March 3rd, 2005


What the internet did next

If you notice me talking to my screen as if it can hear me, that's because it can. There's a mic in it, and it's hooked up to Skype. Skype is free software that allows you to use your computer as a telephone. There's no charge unless you dial real telephones run by those dinosaur-like entities, telephone companies. If your correspondent has Skype and a machine with a mic and speakers (headphones work a lot better) you can chat away in real time, totally free, for as long as you want. Now I know this isn't particularly new. I first saw my friend Florian Perret using IP Phone to talk to his girlfriend in Japan back in 2003. I didn't rush to copy him (as usual, Mac-compatible software took a while to reach the level of what PC people had). But this winter, stuck in Hokkaido without a telephone, I found Skype a godsend. I chatted for hours with my girlfriend back in Europe, at better-than-telephone sound quality, with no bill to pay. What's not to love?

Mixi is the new Friendster. Correction: Mixi is the Japanese Friendster. But nippophile Westerners are adopting it to meet Japanese people, who tend not to venture outside their own language group. And Mixi is more lively than Friendster, thanks to its incorporation of blog-like diaries and communities. Language is the big problem here; the navigation is pretty tricky if you don't have kanji skills. Personally I use the status bar to see what the buttons do; the web pages linked usually have English names which describe what they're for. I translate Mixi descriptions and diaries with Sherlock -- you can do it with any Japanese-English web translation tool. (NB: Mixi membership is by invitation only. Please don't ask me to invite you. I want to use the service for connections to Japanese people rather than have it duplicate my LJ friends list.)

I've mentioned that I'm spending this month writing a book for Thames and Hudson about photoblogging. Although I've photoblogged myself for some years, in the loose sense of posting my photos on my website and my blog, I haven't joined any dedicated photo hosting services. Until now. I just joined Flickr, but I haven't put any photos up yet. I'm also very interested in Fotolog... for reasons which will become apparent when the book comes out!

Finally, a pressing need to watch Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker's Nathan Barley made me sign up with UK TV torrent service UK Nova, and I'm loving the ability to download UK terrestrial TV wherever I am in the world. I'm also finding myself listening to a lot of mp3s people are hosting on You Send It.

So there we are, what the internet did next. It ate the telephone for breakfast, re-made the private club over lunch, jazzed up the photo album at tea-time, and ate television for dinner. Not bad for a day's work.