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Reddit Going After More Users, Advertisers With New Feature

April 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Reddit, a website with a retro-’90s look and space-alien mascot that tracks everything from online news to celebrity Q&As, is trying to attract even more followers, and advertising, by allowing members of its passionate community to post their own news more quickly and easily.

Reddit, majority owned by Conde Nast parent Advanced Publications, last month unveiled a new feature that lets users of the nine-year-old site post live updates, allowing them to report in real time.

The live updates allow selected users, dubbed “reporters” by Reddit, to instantly stream unlimited posts during the course of an event such as the conflict in the Ukraine, an earthquake in Los Angeles, or a game played in real time, without having to refresh the page.

The capability is still in testing mode. So far only users selected on a case-by-case basis can create a live thread. The feature has attracted attention. For example, live threads linked to “Twitch plays Pokemon,” in which users of the Twitch website played an old Nintendo game, garnered 2 million page views in 30 days.

“Reddit members are doing amazing things with very minimal tools and were hitting some barriers,” said Erik Martin, general manager.

Martin, who said the site is not yet profitable and declined to give specific revenue figures, added: “We want to give people a more powerful way to make updates.”

Reddit’s move toward enabling users to fluidly update is the latest move in a battle between social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to use news to engage users, and attract more ad dollars.

Before, Reddit users could not update in real time. The new feature is similar to how people instantly send tweets but keeps the updates together through one thread or “subreddit.”

Reddit, which also gets revenue through e-commerce, has ramped up efforts of late to attract more advertisers. Next week, it plans to unveil city and country targeting capabilities that allow advertisers to address users by geographic market.

One recent ad, specific to Reddit, featured the actors Jeff Goldblum and Bill Murray, stars of the movie “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” as individual threads.

Some 62 percent of Reddit users get their news through the platform while about half of all Facebook and Twitter users do the same, according to a recent report on the State of the News Media from the Pew Research Center.

“Reddit is all about the community, that is the value they brought to the site as they created it,” said Kelly McBride, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute, who has been following Reddit since it was founded.

“News has always been really important to Reddit,” she said.

Reddit has more than 114 million unique visitors worldwide and has doubled its traffic in 12 months, said Martin. Facebook has more than 1 billion users and Twitter has more than 240 million.


Wi-Fi Problems Plague Apple-Samsung Trial

April 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

There’s a new sign on the door to Courtroom 1 at the federal courthouse in San Jose, the location of the Apple v. Samsung battle that’s playing out this month: “Please turn off all cell phones.”

For a trial that centers on smartphones and the technology they use, it’s more than a little ironic. The entire case might not even be taking place if the market wasn’t so big and important, but the constant need for connectivity of everyone is causing problems in the court, hence the new sign.

The problems have centered on the system that displays the court reporter’s real-time transcription onto monitors on the desks of Judge Lucy Koh, the presiding judge in the case, and the lawyers of Apple and Samsung. The system, it seems, is connected via Wi-Fi and that connection keeps failing.

“We have a problem,” Judge Koh told the courtroom on April 4, soon after the problem first appeared. Without the system, Koh said she couldn’t do her job, so if people didn’t shut off electronics, she might have to ban them from the courtroom.

In many other courts, electronic devices are routinely banned, but the Northern District of California and Judge Koh have embraced technology more than most. While reporters and spectators are limited to a pen and paper in courts across the country, the court here permits live coverage through laptops and even provides a free Wi-Fi network.

On Monday, the problems continued and Judge Koh again asked for all cellphones to be switched off.

But not everyone listened. A scan of the courtroom revealed at least one hotspot hadn’t been switched off: It was an SK Telecom roaming device from South Korea, likely used by a member of Samsung’s team.

The hotspot was switched off by the end of the day, but on Tuesday there were more problems.

“You. Ma’am. You in the front row,” Judge Koh said sternly during a break. She’d spotted an Apple staffer using her phone and made the culprit stand, give her name and verbally agree not to use the handset again in court.

As a result of all the problems, lawyers for Apple and Samsung jointly suggested using a scheduled two-day break in the case to hardwire the transcription computers to the court’s network.

The cable wasn’t installed.

“I believe there were some issues, We’re attempting to install it,” one of the attorneys told IDG News Service during the court lunch break.

So for now, the problems continue.

The clerk opened the day with an appeal to switch phones off, “not even airplane mode.”

That still didn’t help.

The transcription screens failed at 9:09 a.m., just minutes into the first session of the morning.


Businesses Want More From IT, Dissatisfaction Grows

March 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Companies want to reduce spending on IT operations and infrastructure and shift resources to revenue-producing areas, according to two new studies. But businesses leaders and IT executives are also registering higher levels of dissatisfaction with IT as more demands are placed on technology.

The reports, by the Hackett Group and McKinsey & Co., both agree that business executives want IT to do more to improve the bottom line while companies spend less on infrastructure in the process.

The bad news for people who work in IT operations is that large businesses expect to cut IT staff positions by about 2% this year, thanks to automation and outsourcing, according the Hackett’s survey of 160 businesses with revenues above $1 billion.

One path to improved automation will likely be through adoption of software-defined infrastructures, something Bank of America plans to do.

IT budgets will grow by 1.7% this year as IT pivots, increasingly, from a service-providing operation to a revenue-generating one, the Hackett Group said in its study.

IT managers are being told that “you’ve got to grow the business, not just run the business,” said Mark Peacock, an IT transformation practice leader and principal at Hackett.

McKinsey & Co., in its online survey of more than 800 executives — with 345 having a technology focus — also found that executives want less of their budgets to go to infrastructure so more resources can be shifted to analytics and innovation.

The McKinsey survey found that business executives are less likely to say now that IT performs effectively, compared to their views two years ago.

“The IT executives are even more negative,” wrote McKinsey, with only 13% of them saying their IT organizations “are completely or very effective at introducing new technologies faster or more effectively than competitors.” That percentage was down from 22% in 2012.

The negative results “likely reflect the overall rising expectations for corporate IT,” wrote McKinsey.

When asked how to fix IT shortcomings, respondents cited improved business accountability, more funds for priority projects and a higher the level of IT talent, the report said.

The Hackett Group survey didn’t report on dissatisfaction, but it did find that the top goal for IT organizations this year is “to strengthen partnership and goal alignment between IT and the business.”


Cisco Makes Cloud Computing A Top Priority With $1B Pledge

March 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Cisco Systems Inc will offer cloud computing services, pledging to spend $1 billion over the next two years to make a foray into a market currently dominated by the world’s biggest online retailer Inc, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Cisco said it will spend the amount to build data centers to help run the new service called Cisco Cloud Services, the Journal reported.

Cisco, which mainly deals in networking hardware, wants to take advantage of companies’ desire to rent computing services rather than buying and maintaining their own machines.

Enterprise hardware spending is dwindling across the globe as companies cope with shrinking budgets, slowing or uncertain economies and a fundamental migration to cloud computing, which reduces demand for equipment by outsourcing data management and computing needs.

“Everybody is realizing the cloud can be a vehicle for achieving better economics (and) lower cost,” the Journal quoted Rob Lloyd, Cisco’s president of development and sales as saying.

“It does not mean that we’re embarking on a strategy to go head-to-head with Amazon.”

Microsoft Corp last year said it was cutting prices for hosting and processing customers’ online data in an aggressive challenge to Amazon’s lead in the growing business of cloud computing.


Cisco could not be immediately reached for comment by Reuters outside regular hours.


Apple, Comcast Discuss Possible Streaming TV Deal

March 25, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Inc is having discussions with Comcast Corp to enter into a deal for a streaming-television service that would allow Appleset-top boxes to bypass congestion on the web, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The discussions are in early stages and there are a lot of hurdles to be crossed before a definitive agreement could be reached, the Journal said.

Apple, which wants its TV service’s traffic to be separated from public internet traffic over the “last mile” for faster transmission, is looking for special treatment from Comcast’s cables to bypass congestion, the report said.

Comcast and Apple declined to comment on the report.

Apple has been in talks for a faster TV set-top box with Time Warner Cable Inc, which recently agreed to be bought by Comcast.

Apple’s $99 TV box competes with similar streaming devices from Roku and Google Inc.

Netflix agreed last month to pay Comcast Corp for faster speeds, throwing open the possibility that more content companies will have to shell out for better service.

The Federal Communications Commission is in the process of drafting a new “net-neutrality” bill that would ensure that network operators disclose exactly how they manage Internet traffic and that they do not restrict consumers’ ability to surf the Web or use applications.


Procter & Gamble To Introduce A Smart Toothbrush

February 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Procter & Gamble Co is bringing the dentist into the bathroom with the world’s first smartphone-connected toothbrush, a device that gives personalized advice to aid consumers in improving their brushing habits.

The toothbrush, to be offered under P&G’s Oral-B brand and which will be widely available from June, has a Bluetooth 4.0 link to a smartphone app that can be programmed with the help of a dentist, for example to pay more attention to any areas of the mouth being neglected, P&G said.

“The app provides real-time guidance,” Michael Cohen-Dumani, global associate director for Oral-B, told Reuters.

“Dentists always tell us: ‘People do a great job in the week before they come to visit us and in the week after they visit us. But nothing can hide the fact that when we look inside the mouth we can see all the areas they miss’.”

The toothbrush will be unveiled at the phone industry’s annual Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona next week, joining an expanding range of devices connected to smartphones that measure everything from sleep patterns and calorie intake to distance walked and exercise taken.

Professionals had helped develop the app as a tool to manage their patients’ behavior between visits, Cohen-Dumani said. The app displays brushing progress in real time, telling the user when to move to a different part of the mouth and warning if they are brushing too hard, he said.

“It will guide you in terms of how to brush, and you will be able to fully personalize the brushing routine for you,” Cohen-Dumani said.

In tests, the app had extended average brushing times from less than a minute for a manual toothbrush to 2 minutes and 16 seconds, he said.

The device will be at top end the Oral-B electric toothbrush range, with a recommended retail price of 199 pounds ($330) in Britain and 219 euros in Europe.


Spotify Gearing Up For Possible IPO

February 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Uncategorized

Online music streaming service Spotify is looking for a U.S. financial reporting specialist, further fueling rumors that the Swedish start-up is preparing for a share listing, which one banker said could value the firm at $8 billion.

Meeting U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) standards for filing financial disclosures are essential for any firm planning to go public and bankers and lawyers said they inferred from the job ad that the company is getting ready for an initial public share offer (IPO), possibly next year.

“It looks like they are preparing themselves for an IPO,” said one corporate finance lawyer, who is not advising the firm.

The job advertisement, posted on Spotify’s website and on LinkedIn, said the successful candidate would be required to “prepare the company for SEC filing standards. Set up all reports necessary to be SEC complaint.”

Spotify declined to comment on whether it has plans for an IPO.

“As Spotify grows and becomes a more mature company we are looking for people who can help us keep our financial reporting in order and up to global standards,” a spokesman said.

Spotify raised $250 million in a funding round in November, making it one of the world’s most richly capitalized start-ups.

One investment banker said that last year’s fundraising meant the company would probably focus on further expansion so that it could go to the market with a flotation next year, by when the company could be valued at as much as $7 billion to $8 billion.

He said it would be advisable to employ expertise in filing the company’s accounts to listing standards well in advance of any flotation.

“They would need such a person, and to make sure that person is settled in, in order for it to be possible to list the company in the United States next year.”


Facebook Celebrating 10th Anniversary

February 4, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook plans on celebrating its 10th birthday today, an occasion likely to spur an outpouring of reflection on its past and speculation about its future.

Mark Zuckerberg launched “Thefacebook” from his dorm room at Harvard University on Feb. 4, 2004. The site was conceived as a way to connect students, and let them build an online identity for themselves.

It has since expanded to cover a large swath of the planet, with more than 1.2 billion people — one-seventh of the world’s population — using its site on a monthly basis, according to the company’s own recent figures.

Zuckerberg reflected on the 10-year milestone at an industry conference in Silicon Valley this week. Not surprisingly, at the start he never envisioned Facebook becoming so large or influential. After launching the initial version, “it was awesome to have this utility and community at our school,” he said at the Open Compute Project Summit.

He figured at the time that someone, someday would build such a site for the world. “It didn’t even occur to me that it could be us,” he said.

Since then, Facebook’s site and its business, now a public company, have changed dramatically. There are now more than a trillion status updates, text posts and other pieces of content stored within its walls — the company is trying to index them as part of its Graph Search search engine.

The company was slow to react to the important mobile market, and when it went public in 2012 investors were skeptical it would be able to monetize its service on smaller screens. But this week it reported that more than half its ad revenue now comes from mobile devices.

All the while, Facebook is making its ad business smarter, using targeting tools to show ads it deems most relevant.

The company is also experimenting with new ways to present content. Next week it will release Paper, an iPhone app that provides a new way to share photos and published articles.

It’s part of a larger effort Facebook hinted at this week to release a variety of standalone apps for different tasks.

The company is also trying to bring the Internet to more people in the world, an effort that’s part philanthropy and part business sense as Facebook aims to reach its next billion users. Asked this week why he launched the project, called, Zuckerberg suggested he feels a weight of responsibility.

“There aren’t that many companies in the world that have the resources and the reach that Facebook has at this point,” he said.


Symantec’s Revenue A Victim Of Sluggish PC Sales

January 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Symantec Corp reported a 5 percent drop in quarterly revenue as falling sales of personal computers hurt demand for its security software.

Shares of the company, the maker of Norton anti-virus software, fell 3 percent after the bell.

“We are pleased with the quarter, but we’re not happy until we’re back into positive revenue growth,” Chief Executive Steve Bennett told Reuters on Wednesday.

Worldwide PC shipments were expected to fall about 10 percent in 2013 and by another 4 percent in 2014, research firm IDC said in December.

Symantec’s revenue fell to $1.71 billion in the third quarter from $1.79 billion a year earlier.

Bennett said the fall in revenue was also due to changes in the company’s organization.

Symantec has been reorganizing its sales force to create specialists for each product group instead of having everyone sell everything, leading to a temporary shortfall in revenue.

“They are trying to stimulate demand and drive better licenses from a new and improved sales force,” FBR Capital Markets analyst Dan Ives said in an email.

Symantec’s security products usually come bundled with PCs as the company has distribution partnerships with manufacturers.

The company’s consumer business sells products and services to individuals and home businesses globally through an e-commerce platform, internet-based resellers and retailers. Symantec also has partnerships with manufacturers to distribute internet security suites and online backup offerings.

Symantec reported a 4 percent decline in revenue from its protection business, which represented 42 percent of total revenue, and a 6 percent fall in revenue from its information management unit, which accounted for 39 percent of overall revenue.

Sales in the company’s information security business fell 3 percent.

Net income rose to $283 million, or 40 cents per share, in the third quarter, from $216 million, or 31 cents per share a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned 51 cents per share. Analysts, on average, had expected adjusted earnings of 43 cents per share on revenue of $1.65 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Symantec’s fourth-quarter forecast was in line with Wall Street expectations.


CTIA Debuts Website That Shows Apps Data Usage

December 30, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

A new website unveiled by mobile trade group CTIA shows smartphone and tablet users how much data is used by popular apps., launched by CTIA late last week, allows mobile device owners to estimate an app’s data usage before it’s downloaded. This is the first tool allowing consumers to learn about an app’s data usage before downloading it, although there are tools available to measure an app’s data use after downloading, CTIA said.

CTIA has also aimed at app developers, by giving them information about conserving data usage and minimizing impact to battery life, the trade group said.

Visitors to the website can search by app name, operating system or app categories. They can learn now the app was tested, how much data is used when an app is downloaded, at initialization, during active run time and during background time.

The website also includes information about how mobile device owners can conserve data. currently includes test results for the top 50 paid and free apps from the Apple and Google stores, and CTIA plans to add more apps each month. The trade group invites developers to submit apps to be tested.

The tool was developed through the CTIA’s Application Data Usage Working Group, with members including Apple, AT&T, Ericsson, HTC America, Microsoft, Sprint and Verizon Wireless. Intertek developed the mobile app data usage benchmark testing using the AT&T Application Resource Optimizer, an open-source diagnostic tool that captures, analyzes and reports network app data usage to help developers create more efficient apps.


Bosch Interested In ‘The Internet Of Things’, Creates New Division

December 27, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Bosch, widely known as a maker of appliances, including stoves, dishwashers, washing machines and coffee makers, is expanding its focus to include the Internet of Things.

Germany-based Bosch has created a new firm, Bosch Connected Devices and Solutions, “for the Internet of things and services.”

The Internet of Things will deliver its benefits gradually, one appliance upgrade at a time.

Sensor rich devices monitoring Web-enabled apps can put the worried homeowner at ease. ‘Did I remember to turn the stove off before leaving the house? Is the refrigerator door open?’ The Internet of Things will provide the answer.

The Internet of Things will automate many actions. For instance, a smart home can be tied into weather reporting and use the information to automatically close windows and shutters in advance of a storm.

The new Bosch firm will develop sensors and actuators. The latter can convert electric signals from sensors or control units into physical action, the company said.

A goal of the new firm is to supply “compact electronic products and software expertise” intended to make devices and objects “intelligent and Web-enabled.”

Bosch is also a tech company that makes MEMS, or microelectromechanical systems. MEMS can detect changes in an environment, such as motion. An accelerometer, used in smartphones to sense when the device has been rotated, is such a sensor.

Bosch says it is the world’s largest supplier of MEMS sensors in terms of revenue.

Bosch will be demonstrating some its ideas at next month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“The introduction of MEMS sensors in automotive electronics in the 1980s and 1990s marked the first wave of growth. The second major wave has been their widespread incorporation in smart phones, tablets, and games consoles since the beginning of the 21st century – and the Internet of Things and services now heralds the third wave. We’re convinced that it will far surpass the first two waves,” said Volkmar Denner, chairman of Robert Bosch GmbH, in a statement.

“Sensors, signal processing, batteries, and transmitters have become so small, energy efficient, and inexpensive – even as all-in-one units – that they can be used in their billions. And at the same time radio networks are now available almost everywhere,” he added.


Citrix Offering A Slimmed Down Version of GoToMeeting

December 11, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Citrix has began offering a slimmed-down version of its GoToMeeting online meeting and video conferencing product that had been in beta testing since September.

GoToMeeting Essentials allows for one presenter and five attendees in a session and costs $19 per month, or $182 per year, for unlimited usage, Citrix plans to announce on Tuesday. Meetings can’t be recorded.

By contrast, the standard GoToMeeting product costs $49 per month, or $468 per year, for unlimited usage. Meetings can be recorded and can have 1 presenter and up to 25 participants.

Essentials is intended to attract customers that don’t need all the features and capacity of the standard version of the product, and that find its price too high.

On the other end of the spectrum, Citrix is adding an option for customers that need to accommodate more people in a meeting. The new GoToMeeting 100 allows for sessions of up to 100 participants with 1 presenter for $69 per month.

Beyond the core GoToMeeting, Citrix also has a version of the product customized for online events and another one designed for e-learning.

The version for events, GoToWebinar, accommodates meetings of up to 100, up to 500 and up to 1,000 people. It starts at $99 per month, or $948 per year, for the 100-participant option with one presenter.

Meanwhile, GoToTraining is for sessions of up to 25 participants or up to 200 participants, and starts at $149 per month, or $1,428 per year.

Prices go up on all GoToMeeting products if customers buy more than one presenter license. If customers need 40 or more presenter licenses, they need to open a GoToMeeting corporate account.

Citrix is also announcing that a GoToMeeting app for the Windows Phone OS will be launched on Dec. 15. It will allow people to launch and join a meeting from Windows Phone smartphones.

Meanwhile, the company is beta-testing a new element in GoToMeeting, called, which hosts a personalized meeting page. They can use this page to start up a session with colleagues in an ad-hoc manner without formal scheduling or invitations. Customers interested in it can try it out at

The company has also made it possible for GoToMeeting customers to try out pre-release features by selecting them from a new menu option called Labs.

Citrix also improved GoToMeeting’s Outlook plug-in and plans to introduce an integration with Google Calendar via a Chrome browser extension that will be released in about a month.


Is LG Spying On You?

November 22, 2013 by Michael  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

LG is investigating claims that its TVs send details about their owners’ viewing habits back to the manufacturer.

Blogger Jason Huntley detailed how his Smart TV was sending data about which channels were being watched. It appears that TVs uploaded information about the contents of devices attached to the TV, which is probably illegal. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office is investigating too.

When Huntley contacted the South Korean company he was told that by using the TV he had accepted LG’s terms and conditions so there. Huntley said details of what channels he had been watching had been sent even after a privacy setting had been changed.

He first come across the issue in October when he had begun researching how his Smart TV had been able to show his family tailored adverts on its user interface. When he looked at the TV’s menu system, he had noticed that an option called “collection of watching info” had been switched on by default.

After switching it off, he had been surprised to find evidence that unencrypted details about each channel change had still been transmitted to LG’s computer servers, but this time a flag in the data had been changed from “1″ to “0″ to indicate the user had opted out.


Did The US And UK Have Secret Snooping Agreements?

November 22, 2013 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

The latest information released by Edward Snowden’s surveillance revelations show that the UK and the US have had a secret joint snooping agreement since 2007.

The Guardian has the papers, and it shows a US National Security Agency (NSA) memo that talks about how it can collect information about unsuspected UK citizens and keep hold of their data, meaning their phone communications and their email contacts. This can then be used to build up information about links between people.

“Sigint [signals intelligence] policy … and the UK Liaison Office here at NSAW [NSA Washington] worked together to come up with a new policy that expands the use of incidentally collected unminimized UK data in Sigint analysis,” says the memo

“The new policy expands the previous memo issued in 2004 that only allowed the unminimizing of incidentally collected UK phone numbers for use in analysis. Now SID analysts can unminimize all incidentally collected UK contact identifiers, including IP and email addresses, fax and cell phone numbers, for use in analysis.”

The agreement has its roots in the 1946 UK/USA Signals Intelligence Agreement, which should prevent allied intelligence agencies from monitoring each other’s citizens without permission. However, it includes a caveat, which is that this can happen, as long as it is done in secret and in the best interest of nation states.

Governments reserved the right to stop behaving so polititely earlier, and “when it is in the best interests of each nation,” reports the Guardian, which has reproduced part of the memo.

“Therefore,under certain circumstances, it may be advisable and allowable to target second party persons and second party communications systems unilaterally, when it is in the best interests of the US and necessary for US national security…,” it adds.

“There are circumstances when targeting of second party persons and communications systems, with the full knowledge and co-operation of one or more second parties, is allowed when it is in the best interests of both nations.”


SurveyMonkey Debuts New Product Aimed At Businesses

November 19, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Online company SurveyMonkey unveiled its new polling product aimed at business customers, the company said.

The company also is hiring its first sales people to pitch the new SurveyMonkey Enterprise product directly to corporations and other large organizations. The product will also be available internationally.

Until now, consumers have signed up for the free or for-pay versions of SurveyMonkey by visiting the company’s website and creating an account.

“We think it could be long term a very good growth driver for the business,” said Chief Executive Dave Goldberg in an interview with Reuters last week.

SurveyMonkey, which allows people to create quick polls that can be posted on Web sites, is already used for business purposes by the majority of its users, Goldberg said.

But company employees have had to sign up for the service on their own, as consumers, which can create problems in corporate settings. Companies have been unable to consolidate data from surveys created by different employees and could not always retain the data when the employee who signed up for the service moves to a different job.

The new service, which corporate customers can offer to up to 25 employees for $65 a month, will also include new workplace collaboration tools. Among the first customers are insurance company Aetna, Hearst Corporation and the New York Giants.

Palo Alto, California-based SurveyMonkey generated $113 million in revenue in 2012 and was valued at $1.35 billion in a funding round in January.

Earlier this month, the 280-employee company launched a version of its service in Turkey, expanding its international reach.