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Twitter Moves Further Into Video With New ‘Watch Mode’ Feature

June 23, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter is looking to compete even more with Facebook. The platform is moving into video in a major way with 140-second clips in both Twitter proper and Vine, a new video section called Watch Mode, and video recommendations for other videos to watch. The network’s most popular users, like President Barack Obama and Justin Bieber, are getting a stand-alone app called Engage, which sounds a lot like Facebook Mentions.

Twitter is making video a huge priority by extending video length from 30 seconds to 140 seconds (staying on-brand, of course). Those longer videos are also coming to Vine, but don’t worry, the popular app for creating hilarious video loops isn’t changing its 6-second limit. Instead, you can post 140-second clips alongside your Vines.

You won’t have to watch these longer videos in-tweet. Now tapping on a video in your timeline will launch a new full-screen viewing mode with recommended clips surfaced just below. The same experience applies to longer videos on Vine.

The new features are rolling out soon on Twitter for iOS and Android.

Twitter Engage launched Tuesday on iOS to help video creators and other important people see metrics on their clips, including likes, retweets, mentions, and views. They can also see demographics for their videos and a feed of what their fans are talking about.

Unlike Facebook Mentions, Engage isn’t solely aimed at celebrities. But the two apps are similar in that they show mentions from so-called “influencers” and filter comments from fans.

Twitter has to try new things, especially since its user growth has stalled at 310 million monthly active users and Wall Street isn’t happy about it. To compare, Instagram just announced it has more than 500 million monthly active users, 300 million of whom check the app on a daily basis.

 

 

 

 

Facebook Gearing Up For Live Streaming

June 23, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc has inked deals worth more than $50 million with media giants and celebrities to create videos for its live-streaming service, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Facebook has signed nearly 140 deals, including with CNN, the New York Times, Vox Media, Tastemade, Mashable and the Huffington Post, the Journal reported on Tuesday, citing a document.

Comedian Kevin Hart, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, wellness guru Deepak Chopra and NFL quarterback Russell Wilson are among the celebrities that Facebook has partnered with.

“We have an early beta program for a relatively small number partners that includes a broad range of content types from regions around the world,” Justin Osofsky, the vice president of global operations and media partnerships at Facebook, said in an email.

“We wanted to invite a broad set of partners so we could get feedback from a variety of different organization about what works and what doesn’t.”

The document shows that Facebook’s deal with online publisher BuzzFeed has the highest value at $3.05 million, the Journal said, followed by the New York Times at $3.03 million and CNN at $2.5 million.

 

Twitter Acquires Machine Learning Company Magic Pony

June 22, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter has been quite vocal regarding its interest in machine learning in recent years, and earlier this week the company put its money where its mouth is once again by purchasing London startup Magic Pony Technology, which has focused on visual processing.

“Magic Pony’s technology — based on research by the team to create algorithms that can understand the features of imagery — will be used to enhance our strength in live [streaming] and video and opens up a whole lot of exciting creative possibilities for Twitter,” Twitter cofounder and CEO Jack Dorsey wrote in a blog post announcing the news.

The startup’s team includes 11 Ph.Ds with expertise across computer vision, machine learning, high-performance computing and computational neuroscience, Dorsey said. They’ll join Twitter’s Cortex group, made up of engineers, data scientists and machine-learning researchers.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition follows several related purchases by the social media giant, including Madbits in 2014 and Whetlab last year.

 

 

 

Twitter Takes Stake in SoundCloud

June 16, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc has decided to invest nearly $70 million in Berlin-based music service SoundCloud, technology website Re/code reported citing people familiar with the deal.

Twitter confirmed the investment, but did not provide any financial details.

“Earlier this year we made an investment in SoundCloud through Twitter Ventures to help support some of our efforts with creators,” Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey said.

Soundcloud, a platform that enables people to upload and share music and other audio files, also confirmed that Twitter had made the investment.

Twitter’s investment was part of a funding round expected to be in the range of $100 million, which would value SoundCloud at about $700 million, the Re/code report said.

The microblogging site has previously attempted to make a foray into music with the launch of Twitter Music in 2013, which was closed a year later. At the time, the company said that it would look for new ways to bring music based content to the service.

 

Facebook Video Comment Feature Looks To Draw Younger Users

June 14, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook is joining the current wave of interest in videos by allowing users to upload videos into their comments and replies.

Bob Baldwin, an engineer at Facebook, announced in a blog post that the company is allowing users post video in their comments on other peoples’ posts.

The new feature is available worldwide immediately.

To try it, click the camera icon next to the comment field.

“This adds to the suite of multimedia features within comments including: links, photos, stickers, emoji, and starting today video,” Baldwin wrote in his post. “This was no small feat to add support across interfaces and within two heavy traffic services, like comments and videos.”

Considering how popular video is in the social media world right now, this was a smart move — one that even could draw in younger users, who have been so important but elusive for Facebook.

“I think this will have huge appeal with the younger audience,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. “I think it could help attract younger users. People love video, so being able to do more with it will have appeal.”

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, also said this could be a move that helps draw younger users to the site or — at least keep current younger users from straying. Younger people are drawn to video services like Periscope and Meerkat, analysts said.

“Young users are more comfortable with video interaction and given the enhanced interaction with this feature, this is attractive to them,” he added. “I think it’s not a feature that many consumers are asking for, but I believe when some try it, it could be a preferred mechanism… Video is that appealing.”

Facebook’s Baldwin noted that the feature was first prototyped at the company’s 50th Hackathon held earlier this year.

 

 

 

Twitter Locks Accounts After Millions Of Passwords Reportedly Exposed

June 13, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter said it had locked down and forced a password reset of some accounts after an unconfirmed claim of a leak of nearly 33 million usernames and passwords to the social network.

The company said the information was not obtained from a hack of its servers, and speculated that the information may have been gathered from other recent breaches, malware on victim machines that are stealing passwords for all sites, or a combination of both.

“In each of the recent password disclosures, we cross-checked the data with our records. As a result, a number of Twitter accounts were identified for extra protection. Accounts with direct password exposure were locked and require a password reset by the account owner,” Twitter’s Trust & Information Security Officer, Michael Coates said in a blog post.

Millions of users have been notified by Twitter that their accounts are at risk of being taken over, reported the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.  The company did not specify to the newspaper how many users were notified and forced to change their passwords but said that the total is in the millions.

Hacked information database LeakedSource revealed on Wednesday that it had acquired a database of 32.8 million records containing Twitter usernames, emails and passwords from a user who goes by the alias Tessa88@exploit.im., but there were questions from some experts as to the authenticity of the data.

The same user provided LeakedSource with names and passwords of alleged users of MySpace.com and VK.com.

“We have very strong evidence that Twitter was not hacked, rather the consumer was,” LeakedSource said. It pointed out that the passwords were in plain text with no encryption or hashing. Twitter said it used a password hashing function called bcrypt. The credentials are “real and valid” as out of 15 users asked, all 15 verified their passwords, LeakedSource said.

 

Salesforce Acquiring Demandware For $2.8B

June 2, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Cloud-based software maker Salesforce.com Inc that it will be acquiring Demandware Inc, whose software is used by businesses to run e-commerce websites, for about $2.8 billion.

The deal will help Salesforce open a new front as it look to take away more market share from traditional software providers such as Oracle Corp and SAP AG, both of which already offer cloud-based e-commerce services.

The e-commerce market has been growing at a blistering pace as retailers expand their online presence, boosting demand for software that helps manage functions such as payment processing and inventory management.

Salesforce’s cash offer of $75.00 per share represents a 56.3 percent premium to Demandware’s Tuesday closing.

Demandware’s shares, which have fallen about 21 percent in the past year. Shares of Salesforce, considered a barometer for the cloud-computing industry, slipped 2 percent.

Demandware, whose customers include Lands’ End Inc, L’Oreal SA and Marks and Spencer Group Plc, has reported sales growth of more than 30 percent for the last 10 quarters.

Global spending on digital commerce platforms is expected to grow over 14 percent annually to about $8.5 billion by 2020, Salesforce said, citing research firm Gartner.

The deal, slated to close in Salesforce’s second quarter ending July, is expected to increase the company’s 2017 revenue by about $100 million-$120 million.

Salesforce had forecast fiscal 2017 revenue of $8.16 billion-$8.2 billion in May.

BofA Merrill Lynch is Salesforce’s financial adviser for the deal, while Goldman Sachs is advising Demandware.

 

Facebook Implement Changes To ‘Trending Topics’ Amid Criticism

May 25, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc said that it had made some tweaks to the procedures for its “Trending Topics” section after a news report alleging it suppressed conservative news prompted a U.S. Congressional demand for more transparency.

The company said an internal probe showed no evidence of political bias in the selection of news stories for Trending Topics, a feature that is separate from the main “news feed” where most Facebook users get their news.

But the world’s largest social network said in a blogpost that it was introducing several changes, including elimination of a top-ten list of approved websites, more training and clearer guidelines to help human editors avoid ideological or political bias, and more robust review procedures.

Earlier this month, a former Facebook contractor had accused the company’s editors of deliberately suppressing conservative news. The allegations were reported by technology news website Gizmodo, which did not identify the ex-contractor.

The report led Republican Sen. John Thune to write a letter demanding that the company explain how it selects news articles for its Trending Topics list.

Two days after Thune’s letter, Facebook published a lengthy blogpost detailing how Trending Topics works even though it rarely discloses such practices. Previously, it had never discussed the inner workings of the feature, which displays topics and news articles in the top right hand corner of the desktop homepage for its more than 1.6 billion users.

Facebook said its investigation showed that conservative and liberal topics were approved as trending topics at nearly identical rates. It said it was unable to substantiate any allegations of politically motivated suppression of particular subjects or sources.

But it did not rule out human error in selecting topics.

“Our investigation could not fully exclude the possibility of isolated improper actions or unintentional bias in the implementation of our guidelines or policies,” Colin Stretch, Facebook’s General Counsel, wrote in a company blogpost.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg met last week with more than a dozen conservative politicians and media personalities to discuss issues of trust in the social network.

 

 

Hacker Offering 167 Million LinkedIn User Records For Sale

May 20, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

A hacker is attempting to sell a database dump containing account records for 167 million LinkedIn users.

The announcement was posted on a dark market website called TheRealDeal by a user who wants 5 bitcoins, or around $2,200, for the data set that supposedly contains user IDs, email addresses and SHA1 password hashes for 167,370,940 users.

According to the sale ad, the dump does not cover LinkedIn’s complete database. Indeed, LinkedIn claims on its website to have more than 433 million registered members.

Troy Hunt, the creator of Have I been pwned?, a website that lets users check if they were affected by known data breaches, said it’s highly likely for the leak to be legitimate. He had access to around 1 million records from the data set.

“I’ve seen a subset of the data and verified that it’s legit,” Hunt said.

LinkedIn suffered a data breach back in 2012, which resulted in 6.5 million user records and password hashes being posted online. It’s highly possible that the 2012 breach was actually larger than previously thought and that the rest of the stolen data is surfacing now.

LinkedIn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Attempts to contact the seller failed, but the administrators of LeakedSource, a data leak indexing website, claim to also have a copy of the data set and they believe that the records originate from the 2012 LinkedIn breach.

When the 6.5 million LinkedIn password hashes were leaked in 2012, hackers managed to crack over 60 percent of them. The same thing is likely true for the new 117 million hashes, so they cannot be considered safe.

Worse still, it’s very likely that many LinkedIn users that were affected by this leak haven’t changed their passwords since 2012. Hunt was able to verify that for at least one HIBP subscriber whose email address and password hash was in the new data set that is now up for sale.

Many people affected by this breach are also likely to have reused their passwords in multiple places on the Web, Hunt said via email.

 

 

 

 

Google Unveils A.I. Challenger To Amazon’s Alexa

May 20, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Alphabet’s Google Inc  introduced us to its answer to Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant along with new messaging and virtual reality products at its annual I/O developer conference on Wednesday, doubling down on artificial intelligence and machine learning as the keys to its future.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai introduced Google Assistant, a virtual personal assistant, along with the tabletop speaker appliance Google Home.

He also unveiled Allo, a new messaging service that will compete with Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger products and feature a chatbot powered by the Google Assistant. Allo, like WhatsApp, will also have end-to-end encryption when it is rolled out this summer.

Amazon’s Echo, a surprise hit that has other tech giants racing to match it, uses a virtual assistant called Alexa, a cloud-based system that controls the Echo speaker and responds to voice-controlled commands by users.

Like Alexa, Google Assistant can search the internet and adjust your schedule. However, Pichai said Google Assistant can use images and other information to provide more intuitive results.

“You can be in front of this structure in Chicago and ask Google who designed this and it will understand in this context that the name of that designer is Anish Kapoor,” said Pichai, pointing toward a photo of Chicago’s Cloud Gate sculpture.

For Google Home, the Google Assistant merges with Chromecast and smart home devices to control televisions, thermostats and other products. Google did not offer a specific release date or pricing for Google Home, saying only that it will be available later this year.

 

 

Photos, Links To No Longer Count In Tweet’s 140 Character Limit

May 18, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc users will soon have more flexibility in posting tweets because the company plans to discontinue including photos and links as part of its 140-character limit, according to a Bloomberg report.

The social media platform has faced stagnant user growth. Months earlier, Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said the company would simplify its product in an effort to attract new users.

“We think there’s a lot of opportunity in our product to fix some broken windows that we know are inhibiting growth,” Dorsey said during a February earnings call.

Links currently take up to 23 characters of a tweet, limiting the amount of commentary that users can offer when sharing articles or other content.

Twitter has faced stagnant user growth, and shares have fallen more than 70 percent over the past year.

Twitter declined to comment on the report.

 

Facebook Probing Claims Of Political Bias

May 16, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc, the social networking powerhouse, has launched a full investigation into allegations of political bias, Chairman and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said.

The company has come under fire after an anonymous former Facebook employee told technology news website Gizmodo that workers often omitted conservative political stories from the company’s “trending” list of topics that it says spiked in popularity.

The accusation sparked an outcry on social media and prompted a U.S. Senate inquiry into Facebook’s practices.

Facebook has “found no evidence that this report is true,” Zuckerberg said in a statement posted late Thursday on his Facebook page, but added that the company would continue to investigate.

“If we find anything against our principles, you have my commitment that we will take additional steps to address it,” Zuckerberg said.

The Facebook chief added that he planned to invite “leading conservatives” to share their points of view.

The allegations against Facebook prompted the company to reveal more about how it selects and displays news to its users.

In a post published on Facebook’s media relations section on Thursday, a senior company official outlined its “Trending Topics” guidelines at length.

“Facebook does not allow or advise our reviewers to discriminate against sources of any political origin, period,” wrote Justin Osofsky, vice president for global operations.

Facebook had over 1 billion daily active users, on average, in March, the company posted to its newsroom.

 

Is Apple Infringing Again?

May 16, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple has found itself in the middle of another accusation that it may not invented some of the technology it made a fortune from.
VoIP-Pal (VPLM) claims that Jobs’ Mob owes it $2.8 billion because of the way its iMessage and FaceTime services work.

“Apple employs VPLM’s innovative technology and products, features, and designs, and has widely distributed infringing products that have undermined VPLM’s marketing efforts,” the complaint reads.

iMessage apparently deals with the classification of a user and the manner in which the call is routed.

VoIP-Pal originally initiated its lawsuit against Apple back in February in a US District Court in Las Vegas, Nevada, but delayed the lawsuit until May, since it wants to reach an “amicable resolution” with Apple. “

Clearly that did not happen. The Tame Apple Press has called the company a Patent Troll because it does not generate income. VoIP-Pal said that Digifonica, which was acquired by the former back in 2013, started design on its system in 2004.

This is not the sort of thing that Apple needs right now. It is sales for the iPhone are dropping down the loo and unlikely to pick up at all this year. Apple has piles of cash it is sitting on, but it would rather not spend it on paying off people for technology it claims to have invented.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Lawsuit Against Facebook’s Storage Of Biometric Data To Proceed

May 9, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc lost the first round in a battle against some of its users who filed suit against the social networking company, alleging it “unlawfully” collected and stored users’ biometric data derived from their faces in photographs.

The judge presiding over the case in a California federal court turned down Facebook’s motion seeking dismissal of the suit.

Facebook filed the motion arguing that the users could not file a complaint under Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) as they had agreed in their user agreement that California law would govern their disputes with the company, and that BIPA does not apply to “tag suggestions.”

The court found that Illinois law applies and that the plaintiffs have stated a claim under BIPA.

The complainants had alleged that Facebook’s face recognition feature that suggests “tags” on photos unlawfully collected and stored biometric data, in violation of the Illinois BIPA.

The case was filed by some Illinois residents under Illinois law, but the parties agreed to transfer the case to the California court, the court order showed.

Facebook was also hit with a lawsuit over its plan to issue new stock last month.

The company said in April it will create a new class of non-voting shares in a move aimed at letting Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg give away his wealth without relinquishing control of the social media juggernaut he founded.

Facebook was not immediately available for comment.

 

 

Russian Hacker Shares Millions Of Stolen Email Credentials

May 6, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Millions of stolen credentials for Gmail, Microsoft and Yahoo email accounts are being shared online by a young Russian hacker known as “the Collector” as part of a supposed larger trove of 1.17 billion records.

That’s according to Hold Security, which says it has looked at more than 272 million unique credentials so far, including 42.5 million it had never seen before. A majority of the accounts reportedly were stolen from users of Mail.ru, Russia’s most popular email service, but credentials for other services apparently were also included.

Hold discovered the breach when its researchers came across the hacker bragging in an online forum. Though the hacker initially asked Hold for 50 rubles for the initial 10GB stash — that’s equivalent to about 75 cents — he eventually turned it over to them in exchange for likes and votes for him on social media.

Some 40 million of the credentials came from Yahoo Mail, 33 million were from Microsoft Hotmail, roughly 24 million were from Gmail, and nearly 57 million were from Mail.ru, according to Reuters. Thousands of others came from employees of large U.S. companies in banking, manufacturing and retail, and hundreds of thousands more reportedly were from accounts at German and Chinese email providers.

In an email message, Google declined to comment on the incident but said users should establish a recovery phone number for their Google accounts.

Yahoo, Microsoft and Mail.ru did not immediately respond to a request for comment.