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.
Cisco has been accused of helping the Chinese authorities snoop on, discriminate against and violently suppress the religious group Falun Gong.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has taken Cisco to task about this, and has filed a request to submit an amicus brief in a US District Court in California.
It asks the court to let the case “Doe vs Cisco Systems” go ahead, telling it that the firm has aided China’s human rights abuses.
“China’s record of human rights abuses against the Falun Gong is notorious, including detention, torture, forced conversions, and even deaths. These violations have been well-documented by the UN, the US State Department, and many others around the world, including documentation of China’s use of sophisticated surveillance technologies to facilitate this repression,” it said.
“The central claim in the case is that Cisco purposefully customized its general purpose router technology to allow the Chinese government to identify, track, and detain Falun Gong members.”
The EFF alleges that Cisco was asked to customize its kit so that the Chinese authorities could pick up Falun Gong ‘signatures’ and enable the logging and monitoring of traffic patterns.
Its lawsuit alleges that Cisco knew about this customization, knew that it would be used to repress the Falun Gong, and still marketed and supported the technologies “towards that purpose”.
“In fact, the case arises in part from the publication several years ago of a presentation in which Cisco confirms that the Golden Shield is helpful to the Chinese government to ‘Combat Falun Gong Evil Religion and Other Hostilities’,” adds the EFF.
“It also alleges that these customization’s were actually used to identify and detain the plaintiffs.”
Cisco has declined our request to comment on the views of the EFF and its lawsuit.
Facebook wants to create an in-house digital currency system that its members can spend and trade on its website.
The Irish Times reports that the Irish central bank has been approached by the social network and is rather close to approving its request.
Those aims include the creation of Facebook currency that Facebook members will be able to use to pay for things within the social network and, presumably, its associated properties.
“Facebook wants to become a utility in the developing world, and remittances are a gateway drug to financial inclusion,” said a person close to Facebook’s plans.
We have asked Facebook and the Irish central bank about the proposals and have yet to receive any responses. The report said that the deal could be announced within as few as three weeks.
Facebook already has the right to make some in-house transactions in the US, and according to the Irish Times it facilitated $2.1bn worth of transactions in 2013.
The report said that the social network has already chatted with three companies in the field, and named them as Transferwise, Moni Technologies and Azimo. Again we have asked the firms to confirm or deny this.
Facebook has danced with digital currency before, but abandoned the idea in 2012. It used Facebook credits for in-app payments, but was accused of forcing developers to use it. Then Facebook was taking a 30 percent cut of transactions.
In 2012 the firm announced micro transactions on mobile phones, saying that they would simplify everything.
“The payment flow is simple,” Jessi Xu, a Facebook software engineer said in a blog post at the time. “Users who want to pay for a virtual or digital good in a mobile web app open the payment dialog and confirm their purchase.”
Facebook released its second government requests report covering the second half of 2013, and it expands its scope from the first one in two ways. First, it includes requests to restrict or remove users’ content from the site, whereas the first report was limited to requests for account information. And second, the report now includes data on Instagram, the photo sharing site owned by Facebook.
Facebook is not breaking out the number of Instagram requests; they’re included in the overall tallies. But Instagram’s inclusion speaks to the popularity of the service, which Facebook acquired in 2012 but didn’t include in its government requests report for the first half of 2013.
The report includes data on government requests to receive data about Instagram accounts and to restrict access to its content.
Facebook receives requests to restrict or remove content based on countries’ laws over what can be shared online. When the request is legally sound, Facebook restricts access to content in the specific country whose government objected to it. If Facebook also determines that the flagged content violates its own standards, it removes the content globally. Separately, Facebook also receives requests for account information and data, many of which relate to criminal cases such as robberies or kidnappings.
Facebook does not hand over data every time it receives a government request — sometimes the requests are overly broad or vague, or do not comply with legal standards, the company says.
In the U.S., Facebook received about 12,600 law enforcement requests in the second half of 2013, up from the range of 11,000-12,000 it tallied in its first report. For the second half of 2013, Facebook said it produced data for about 81 percent of the requests.
Regarding U.S. government requests about national security matters, Facebook reported it may have received none or as many as 999, saying it couldn’t be more specific due to U.S. legal restrictions.
Governments in other countries across the world are also interested in Facebook users’ data. India ranked second behind the U.S. with about 3,600 requests targeting more than 4,700 accounts. Facebook produced data for roughly half of those requests.
More than 1,900 requests came from the U.K., while the governments of France, Germany and Italy each served Facebook with more than 1,600 data requests.
Besides Facebook, other companies like Yahoo, Google and Microsoft periodically release their own government request reports, as part of an effort to be more transparent to users. The tallies have taken on increased significance following leaks about U.S. government surveillance made by former contractor Edward Snowden.
In response to an all-time low in user growth figures during the recent quarter, Twitter Chief Executive Dick Costolo informed worried Wall Street analysts that the company would make a number of changes to freshen up the service.
The redesign, while mostly cosmetic, hinted at what Costolo described in February as a willingness to experiment with new ways to organize content. Users can now “pin” a tweet to stay at the top of their feed, a rare instance of Twitter departing from the continuously rolling format that has defined the service.
Tweets that have received more re-tweets or replies will also appear slightly larger to spur more user engagement.
The new layout, which will be available to a small group of users initially, will be widely deployed to Twitter’s 241 million users in the coming weeks, the company said.
Twitter reported higher-than-expected fourth-quarter revenue on February 6, but investors focused on user growth of just 3.8 percent, the lowest rate of quarter-on-quarter growth since Twitter began disclosing user figures. The San Francisco-based company went public in November.
In recent weeks, Twitter has also reportedly been testing a number of new advertising units, such as ads that include download links for mobile apps.
As part of Tuesday’s refresh, Twitter said users will also be allowed to select a large banner picture to display across the top of their profile page, as well as a much larger profile picture, two features that resemble another social network familiar to most of the world’s Internet users: Facebook.
SkinneePix, for iPhone and Android devices, can trim from five to 15 pounds (2-6 kg) of virtual fat for a slimmer selfie look.
“Cameras add additional weight to photos and when you’re taking a selfie you’re also dealing with bad lighting, angles, close-ups and a lot of other factors that make people complain that the photo isn’t an accurate representation of themselves,” said Susan Green, co-founder of the Phoenix-based company Pretty Smart Women that created the app.
It was originally designed to help overweight adults show a leaner version of themselves, but Robin J Phillips, the other co-founder, said the app has also motivated people to lose weight.
“It’s a good reminder to get off the couch, turn the TV off, and go for a walk,” she said.
But some critics fear the $1.99 app, which only works on single head shots, could encourage an unhealthy body image.
Lauren Dickson, a social worker in the eating disorders and addiction clinic at the Center of Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, said the app is one of many factors that could contribute towards a young adult developing an eating disorder.
“The media obviously has some effect on people developing eating disorders, but it’s not the only variable. It’s one of many factors,” she said in an interview.
“The majority of young girls wouldn’t develop an eating disorder because of an app like this, but some might be more vulnerable and it could contribute,” Dickson added.
Green said the virtual weight loss in the app is capped at 15 pounds and the app focuses only on the face and not the entire body.
“We definitely understand that people can have body image problems and we’re not trying to contribute to that in any way,” she said.
“I think if someone who is very thin uses it and goes straight for 15 (pounds), then that’s probably not the best thing, but they could also do that in Photoshop,” Green added.
Other apps can also add or remove weight, including one called FatBooth.
The paper’s goal is to keep evolving with changing technology, and accepting bitcoin payments is one way it is trying to stay digitally focused, Editor-in-Chief Jim Kirk said in a release.
The Sun-Times has a “digital-first” strategy that led it to experiment with a bitcoin paywall for a one-day period in February.
It had partnered with San Francisco-based micropayments startup Bitwall so readers could donate bitcoin or tweets on Twitter to benefit an organization called the Taproot Foundation, which pairs professionals with nonprofit groups for pro bono work.
“We were encouraged by our paywall experiment in February,” Kirk said in an interview over Twitter. “We believe there is an opportunity here to expand our readership with Bitcoin.”
The Chicago Sun-Times claims 6 million unique monthly online readers. It was the eighth-largest U.S. newspaper by total average circulation in March 2013, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, an advertising and content provider industry group.
For its print and digital subscriptions, the newspaper is working with Coinbase, a bitcoin wallet service also based in San Francisco. In a blog post, Coinbase said that content providers such as the Sun-Times are one of the early leaders in getting merchants to adopt the cryptocurrency.
In January, Bitcoin-related news sites reported that Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad was planning to accept bitcoin as a payment method for individual articles. A Reddit poster, claiming to be a webmaster for the paper, said the new payment method was being implemented step by step.
Although Bitcoin has been overshadowed by allegations of fraud and hacker attacks such as in the collapse of Japan-based bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, content providers and bloggers are turning to the digital currency in part because it’s a cheaper means of moving payments around, with transaction fees which can be lower than 1 percent.
The personal data gathering abilities of Google,Facebook and other technology giants has sparked growing unease among Americans, with a majority worried that Internet companies are encroaching too much upon their lives, a new poll showed.
Google and Facebook generally topped lists of Americans’ concerns about the ability to track physical locations and monitor spending habits and personal communications, according to a poll conducted by Reuters/Ipsos from March 11 to March 26.
The survey highlights a growing ambivalence towards Internet companies whose popular online services, such as social networking, e-commerce and search, have blossomed into some of the world’s largest businesses.
Now, as the boundaries between Web products and real world services begin to blur, many of the top Internet companies are racing to put their stamp on everything from homeappliances to drones and automobiles.
With billions of dollars in cash, high stock prices, and an appetite for more user data, Google, Facebook, Amazon and others are acquiring a diverse set of companies and launching ambitious technology projects.
But their grand ambitions are inciting concern, according to the poll of nearly 5,000 Americans. Of 4,781 respondents, 51 percent replied “yes” when asked if those three companies, plus Apple, Microsoft and Twitter, were pushing too far and expanding into too many areas of people’s lives.
This poll measures accuracy using a credibility interval and is accurate to plus or minus 1.6 percentage points.
“It’s very accurate to say that many people have love-hate relationships with some of their technology providers,” said Nuala O’Connor, the President of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an Internet public policy group which has received funding from companies including Google, Amazon and Microsoft.
“As technology moves forward, as new technologies are in use and in people’s lives, they should question ‘Is this a fair deal between me and the device?’”
Fears about the expanding abilities of tech companies crystallized when Google acknowledged in 2010 that its fleet of StreetView cars, which criss-cross the globe taking panoramic photos for Google’s online mapping service, had inadvertently collected emails and other personal information transmitted over unencrypted home wireless networks.
Yet many Americans remain ignorant of the extent to which Internet companies are trying to extend their reach.
Google is one of the most aggressively ambitious, investing in the connected home through its $3.2 billion acquisition of smart thermostat maker Nest. Google is also investing in self-driving cars, augmented-reality glasses, robots and drones.
Almost a third of Americans say they know nothing about plans by Google and its rivals to get into real-world products such as phones, cars and appliances. Still, roughly two thirds of respondents are already worried about what Internet companies will do with the personal information they collect, or how securely they store the data.
Traffic moving between Yahoo data centers is fully encrypted as of March 31, the company announced on its Tumblr blog. Last October, documents provided by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden said the NSA had penetrated the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google’s data centers.
Though it comes after those revelations, the encrypted data links is in keeping with a previous promise by CEO Marissa Mayer to encrypt all information between its data centers by the end of March.
Yahoo said that it had also turned on encryption for a range of other services. For one, encryption of mail between its servers and other mail providers that support the SMTPLS standard was enabled in the last month, the company said. Yahoo only just turned on encryption by default between users and its email service in January.
Yahoo said its homepage and all search queries that run on it and most other Yahoo properties now also have HTTPS encryption enabled by default.
But if users want an encrypted session for Yahoo News, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Finance or Good Morning America on Yahoo, they must manually type “https” into the site’s URL on their browsers, Yahoo said.
Yahoo has faced pressure to encrypt more of its services for years. In 2012, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other privacy activists called on CEO Marissa Mayer to enable HTTPS encryption for the company’s communications services. Yahoo began offering HTTPS encryption for mail in 2012, but on an opt-in basis.
Since then other companies like Google and Facebook have introduced more forms of encryption.
Last month, another leak of documents said that GCHQ, Britain’s surveillance agency, had captured webcam images from more than 1.8 million users of Yahoo’s Messenger product.
Yahoo said Wednesday that a new, encrypted version of Messenger would be rolled out in the coming months.
It said it was also working to bring more enhanced forms of encryption like Perfect Forward Secrecy, which is already supported for global properties like the homepage, to all of its sites.
Alex Stamos, chief information security officer at Yahoo, said the company had been working over the last several months to provide a more secure experience for its users. “Our broader mission is to not only make Yahoo secure, but improve the security of the overall web ecosystem,” he said.
The Canadian company said it will continue to provide service and support to existing customers on T-Mobile’s network or those who will buy products from the carrier’s inventory.
“Regretfully, at this time, our strategies are not complementary and we must act in the best interest of our BlackBerry customers,” BlackBerry Chief Executive John Chen said in a statement.
BlackBerry said it is “working closely” with other carrier partners to provide users with alternatives should they decide to switch from T-Mobile.
The relationship between the two companies soured after Blackberry’s CEO criticized T-Mobile for sending out emails to some of its customers in February, pitching free iPhone 5s and touting the promotion as a “great offer for BlackBerry customers.
This sparked an uproar on social media forums after some of the telecommunications company’s loyal BlackBerry customers reacted angrily to the offer, which they perceived as a slight.
The backlash prompted T-Mobile U.S. Chief Executive John Legere to respond publicly, assuring Blackberry and its users of his company’s support.
T-Mobile could not immediately be reached for comment outside regular U.S. business hours.
BlackBerry, a one-time pioneer in the smartphone industry, has been struggling to claw back market share lost to Apple Inc’s iPhone, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s Galaxy devices, and other smartphones powered by Google Inc’s Android operating system.
Tumblr has added two-factor authentication to its log-in system and recommended that people use it.
The firm, which is now owned by Yahoo, introduced the feature in a blog post where it compared control of a blog to control of a nuclear weapons system or a blanket.
Two-factor authentication improves your end security through adding in an extra layer. The example here is that users will log in with a password and back this up with a code generated on a mobile phone.
“The smile of a loved one. Your childhood blanket. A handsome bodyguard to take you in his arms. ‘Security’ can mean a lot of things in this crazy life, but nothing says ‘security’ like Tumblr’s two-factor authentication. It’s available as an option in your Settings page as of right now,” said Tumblr.
“You know how you need two keys to launch a nuclear missile? Two-factor authentication works like that. One key is your password, the other key is your cellular phone, and you need both to access your Tumblr Dashboard.”
The firm is joining a number of other companies that have added two factor authentication, and now sits alongside the Microsoft Xbox Console, Yahoo and Twitter.
If the Tumblr proposition sounds confusing, don’t worry because it isn’t. Users can elect to get a one-time code through their phone or through an app.
“Don’t worry about memorising that password, by the way,” said Tumblr in its FAQ on security. “You’ll only need it once, and it’s really stupid-looking anyway.”
Plus, you don’t have to take its advice. Tumblr will prefer that you do though. “Your account is far less likely to get compromised if you’ve enabled Two-Factor Authentication,” it added.
“But if you must, we’ll ask you to enter your account password to make sure it’s really you. You’ll then be able to log in to your account without the extra verification step. If you would like to re-enable it at any point, you’ll have to go through the aforementioned setup process again.”
For instance, WhatsApp executives worked hard to convince users that their personal information would remain secure after the company’s $19 billion sale to Facebook closes.
Now, in the wake of revelations exposed in classified National Security Agency documents leaked to reporters by Edward Snowden, Facebook must show its users that their personal data is safe from the prying eyes of government spies.
Executives of the firm this week moved quickly on that front by gathering reporters at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters to offer reassurances that the SSL data encryption technology used for Web traffic is strong enough to prevent access by outsiders.
Computerworld offers a Tip of the Hat to Wired‘s Cade Metz for an insightful look at the strength of Facebook’s security technology today, and how the social network must keep moving quickly to maintain that protection.
The story, Facebook Fights Back Against the NSA Spy Machine, also describes the “awkward situation” of Internet companies like Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, which must show concern about the dangers of NSA surveillance while at the same time assuring users that their sites are safe.
Both companies announced that two of their high-ranking executives demonstrated a “proof of concept” of WebEx running on a Chromebook, something that hasn’t been possible to date.
Rajen Sheth, director of product management, Chrome for Business, and Rowan Trollope, senior vice president of Cisco’s Collaboration Technology Group, also demonstrated interoperability between Google Apps and WebEx, such as the ability to join a WebEx meeting from a Google Calendar item, the companies said.
The partnership is intriguing in several respects. For starters, Google has a product called Hangouts that competes with WebEx in areas like video conferencing, IM, audio chats and Web meetings.
However, Hangouts isn’t considered yet a truly business-grade tool, and it’s not an official, supported component of Google Apps, which some critics consider is weak in unified communications.
In a press conference that was webcast after their presentation, Sheth and Trollope concurred that it’s inevitable that companies of the size and scope of Cisco and Google have overlapping and competing products, saying that shouldn’t cancel their opportunities to partner in ways they consider mutually beneficial and complementary.
“That’s been par for the course at Cisco for a long time,” Trollope said, alluding to “co-opetition” situations.
Sheth said Google’s focus is on what its users want and need, and overall on how to make “the Web ecosystem” better.
WebEx can’t run on Chromebooks today because WebEx, although it’s hosted on the cloud, requires that users download browser plug-in extensions so that some code can run locally on Windows or Mac OS computers.
Chromebooks run Chrome OS, so Cisco will rework a chunk of the WebEx functionality for HTML 5 so that it can run without the need for plug-ins. Google will also have to build some extensions on the Chromebook side.
The alliance can also be seen as a tag teaming between Cisco and Google to better compete against Microsoft and its Office 365 cloud collaboration and email suite.
Microsoft has been devoting a lot of effort to improving its Lync unified communications server, which runs on premises and also is part of Office 365. Lync is also being integrated with Skype in order to extend its reach into Skype’s vast user base in the consumer market.
Lync competes against Cisco’s WebEx and its overall enterprise video conferencing line of products, especially at the desktop and small meeting room levels.
In a move seen partly as a response to the Lync threat, Cisco last week unveiled an array of new and improved video conferencing products intended to be easy to deploy in small and medium-size conference rooms and less expensive than its high-end telepresence Tandberg line.
Meanwhile, Office 365 competes directly against Google Apps, especially in the areas of cloud-hosted email and collaboration for businesses.
The ads will be 15 seconds long, similar to the length of some television commercials, and will begin appearing in the next few months. The ads will play without sound as users scroll past them, but will expand into a full-screen view with sound if they are clicked on. The ads will run on desktops and mobile devices.
Facebook will work with a select group of U.S. advertisers on the program, which it calls “premium video ads.” The ramp up follows some earlier tests of the ads that began late last year.
Facebook will roll out the ads slowly as it monitors how users interact with them, the company said. The social media company is working with Ace Metrix, a TV advertising analytics company, to assess each ad before it appears on Facebook’s site.
“We’re taking this step in order to maintain high-quality ads on Facebook and help advertisers understand what’s working to maximize their return on investment,” Facebook said in its announcement.
With more than 1.2 billion monthly active users, Facebook hopes to give marketers a way to reach a massive number of people on its site. Facebook will provide targeting capabilities, so that advertisers can target specific groups, for instance, by gender or age.
The ads, Facebook said, are bought and measured in a way that’s similar to how advertisers already buy and measure ads on TV. They will be designed, Facebook said, to reach a specific audience over a short period of time and their impact will be measured by Nielsen.
The rollout comes as revenue from digital advertising trails behind TV advertising. But the gap could shrink over time. In a recent report, Nielsen said integration between online and TV video ad markets is real and accelerating.
Facebook didn’t say how much its video ads would cost advertisers in total, though a report in Bloomberg cited a range of $1 million to $2.5 million a day.
Web hosting company The GoDaddy Group Inc is gearing up for a second attempt at an initial public offering, according to two people familiar with the matter, as the 2014 tech IPO pipeline continues to grow.
GoDaddy, the Internet domain registrar and web host known for its racy ads, would join a number of high-profile tech names expected to go public this year in the wake of Twitter Inc’s successful debut. They include “Candy Crush” developer King Digital and cloud services providers Box and Dropbox.
The company is in the process of selecting underwriters for its IPO, one of the two sources said on condition of anonymity.
GoDaddy was not immediately available for comment.
GoDaddy had filed to go public in 2006 but was told at the time that it would be required to take a 50 percent haircut — a percentage that is subtracted from the par value of assets that are being used as collateral — on its initial public offering.
The company instead decided to pull its filing, citing unfavorable market conditions.
The company, founded in 1997, was eventually acquired by a private equity consortium led by KKR & Co and Silver Lake in 2011 for $2.25 billion. Silver Lake declined to comment while KKR did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Other private equity buyers included Technology Crossover Ventures.
GoDaddy, which provides website domain names, is famous for airing bawdy commercials with scantily clad women for the past decade during the Super Bowl.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on the plans.