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YouTube Music Might Prove Lucrative For Google

August 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

A beefed up version of YouTube offering exclusive content might turn out to be lucrative bait for Google to lure some of its users deeper into its digital video and music services.

YouTube appears to be readying a paid premium music service that would cost US$9.99 a month, called YouTube Music Key. Roughly a dozen purported screenshots of the service were recently published online on the blog Android Police, possibly showing how it would work. The images showed exclusive content such as remixes or cover songs, offline access to entire albums or concerts, and personalized playlists.

A YouTube spokesman declined to comment, but rumors of a paid music service from the Google-owned video site have been circulating for some time now. An earlier report in the Financial Times claimed YouTube was blocking or penalizing independent labels that were not signing up for the yet-to-launch paid service. Earlier this month, YouTube head Susan Wojcicki confirmed the company was working on some kind of subscription music service, in aRe/code interview.

So it looks likely that a premium version of YouTube just for music is on the way. The free version of YouTube works well for many right now, but a premium version might let Google monetize some new content and lead users to the company’s other digital media services.

The amount and diversity of content already available free on YouTube is massive, and the advertisements don’t interrupt the listening experience like those on Spotify or Pandora do. Plus, Google already offers Google Play All Access, a paid music service that syncs across devices and lets people listen offline, for $9.99 a month.

“Premium” might be the draw for a paid music service. The special content might include exclusive recordings of professional artists’ cover songs, or unreleased tracks similar to iTunes exclusives.

To do that, Google would probably have to strike new licensing deals with music labels. But if YouTube could convert just a tiny fraction of its billion-plus monthly users into paying customers, that might be a win for Google, argues Mark Mulligan, co-founder of the music and technology research firm Midia Consulting.

YouTube claims viewers watch more than 6 billion hours of video each month on its site — almost an hour for every person on Earth — and that 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute. That catalogue is peerless, Mulligan said, but Google probably wants to do more with it in order to take on streaming services like Spotify, Rdio or Beats Music.

“YouTube has the ability to offer so much more than anyone else, with video the killer component,” he said.

 

Snapchat Looking For Expansion Opportunities

August 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Snapchat Inc, creator of a mobile app that allows users to send messages that disappear within seconds, may be looking to expand its service to videos, news articles and advertisements, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.

The California-based company is currently in talks with advertisers and media companies about a service called Snapchat Discovery, the Journal reported, citing sources.

Snapchat Discovery, rumored to debut in November, will show content and ads to Snapchat users, the Journal quoted the sources as saying.

At least a dozen media companies have shown interest in providing content for Snapchat Discovery, the Journal said.

Snapchat Discovery will allow users to read publications and watch video clips by holding down a finger on the screen, as they do with photos and other messages on the app, the report said.

Snapchat, popular among teenage users, was not immediately available for comment outside regular business hours.

 

 

 

 

Are Evernote Extensions Spamming Chrome?

August 21, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Malwarebytes has warned of a fake Evernote extension for Chrome that spams users with unwanted advertisements by injecting Javascript into every webpage they visit.

The vulnerability means that on the surface, it looks like the popups and advertisements are coming from the websites users are visiting, when they are actually coming from the fake Evernote web extension.

Researchers at the company discovered the vulnerability in a “multi-plug .PUP” file, which installs the fake Evernote browser extension.

A PUP file is one that has the .pup file extension and is most commonly associated with the Puppy Linux operating system. PUP files run when an installer program is opened on the user’s computer and they are similar to the installer.exe files that are used with Windows applications.

“A quick look shows the PUP is digitally signed by ‘Open Source Developer, Sergei Ivanovich Drozdov’, although the certificate has since been revoked by the Issuer. This serves as another reminder that you can’t always trust a program just because it’s digitally signed,” said Malwarebytes malware intelligence analyst Joshua Cannell.

“When you execute the PUP, it silently installs a web extension for the Google Chrome, Torch, and Comodo Dragon browsers. The extension takes the form of three obfuscated JavaScript files and one HTML file. These files [are] installed in Chrome’s extension directory on a Windows 7 PC.”

For Google Chrome, the installation of the web extension is achieved by updating the “Preferences” file, which is a Javascript Object Notation (JSON) formatted file used to configure Chrome user preferences. The extension that’s installed is called “Evernote Web”, just like the real extension from evernote.com, but when taking a look at the Chrome extensions page, Malwarebytes found the extension installed there with the ID “lbfehkoinhhcknnbdgnnmjhiladcgbol”, just like the real Evernote Web extension.

“Clicking ‘Visit website’ directs the user to the Chrome webstore page for the actual Evernote Web extension,” Cannell added. “Chrome believes the real extension is installed, as verified by the Launch App button. When clicking this button with the fake extension installed, nothing happens, whereas normally the user is met with an Evernote login screen.”

Cannell explained that this is because the extension uses a content script to run in the context of the webpages a user browses.

“The content script is guaranteed to be loaded into every web page using the extension manifest (manifest.json). When visiting webpages, you’ll get a series of annoying advertisements, all leading to potentially more unwanted programs and offers,” he added.

To remove the extension, Chrome users need to visit the extensions tab in the browser and click the picture of a garbage can.

Evernote hit the headlines for its security concerns last year when it emerged that its network had been compromised by hackers.

The online note-taking service issued a password reset for all users after the discovery. It said that it “discovered and blocked” suspicious activity on its network, but claimed that no user data was compromised during the intrusion.

“In our security investigation, we have found no evidence that any of the content you store in Evernote was accessed, changed or lost,” Evernote said.

 

Courtesy-TheInq

Is McAfee Right About Google?

August 20, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Security software expert and on-the-run murder suspect, John McAfee has taken time from his busy schedule to warn the world about the perils of Googling.

McAfee has called upon people to resist Google to protect their privacy saying that the search engine appears to believe that if people have nothing to hide they have nothing to fear.

“If everybody knew everything about everybody else, what would human behaviour become? You need to think this through,” he said.

He said that people could not have intrusions into our lives and still have freedom. McAfee added that Freedom was all he had.

“And it’s all you have, if you think about it.”

We thought about it and came to the conclusion that we have a lot of things which are not defined by the fact that Google can see us. But hey, we don’t have Belize wanting us to help them with their inquiries.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft Updates Bing To Make Search Phrasing Easier

August 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft has included some new updates to its Bing search engine that lets you phrase queries in a way that feels more natural.

The company said the new functionality makes using Bing more like “having a conversation.”

It lets you ask questions sequentially that build off each other, so you don’t have to keep repeating the topic you’re asking about.

For instance, if you ask Bing, ”Who wrote Dracula”? “Bram Stoker” pops up at the top of the screen. You can then ask, “Where was he born,” and it gives the answer “Dublin, Ireland.”

Microsoft said it answers the questions by combining “conversational understanding” with its database of knowledge about people, places and things.

It comes as Bing’s largest competitor, Google, is working to make its own search engine better at understanding queries in natural language.

Google also has a conversational search mode that works in a similar way, though currently it only works when doing voice searches in Chrome and in Google’s mobile search app.

Bing’s new feature works well, and you can take the questions far. After asking about Bram Stoker “Where was he born,” you can also ask, “When did he die?” Answer: April 20, 1912. Or, “How did he die?” Syphilis. (But, asking simply “how?” did not work as well.)

In Bing, the feature works on the desktop as well as on mobile devices.

Microsoft has worked to make Bing more useful over the years, partly by integrating a wider range of information from outside sources into results. Data from social sites like Twitter and Facebook plays a part in this, as well as data from services like IMDB and Netflix.

Earlier this year Bing expanded its index of the Web to include more information about professionals like doctors, lawyers and real estate.

With nearly 70 percent market share in the U.S., Google is still by far the dominant player in search, according to comScore. Microsoft’s Bing has just under 20 percent share.

But Bing’s new feature could give it a leg up against Google when it comes to search, at least for now.

 

Fad Game ‘Candy Crush’ Continues To Fade

August 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Social and mobile game company King Digital Entertainment Plc lowered its 2014 forecast after reporting lower-than-expected second-quarter revenue on Tuesday, as gamers continued to abandon its “Candy Crush Saga” game.

King also announced a $150 million special dividend, or 46.9 cents per share, payable to shareholders of record on Sept. 30. Its shares, however, slipped 22 percent in after-hours trading after closing at $18.20 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company, which went public in March, said it has reduced its 2014 forecast and expects gross bookings in the range of $2.25 billion to $2.35 billion from its previous estimate of $2.55 billion to $2.65 billion.

“We have seen a step down in monetization in the latter part of Q2 and so we have adapted the view forward,” Chief Executive Officer Riccardo Zacconi said in an interview.

Investors have worried that unless King delivers a set of consistent and long-lasting hits, apart from “Candy Crush Saga,” it might suffer the same fate as “Farmville” maker Zynga Inc and “Angry Birds” developer Rovio Corp, which are struggling to retain players.

King’s second quarter gross bookings, an indicator of future revenue, was $611 million, up 27 percent from the year-ago period, but less than the last quarter when it reported gross bookings of $641.1 million.

King has yet to see its other titles such as “Farm Heroes Saga” and “Bubble Witch 2 Saga” fully offset user losses of its “Candy Crush Saga” puzzler game that accounted for about 60 percent of second-quarter gross bookings.

“We expect ‘Candy Crush’ will decline, but have a very strong tail and a long tail,” Chief Financial Officer Hope Cochran said in an interview. “We will be launching the ‘Candy Crush’ sister title in Q4, which will give more longevity to that title.”

 

Zynga Sales Continue With A Downward Trend

August 11, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Last week Zynga reported results for the quarter that ended June 30, revealing declining revenues and deepening losses. In the process, the company also lowered its outlook for the full year.

For the second quarter, Zynga posted revenues of $153.2 million, down 34 percent year-over-year. The company also saw a net loss of $62.5 million, compared to the previous second quarter’s loss of $15.8 million. On a non-GAAP basis, Zynga reported bookings down almost 7 percent to $175.1 million, with a non-GAAP net income of $2.8 million, as opposed to the $6.1 million non-GAAP net loss it reported for last year’s second quarter.

“While our quarterly financial results were in line with our guidance range, we aspire to do better and improve execution across our business,” Zynga CEO Don Mattrick said. “Inside Zynga, we recognize that our products have the potential to live for multiple years and with nurturing, refinement and investment, they can grow and scale. We are purposefully competing, and while we would like to be further along, we believe we are making the right decisions to grow our business and unlock long term shareholder value.”

The results convinced Zynga to downgrade its outlook for the full year, as it now projects bookings of $695-$725 million, down from $770-$810 million. Meanwhile, Zynga expects its full-year non-GAAP earnings per share to be flat to down a penny, compared to the previous guidance of up one to three cents.

On the plus side, Zynga’s daily active users, monthly active users, monthly unique payers, and monthly unique users were all up quarter-over-quarter. However, all of those metrics were down significantly year-over-year.

Zynga shares were down nearly 8 percent as of this writing to $2.69 in after-hours trading.

Courtesy-GI.biz

YouTube Acquires Directr Video App

August 8, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google’s YouTube division has purchased the Directr movie-making app for smartphones and will offer it free of charge.

Directr is an app that businesses can use to shoot videos for marketing purposes, then upload them to Facebook and YouTube, for instance, or embed them in newsletters.

The app provides help with things like frame selection and building a storyboard, to provide “point-and-shoot moviemaking” on a smartphone.

The app was priced at between US$25 and $400 a month, depending on the features and amount of usage. Directr says the app will now be free, though it’s unclear how long it will exist in its current form.

“For now, everything you love about Directr is staying the same and we’ll continue to focus on helping businesses create great video quickly and easily,”Directr said on its website.

“One immediate bonus: Directr will soon be all free, all the time. Thanks, YouTube!”

The 2-year-old company is joining YouTube’s video ads team.

The app is offered today for Apple’s iOS. Google didn’t immediately say if it will build a version for Android, though it seems likely, assuming the app is to continue.

 

Google Lowers Search Ranking Of Websites That Lack Encryption

August 8, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Websites that do not encrypt connections with their visitors may get a lower ranking on Google’s search engine, a step the company said it is taking to promote better online security practices.

The move is designed to spur developers to implement TLS (Transport Layer Security), which uses a digital certificate to encrypt traffic, signified by a padlock in most browsers and “https” at the beginning of a URL.

As Google scans Web pages, it takes into account certain attributes, such as whether a Web page has unique content, to determine where it will appear in search rankings. It has added the use of https into those signals, although it will be a “lightweight” one and applies to about 1 percent of search queries now, wrote Zineb Ait Bahaji and Gary Illyes, both Google webmaster trends analysts, in a blog post.

All reputable websites use encryption when a person submits their login credentials, but some websites downgrade the connection to an unencrypted one. That means content is susceptible to a so-called man-in-the-middle attack. Content that is not encrypted could be read.

Rolling out https is fairly straightforward for small websites but can be complex for large organizations that run lots of servers, with challenges such as increased latency, support issues with content delivery networks and scaling issues.

LinkedIn said in June it was still upgrading its entire network to https after Zimperium, a security company, found it was possible in some cases to hijack a person’s account. People using LinkedIn in some regions are flipped to an unencrypted connection after they log in, making it possible for a hacker to collect their authentication credentials.

Facebook’s Instagram was found to have the same problem last month. Instagram’s API (application programming interface) makes unencrypted requests to some parts of its network, which could allow a hacker on the same Wi-Fi network to steal a “session cookie,” a data file that reminds Instagram a person has logged in but which grants access to an account.

 

Is Facebook Preparing For Android Wear?

August 8, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Facebook updated its Android app this week, adding support for smartwatches running Google’s Android Wear software.

Facebook software engineer Ian Lake announced the news – rather bizarrely on Google+ – saying, “I’ve been a big fan of Android Wear since its announcement so one of the things I’ve done quite a bit of at Facebook is ensure that Android Wear is actively considered when adding new features and we take advantage of what features are provided.”

The updated Facebook for Android 9.0 app allows Android smartwatch wearers to embrace their inner David Hasselhoff, having added support for users to voice reply to messages by barking at their wrists. The Android Wear app will also raise notifications on a smartwatche screen, from which a wearer can use to “like” or “reply” with a single tap.

“Really happy to be shipping Android Wear features and even more excited that some of my coworkers are also getting interested about Android Wear,” Lake added.

The updated version of Facebook Messenger is available to download now from Google Play.

Facebook’s addition of Android Wear support comes just days after rival app Whatsapp did exactly the same thing.

Whatsapp’s app tailored for smartwatches allows users to view stacked notifications, reply to messages using voice and respond with a number of preloaded replies, including “yes”, “lol”, or “see you soon”. This is also available to download now, but is available only at the Whatsapp website.

Courtesy-TheInq

Brits Sleeping Less, Spending More Time On Mobile Gadgets

August 8, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

It appears British people are now spending more time using smartphones, browsing the Internet on tablets and watching television than they do sleeping, thanks to the availability of broadband in the home and on the move, regulator Ofcom said on Thursday.

Consuming media and communicating takes 11 hours and 7 minutes out of an average Briton’s day, a jump of more than two hours since 2010, from 8 hours and 48 minutes, it said.

Smartphones, which are now used by 61 percent of people, and tablet computers were behind the rise, Ofcom said, as they allow people to stay connected while on the move.

New technology was also behind work encroaching more and more into people’s personal time, with six in 10 people doing work tasks outside working hours and 10 percent reading and sending work related emails and texts in bed, the survey found.

On the flip side, Britons use email at work for personal reasons and one in five shop online in the office.

Many people made telephone calls and surf the web at the same time as they watch television or listen to the radio, so the total volume of 11 hours 7 minutes is squeezed into 8 hours 41 minutes, or 20 minutes longer than they sleep, Ofcom said.

Watching television remained the most popular individual activity, consuming nearly three hours of the average adult’s day, the 2014 Communications Market Report said.

Ofcom’s research also showed that the most tech-savvy people are teenagers.

People reach a peak of digital understanding at 14-15 years, while children at age six show the same knowledge of new technology as the average 45-year-old, said Ofcom, which surveyed nearly 2,000 adults and 800 children.

 

 

 

Chrome Climbs To Second Place In Browser Wars

August 5, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google’s Chrome browser in July broke the 20% user share bar for the first time, according to recently published statistics by Web measurement vendor Net Applications.

But because the browser war is a zero-sum game, when Chrome won others had to lose. The biggest loser, as has been the case for the last year: Mozilla’s Firefox, which came dangerously close to another milestone, but on the way down.

Firefox accounted for 15.1% of the desktop and laptop personal computer browsers used in July, a low point not seen by the open-source application since October 2007, a year before Chrome debuted and when Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) was only on version 7.

Chrome had flirted with the 20% mark before. More than two years ago, Chrome’s user share — a Net Applications’ measurement of the unique visitors running each browser — had come close: 19.6%. But Chrome then took a prolonged dip that only began reversing last fall.

Chrome’s July user share of 20.4% put the browser solidly in second place, but still far behind IE in Net Applications’ tallies. IE’s share last month was 58%, down slightly from the month before.

Firefox also lost user share in July, dropping half a percentage point to 15.1%. It was the ninth straight month that the desktop browser lost share. In the past three months alone, Firefox has fallen nearly two points.

The timing of the decline has been terrible, as Mozilla’s current contract with Google ends in November. That deal, which assigned Google’s search engine as the default for most Firefox customers, has generated the bulk of Mozilla’s revenue. In 2012, for example, the last year for which financial data was available, Google paid Mozilla an estimated $272 million, or 88% of all Mozilla income.

Going into this year’s contract renewal talks, Mozilla will be bargaining from a much weaker position, down 34% in total user share since July 2011.

Apple’s Safari remained in a distant fourth place behind Firefox, with a user share of 5.2%, down four-tenths of a percentage point in the last month. Meanwhile, Opera Software’s Opera browser brought up the rear with a small 1% user share.

 

Google Updates Hangouts To Be More Enterprise-friendly

August 1, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google wants to help make your work day a bit more social and is taking its Google Hangouts into the business arena.

The company is trying to make it easier for enterprises to use Hangouts for face-to-face, if not in-person, meetings, according to Clay Bavor, vice president of product management for Google Apps.

The Hangouts feature, which was first introduced as part of Google+, comes to the enterprise as part of a slew of new features for Google Apps for Business customers.

Starting today, even non-Google+ users can use Hangouts at work. Any Google Apps customer can start or join a high-definition video meeting that connects up to 15 participants — from a computer or Chromebox for Meetings device. Google noted that the same ability will “soon” be available on smartphones and tablets.

“Hangouts is now covered under the same Terms of Service that support our other Google Apps for Business products, like Gmail and Drive,” wrote Bayor, in a blog post . “That means we’ve got your back with 24×7 phone support and a 99.9% guaranteed uptime, as well as ISO27001, SSAE 16/ISAE 4302 and SOC 2 certification. Additional enterprise integration with Google Apps Vault is coming by the end of the year.”

Taking Hangouts to the business community is another way for Google to get its foot in the door with enterprises. However, it’s also part of the company’s effort to push out Chromebox, Google’s Chrome OS-based corporate meeting device, to a bigger, and more business-minded, audience.

“In the coming months, we’ll be making Chromebox for Meetings work better in rooms of all shapes and sizes,” Bayor wrote. “In larger conference rooms, you can connect two displays to one Chromebox for meetings device to see your audience and project a presentation at the same time. And if you’ve ever wanted a dedicated setup for video meetings for your home, new personal calendar integration means you will be able to easily set up Chromebox for meetings outside the office.”

He added that IT administrators can better manage meetings directly from the Google Apps Admin Console, giving them options like remote starting, muting and ending a meeting.

“Google is moving into the enterprise, or at least trying to,” said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. “I know Hangouts was introduced with Google+, but Hangouts is cleaner, more understandable, and more business-friendly, as a stand-alone chat, video-chat, video-conferencing application.”

Google is scheduled to hold a Hangout on Aug. 19 to go over the new features.

 

 

Facebook To Mandate Messenger App For Mobile Chat

July 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

If you like to send messages via Facebook when you’re on the move, be prepared to download a new app.

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 Admits Experimenting On Customers

July 30, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

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.”