THE BROWSER: Truth and rumors from the tech world
As DSL slows, AT&T looks for alternatives
As DSL adoption stalls, the company is looking at ways to deliver broadband that don't ride its local phone lines. Plus: Google aims to clean up the Web.
By Owen Thomas, Business 2.0 Magazine online editor and Oliver Ryan, Fortune reporter

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0 Magazine) - As long-distance revenues plummet and customers disconnect phone lines in favor of cell phones and VOIP, DSL has provided burgeoning broadband revenues for local phone companies. But could DSL be slowing down? Business 2.0 senior writer Om Malik notes that, according to research by investment bank UBS, fewer households are signing up for DSL as a percentage of homes where the service is available. That has AT&T (Research), for one, scrambling to provide other options, including satellite broadband, high-speed fixed wireless connections, and fiber-optic lines. The new initiatives could help AT&T serve another 11.5 million households, the company estimates.

Google aims to clean up the Web

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Could Google (Research) be hoping to rid the Web of spammer-run websites that advertise scams, porn, and get-rich-quick schemes? That could be the goal of a recently discovered patent that describes how Google uses information about a website's domain name -- the bit right before the ".com" -- to determine the legitimacy of a website. Recently registered and frequently traded domain names would get played down in Google's search results, since those are thought to be signs of spammer activity.

One problem with Google's website-reputation scheme: Spammers are quick to pick up on which domain names Google favors -- and abuse the system however they can. Take the fate of Expedia's blogging experiment, where it tried to get customers to post travelogues. Instead, spammers took advantage of Expedia's blogging tool to advertise drugs and gambling, with their websites listed alongside family travelogues of trips to Peru and Israel. Because Expedia is a website that Google normally takes seriously, the fake travelogues ranked highly in Google's search results.

Handheld Xbox on its way?

Author and videogames expert Dean Takahashi has a number of revelations in his new book, "The Xbox 360 Uncloaked," -- including a new Xbox 360 handheld on its way, according to Takahashi writes that half of Microsoft's Xbox team was reassigned to work on the handheld after the Xbox 360 console launched late last year, with the other half working on making the 360 cheaper to produce. On Engadget, reader reactions are mixed. One argues that it makes no sense for Microsoft (Research) to take on Sony's (Research) PlayStation Portable and the Nintendo DS. But another writes: "Why not? They have the money and why not give it a try?" The latter sentiment certainly appears to match Microsoft's current corporate strategy.

Deluged patent office puts peer volunteers to work

Everyone agrees that the patent system is broken -- so why not put some of the smart technology that people are patenting to use fixing it? In a move that stunned observers who have grown accustomed to the government's inaction, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced it will launch Peer to Patent, a website which Boing Boing describes as "a community patent peer review project" on Friday, May 12. Much like Wikipedia, the idea is to call on the public -- particularly experts in given fields -- to perform triage on patent claims so that overwhelmed patent examiners can concentrate on the truly viable patent applications. "But wait: they can't possibly do this," commented the Open blog. "I mean, it's so obviously sensible, and the right first step in fixing a manifestly broken system, there must be a catch." Apparently not. Even Open was reassured by the fact that the new program even has its own editable "wiki" page, where users can update the details of how the project will operate. Top of page

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