Tuesday, May 13, 2014

German 4 Dummies: Neuland (aka. internet)

Neuland, or "new territory",  is a very old German word. Obviously new territories have existed throughout history but the term bubbled up in public discourse when the German chancellor applied it to the internet in 2013.  Before this speech, Neuland could be anything from a brand of frozen chicken to an actual small town or an online shopping outfit.

From shrugs to bemusement to scorn and outrage, reactions to the leader of one of the handful of top economies on the plant calling the internet new territory were flooding the web.

The K-Landnews, ever on the forefront of nothing in particular, had characterized the German web as kind of boring, uninteresting and pointed at the crazy "cease and desist industry" in Germany.
We had also bitched about the fact that owning an internet connection around here is more dangerous than owning a gun.

More dangerous than owning a gun.

If someone steals your gun and uses it in a crime, your ownership will generally not get you in trouble. Unless you put it on the front porch with a big sign saying help yourself.

An internet connection in Germany makes you fully liable for what someone does with that connection. It took two decades for the courts around here to at least cut parents a little bit of slack when their kids violate copyright by downloading something. But you have to ensure to tell your kids upfront it is illegal.

If you offer public internet access, you can be screwed.

These issues, together with the inherent difficulty of finding anything useful when you do a web search in German resulted in the K-Landnews privately nicknaming the German internet a desert. Not like the Atacama or the Sahara, mind you, more like the American South-West, not utterly barren and where rain brings out lots of flowers.

But the German government is taking steps to improve all things internet. Maybe they have a few Star Trek fans around, because the motto reminds us of:

To boldly go where everyone has gone before

The situation in Germany is strange. On the one hand, there are many talented designers and engineers, many homegrown online shopping sites, service providers, even good hardware folks and talented activists.

On the other hand you can be forgiven to think that when German officials say "venture capital" they are secretly wondering which U.S. state has the "City of Venture" as its capital.

Disclaimer: We know the difference between the web and the internet and firmly assert it matters not to most users. In other words, you will learn about trucks and how to maintain them if you need one, the rest of drivers are happy with their sedans and the mechanics from the garage.

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