May 26, 2024

2007 Predictions

This year, Alex Halderman, Scott Karlin and I put our heads together to come up with a single list of predictions. Each prediction is supported by at least two of us, except the predictions that turn out to be wrong, which must have slipped in by mistake.

Our predictions for 2007:

(1) DRM technology will still fail to prevent widespread infringement. In a related development, pigs will still fail to fly.

(2) An easy tool for cloning MySpace pages will show up, and young users will educate each other loudly about the evils of plagiarism.

(3) Despite the ascent of Howard Berman (D-Hollywood) to the chair of the House IP subcommittee, copyright issues will remain stalemated in Congress.

(4) Like the Republicans before them, the Democrats’ tech policy will disappoint. Only a few incumbent companies will be happy.

(5) Major record companies will sell a significant number of MP3s, promoting them as compatible with everything. Movie studios won’t be ready to follow suit, persisting in their unsuccessful DRM strategy.

(6) Somebody will figure out the right way to sell and place video ads online, and will get very rich in the process. (We don’t know how they’ll do it. If we did, we wouldn’t be spending our time writing this blog.)

(7) Some mainstream TV shows will be built to facilitate YouTubing, for example by structuring a show as a series of separable nine-minute segments.

(8) AACS, the encryption system for next-gen DVDs, will melt down and become as ineffectual as the CSS system used on ordinary DVDs.

(9) Congress will pass a national law regarding data leaks. It will be a watered-down version of the California law, and will preempt state laws.

(10) A worm infection will spread on game consoles.

(11) There will be less attention to e-voting as the 2008 election seems far away and the public assumes progress is being made. The Holt e-voting bill will pass, ratifying the now-solid public consensus in favor of paper trails.

(12) Bogus airport security procedures will peak and start to decrease.

(13) On cellphones, software products will increasingly compete independent of hardware.


  1. I’m curious to know your reaction to the January 19 Chronicle of Higher Education piece entitled Georgia’s Unusual ‘Electoral College’. In it, a professor at Kennesaw State University labels you a “theoretical scientist” and refers to your research on voting machines as “theater.” His “protégé” student’s assessment of your research is, “This guy’s an idiot.”

    I guess that’s the Georgia equivalent of an intellectual discourse.

  2. George Bush will committ suicide due to compelling
    evidenec crime against humanity and majority
    GOP turn against him.

  3. Ned Ulbricht says

    Just in case anyone might possibly be interested in a few additional refinements…

    Yesterday, Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press, reported under the headline, Spies put transmitters in Canadian coins: Report (9 Jan 2007):

    Canadian coins containing tiny transmitters have mysteriously turned up in the pockets of at least three American contractors who visited Canada […].

    (H/t Nick Farrell).

    As a first and obvious countermove, it should be possible to use a COTS coin slide—one that takes more than one coin at a time. Then simple chutes can reliably deliver the leftmost coin to the ballot drum and the other coin(s) to the discard drum. Further, a “weather shield”, several inches above and folded to the sides of the coin slide might help to inhibit observation from any vantage point besides the voter’s own.

    And illumination at the polling place could be provided by bright electric arc lamps… each voter could receive a free pair of not- too-darkly tinted “sunglasses” to wear around for the rest of the day, sort of like an “I voted” button, only much more stylish and fashionable, eh?

  4. Re prediction 8: Is there any evidence that the breaking of CSS has significantly impacted the revenues from DVDs? I haven’t seen it. That may be why BACKUPHDDVD is a non-event.

  5. “Major record companies will sell a significant number of MP3s, promoting them as compatible with everything.”

    John Buckman will be pleased to hear that you think Magnatune will become a major record company with significant sales. Oh! You mean an -existing- company like Universal or SonyBMG? Pfft! I reckon they’ll go no further than a small scale experiment. Oh, and pigs will still fail to fly… 😉

  6. the_zapkitty says

    “the_zapkitty Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation. “


    No links in my post… in fact the only thing I can note is that the italicized section I use to indicate quoted text is larger than my regular text comment.. could that have triggered the moderator?

    Just curious 😉

  7. the_zapkitty says

    “Copying will make people angry enough, but imagine some angsty teenager realizing that some ne’er-do-well had plagiarized his/her personal space and did it better.”

    Possible UL: Did that actually happen to a british government or royal website… and the site kept the improvements? I never checked that out…

  8. As far as I can tell, the backuphddvd thing isn’t everything the author claims it is. You need to feed the software the decryption keys before you can actually use the software. Thus, the sofware does not actually crack the system the way DeCSS does, as it relies on the user to do the heavy lifting beforehand.

  9. As regards:- (8) AACS, the encryption system for next-gen DVDs, will melt down and become as ineffectual as the CSS system used on ordinary DVDs.

    There is a lot of talk on the net following assertions made by someone who has published a program called “backuphddvd”. It remains to be seen what the implications are of that, but on the face of it, it appears that there could be an armour chink involving title keys, if a way can be found of decrypting them, or capturing them in plain.

  10. Here’s a thought,

    A MySpace page cloner can actually have a useful non-infringing purpose: to scrub the original page of everything that made it annoying. Fix the background, remove the music, etc.

    Copying will make people angry enough, but imagine some angsty teenager realizing that some ne’er-do-well had plagiarized his/her personal space and did it better.

    You could have a site called the deloserizer. It would make a MySpace page look bearable, and the box that says, “Xcott is in your Extended Network” would now read, “Hi, my name is Xcott and this is what my MySpace Page would look like if I wasn’t a loser.”

  11. the_zapkitty says

    Uh, Ned?

    Not only does your method have all the disadvantages of paper ballots, but loses some of the advantages as well. F’rinstance… the information density of your selected medium really sucks 😉

    Hmmm… I was hoping to draw out some e-voting proponents but maybe they’re still on break…

    As for the ever-repeated arguments about the size of America vs. paper ballots… strawman. The more people, the more people to handle the load. And they (e-voting corporations) will still push optical scanners even in that extremis.

    Even the election reformist Holy Grail of hand-counted paper ballots will only require that the percentage of Americans involved in elections to be upped a percentage point… if the system is designed for hand counting.

    The current long delays in hand recounts is caused by forcing the recounts into the mold of election systems designed for e-voting. Districts which traditionally count by hand have few such delays.

    Given the logical step of making election day a holiday the counters will be there in excess… which thought does scare some people 😉

  12. Ned Ulbricht says

    So if you have a better plan… could you provide the details?

    Well, setting aside considerations of cost and scale, it’s possible to do much, much better than paper in a number of respects. Here’s one method:

    Machine some disks, say about the size of fifty-cent pieces, out of titanium-alloy steel. Heat treat and harden them. On one side of every “coin” deeply engrave a candidate’s name, perhaps using industrial-diamond -tipped bits. For a two candidate race, half the coins would be machined with one candidate’s name, and half the coins the other’s name. Polish both sides of every coin to a mirror finish.

    At the polling place, each voter is given a pair of these coins, one for each candidate. The voter goes over to a pair of large, heavy-walled drums in the middle of the room. One drum is signed the ballot drum, and the other is signed the discard drum.

    Both drums have coin slides attached—like the ones you sometimes see at coin-operated laundromats. Except these coin slides only accept a single coin at a time, horizontally. The voter places his preferred candidate’s coin face down on the voting drum’s coin slide, pushes it in, and pulls it back out to make sure the coin dropped. The voter then goes to the discard drum, and discards his unvoted coin, again face down in the horizontal coin slide.

    After all the voters have voted, the coin slides are unbolted from the drums, and some old, broken diamond bit pieces and some waste machine cuttings are thrown in to act as an abrasive. A cover plate is bolted on in place of the coin slide. The drums are then agitated violently—sufficient to rough up the mirror finish on all the coins, but not enough to obliterate the deeply-cut candidates’ names.

    After the coins have cooled down, the contents of the voting drum are spilled out onto a table. Poll-watchers may then remove their hearing protection (but not their hard hats!). Coins that land tails are flipped over to reveal the candidates’ names, possibly with a spatula. All the coins for each candidate are counted.

    To audit the voting drum, also count the discard drum, and complement those results. They should match.

    So I’ll admit this might be just a little expensive to carry out on a massive scale. But I do think this “steel coin” method is a useful thought-experiment. It sorta illustrates how to run over noise with an extremely powerful signal.

  13. the_zapkitty says


    A “legal instrument” isn’t what I call it, a legal instrument is what a ballot is.

    The fact it is unsigned is (theoretically) offset by the registration process one goes through to get one. It’s sole purpose is to express the bearer’s will in the exercise of franchise.

    Uniqueness is handled by strictly controlling the issuance, provenance, and usage of these instruments, and self-certification is handled by strict control of the balloting process.

    So far e-voting has offered no advantages over paper ballots that were not more than offset by the fatal drawbacks currently inherent in e-voting.

    And even the blind can vote securely and secretly sans electronic ballots:

    So “beating paper ballots” requires acknowledging their strengths in the first place and then outdoing them without introducing flaws in the system worse than paper ballots already present.

    Despite the blind faith with which it was forced down peoples’ throats, and despite Fitche’s faith that it “can be done” e-voting is actually still very much in a “show me the money” stage… and so far the only money that’s been shown is the millions of dollars spent on inherently defective machines that are now being ditched right and left by various states.

    So if you have a better plan… could you provide the details? 🙂

  14. Ned Ulbricht says


    The term of art “legal instrument” carries too much baggage. Ordinary legal instruments—deeds, wills, certificates of election, and so on—may be executed on expensive parchment, in multiple originals, before witnesses.

    But when we’re talking about 175 million registered voters in the US, of whom 120 million+ will likely cast ballots, then expense becomes a important factor.

    And a ballot, as it first emerges from the ballot-box, requires qualities of uniqueness and self-certification.

  15. the_zapkitty says

    Ned Ulbricht Says:

    “We’re really talking about a simple, inexpensive method for durably recording the voter’s choices in, if not quite an immutable fashion, then at least a somewhat tamper-evident fashion.”

    BTW the phrase you’re looking for is “Legal Instrument”… a physical legal instrument.

    A ballot is a legal instrument, and demanding that the legal instruments that are the key to our nation be rendered solely in the ephemeral, perishable, and insecure format of a pattern of electrons in a memory card with no physical representation allowed was the nadir of e-voting’s stupidity.

    Technophiles (such as Ned 🙂 ) will proclaim that the “really good stuff that fixes all that is just around the corner and it really can most assuredly be done no problemo”…

    … but I’ll wait to see extensive open tests by computer security professionals before even giving the “great next thing” in e-voting technologies the time of day… and then I’ll begin by demanding to see the source code 😉

  16. the_zapkitty says

    Try to keep hackers out of network code that’s openly available but not open sourced 😉

    (and a very… entertaining… enterprise that is, too.)

    The point being that by being exceptionally esoteric you might overlook the fact that these are politicians… and they have proven that they can literally make people’s lives a living hell Iif the politicians don’t quite get the message.

    Thus my emphasis, even in a technical forum, on paper ballots as opposed to “paper trails”.

    They will insist on optical scanners to do the counting (silly, but there you go) but paper ballots will at least reduce the possible attack vectors as opposed to DRE’s and “paper trails”.

    Make it hand-etched silicon ballots and even the technophiles will be happy 🙂

  17. Ned Ulbricht says


    “Paper ballots” makes a great slogan. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the abstract idea behind that slogan. We’re really talking about a simple, inexpensive method for durably recording the voter’s choices in, if not quite an immutable fashion, then at least a somewhat tamper-evident fashion.

    Ed’s most recent post on the subject raised the problem of covert-channel attacks on voter confidentiality. Viewing a voting system as a special type of communications system, there’s a strong reason to believe that covert channels cannot be perfectly closed. Moreover, in a system where the communications channel capacity is imperfectly characterized, even to effectively approach covert message elimination may risk (or require) primary message loss. With that in mind, there’s an awful lot to be said for the ancient “colored pebble” method.

  18. “Star Wars: Clone Wars”, done several years ago, fits #7 – it was delivered in 2 minutes micro-chunks. YouTube-able before there was a YouTube.

    Besides, I think it’s a non-issue. If you’re a producer of a mainstream TV show and wanted it on YouTube, I’m sure Google would be more than happy to waive the 10 minute rule for your account.

  19. the_zapkitty says

    racergreg Says:

    “My own prediction (perhaps not in 2007 but soon) is that the TSA will start a new procedure so onerous that people will curtail their flying.”

    Too late. Post facto predictions do not count… 😉

  20. the_zapkitty says

    Anonymous Says:

    “I really hope 11 is right.”


    The e-voting companies would love it, the taxpayers will be screwed over yet again, and anyone who wants to game the system will still have carte blanche.

    That’s because “paper trails” have turned out top be worse than useless… as the trails will only say what the machine says… or worse, trails will only say what the machine wants them to say.

    “Paper trails” got a big push as people desperately looked for something, anything, to salvage their votes as they disappeared into the black holes of the black boxes. But upon review it turned out that the “paper trails” as currently instituted by e-voting vendors don’t solve the problems inherent in e-voting… and actually make the problems worse by costing more, breaking down more, and giving some folks a false sense of reassurance.

    Think of a roll of toilet paper bolted on to the side of a standard DRE voting machine and you’ll have a more accurate picture of the problems involved with “paper trails”.

    That’s why the current emphasis is on paper ballots.

    “Paper trails” don’t count for much in many states or in court… just look at election reform sites with their endless documented stories of “paper trails” gone bad, gone wrong, or all too often simply gone missing… all with not even a slap on the wrist (much less a conviction) for what would have been a felony if it had involved paper ballots.

    A judge will ask very pointed questions about people playing “e-voting games” with paper ballots.

    And so lawmakers, many of whom have just finished getting their heads around the concept of a “paper trail”, will need to learn now why they’ll have to go one step further with paper ballots… or risk recreating the e-voting mess again just in time for 2008.

    But it’s a technical age and they’ll have to learn how to adapt to changing standards anyway… or we’ll be severely screwed over one and all.

    BTW… Conyers being on the Judiciary seems to give some people hope concerning the actual, verifiable crimes commited by some people in this administration…. but that name seems familiar… 😉 …what media corporation baggage will he bring along? And what’s his opinion on secret laws… now?

  21. “(12) Bogus airport security procedures will peak and start to decrease.”

    As a frequent traveler, I sincerely hope this is true. However, I am not optimistic. Look at the recent history: every threat (or perceived threat) is met by a new TSA procedure. First we had the shoe thing, then the liquids. The knee-jerk reactions would be comical if they weren’t so annoying.

    At some point, some idiot will try to smuggle an explosive on board that is concealed in his/her anus. What will the TSA do then? Cavity search all of us?

    My own prediction (perhaps not in 2007 but soon) is that the TSA will start a new procedure so onerous that people will curtail their flying. Then (hopefully) the airline lobby will get involved and some of this stupidity will start to get rolled back.

  22. Seth,

    What I meant is something between a continuous story presented in nine-minute pieces, and a set of completely separate nine-minute mini-episodes: a series of nine-minute segments that can stand on their own, but also work as a longer show when presented in sequence.

    My model here was the original vision for Law&Order, which presented a one-hour show that could be separated into two half-hour pieces capable of standing on their own as episodes. The idea was to maximize opportunities for syndication by allowing a one-hour show to be syndicated as half-hour episodes. The 2007 equivalent would be a half-hour show that was presented as three detachable pieces of just under ten minutes, each of which could stand on its own.

  23. Ned Ulbricht says

    I really hope 11 is right.


    I presume you mean the second half of (11), and that you’re in favor of the Holt bill.

    If the public wants genuine progress, though, voting issues do need serious attention this year—not put off till next year—for any effective reform in time for the 2008 election.

  24. I think you mean CSS and not CCS for DVDs.

    [Thanks. It’s fixed now. — Ed]

  25. I really hope 11 is right.

  26. “by structuring a show as a series of separable nine-minute segments”

    ??? Standard US network shows are structured as seperable segments, which are inserted between commercials. Those segments are rarely more than nine minutes each, and a roughly 3-9-9-1 structure for a “30 minute” show is very common. Did you mean 9-minute episodes, like movie showreels?