For instance my thoughts on the Opera browser and their possible corporate interests. I am not one to overlook a potential for the browser to be released with certain behaviors "locked" into it such as search deals that enable Opera's search 'partners' to collect data on users. I am always on the lookout for someone that wishes to track my online activities, such as what I've bought, from where, who etc so that they can sell that information, make a little money and then leave that data in the hands of whatever ethically and morally challenged corporation, hacker or government agency that happens to end up with it.
Having been raised during the cold war years, witnessing the stasi operations of eastern germany and now seeing, some 20 odd years later, the exact same methods being enacted upon western nations more and more frequently by their governments... I believe that my paranoia is not without a basis. Sure, the NSA does what they do and they say that it is done for reasons of "protecting" citizens and the USA's interests overall. Well, that is the exact same reasoning that the stasi gave to the peoples east of their "protective" wall for decades. To me, I do not need to see an actual/physical wall anymore to know when something just is not how it is being presented. As a US citizen just try relocating to a different country sometime and you will find out that your very sovereignty must be "bought" back from the government. A government which fully believes that it owns you. Yes, and you will pay 35% or better of your entire net worth before they will allow you to (to use a term coined in the age of the iron curtain) defect. That, in my opinion, is a kind of wall all by itself. Asking for back taxes would be easy to understand. That would be like a landlord asking a tenant for back rent. However, what the US government asks for is represented by NOTHING other than "they have the power to do so".
Back to the Opera browser now. I started using it sometime back around 2004 when there were still advertisements inside of the free version and for those who paid $40 or so a year they removed those adds. Yes, I was the very most vocal user for the change to a completely free Opera. In fact, Haavard, once wrote a post directed at me, Innbound, in the forums here stating "Innbound, we did NOT go to a free status because of you". I found that interesting, as did many other frequent and long term posters, because it was un-prompted. Many came into his post and asked "Haarvard, have you lost it? Why did you post this?". I, understanding his "breakdown" was public, declined to reply in that thread. What he said was proof positive that it was indeed my prodding that brought about the internal discussions which led to the removal of the add-based system. Within a couple of months of the change Opera's user based had more than doubled. Go figure.
So how exactly was that change from adds-based/subscription-based Opera to Free Opera accounted for? Well, at the very outset a relatively new entity named Google, which had just been added to the New York Stock Exchange, became a "default" search provider to the Opera browser. That was very interesting to me and quite a few others. Over the years since other search providers had deals with Opera... some of which fell through so to speak such as Yahoo's possible default status which fell apart about the same time that it was announced that Bing would basically be running on Yahoo's engine. yeah, a little too close to Microsuck for Opera's comfort one might say.
The latest release of the browser, 10.51, has again perked my interest in Opera's search deals. Interestingly it coincided with a US Federal Judge's knocking down of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to basically not control the internet at all. Why this mattered to me is because I am a subscriber of a fairly large and powerful ISP named Charter Communications. The very day after the Federal Court's decision (literally with 24 hours!) Charter began to redirect all search queries that had any redirect handlers in them through their very own internal proxies, re-write those pages and then present the resulting Yahoo, Google etc pages with nothing but their own sponsor's links, search results, ads and even changing the "Web/Image/Video/Other" links above said engine's input forms... to redirect directly through their own services. Interesting to note, since Charter has their own "News" deals... the news links on these pages were removed entirely.
Now, I am not a brain surgeon and my IQ is not quite 150 (because I hate math, if I would actually have filled more than a. for all 200+ math questions I am fairly certain I would have landed at least 180 or better). However, I do not believe that it takes a NASA or Mensa member to comprehend that Yahoo and Google would most likely frown upon an ISP manipulating their content to such a degree. Removing the ad based sidebar is one thing but removing access to the engines News section completely is another.
At first I thought that this was an Opera decision. Yes, yet another reason that I probably scored below 150 on the IQ test But, once I had time to test this on many different machines, OS's and browsers it became apparent that it was the ISP's doing. Never the less, I posted a few pointed things in the Opera forums about my findings. The problem is that I posted them AS I was finding them. Not such a good idea. So before my conclusion I had already the same as accused Opera of being up to no good. I now stand corrected.
Meanwhile, in the USA now (even as I type this very post) I am sure that there are ISP's coding a whole host of creepy little subverts and tracking schemes into their internal networks which will only give Opera and every other browser developer on earth nothing but headaches for the foreseeable future. I, being how I am, can do what about this? Become angry? Stop using the net? Change ISP's only to find that all of the other's are doing similar things after a week or two? Or stay here with Opera, wait, watch, bite my tongue and hope for the best?....
Yeah, I think I'll try the last option above. The others would just have me again... huffing and puffing and blowing my own house down.