The press release from Comcast, perhaps America’s most hated monopoly, begins as expected. “In order to serve all of our customers better, we’re delighted to announce several new features…”
But it goes quickly downhill from there. Under the guise of increasing net access during a time when Net Neutrality is sorely missed, spokesperson Kevin Marting says, “We’ll be offering a new basic plan, one that costs 15% less than our current offerings. The only difference in service is that due to the cost of moving text around, these users won’t get vowels in their emails or blog posts.”
He goes on to point out that reading without vowels is an ancient tradition, back to the Sumerians and ancient Hebrew. And that it’s more convenient, because, after all, convenience is what we all care about.
I was part of the team that developed the original codec for the internet, particularly the way aascii characters would be treated. Because there are 26 letters (more in various international alphabets) we had to divide the corpus of letters into two batches, reserving a high bit for some of the most used letters. This high bit is necessary, but it also requires twice as much bandwidth to transfer.
Of course, the videos transmitted by Netflix and YouTube use far more space than any text file ever would, but Comcast, seeing the post-literate future, decided to take a short-term selfish route and eliminate the letters that are the most difficult to move around.
This is about the relentless munching around the edges that big companies engage in. They need to boost their earnings, and instead of focusing on better, they obsess about more.
Once again, ordinary people are seeing choice stripped away by selfish functionaries and power-hungry bureaucrats.
In the case of this blog, because we’re connected to the net via Comcast’s DSL (the only service that’s available in my building) it means that after next week, all future posts on the blog will only contain consonants (and semicolons).
The internet works because it’s open. It creates generous connection across time and distance, and it works best when it’s accessible to all.
Just because a company can legally do something doesn’t mean that they should.
Here, go ahead a try it. A chapter from Ths S Mrktng, with the vowels removed:
Mrktng hs chngd, bt r ndrstndng f wht w’r sppsd t d nxt hsn’t kpt p. Whn n dbt, w slfshly sht. Whn n crnr, w ply smll bll, stlng frm r cmpttn nstd f brdnng th mrkt. Whn prssd, w ssm tht vryn s jst lk s, bt nnfrmd.
Mstly, w rmmbr grwng p n mss mrkt wrld, whr TV nd th Tp 40 hts dfn s. s mrktrs, w sk t rpt th ld‑fshnd trcks tht dn’t wrk nymr.
Th cmpss pnts twrd trst
vry thr hndrd thsnd yrs r s, th nrth pl nd th sth pl swtch plcs. Th mgntc flds f th rth flp.
n r cltr, t hppns mr ftn thn tht.
nd n th wrld f cltr chng, t jst hppnd. Th tr nrth, th mthd tht wrks bst, hs flppd. nstd f slfsh mss, ffctv mrktng nw rls n mpthy nd srvc.
Count me out.[PS here’s a plugin for Facebook that automatically removes all vowels when browsing in Chrome. I’m not sure it will work all the time, but at least it works today, which means very little. Wtch th dt. Hpp prl frst.]