Facebook has confirmed that it will be deleting the messaging feature from its mobile app over the next few days, and requiring people to use its standalone Messenger app instead.
The change follows through on a plan announced in April and for now affects Facebook’s mobile app on iOS and Android. You’ll be able to send and receive messages on the desktop as before.
“In the next few days, we’re continuing to notify more people that if they want to send and receive Facebook messages, they’ll need to download the Messenger app,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in an email.
The company’s goal is to make Messenger the best mobile service for messaging, she said, and avoid any confusion that might arise from having two mobile products for the same thing.
The move may also greatly increase the number of people who use Facebook Messenger.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on the company’s earnings call last week that Facebook was looking to turn Messenger into an important business.
Messenger has more than 200 million monthly active users — just under a fifth of Facebook’s total user base. As well as sending text messages, it can handle Internet-based voice calls, group chat, and exchanging photos and short videos.
Facebook started the switch to Messenger a few months ago in a handful of countries, mostly in Europe, and the results have been positive, it said.
Still, it’s unclear how the change will sit with people who’ve grown accustomed to using the main Facebook app for messaging. You’ll still be notified in the Facebook app when you receive a message, but you’ll have to open Messenger to view it and respond.
Facebook says the change will help improve the performance of both the apps over time. It’s already working to improve Messenger; the company recently hired former PayPal president David Marcus as part of a push to build new capabilities for Messenger, possibly including payments.
OkCupid, a top U.S. dating website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said, weeks after Facebook Inc similarly admitted to misleading users in a psychological study.
“When we tell people they are a good match, they act as if they are,” co-founder Christian Rudder wrote in a blog post. “Even when they should be wrong for each other.”
Conversely, couples told they were bad matches, even when OkCupid’s algorithm showed the opposite, were less likely to exchange four messages. Exchanging four messages is an OkCupid measure for gauging romantic interest.
In the post, titled “We Experiment on Human Beings!” Rudder explained the tests helped the company refine its product. He did not respond to an email asking how many users were tested.
“Most ideas are bad,” he wrote. “Even good ideas could be better. Experiments are how you sort all this out.”
An IAC spokeswoman said OkCupid planned to continue with the experiments, which are known in the business as A/B testing.
But experimenting on users without their consent could cost the company credibility, said Irina Raicu, director of the Internet ethics program at Santa Clara University.
“They are messing with emotions and with communications,” she said. “That’s different than other things we are A/B tested about.”
The experiment drew heavy criticism online. In a tweet, University of Pennsylvania computer scientist Matt Blaze suggested a few new clauses for online user licensing agreements:“We reserve the right to induce despair” and “You agree that there will be no love, except the love of Big Brother.”
Sony Corp said that it has plans to invest 35 billion yen ($345 million) to increase production of image sensors for smartphones and tablets, as the company courts handset makers to get more orders for front-facing camera sensors, used to take selfies.
The Japanese firm said it will increase production of stacked CMOS sensors at two factories on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, while completing work on a factory in northwestern Japan it bought from Renesas Electronics Corp for a total investment of 35 billion yen.
Sony, which currently supplies image sensors for the main camera in Apple Inc’s iPhone said the investment will allow it to raise production by 13 percent to 68,000 wafers a month by August 2015, a step closer to its mid-term goal of 75,000.
Imaging sensors are an area of strength for Sony, which leads the market ahead of Omnivision Technologies Inc, whose sensors are mostly used in front-facing smartphone modules that typically have lower specifications than the main rear camera.
Sony told Reuters in March that it was looking to supply more sensors for front-facing cameras as smartphone makers were looking to improve their quality in response to consumers taking more ‘selfies’, or self-portraits, as well as video calls.
Of the total investment, 9 billion yen will be spent this year, which will come out of the 65 billion yen capex budget for semiconductors announced in May. The remaining 26 billion yen will be spent in the first half of the fiscal year starting next March.
U.S. civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson is urging Twitter to release its employee diversity information, which its Silicon Valley peers such as Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn and Facebook have already done.
The Rainbow Push Coalition, founded by Jackson, has also asked Twitter to signal its commitment to inclusion by hosting a public community forum to address the company’s plan to recruit and retain more African American talent.
The coalition and black empowerment group, ColorOfChange.org, plans to launch a Twitter-based campaign to challenge the company, the coalition said in a statement late last week.
On Friday at the Netroots Nation conference in Detroit, ColorofChange will lead a “Black Twitter” plenary session where activists will push out the petition campaign over Twitter and other social media.
Tech companies have been under pressure to release employee diversity data since Jackson took up the campaign to highlight the underrepresentation of African-Americans in Silicon Valley companies, starting with a delegation to Hewlett-Packard’s annual meeting of shareholders.
“….Twitter has remained silent, resisting and refusing to publicly disclose its EEO-1 workforce diversity/inclusion data,” according to the joint petition by the coalition and ColorOfChange.org.
The diversity reports are typically filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and companies are not required to make the information public.
Twitter has not commented on the matter.
There were 632 million Internet users in China in June, according to the government-linked China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).
Although China has long reigned as the country with the world’s largest Internet population, the services are still struggling to take off in the rural areas, where about 450 million people never go online, said the CNNIC in its bi-annual report.
Total Internet penetration in China is at 46.9 percent. This is far lower than the U.S, which has a penetration rate of 87 percent, according to Internet World Stats.
Many of these non-Internet users in China have low education levels, and have little need to surf the Web, the research group added. To increase adoption, the CNNIC recommended that the country focus on teaching rural elementary students Internet skills.
The slowing growth in Internet usage in China follows a rapid rise in the Internet population there, from just 94 million over a decade ago. Most of the growth has taken place in the country’s urban areas, where the Internet market has begun to mature.
In June, China had 527 million users who went online with mobile phones, which have now overtaken PCs, including both notebooks and desktops, as the most popular way to reach the Internet, the CNNIC said.
Online messaging, search engines, and news are the country’s top Internet services. But social networking sites are facing a decline in popularity, with their user numbers falling by 7.4 percent to 257 million in the last six months. The sites are struggling to innovate, and meet the demands of users, CNNIC said in its report.
Google Inc is the more properly positioned than any company to benefit from the shift to mobile, increased local advertising and wearables, analysts said after the search giant posted its 18th straight quarter of 20 percent-plus revenue growth.
At least eight brokerages raised their price targets on the stock on Friday by as much as $75, to a high of $745.
The company, which is also set to benefit from the so-called “internet of things”, said that second-quarter revenue rose 22 percent to $15.96 billion, beating the average analyst estimate of $15.61 billion.
Growth was driven by the company’s core search business, YouTube and product-listing ads, which combined to drive three times as much mobile traffic for merchants compared with last year, Jefferies analysts wrote in a note.
Brokerage Jefferies maintained its “buy” rating and $700 price target on the stock.
Of the 46 analysts covering Google, 36 have a “buy” or a higher rating on the stock and 10 have a “hold”. There are no “sell” ratings, according to StarMine data.
Google earns most of its revenue from advertising.
The number of “paid clicks” by consumers on ads serviced by Google increased 25 percent year-on-year in the quarter.
However, the average price of the ads declined 6 percent as ad rates on mobile phones are typically cheaper than traditional online ads because of their smaller screens.
“Google is successfully transitioning its business from PC to mobile, and is arguably in a more favorable position in mobile than it was in PC, which should eventually be reflected in a higher multiple,” Deutsche Bank analyst Ross Sandler wrote in a client note.
Google also owns Android, the world’s most-used mobile software, and YouTube, the most popular video-streaming service.
Other online companies such as Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc are also revamping their advertising businesses to take advantage of the shift to mobile devices.
But Google has established unusually deep competitive “moats” around its business through scale, aggressive product innovation and substantial investment, RBC Capital Markets analysts wrote in a research note.
Google’s capital investment budget has topped $17 billion over the past five years, and the company has spent about $13 billion on research, according to analysts.
The company is also spending big to push into new markets with innovations such as wearable computers, ultra high-speed internet access and home automation – the “internet of things.”
Since its introduction, Google’s social network has required that people use their real names in Google+ profiles, as part of an effort to help other people find them through the service.
“You need to provide both your first and last name for your Google+ profile,” the guidelines said. One could be an initial, but not both.
While that may have been a good idea for some, Google conceded Tuesday that it has also excluded people who don’t want to use their real name.
Google’s policy of trying to tie YouTube users’ accounts to their Google+ accounts has also sparked criticism among people who want to leave YouTube comments, or otherwise use the service, more anonymously.
For those reasons and others, Google said Tuesday that on Google+ there were no longer restrictions on the names people could use.
“We know you’ve been calling for this change for a while,” the company said in a blog post. The names policy has led to “unnecessarily difficult experiences” for some users, Google said, adding, “for this we apologize.”
In online comments on the Google+ page, people applauded the change. Others said it was too little, too late, or questioned whether it would lead to more spamming or cyberbullying behind the cloak of a fake name.
“Translation: It’s safe to come out and play again comment trolls,” one person wrote.
To clean up YouTube comments, Google overhauled the commenting system last year, to push “better quality” comments higher up. But shortly after making the changes, Google reported an increase in spam.
According to a report in the Sunday Times, the country’s Federal Cartel Office would be given powers to curtail Google’s influence, were it decided that it had got too big for its boots.
A document obtained by the newspaper says that under the new rules, technology companies would be treated and regulated like utilities such as electricity and water and subject to the same anti-competitive pricing laws governing their advertising.
Proposals to legislate the internet as a utility are at the heart of the debate that’s under way in the US right now, where the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is coming under increasing pressure to classify ISPs as “Title II” utilities in order to protect net neutrality.
In Europe, a commitment to net neutrality is already in place, and any German legislation would only serve to further solidify the country’s commitment to avoiding technology strangleholds.
Full details of the 30-page document are yet to be released, with varying reports of its potential impact, ranging from “last resort” to “all out regulation”.
The German government has always been militant in matters of data protection. In 2013, it warned consumers against using Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system due to perceived security risks, suggesting that it provided a back door for the US National Security Agency (NSA).
Of course, this might have had something to do with the fact that German chancellor Angela Merkel was one of the first high-profile victims of NSA surveillance, with some reports saying that the NSA hacked her mobile phone for over a decade.
A Facebook spokesman acknowledged that the experiment on nearly 700,000 unwitting users in 2012 had upset users and said the company would change the way it handled research in future.
The study, to find if Facebook could alter the emotional state of users and prompt them to post either more positive or negative content, has caused a furor on social media, including Facebook itself.
“We’re aware of this issue and will be speaking to Facebook, as well as liaising with the Irish data protection authority, to learn more about the circumstances,” the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) spokesman Greg Jones said in an email.
Jones said it was too early to tell exactly what part of the law Facebook may have infringed. The company’s European headquarters is in Ireland.
The Commissioner’s Office monitors how personal data is used and has the power to force organizations to change their policies and can levy fines of up to 500,000 pounds ($839,500).
Facebook said it would work with regulators and was changing the way it handled such cases.
“It’s clear that people were upset by this study and we take responsibility for it,” Facebook spokesman Matt Steinfeld said in an email.
“The study was done with appropriate protections for people’s information and we are happy to answer any questions regulators may have.”
After a test period, Twitter said that it was globally deploying its “mobile app installs” program, which allows companies to promote their mobile apps in users’ feeds.
Twitter began testing the program with a limited number of advertisers in the U.S. in April — tests that the company says went well. Participants in that program included mobile ride-hailing service Lyft and games publisher Electronic Arts.
The program lets companies publish links to download mobile apps. These ads are meant to appear like regular posts in users’ feeds.
Mobile app ads have become very successful for Facebook, helping to drive the download of roughly 60 percent of the top-grossing apps in Apple’s App Store, according to Facebook.
Twitter, for its part, is looking to better monetize its service amid sagging user growth. The company has yet to turn a profit.
Twitter already lets advertisers target their ads by users’ interests, keywords, favorite TV programs, language and other criteria.
Advertisers promoting their mobile apps will be able to leverage those capabilities too, Twitter said.
Cisco’s investigation into the malware identified a group of attacks by the same threat actor, with Cisco exposing the threat actor’s network after it had discovered a Microsoft Word document that downloaded and executed a secondary sample, which began beaconing to a command and control server.
“While basic, the Office Macro attack vector is obviously still working quite effectively,” Cisco technical lead Craig Williams said in a blog post. “When the victim opens the Word document, an On-Open macro fires, which results in downloading an executable and launching it on the victim’s machine.”
Williams said that this threat actor seemed to target high-profile, rich industries such as banking, oil, television and jewellery companies and victims of the attacks were duped into opening an email attachment in the form of an invoice, written specifically for the recipient.
“The message [was] a fairly simple phish email which includes a fake name and an attached Microsoft Word document. However, this was simply the outer layer of the onion so it’s best, we think, to start from the beginning,” Williams said.
“This particular phishing attempt was noticed in Cisco’s email corpus due to the email attachment’s poor block rates at most antivirus engines.”
“For the duration of this campaign there is one thing that remained consistent: at best, a few antivirus engines may have generically detected the attached malware but more often than not coverage was provided by a single vendor, or no coverage was provided at all.”
“We have decided to pause our operations temporarily as we consult with the court and map out our next steps. All of our users will be refunded their last paid month,” wrote CEO Chet Kanojia in a letter to customers posted on Aereo’s home page.
Kanojia, who advised customers with questions to contact the company via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via its @AereoSupport Twitter account, also encouraged them to stay involved with the company’s legal fight on the website ProtectMyAntenna.org. “Our journey is far from done,” he wrote.
Aereo rebroadcasts over-the-air television through antenna farms, but the Supreme Court ruled that the web-based video streaming service violates the copyrights of TV networks and sent the case back to the lower courts.
Aereo infringes on the performance right section of copyright law because it sells subscribers a service that lets them watch TV programs over the Internet at “about the same time” they’re broadcast over the air, wrote Justice Stephen Breyer for the 6-3 majority.
Aereo, which was sued for copyright infringement by ABC, CBS and other broadcast TV networks, argued that it rents each subscriber an antenna and a DVR service, and that they individually choose which programs to watch. Unlike cable and satellite TV services, which pay royalties to some networks, Aereo does not give thousands of people access to the same TV show at the same time, Aereo had argued.
The Supreme Court reversed an April 2013 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which had determined that the Aereo service was legal because the company uses several legal technologies, including mini TV antennas, DVRs and a Slingbox-like streaming service.
In his letter, Kanojia called the Supreme Court’s decision “a massive setback for consumers.”
“The spectrum that the broadcasters use to transmit over the air programming belongs to the American public and we believe you should have a right to access that live programming whether your antenna sits on the roof of your home, on top of your television or in the cloud,” he wrote.
Google is working on bridging the gap Chromebook laptops and Android mobile devices, making app and data exchange seamless, said Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Android, Chrome and Apps, during a speech at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco.
Users will be able to run Android applications such as Vine, Evernote and Flipboard on mobile devices or Chromebooks, Pichai said. In an on-stage demonstration, the applications were transferred from a smartphone to Chromebook.
“We’ve been working on this project for a while,” Pichai said. “We want this to be intuitive for users.”
Other demonstrations highlighted how the Chromebook was linked to Android smartphones. A Chromebook showed notifications about an incoming call and text message on a smartphone, and also showed an alert that the smartphone battery was low. This is similar to how smartwatches display notifications and music playlists from Android smartphones.
Chromebooks are primarily aimed at users who do most of their computing on the Web. A handful of smartphone-like features such as Google Now have been added to the Chromebook, whose users are also able to download movies from Google Play to watch offline.
Chromebooks have larger screens than Android mobile devices and one challenge is to port touchscreen mobile applications to Chromebooks for use with mice and keyboards, Pichai said.
Developers may have to modify code to work on different screen sizes and input mechanisms. Google hopes to make it easier for developers to change code so the applications can be adapted for Android and Chrome interfaces, Pichai said.
The feature updates will be delivered to Chromebooks later this year, Pichai said.
The Android and Chrome OSes are based on Linux, but are built as different operating systems. Google will continue to make adjustments to the OSes so mobile devices and PCs can connect and work seamlessly, Pichai said.
“We are investing a lot more in this area,” Pichai said.
YouTube is making a foray into radio with a weekly show on satellite radio service Sirius XM that will feature the online video website’s most popular and emerging artists, the companies said on Thursday.
The show called The YouTube 15 will be hosted by Jenna Marbles, one of YouTube’s most popular stars whose videos on how to talk to your dog and other snippets from her life drew more than 13 million subscribers to her channel.
YouTube’s radio show will debut July 11 on the SiriusXM Hits 1 channel, which plays pop, R&B, rock and hip-hop.
It is the first time YouTube, owned by Google Inc, has partnered with another platform on a show about music.
The show is aimed at exposing listeners to a curated selection from the vast library of YouTube music videos, said Scott Greenstein, president and chief content officer for SiriusXM.
The selection of songs will reflect “what’s trending and very popular” to familiarize listeners with top hits on YouTube, he said. “Equally importantly, you are going to hear new and emerging music that many people for sure will not have heard.”
The Citizen Lab, part of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, and Kaspersky Lab both published analyses of a surveillance product called Remote Control System (RCS) from Hacking Team in Italy.
Hacking Team is one of a handful of companies, including the Gamma Group, specializing in what are essentially malicious software programs designed to intercept data but intended for governments and law enforcement.
The Citizen Lab has long expressed concern in other published research over the use of the tools by governments, which it has concluded have been employed to suppress speech and monitor political opponents in the past.
Over time, the cost of the spying toolkits has fallen and they are now within reach of nearly all governments, the Citizen Lab said in its writeup.
“By dramatically lowering the entry cost on invasive and hard-to-trace monitoring, the equipment lowers the cost of targeting political threats for those with access to Hacking Team and Gamma Group toolkits,” the group wrote.
The latest research looks into the exploitation techniques for an Android component of RCS and the command-and-control infrastructure behind it.
The Citizen Lab identified a suspicious Android APK (application installation package) that was a functional copy of the news application “Qatif Today” intended for people in Saudi Arabia. A version of it had been modified to also deliver a payload created by Hacking Team.
A link to what appeared to the malicious APK was tweeted, which led to a Dropbox file that is now gone, The Citizen Lab wrote. If installed, the Hacking Team module requests permissions such as reading and writing SMSes, monitoring GPS location and the ability to process calls.
The Citizen Lab found other Android Hacking Team Android implants that tried to access local stores of chats in applications such as Facebook, Viber, Skype, Line and QQ.
A source leaked to The Citizen Lab a group of documents that describes how the RCS works, giving the research group broad insight into how tracking targets works. The group cautioned the documents have not been verified, but the information did not contradict its own RCS research.
Kaspersky Lab wrote on its blog that it uncovered “a huge infrastructure that is used to control the RCS malware implants.”
Kaspersky scanned the entire IPV4 Internet address space, using a special “fingerprinting” method it developed that can identify RCS command-and-control servers.
It found 64 RCS command-and-control servers in the U.S., the most of any country, followed by 49 in Kazakhstan, 35 in Ecuador and 24 in the U.K. Other countries with double-digit numbers of control servers included Canada, China and Colombia.