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Twitter Finally Reports User Growth In More Than A Year

April 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc has announced that it has had its strongest growth in monthly active users in more than a year and a much better-than-expected quarterly profit, despite heavy competition from Facebook and Snapchat.

The microblogging service said average monthly active users increased 6 percent to 328 million in the first quarter from a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected 321.3 million monthly active users, according to market research firm FactSet StreetAccount.

Revenue fell 7.8 percent to $548.3 million, its first drop since its initial public offering.

Net loss narrowed to $61.6 million, or 9 cents per share, in the first quarter ended March 31, from $79.7 million, or 12 cents per share, a year earlier.

Twitter’s user growth has stalled in the past few quarters and the company has been trying to convince advertisers that it will strengthen its user base.

As part of its efforts, the company has updated its product offerings including live video broadcasts from its app and launched new features to attract users.

Twitter’s weak performance has raised questions about CEO Jack Dorsey’s leadership and whether the company would be bought by a bigger media firm. Financial markets speculated about a sale of Twitter last year, but no concrete bids were forthcoming.

Excluding items, the company earned 11 cents per share, beating the estimate of 1 cent per share.

Twitter’s advertising revenue fell 11 percent to $474 million in the quarter, above the average analyst estimate of $442.7 million, according to market research firm FactSet StreetAccount.

New Wikitribune Website Aims To Stop Fake News

April 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Jimmy Wales, the founder of online encyclopedia Wikipedia, has launched a new website focused on stopping the spread of fake news by bringing together professional journalists and a community of volunteers and supporters to produce news articles.

The new platform, called Wikitribune, will be free to access and carry no advertising, instead relying on its readers to fund it, while the accuracy of news reports will be easily verifiable as source material will be published, Wales said.

“The news is broken, but we’ve figured out how to fix it,” he said in a promotional video posted on the website’s homepage.

The online proliferation of fake news, some of it generated for profit and some for political ends, became a major topic of angst and debate in many developed countries during last year’s U.S. presidential election.

Wales argued in his video that because people expected to get news for free on the Internet, news sites were reliant on advertising money, which created strong incentives to generate so-called “clickbait”, catchy headlines to attract viewers.

“This is a problem because ads are cheap, competition for clicks is fierce and low-quality news sources are everywhere,” said Wales.

He also argued that social media networks, where an ever-increasing number of people get their news, were designed to show users what they wanted to see, confirm their biases and keep them clicking at all costs.

Social media giant Facebook was widely criticized last year for not doing enough to prevent fake news reports from spreading on its platform, and has announced new tools to tackle the problem.

Wales said Wikitribune would combine professional, standards-based journalism with what he called “the radical idea from the world of wiki that a community of volunteers can and will reliably protect the integrity of information”.

He said articles would be authored, fact-checked and verified by journalists and volunteers working together, while anyone would be able to flag up issues and submit fixes for review.

“As the facts are updated, the news becomes a living, evolving artifact, which is what the Internet was made for,” he said.

The Wikitribune homepage said the platform would go live in 29 days. It also indicated that the intention was to hire 10 journalists, but none had been hired so far.

Twitter Unveils New ‘Lite’ Version

April 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc is launching a more streamlined and faster version of its mobile service geared towards people with sporadic connections or little data on their smartphone plans, hoping to pick up users in harder-to-reach emerging markets.

The company calls the version Twitter Lite and it will be aimed largely at users outside the United States. Twitter Lite works through a web browser, not a stand-alone phone application, but its appearance and functionality are nearly identical to what app users experience, according to a preview shown to Reuters.

The launch comes on the heels of similar products from other U.S. tech firms. Facebook Inc released Facebook Lite in 2015 and on Tuesday, Alphabet Inc’s YouTube unveiled a low-data mobile app designed for India.

San Francisco-based Twitter lags behind those companies in building a user base. It had 319 million average monthly active users at the end of last year, up 4 percent year-over-year but still a fraction of Facebook’s 1.9 billion users.

A primary reason in some parts of the world is how much data its app and earlier website consumed, Keith Coleman, Twitter’s vice president of product, said in an interview.

“We didn’t feel like we were reaching these other countries well enough, and this will allow us to do it faster, cheaper and with a better experience than we’ve had before,” he said.

The company estimates that, with several changes it is making to its mobile website, mobile.twitter.com, users will see their average data consumption on the browser version go down 40 percent.

With an additional data-saving feature users can turn on, data consumption will drop some 70 percent on average, said Patrick Traughber, a Twitter product manager. The reduction will come from differences such as initially displaying previews of pictures instead of full pictures.

 

Job Applicants Info Compromised In McDonald’s Canada Hacking

April 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

McDonald’s Corp’s Canadian unit announced on Friday personal information of about 95,000 restaurant job applicants has been compromised in a cyber attack on its careers website.

The information included names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and employment backgrounds of candidates who applied online for jobs at McDonald’s Canada restaurants between March 2014 and March 2017.

The careers website was shut down after McDonald’s learned of the attack, and will remain closed until an ongoing investigation is complete, the unit said.

The company said it currently had no evidence that the information taken had been misused.

McDonald’s Canada said its job application forms do not ask for sensitive personal information such as social insurance numbers, banking or health information.

McDonald’s said earlier this month its official Twitter handle was compromised after a tweet sent from the account slammed U.S. President Donald Trump.

Twitter Mulls Subscription Based Model

March 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc is weighing whether to build a premium version of its popular Tweetdeck interface aimed at professionals, the company has announced, raising the possibility that it could charge subscription fees for some users for the first time.

Like most other social media companies, Twitter since its founding 11 years ago has focused on building a huge user base for a free service supported by advertising. Last month it reported it had 319 million users worldwide.

But unlike the much-larger Facebook Inc, Twitter has failed to attract enough in advertising revenue to turn a profit even as its popularity with U.S. President Donald Trump and other celebrities makes the network a constant center of attention.

Subscription fees could come from a version of Tweetdeck, an existing interface that helps users navigate Twitter.

Twitter is conducting a survey “to assess the interest in a new, more enhanced version of Tweetdeck,” spokeswoman Brielle Villablanca has said in a statement.

She went on: “We regularly conduct user research to gather feedback about people’s Twitter experience and to better inform our product investment decisions, and we’re exploring several ways to make Tweetdeck even more valuable for professionals.”

There was no indication that Twitter was considering charging fees from all its users.

Word of the survey had earlier leaked on Twitter, where a journalist affiliated with the New York Times posted screenshots of what a premium version of Tweetdeck could look like.

That version could include “more powerful tools to help marketers, journalists, professionals, and others in our community find out what is happening in the world quicker,” according to one of the screenshots posted on the account @andrewtavani.

The experience could be ad-free, the description said.

Other social media firms, such as Microsoft Corp’s LinkedIn unit, already have tiered memberships, with subscription versions that offer greater access and data.

In the fourth quarter of 2016, Twitter posted the slowest revenue growth since it went public four years earlier, and revenue from advertising fell year-over-year. The company also said that advertising revenue growth would continue to lag user growth during 2017.

EU Gives Social Media Companies A Month To Make User Agreements Compliant

March 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook, Twitter and Google have been given a month to update their user agreements in the European Union or face “enforcement action.”

European consumer authorities put the social media services on notice last November that their terms of service did not comply with EU law, asked them to make changes and to address the problem of scams that misled users of the services.

The authorities and the European Commission met with the companies on Thursday to discuss their proposed changes, and gave them a month to make their final proposals, the European Commission said Friday. If those proposals don’t satisfy the authorities, then they could take enforcement action, the Commission said.

The European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Věra Jourová, said it was unacceptable that European consumers had to take their disputes with the companies to courts in California, and that they were deprived of their rights under EU law to withdraw from online purchases.

She called on the social media companies to take more responsibility for dealing with scams and fraud conducted via their platforms.

For the social media companies to bring their terms of service into compliance with EU law, the regulators say they must allow consumers to raise disputes in the courts of their country of residence, and not force them to waive their mandatory rights. These rights include being able to withdraw from online purchases. The companies should not be able to grant themselves the right to remove content or change contract terms without notice.

The regulators identified a number of fraudulent practices that exploit the social media companies’ networks, including scams taking payment from consumers, sale of counterfeit products, or “subscription traps” in which consumers believe they are registering for a free trial but end up agreeing to make ongoing payments.

They want the social media companies to remove such scams from their websites on demand, and to provide national consumer protection authorities with a single point of contact to highlight such illegal content and arrange for it to be taken down.

Facebook Bans Surveillance Tools Creation From Own Massive Data

March 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc is forbidding software developers from using the massive social network’s data to create surveillance tools, closing off a process that had been exploited by U.S. police departments to track protesters

Facebook, its Instagram unit and rival Twitter Inc came under fire last year from privacy advocates after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a report that police were using location data and other user information to spy on protesters in places such as Ferguson, Missouri.

In response to the ACLU report, the companies shut off the data access of Geofeedia, a Chicago-based data vendor that said it works with organizations to “leverage social media,” but Facebook policy had not explicitly barred such use of data in the future.

“Our goal is to make our policy explicit,” Rob Sherman, Facebook’s deputy chief privacy officer, said in a post on the social network on Monday. He was not immediately available for an interview.

The change would help build “a community where people can feel safe making their voices heard,” Sherman said.

Racially charged protests broke out in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson in the aftermath of the August 2014 shooting of black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer.

In a 2015 email message, a Geofeedia employee touted its “great success” covering the protests, according to the ACLU report based on government records.

Representatives of Geofeedia could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday. The company has worked with more than 500 law enforcement agencies, the ACLU said.

Geofeedia Chief Executive Officer Phil Harris said in October that the company was committed to privacy and would work to build on civil rights protections.

Major social media platforms including Twitter and Alphabet Inc’s YouTube have taken action or implemented policies similar to Facebook’s, said Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director at the ACLU of Northern California.

Ozer praised the companies’ action but said they should have stopped such use of data earlier. “It shouldn’t take a public records request from the ACLU for these companies to know what their developers are doing,” she said.

It was also unclear how the companies would enforce their policies, said Malkia Cyril, executive director of the Center for Media Justice, a nonprofit that opposes government use of social media for surveillance.

Inside corporations, “is the will there, without constant activist pressure, to enforce these rules?” Cyril said.

FCC Says It Will Investigate AT&T Mobile’s 911 Call Issue

March 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

AT&T’s mobile subscribers in some states were not able to place 911 emergency calls late Wednesday, leading to complaints from police departments and emergency agencies in various parts of the country.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai wrote on Twitter that his agency was receiving reports of widespread AT&T 911 call outages and its public safety staff was investigating.

Pai tweeted about an hour later that AT&T had reported to him that 911 service was restored. “The @FCC will investigate the root cause of the outage and its impact,” he added.

AT&T tweeted that an issue that affected some calls to 911 from wireless customers had been resolved.

Mobile users in at least 14 states and Washington, D.C., were unable to call 911 for a few hours on Wednesday night, The New York Times reported.

The FCC has previously fined service providers for outages. In July 2015, the agency reached a $17.5 million settlement with T-Mobile USA, resolving an investigation into two separate but related 911 service outages that occurred on the company’s national network in 2014 and together lasted nearly three hours.

The outage on Wednesday will likely give momentum to plans to upgrade the current 911 system to a next generation system that would allow people to send text, images and video when reporting an emergency.

The National Emergency Number Association said Wednesday that the outage highlights the immediate need to transition 911 centers in the U.S. to the next-generation NG9-1-1 technology that can “intelligently route around outages, redirect calls to other regions, or use backup facilities in ways that legacy E9-1-1 systems cannot.”

U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, and Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, have released draft legislation to quicken the national transition to next generation 911 systems that will take advantage of new broadband and voice technologies.

Spotify Crosses 50 Million Paid Subscribers Milestone

March 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Spotify announced, via Twitter, that it now has 50 million paid subscribers, a rise of 25 percent in less than six months, and extending the music streaming service’s lead over its closest rival, Apple Music.

Launched in 2008, Spotify had 40 million paid subscribers in September and the company tweeted the 50 million figure on Thursday, the same day messaging app company Snap Inc pulled off its massive share sale that bodes well for other technology companies considering a flotation.

Apple, which launched its music service less than two years ago, had about 20 million subscribers in December and its entry looks to have done little to slow the rapid growth of its older Swedish-based rival.

Spotify, which has yet to show a profit as it spends to grow internationally, is now looking at a possible stock market listing in the United States, online news portal TechCrunch said last month.

A company spokeswoman declined to comment on Friday on when it might seek a listing.

But a partner at a leading investor in Spotify, venture capital firm Northzone, said late last year the company could start to become profitable as early as 2017 after years of focusing squarely on “growth, growth, growth”.

Spotify is the most highly valued venture backed start-up in Europe and according to media reports is considering a listing on Nasdaq and potentially a dual listing on the Nasdaq exchange in Stockholm, where the company is headquartered.

It was last valued at $8.53 billion, according to venture capital market research firm CB Insights. That valuation alone would make a flotation Europe’s biggest technology start-up listing since the market launch of German e-commerce investor Rocket Internet in 2014.

While still loss-making, Spotify has posted rapid subscriber growth since it was created a decade ago by Swedish founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon.

Following its announcement  that it had reached 50 million paid subscribers, Ek made a point of retweeting a comment from Wall Street media analyst Rick Greenfield which pointed to how Spotify was adding subscribers at an increasingly rapid rate.

The Stockholm-based company also announced a major expansion in New York last month.

One of Europe’s most highly valued venture-backed start-ups, Spotify will move its New York office to the World Trade Center from the Midtown area of Manhattan, adding more than 1,000 new jobs.

Mass Effect: Andromeda PC Specs Revealed

March 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

EA and Bioware have released official PC system requirements for its upcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda game that has gone gold and will be launching on March 21st.

According to details provided over at EA’s Origin site, those looking to play the new Mass Effect game will need at least an Intel Core i5-3570 or AMD FX-6350 CPU, 8GB of RAM and Nvidia Geforce GTX 660 2GB or AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB graphics card.

The recommended system requirements rise up to an Intel Core i7-4790 or AMD FX-8350 CPU, 16GB of RAM and either an Nvidia GTX 1060 3GB or AMD RX 480 4GB graphics card.

Both minimum and recommended system requirements include at least 55GB of storage space as well as a 64-bit version of Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 OS.

The official release for the game is set for March 21st in the US and March 23rd in Europe and it will be coming to PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Those with EA Access and Origin Access should get the game five days earlier.

Courtesy-Fud

SoundCloud Seeks New Subscribers With New Budget Plan

March 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Music-streaming service SoundCloud rolled out a new budget subscription package on Tuesday, seeking to lure more listeners into paying subscribers and undercutting rivals Apple and Spotify.

The $4.99 per-month offer will give subscribers access to 120 million music tracks without having to listen to ads. Its $9.99 premium subscription, rebranded as SoundCloud Go+, offers 150 million tracks, with new features to be announced this year.

“Users have even more freedom to choose the features and content they want, at the price that fits their budget,” said Alex Ljung, chief executive of Berlin-based SoundCloud.

The new service is immediately available in the United States, Britain, Ireland, France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Germany.

SoundCloud, which was launched in 2008, has about 175 million listeners but has never said how many are paying subscribers. It raised $100 million last June from a group of investors including Twitter, valuing the company at roughly $700 million, according to Re/code.

Apple, which charges $9.99 a month for its music-streaming service, has about 20 million subscribers, and Spotify has over 40 million.

SoundCloud is popular among music artists but has been less successful than its rivals at striking licensing deals on favorable terms. It lost two senior executives this month and is seeking to raise new funding.

Google’s Jigsaw Rolls Out Initiative To Combat Online Abuse

February 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Alphabet Inc’s Google and subsidiary Jigsaw rolled out a new technology to aid news organizations and online platforms  in identifying abusive comments on their websites.

The technology, called Perspective, will review comments and score them based on how similar they are to comments people said were “toxic” or likely to make them leave a conversation.

It has been tested on the New York Times and the companies hope to extend it to other news organizations such as The Guardian and The Economist as well as websites.

“News organizations want to encourage engagement and discussion around their content, but find that sorting through millions of comments to find those that are trolling or abusive takes a lot of money, labor, and time. As a result, many sites have shut down comments altogether,” Jared Cohen, President of Jigsaw, which is part of Alphabet, wrote in a blog post.

“But they tell us that isn’t the solution they want. We think technology can help.”

Perspective examined hundreds of thousands of comments that had been labeled as offensive by human reviewers to learn how to spot potentially abusive language.

CJ Adams, Jigsaw Product Manager, said the company was open to rolling out the technology to all platforms, including larger ones such as Facebook and Twitter  where trolling can be a major headache.

The technology could in the future be expanded to trying to identify personal attacks or off-topic comments too, Cohen said.

Perspective will not decide what to do with comments it finds are potentially abusive; rather publishers will be able to flag them to their moderators or develop tools to help comment understand the impact of what they are writing.

Cohen said a significant portion of abusive comments came from people who were “just having a bad day”.

The initiative against trolls follows efforts by Google and Facebook to combat fake news stories in France, Germany and the United States after they came under fire during the U.S. presidential vote when it became clear they had inadvertently fanned false news reports.

The debate surrounding fake news has led to calls from politicians for social networks to be held more liable for the content posted on their platforms.

The Perspective technology is still in its early stages and “far from perfect”, Cohen said, adding he hoped it could be rolled out for languages other than English too.

Facebook Pursuing Deal To Live Stream MLB Baseball Games

February 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc is currently negotiating with Major League Baseball to live stream one game per week during the upcoming season, which could be a key win as the social media platform works to offer more live sports, according to two people familiar with the situation.

Facebook has pushed to sign deals with owners of sports rights to live stream their games, going after an audience that competitor Twitter Inc is also trying to capture, according to sports media consultants.

For social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, live streaming sports is key to attracting people since sports is one of the few types of content that people still watch live.

“Facebook is aggressively going after sports content and they are now one of a number of competitors to traditional media outlets that are going after sports programming,” said sports media consultant Lee Berke. “It makes perfect sense that they would be going after name brand properties like the MLB.”

The companies were in advanced talks, according to one source. It was unclear which games MLB would live stream on Facebook. A representative for Facebook and MLB declined to comment.

By partnering with Facebook, MLB would get access to a young audience at a massive scale, consultants said.

The size of Facebook’s reach was a big reason Univision Communications Inc decided to use Facebook Live to live stream Mexican soccer matches in English, said Tonia O’Connor, chief commercial officer and president of content distribution at Univision.

Under that deal, Facebook will live stream 46 matches by Mexican soccer league Liga MX in 2017. Terms were not disclosed.

Over the past few months, Facebook has live streamed global basketball and soccer matches and table tennis.

Twitter Rolls Back Anti-harassment Fix After Protests

February 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter rolled back a new fix intended to prevent abuse a few hours after it met with protests, reflecting that the company is still scrambling to find solutions to the problem of harassment on its service, but is willing to make changes quickly in response to its users.

The social network on Monday rolled out a new feature that would ensure that users would not get notified when they are added to a list. “We want you to get notifications that matter. Starting today, you won’t get notified when you are added to a list,” wrote Twitter Safety. One user pointed out that it was critical for people to know if they have been added to a list intended for targets.

“This is blinding the vulnerable,” the user added, suggesting that the correct approach is to allow people to remove themselves from lists or do it upon blocking the owner. Another user asked for a button that prevents users from being added to lists. “I’m on a ton of lists and I don’t want to be on any,” he added.

Ed Ho, vice president of engineering at Twitter, quickly described the move as a “misstep” and said Twitter was reversing the change, while CEO Jack Dorsey said “we’re reverting and debugging what led us here.”

A number of users ridiculed Twitter for even considering the change, with some questioning whether the company understood its own platform and user concerns. Others wanted assurance that the missteps wouldn’t happen again.

Twitter said last month it would be rolling out new features to its service to counter abuse. It did not provide details of the changes but said it would be introducing a number of product changes in the coming days and weeks. Some of the changes would be immediately visible, while others would be more targeted to specific scenarios, the company said. It added that it would be testing, learning and iterating on the changes as it went along.

The company said recently that it is taking steps to identify people who have been permanently suspended and stop them from creating new accounts, with a focus on accounts that are set up only to abuse and harass others. It also said it was working on ‘safe search’ that removes tweets with potentially sensitive content or that come from blocked and muted accounts, besides identifying and collapsing potentially abusive or low-quality Tweet replies.

Twitter Growth Slump Continues, Value Slides

February 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc reported its slowest quarterly revenue growth since debuting as a public the company continues to face intense competition from Snap Inc’s Snapchat and Facebook Inc’s  Instagram.

Twitter said its user base increased 4 percent to 319 million average monthly active users.

Analysts on average had expected 319.6 million monthly active users, according to market research firm FactSet StreetAccount.

Revenue rose just 1 percent to $717.2 million, missing analysts’ average estimate of $740.1 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. The company’s adjusted profit, however, beat sharply lowered estimates.

“While revenue growth continues to lag audience growth, we are applying the same focused approach that drove audience growth to our revenue product portfolio,” Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said in a statement. “This will take time, but we’re moving fast to show results.”

Twitter’s user growth benefited from the social media frenzy that surrounded the U.S. Presidential election as well as the growing follower base of President Donald Trump.

Trump has been using Twitter to air his views, bypassing traditional media outlets.

Twitter was abuzz with takeover chatter last year involving big names such as Salesforce.com Inc and Walt Disney Co. The rumors died down due to the lack of concrete offers.

Twitter has also upgraded its offerings with several new features, including live video broadcasts from its app.

“While none of them will likely materially change Twitter’s user/usage growth, these product innovations are a positive step,” RBC Capital Markets analysts wrote in a pre-earnings note.

San Francisco-based Twitter was also hit by a string of executive departures in 2016, including in its product team, which has had three heads in less than a year.

Twitter’s net loss widened to $167.1 million, or 23 cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from $90.24 million, or 13 cents per share, a year earlier.

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