Subscribe to:

Subscribe to :: ::

Facebook Sees Monthly Users Swell To Over 1.5B

November 6, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Uncategorized

Facebook sailed past another milestone, reporting Wednesday that its base of monthly active users surpassed 1.5 billion for the first time.

Facebook crossed the 1 billion monthly user mark in September 2012, so it’s taken about three years to add the last half billion. It took just over two years to amass the half billion before that. For comparison, Twitter has about 320 million monthly users.

Facebook announced the figure with its earnings results for the third quarter, which came in better than expected. Revenue was $4.5 billion, up 41 percent from a year earlier, the company said, while net profit was $896 million, up 11 percent.

Excluding charges, Facebook’s profit was 57 cents a share, better than the 52 cents a share analysts were expecting, according to a poll by Thompson Reuters.

Facebook had 1.55 billion monthly active users at the end of September, up 14 percent from the same time last year. Mobile monthly active users were 1.39 billion, it said.

The social network announced another milestone in August, when it said the number of people who accessed Facebook in a single day passed 1 billion for the first time.

“When we talk about our financials, we use average numbers, but this is different. This was the first time we reached this milestone, and it’s just the beginning of connecting the whole world,” Zuckerberg said at the time.

The company’s net profit had declined in the two previous quarters, largely because costs increased as it invested in new areas like virtual reality. But costs rose less sharply this past quarter — by 68 percent, compared to 82 percent in the second quarter — and net profit was up again.





T-Mobile Tackles Signal Problems With Free Mini Cellular Tower

November 5, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

T-Mobile has announced an indoor 4G LTE CellSpot that will aid small businesses and residents in connecting up to 16 simultaneous calls or data sessions.

The device is free to T-Mobile Simple Choice postpaid customers as long as they remain with the carrier, and a $25 deposit is required. The device will be available Wednesday through T-Mobile customer care or participating stores nationwide.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere called the CellSpot the first mini tower available from a U.S. carrier, and revved up the rhetoric that other carriers aren’t letting customers freely decide where to put small cell devices for better cellular coverage.

“They’ll do absolutely everything they can to bleed you dry,” Legere said of his competitors in a statement, with similar comments in a video posted Monday on his Twitter feed.

The mini tower requires a power connection as well as a wired broadband Internet connection. The broadband acts as a backhaul to T-Mobile’s network, much the same way that a wired or fiber-optic connection at the base of a cell tower connects to the carrier’s network.

The tower is designed to boost indoor wireless coverage in an area of 3,000 square feet on average for customers with limited indoor signals. It will work with any 3G or 4G LTE device that works on T-Mobile’s network.

The device also works anywhere that T-Mobile has wireless spectrum, even if there is no existing T-Mobile signal to a particular address, according to T-Mobile. The carrier has spectrum holdings in metro areas across the nation.

Over the wireless signal, CellSpot supports HD voice, voice over LTE, video calling and messaging, among other services.

The CellSpot announcement prompted a flurry of rumors about what T-Mobile might announce at its 10th Un-carrier announcement on Nov. 10 in Los Angeles.

Some analysts have speculated that T-Mobile will announce a free or nearly free wireless video streaming service, possibly by using the CellSpot.




Steve Ballmer Believes In Twitter

October 19, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Ex Microsoft Corp  Chief Executive Steve Ballmer has purchased a 4 percent stake in Twitter Inc, according to his spokesman, making him the third-biggest individual shareholder in the social media company.

Ballmer’s stake is worth more than $800 million based on Twitter’s $21 billion market value. Only co-founder Evan Williams and Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal have greater stakes among individual investors.

Friday Ballmer tweeted from a non-verified account that he built up his stake over the past several months.

His tweet lauded Twitter’s new ‘Moments’ feature, which curates the best tweets of the day, and Dorsey’s appointment as permanent CEO last week.

“Good job @twitter, @twittermoments innovation, @jack Ceo, leaner, more focused,” the tweet said. “Glad I bought 4% past few months.”

Twitter declined to comment. Ballmer himself did not return requests for comment.

Ballmer, who bought the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team after retiring as Microsoft CEO in February 2014, has a personal fortune of about $21.5 billion, making him the 35th richest person in the world, according to Forbes magazine.

Ballmer now owns more of Twitter than co-founder and CEO Dorsey, who has a 3.2 percent stake, according to Thomson Reuters data. Williams is the largest individual shareholder with about 7.5 percent, followed by Alwaleed with about 5.2 percent.

Like @alwaleedbinT move too,” Ballmer’s tweet said. Alwaleed and his investment firm, Kingdom Holding Co 4280.SE, said earlier this month they had raised their stake in Twitter to more than 5 percent.

Ballmer’s investment is a sign that Twitter’s efforts to revive growth under Dorsey is being appreciated, Monness, Crespi, Hardt, & Co Inc analyst James Cakmak said.

“I think it’s just another point of evidence that the step that they are taking to redirect the business toward growth is resonating,” Cakmak said.

Twitter has made several new announcements since Dorsey, who also served as CEO in 2008, returned on a permanent basis last week. On Tuesday, Twitter said it will lay off about 8 percent of its workforce and on Wednesday, it hired Google Inc executive Omid Kordestani as executive chairman.

FBN Securities analyst Shebly Seyrafi said Ballmer’s stake could be indicative of widespread confidence in Dorsey and his strategy.





Facebook Rolled Out Updates For Mobile Profiles

October 2, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc introduced updates to mobile profile pages to enable users to better personalize their profiles and more easily control their privacy settings.

Facebook has been looking to improve and ease its mobile profile experience as it makes more of its $10 billion-plus in annual ad revenue off of phones. The updates also come during New York City’s 12th Advertising Week, where Facebook is courting the world’s largest advertisers and companies.

Among the new features are profile videos, or a short looping video clip that users can create in place of a static profile picture. The feature is similar to Vine, a video sharing app owned by Twitter Inc.

Users can also set a temporary profile picture that reverts to their old picture at a specified time. Those who want to support a sports team or charitable cause for a specific week, for example, can choose a picture to display for a short time period.

Facebook also introduced more ways to control privacy settings so that users can curate what pieces of information are public and which are only viewable to “friends,” or people that they have allowed to view profiles.



Instagram Dethrones Twitter As Second Biggest Social Network

September 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Instagram celebrated a milestone this week, logging more than 400 million monthly users, solidly blowing past rival Twitter.

Instagram, a five-year-old site for posting and photos and video online, has solidly surpassed rival Twitter to claim the No. 2 spot in the social networking world – behind parent company Facebook.

“Given that Facebook owns Instagram, that certainly makes them the king of the social networking mountain,” said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. “Instagram is aimed squarely at mobile devices, and that makes it very easy for users to shoot and post very quickly. It also has the patina of ‘cool’ with hip users — mainly arising from young users adopting it as their own.”

Instagram is gaining momentum. In December of last year, the company said it reached the 300 million monthly user mark. Less than a year later, the site has added another 100 million active users.

Despite the surge in monthly users, Instagram is still far behind Facebook, the world’s largest social network with more than 1 billion worldwide users.

However, the numbers put Instagram beyond Twitter, which in June reported316 million active monthly users. Instagram is also well ahead of Google+, which reportedly has about 300 million active monthly users.

“While milestones like this are important, what really excites us is the way that visual communication makes the world feel a little bit smaller to every one of us,” Instagram wrote in a blog post. “Our community has evolved to be even more global, with more than 75% living outside of the U.S. To all the new Instagrammers: welcome!”

Among the last 100 million to join, more than half live in Europe and Asia, the company noted. The countries that added the most Instagram users include Brazil, Japan and Indonesia.



Does AVG Respect Your Privacy?

September 22, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AVG has been answering questions about its new privacy policy after accusations that the firm is about to sell its users down the river.

A Reddit discussion has heard from furious users who spotted that the simplified policy effectively gives the company permission to sell its mailing lists to third parties for fun and profit.

AVG stated under ‘Do You Share My Data?’ in the Q&A about the new policy, which is automatically enforced on 15 October: “Yes, though when and how we share it depends on whether it is personal data or non-personal data. AVG may share non-personal data with third parties and may publicly display aggregate or anonymous information.”

AVG has hit back at the criticism in a blog post today, by which we mean confirmed that its stance is correct, explaining: “Usage data allows [AVG] to customize the experience for customers and share data with third parties that allow them to improve or develop new products.

“Knowing that 10 million users like a certain TV program gives broadcasters the data to get producers to make more of that type of program.

“This is also how taxi firms know how to distribute their fleets, and how advertisers know where to place banners and billboards, for example. Even at AVG, we have published non-personal information that we have collected regarding app performance.”

But AVG added in big, bold type: “We do not, and will not, sell personally identifiable data to anyone, including advertisers.”

This will placate some, but others fear that the lack of choice over this matter, which requires an active decision to opt out, is too clandestine. As ever, there are threats to move to everything from Linux Mint to the Commodore 64, some more serious than others.

Several Redditors have likened it to similar warnings in Windows 10′s Insider Programme which essentially say: ‘we can track you … but we won’t, unless we do.’


Twitter Trying A New Approach To Spur Growth

September 17, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc’s plans to allow users to purchase goods and make political donations through tweets offer a path to reach new customers and build profit at a time the company has struggled to increase its audience.

Twitter announced it has partnered with mobile payment company Square Inc to accept online donations for U.S. political campaigns. Earlier, it tied up with payment processor Stripe Inc to let shoppers buy products directly with a tweet.

Both moves, aimed at increasing customer engagement, come as the social messaging service struggles to expand its audience base and as it looks for a new chief executive. Acting CEO Jack Dorsey is also the chief of Square.

“Being a conduit for a financial transaction is a very sweet position for a platform, but there are a lot of fundamental challenges that the company has to overcome,” said Brian Blau, research director at Gartner.

Despite a recent run of new products, Twitter in July said monthly user growth was the slowest since the company went public in 2013. It has just over 300 million users who sign in at least once a month.

Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto said he did not expect to see sustained growth until the company reaches out to the mass market and payment industry consultants. Analysts said Twitter’s entry into e-payments is a strategy to do that, which could deliver high-margin growth. It may also help Twitter increase engagement with existing users.

Twitter does not take a cut of tweeted political donations, but candidates can pay to promote the tweet, a company spokesman said. He declined to say what Twitter gets from retailers and manufacturers for purchases made via its platform, but analysts said terms were likely to be better than for other products.

“By facilitating transactions, Twitter is opening itself up to revenue streams that are potentially more lucrative than traditional advertising models,” said Kevin Grieve, partner and head of the North American cards and payments practice at Strategy&, part of PricewaterhouseCoopers.



Twitter, Stripe Team Up To Expand ‘Buy’ Button

September 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Payments processing company Stripe Inc unveiled a new tool on that will connect retailers and brands to sell on platforms like Twitter Inc and tap an increasing number of consumers shopping on mobile apps.

Twitter’s adoption of Stripe’s new product, Relay, is expected to help the microblogging site further dabble in e-commerce and generate revenue through its “buy buttons,” which lets shoppers buy a product and enter payment and shipping information without leaving Twitter’s platform.

Twitter has been struggling to increase its audience and in July said its number of monthly average users grew at its slowest pace since it went public in 2013.

“Almost two-thirds of our users say they bought something specifically because of what they saw on Twitter. … As mobile and social (media) continue to grow, consumers are going to discover and transact right in the apps where they spend their time every day,” Nathan Hubbard, Twitter’s head of commerce, said at a launch event in San Francisco, where both companies are based.

Stripe, which makes software that helps businesses accept various types of payments on websites and in apps, counts grocery-delivery startup Instacart, ride-sharing app Lyft and e-commerce platform Shopify among its clients.

The payments company’s new Relay product functions as a universal sell button for retailers, allowing companies like eyewear brand Warby Parker to list products in a single place and sell them directly on Twitter as well as other e-commerce platforms like ShopStyle.



Can Self-Driving Cars Be Hit With DoS Attacks?

September 11, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

A security researcher was investigating the safety measures implemented by the suppliers of autonomous driving tech. What he found ain’t pretty. There is hope, however.

We’ve given this topic a bit of breathing room before we decided to weigh in with the Fudzilla two cents as well. It’s funny how the Internet jumps from topic to topic, mostly focusing on the scandalous aspects of the story, that generate the all-important flood of clicks, before moving on to the next big thing. Well, it’s not a bad idea to pause, take a deep breath and look at the issue from several angles.

The story is definitely an interesting one: The technology that’s behind the amazing development of the autonomous driving vehicles isn’t safe. It isn’t hardened to withstand attacks from malicious people. The key word in our mind, though, is “yet”.

As Mr. Jonathan Petit, the Principal Scientist at Security Innovation discovered, it’s actually incredibly easy and very cheap to confuse an autonomous vehicle to the point of it just stopping in its tracks. All you need is an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi board, a simple laser, all of it together costing barely more than $50, and you can bring a self driving car to a screeching halt.

As it turns out, the LIDAR systems (those humps you see on self driving cars’ roofs) aren’t very reliable. They will take almost any laser echo and interpret it as objects in their surroundings. So all you have to do to confuse one is to record actual echo from vehicles, pedestrians, or any other type of obstacle, and play it back at the autonomous car.

A few journalists are almost spelling doom for the entire industry based on this. But we say, hold your horses girls and boys. This is a nascent technology. It works amazingly well in a huge range of scenarios. Fortification of the technology will surely come, and sooner than most expect.

While LIDARs are a key component of the self driving equation, they are by no means the only one. First of all, the developers of the systems can and surely will introduce cross-referencing of various sensor systems into the software. If a LIDAR says there’s a car in front of you, but radar and the 3D cameras say there is none, the software can just ignore the input from the LIDAR. And LIDAR itself can be made more resilient by addition of signal encription, frequency changes and a host of other techniques.

The conclusion is underwhelming in some respects and very promising in others. One, there is no big scandal here, so move along. Two, there is no big scandal here, so we can expect to be driven in safety and comfort in only a few years. I for one can’t wait.


Uber Hires Security Experts For Vehicle Technology

September 1, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Uber Technologies Inc  has added two top vehicle security researchers, the company announced, high-profile additions that come as the ride-hailing service ramps up its work on technology for self-driving cars.

Charlie Miller, who had been working at Twitter Inc, and Chris Valasek, who worked at security firm IOActive, have resigned from their jobs and will join Uber this week.

Miller and Valasek won wide attention this month after demonstrating that they could hack into a moving Jeep.

Uber said that Miller and Valasek will join the company’s Advanced Technologies Center, a research laboratory Uber opened in Pittsburgh in February and staffed with dozens of autonomous vehicle experts hired away from Carnegie Mellon University.

An Uber spokeswoman said Miller and Valasek will work with the company’s top security officers “to continue building out a world-class safety and security program at Uber.”

Raffi Krikorian, who heads Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center, tweeted a welcome to the duo last week.

Miller tweeted that he was looking forward to starting his new job on Tuesday. Valasek tweeted that his last day at IOActive will be Monday.

As Uber plunges more deeply into developing or adapting self-driving cars, Miller and Valasek could help the company make that technology more secure.

Uber envisions autonomous cars that could someday replace its hundreds of thousands of contract drivers. The San Francisco company has gone to top-tier universities and research centers to build up this capability.



Google Including Tweets In Desktop Search

August 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

An earlier agreement between Google and Twitter that has placed tweets in Google search results on mobile devices since earlier this year has now been expanded to the desktop.

Relevant tweets will appear in desktop results for queries performed in English. The search doesn’t need to include the term “twitter” or twitter hashtags — if there are tweets that Google thinks are relevant, it will surface them anyway.

Last Friday, for instance, a search for “President Obama” returned recent tweets from Obama’s Twitter account near the top of the page, below a few news articles.

The tweets that appear will include photos and links that may have been contained in the tweet.

Google has provided links to tweets in its search results for a long time, but showing the actual tweets could potentially give a boost to Twitter at a time when it’s struggling to add new users.

Google noted the expansion on Friday in an update to its earlier announcement around the mobile rollout.

The company has said it will make the feature available in other languages besides English.



Instagram, Pinterest User Growth Soars

August 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Possibly market saturation or because of waning interest, some of the world’s largest social networks are experiencing sluggish growth.

Facebook, for instance, is the largest social network in the world, with more than 1 billion active monthly users. But it didn’t garner significant growth among U.S. Internet users in the past three years, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.

Some 72% of online U.S. adults use Facebook today. That is up only 5 points from 67% in 2012, Pew noted.

By comparison, Pinterest more than doubled its user base, going from 15% of online U.S. adults in 2012 to 31% today. Similarly, Instagram also showed strong momentum, growing from 13% three years ago to 28% now.

Other major players, including Twitter and LinkedIn, also saw growth but not at such a strong pace.

Pew reported that 23% of online adults use Twitter, a 7-point increase from the 16% who used it in 2012. As for LinkedIn, a quarter of online adults use the site, up from 20% in 2012, the survey noted.

“Interesting but not surprising,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. “I have six kids under 23 and none of them use Facebook regularly. I think Facebook is almost considered an older person’s social tool now… Much of the growth in the younger population is on Instagram, Vine, etc.”

The Pew study also shows that while younger users are using Instagram and Pinterest, they clearly haven’t abandoned Facebook.

According to Pew, 82% of online U.S. adults between the ages of 18 to 29 use Facebook, along with 79% of those between 30 and 49, 64% of those ages 50 to 64 and 48% of those 65 and older.




Google Pushes Modular Smartphone Project To 2016

August 19, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google is pushing back the start of testing for its modular smartphone, known as Project Ara, to 2016.

The company plans to test the device in the U.S., according to several messages posted on Twitter by the Project Ara team. Neither the exact location nor precise timing of the tests was given.

“We are looking at a few locations in the U.S.,” one tweet said.

The Project Ara smartphone is designed to let users easily swap out its components.

The idea is that users purchase the hardware modules, like processors and sensors, themselves and snap them together to create a customized smartphone. In so doing, users could improve their device on their own terms, rather than buying a new phone outright.

Google had planned to commence initial testing in Puerto Rico this year, though those plans were scrapped as part of a ”recalculation,” announced last week.

The hastag #Yeswearelate was affixed to one of the tweets on Monday.

Google did not immediately respond to comment further.



Microsoft Tests News Reading App

August 18, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft is quietly working on an app thats geared toward people who want help keeping up with today’s barrage of news.

The app, called NewsCast, hasn’t been formally announced, but it was first spotted by Neowin’s Brad Sams. It takes in articles from around the Web and starts reading summaries of them to users in an ongoing playlist. Users can save articles for reading later and view the full text of any article NewsCast pulls in using a built-in browser or a distraction-free reading view.

It’s all designed to keep users up to date on the latest news while they’re commuting and don’t want to be staring at tiny text on their phone.

According to a publicly accessible webpage for the app, NewsCast is a proof-of-concept product from the Bing News and Speech teams and seems to be testing only inside Microsoft. The teams are “trying to validate several hypothesis”[sic] with the app, though it’s not clear what they’re testing. Collecting feedback from users is a major focus of NewsCast’s current build — tapping a feedback button in the app opens an email that includes a three-question survey about what users like, dislike and want from it in the future.

Microsoft isn’t the only tech company going after mobile news summaries. Facebook is reportedly testing its own Twitter-like news app, and Yahoo has received accolades for its News Digest app, which gives users bite-sized summaries about current events.



Government Requests For Twitter Data Is Surging

August 13, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter has experienced an increase in government demands for account information in the first half of this year, with the U.S. followed by Japan topping the list for such requests.

The increase is the largest ever seen between reporting periods by Twitter, wrote Jeremy Kessel, Twitter’s senior manager for global legal policy, in a blog post Tuesday.

The Transparency Report from the company indicated that government requests for account information in the first half rose by 52% and affected 78% more account holders than in the second half of last year.

The scope of the report has been expanded to include information on notices of alleged trademark violations and a section where users can check how different email providers handle the privacy and encryption of email messages from Twitter.

The total number of government requests for account information worldwide was 4,363 in the first half and referred to 12,711 accounts across Twitter, Vine and Periscope. Twitter received 2,436 requests from the U.S. that specified 6,324 accounts, which came largely in the form of subpoenas, which are usually orders to testify or provide information. In the second half of last year, the U.S. had made 1,622 information requests affecting 3,299 accounts.

Content removal requests were also on the upswing at 26% higher in the first half of this year in comparison to the second half of last year, and came primarily from Turkey and Russia. The number of accounts impacted also went up by 11%.

The increase in content removal requests reflect growing sensitivity in some countries over the use of social media for propaganda and communications by terror groups and political extremists.