This week the Friday Four brings you news of privacy icons, Google's Kansas City fiber, and the joys and travails of making it as an app creator.
Website privacy policies are notoriously dense and inaccessible, more so even than terms of service. Mozilla has introduced a beta of their privacy icons program, which aims to render privacy policies instantly comprehensible. Instead of dozens of pages of fine-print legalese, this program will present Websites' privacy policies as a series of four icons in the URL bar.
There are really only a few important questions you might like answered before deciding whether to do business with a Website's owner. Does the site use your personal data for purposes you did not intend? Does it share your data with advertisers? Does it require a court order before handing it over to authorities? How long does it hold onto your data?
The original inspiration for the idea of privacy icons came out of a workshop sponsored by Mozilla in mid-2010. Initial designs were posted by Aza Raskin, who was then creative lead for the Firefox browser, early in 2011. Mozilla launched a wiki for its Privacy Icons project last year.
At first the idea was to have companies display the icons, self-assigning them based on their written privacy policies. The obvious problem here is that no company would voluntarily participate if their policy merited the orange icons. In Mozilla's current implementation as a Firefox plugin, the privacy icons are assigned to companies by outsiders who study their privacy policies.
Privacy software shop disconnect.me hosted a sort of legal hackathon last weekend, where lawyers and coders attempted to wade through the privacy policies of the 1,000 largest Websites and assign the appropriate icons to them. They burned out on this mind-numbing task after 235 sites. If the program takes off, crowdsourcing may take care of the rest. You can download and install the Firefox plug-in from the disconnect.me site.
Mobile app creators' income
The NY Times has a piece exploring the state of the booming app creator market, with particular attention to how well people are managing to make a living at it. The short answer for most of them: not very well at all. One couple profiled in the Times went all-in as app developers in 2010. Their business has cost $200,000 so far in lost income and savings. With 8 apps developed and on the virtual shelves in Apple's store, their income so far this year is less than $5,000.
The problem is that the app creator market is developing a familiar shape, one determined by a power law. "A quarter of the respondents said they had made less than $200 in lifetime revenue from Apple. A quarter had made more than $30,000, and 4 percent had made over $1 million," the Times reports.
Google Fiber is live in Kansas City
The first houses were lit up in Google's project to wire Kansas City with fiber, and there are reports of real-world speeds above 700 Mbps. Entrepreneurs have been buying up cheap houses in some of the first neighborhoods to be lit; they have since gotten together to form what local boosters are calling KC Startup Village.
Tips from junior developer
Matt Sencenbaugh has a degree from Stanford and a couple of years' experience as a developer and budding entrepreneur. Hs put up a blog post with the advice he wishes he had heard when he was starting out. First on the list is "Read other people's code."
The Friday Four gives a hat tip each week to Ron Miller, whose collection of five links for developers and IT pros runs weekly on Ness.com.