the  world. We would even comment under the news or posts to express our opinions. We use WWW every day, but what is WWW? According to Professor Irvine’s introduction, World Wide Web is “a group of protocol layers, designed to enable intercommunications between internet servers (and services) and individual connected devices with the Internet/Web software (the “client” system, with softwares connecting to Web service) (Irvine 1).”

By saying the Web, it doesn’t only refer to the searching engine, but more about the apps that rely on the Web layered architecture. These applications feature interfaces that have control to use internet as well as the services on the Web. Using iPhone as an example, we can see that its equipped with so many different interfaces which all rely on the Web layered architecture. For a brand new iPhone without any add-on apps. it contains basic apps including but not limit to: calendar, weather, clock, maps, notes, app store, news, books, podcast, wallet, health, music, mail, photo, message and FaceTime. All these application can not be function without the Web. The interfaces above include the touch screen, GPS, data storage, the keyboard, the camera, searching engine, voices assistants, streaming service, etc. All these are examples of “client” software for interacting with servers on the network.    

Going off to more specific uses of the Web and its architecture, we can take a look at the Web browser. As listed by White, It starts to open a page by directing the browser to a hyperlink or a URL. Then the browser software will send this address to a network or to the internet service provider, which then will be sent to the nearest DNS. The DNS will return and offer the IP to the client’s browser, who will then send a request through router to the site server. Then the site server/ the proxy server would received the request and open up the page.

 

Work Cited

Martin Irvine, Intro to the Web: Extensible Design Principles and “Appification”

Ron White, “How the World Wide Web Works.” From: How Computers Work. 9th ed. Que Publishing, 2007.

 

Reading Response – Week 12


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When it comes to the web browser–the client browser. It could be a desktop browser or a mobile web browser like something we’d find on a smartphone, or other application with embedded browser, or even appliance (e.g. watch, fridge, car dashboard). Anything we can go get resources on the web and display them for you is a web client browser. Let’s say, if I want to get something out on the Google Chrome to display, I should tell the browser where to go by using a URL. As we already know before, the user interface is what’s presented to the user to interact with. The browser displays to you the address bar, back and forward buttons and other visual elements you can interact with. This is the URL where I need to go every week.

Screenshot. 1

The first thing you see in a URL is the protocol–things like HTTP or HTTPS or FTP or any number of other schemes. Then there is a colon and a double slash that separate the scheme from the rest of the URL and the following thing is a domain. The first part is the name of the server and it can be the name of particular machines plus the domain of all of the machines owned by a particular organization (e.g. org, edu, com). There are also optional port, the path to the resource itself, an optional query string and fragment ID. The current URL displays at the top of the browser where we can type it in. URL also appears in HTML tags for resources used in the page and hyperlinks. They can tell the browser go to this location, go get an image, for example, and display it.

Screenshot. 2

Go back to a client browser. It has a rendering engine that is responsible for displaying the visual representations of the web page. The rendering engine is like a painter working on a blank canvas. It has the responsibility to construct the page by applying the right structures and colors. The engine takes in HTML and CSS documents, then displays its interpretation of both. As we have learned from this week’s reading, HTML is to markup our content and CSS is used to style and animate our content. Plus, the browser engine acts like a chief commander who directs actions between the user interface and the rendering engine as well as external communication with servers. To receive content, the browser has to communicate over the network asking for all the necessary images and documents that make up the page. When an image is missing on the page, this usually means the network failed to fetch the image from the server. To apply interactive logic and functionality to our website, it needs to rely on a programming language called JavaScript. The browser has no idea how to deal with JavaScript directly. Here we need a way to translate the communication. It is done with an interpreter. Browsers have their own JavaScript interpreters. Such as SpiderMonkey is for Firefox, and V8 is for Google Chrome.

 

Credits to:

Martin Irvine, Intro to the Web: Extensible Design Principles and “Appification”

Ron White, “How the World Wide Web Works.” From: How Computers Work. 9th ed. Que Publishing, 2007.

 

The Architecture of Google Drive


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Huazhi Qin

Google Drive is a cloud file storage and synchronization service provided by Google. It is a great example to understand the design rules of the Internet, the open, standards-based, device-independent architecture for the Web.

Its service is made up of four components: online interface, sync applications, mobile apps, and storage plan. Users can store files on their servers, synchronize files across their devices, and share files with other users. All these actions can be done by operating its interface. Users can set up folders and fold up the uploaded files based on their needs. Many layers can be seen. Also, the searching bar on the top provides an easy approach to find our target files among layers.

Regarding its architecture, Google Drive displays a typical client-server model. It, in server-side, provide service-based access to application data for users, in client-side. As what Professor Irvine says, it can be considered as a “hypertext” system. The process that users upload, store and download the files is actually a process of encoding and decoding between Web browsers and individual devices.

Meanwhile, sharing is one of the main features of Google Drive, which connect unlimited users through its servers. Files sharing can be easily accomplished via public folders or shared links. Also, simultaneous editing is another form of “sharing”. Rather than isolated, users are closely connected although they upload and edit the files on their own devices in different locations. This shows that Google Drive builds up a distributed network system across unlimited client/server implementations. (Irvine) In addition to website interface, it also offers apps available for Windows and macOS computers, and Android and IOS mobile phones and tablets. It means that it provides a model of interoperability for any software or hardware manufacturer. (Irvine)

Furthermore, synchronization is another core services. Its current Backup and Sync service can automatically upload files from individual devices to their drives when devices connect to the Internet. Also, real-time file sync works when users edit the files online, which means that behind the screen, the backup process remains unstopped.

At last, for its media function, a web-based office suite, including Docs, Sheets, and Slides, is integrated into Google Drive. It allows users to create and edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations online while collaborating in real-time with other users. Also, multiple forms of files and media can be viewed on the web.

 

(Wikipedia)

 References

  • Martin Irvine, Intro to the Web: Extensible Design Principles and “Appification”
  • “Using Google Drive: A Case Study”. http://www.virtualitworld.co.in/using-google-drive-a-case-study/
  • “Google Drive”. https://wp.stolaf.edu/it/google-drive/

 

Weekly Writing for Week 12


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Banruo Xiao

To listen to a song on Apple Music, users need two steps. First, typing the name of the song in the search bar. Second, choosing the right one and playing it. Mobile application provides great convenience for users. However, there are much more steps behind the interface for designers to design the service, and Ron White discusses the steps specifically. 

When someone type the name of a song and search it, the server, which stores the Web page consisting of an HTML text file, starts responding to the browser request. The HTML text file is a collection of codes including the URLs of sound files. The server sends the HTML document back to one’s browser’s Internet provider address. At the same time, the server sends instructions to the sites telling them to send the sound files to one’s mobile application. The files are stored in the cache in the iPhone and enable the browser to retrieve them.

Next, streaming, a technology used with a variety of players and audios/videos format, allows the application to play the file as soon as the first bytes arrive. Streaming uses the User Database Protocol (UDP) to send files on the Internet. A protocol is the rules governing how two computers connect to each other and how they break up data into packets and synchronize sending the packets back and forth. With the help of streaming technology, sound file (metafile) tells web browser to launch the right audio player (plug-in). The audio player connects to the audio server and tells the server how fast the Internet speed is. Based on the speed, audio server will choose the appropriate version of the song. When the sound file arrives at one’s PC through UDP, the system decompresses and decodes it and sends the results to a buffer, a small portion of RAM that holds a few second of sound. When the buffer fills up, the audio player will process the files through sound card. Now, one can listen to the song on Apple Music.