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Apple’s New Video App Clips Challenges Facebook, Snapchat

March 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

With the release of a new video app called Clips, Apple Inc continues its move towards fully engaging in the messaging world, where its huge base of iPhone users could help it compete with Snap Inc’s Snapchat and Facebook Inc’s Messenger.

Clips, which will hit Apple’s App Store in April, lets customers take videos and add animated captions and titles, complete with colorful emoji symbols. The app also makes it possible to stitch together multiple video clips and add speech bubbles and filters.

The functions closely resemble those that drive Snap’s wildly popular Stories feature. With Stories, Snap users string together photos and videos, embellish them and then post them to their feeds.

Apple’s new Clips lets users post their video to Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo and more. But if users post them to Apple’s own Messages app, Apple will recommend whom to share it with based on which friends are in the videos and whom the user frequently contacts – the kind of predictive social features Facebook excels at.

Apple has a huge number of users for Messages, the flagship app for short notes that is built into the iPhone’s iOS 10 software. Apple does not say how many people use the app, but it does say that there more than 1 billion iOS devices on the market and that 79 percent of them run iOS 10.

Apple also says that Messages is the most commonly used app on iOS devices, giving the company potentially up to 800 million users for its latest messaging platform. Snap, by contrast, has 161 million daily active users. While Apple’s Clips competitor will technically be a separate app from Messages, it will be tied closely to it for the ability share Clips videos with other Apple users.

Facebook has more than 1 billion users for both Messenger, which was split off from the main Facebook service in 2014, and for WhatsApp, which it acquired for $19 billion the same year.

Apple has been steadily matching the features of Facebook’s Messenger. But Apple is also walking a fine line with other messaging players, cooperating with them often as it competes with them. For example, it has opened up the iPhone’s dialer app, long closed off to developers, so that iPhone users could place and receive Skype and WhatsApp calls through the device’s native interface.

Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft Corp have been scrambling to get into the game, too. Google has more than a half dozen messaging apps, including Allo, its latest. Microsoft has tried to integrate chat into its Skype app, and Microsoft-owned LinkedIn is a popular tool for business notes.

But tech giants obsess over messaging because it is where users are headed, according to analyst firm Gartner. Between 2015 and 2016, the percentage of U.S. and UK smartphone owners who used social media apps dropped from 85 percent to 83 percent while messaging apps jumped from 68 percent to 71 percent, a trend Gartner expects will continue.

Advertising Coalition Agree To Online Ads Standards

March 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A broad coalition of advertising trade groups, ad buyers and sellers from Western Europe and the United States are pushing the industry to stop using annoying online marketing formats that have given rise to use of ad-blockers.

The types of ads the coalition has identified as falling below standard include pop-up advertisements, auto-play video ads with sound, flashing animated ads and full-screen ads that mask underlying content from readers or viewers.

The explosion of ad-blocking tools has launched a prolonged debate within the advertising industry over whether to rein in abusive ad practices or simply freeze out consumers who use ad blocker and still expect access to premium content.

The Coalition for Better Ads said on Wednesday it was publishing the voluntary standards after a study in which more than 25,000 web surfers and mobile phone users rated ads.

They identified six types of desktop web ads and 12 types of mobile ads as falling beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability and called on advertisers to avoid them.

Matti Littunen, research analyst at Enders Analysis focusing on digital media, said the ad formats identified by the coalition “have already been discouraged for years by these bodies and yet are still commonplace.”

The coalition is made up of major advertising associations from Britain, France, Germany and the United States, online ad platforms Google and Facebook, advertisers such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever and news publishers including News Corp, Washington Post and Thomson Reuters, the corporate parent of Reuters News.

“This is an opportunity, with the breadth of our participation, to actually not only capture what the consumer doesn’t want but also to really educate and take action to make that a reality in the online experience,” said Chuck Curran, a lawyer for the coalition, on a call with reporters.

“It’s that measurement of the point where the consumer is not just dissatisfied with the ad experience but actually more likely to use ad blockers and this is what we capture with the better ads standards.”

Ad-blocking, which has surged steadily since 2013, covered 615 million computer or mobile devices in 2016, up 30 percent from a year ago, according to estimates from Dublin-based PageFair, a firm that helps advertisers find ways to overcome blockers. That’s 11 percent of the world’s online populatio

Q1 2017 Tablet Shipment Continue To Drop

March 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

It is no hidden secret that worldwide tablet shipments have progressively begun a decline over the past three years, since the industry began experiencing year-over-year slumps to the present number of 39.6 million units in Q4 2016.

Once again, for the second time in a year, the overall tablet market is expected to drop to under 40 million units in the first quarter of 2017, with an expected shipment rate of 39.03 million units. While shipment forecasts are subject to variability depending on the research groups assembling the numbers, Statista expects a total of 136 million units to ship this year, down from their estimated 150 million in 2016. Other sources like Digitimes say the total number of shipments was closer to 183 million units last year, though it has tempered its forecast this year by stating that quarterly and yearly declines will both be less severe compared to those seen in the first quarter of 2016.

According to reports from IDC, tablet sales are projected to continue declining all through the year, bringing their analysis on par with Statista’s projection. Most experts admit the reason is due to a growing demand for 2-in-1 Windows convertible PCs that offer the same ultra-thin profiles of slate tablets with more performance and a more robust productivity experience. However, other argue that 2-in-1 devices offer no substantive tradeoffs over tablets with keyboard cases as vendors like Apple, Samsung and Google now offer high-performing ARM-based chips with RAM and storage capacities to match most midrange PC notebooks.

Native stylus tablets will take on 2-in-1 convertible Windows PCs

Industry watchers expect that in 2017, more native tablet manufacturers will steadily join the convertible 2-in-1 PC business, while standouts like Apple will continue to market the iPad Pro as a decent hybrid convertible alternative to the Microsoft Surface series. The situation once again appears to be one where Apple takes dominance in the native tablet market, utilizing its unique marketing ploy to sell as many magnetically-latching Pencils and keyboard cases as it possibly can to attract market share away from Microsoft and similar Windows-based products with styluses from HP, Samsung, Lenovo, Dell, ASUS and others.

Depending on how fast Apple can ramp up tablet shipments this quarter, the success of its 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models is expected to encourage native tablet manufacturers to make a stronger stand in the “hybrid tablet” market – or tablets that include detachable keyboard cases. Current competition in this space includes the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, Note Pro 12.2 and TabPro S, Huawei MateBook, Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000, and Google Pixel C.

Apple, Samsung and Microsoft all introducing new products in Q1-

The first quarter of a new year is traditionally a low season for consumer hardware sales, but this year the market can expect to see new product announcements from both US and Korea-based vendors including Apple, Microsoft and Samsung. The first product introduced last month was the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 during Mobile World Congress, while Apple is expected to hold an announcement of its new trio of iPads sometime during mid-April to coincide with the launch of its new spaceship-like HQ building in Cupertino. Lastly, Microsoft is expected to announce its fifth-generation Surface tablet sometime before the end of spring, which is any time before June 20th.

Courtesy-Fud

Samsung Reveals More Details About Personal Digital Assistant ‘Bixby’

March 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Samsung has revealed that Bixby, an intelligent voice assistant, will run on the Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphone scheduled to be announced March 29 in New York.

Bixby will be activated using a special physical button on the side of the phone, differentiating it from some other assistants that rely on a trigger word, like “Alexa” or “Siri.” Samsung also said Bixby will eventually work on millions of Samsung-made devices, potentially including TVs and washing machines.

The S8 will come with a subset of preinstalled apps that are Bixby-enabled, according to Injong Rhee, executive vice president of software and services for Samsung Electronics. Over time, this set of apps will expand; Samsung will release a software toolkit to allow third-party developers to Bixby enable their apps and services.

“Bixby will be our first step on a journey to completely open up new ways of interacting with your phone,” Rhee said.

Gartner analyst Werner Goertz said Bixby is a late-comer to the digital assistant game, arriving two years after Amazon’s Alexa and behind Google Assistant, which already have rich databases of voice inquiries and searches to add context to queries.

Alexa is well known for working with Echo room units. However, just last week, Amazon announced that Alexa works in its Amazon app on iOS devices.

Bixby is going to be playing catch up,” Goertz said. “Samsung faces a complete greenfield with its knowledge base.”

Even Alexa is in its “very early stages” in terms of how well a user can get an answer to a complicated question. “Everybody has a good time trying to trick these digital assistants, but if you bring in Bixby it’s going to be even easier to trip up Bixby.”

The functions of converting speech to text with digital assistants “works relatively well unless you trip it up with accents and background noise,” he said. The more critical issue is the knowledge base needed to find accurate information.

Still, Samsung argued that Bixby will offer a “deeper experience.” The company said that the feature in a Bixby-enabled app will support almost every task the app is capable of performing, including touch commands. By comparison, most agents currently only support a few selected tasks, which can confuse users about what works by voice command in an app.

Samsung also said Bixby will know the current context and state of an app to allow users to carry out work in progress. Users will be able to weave touch with voice interactions, depending on what they like.

And Bixby will also be smart enough to understand commands with incomplete information to the best of its knowledge, then ask for more information. “This makes the interface much more natural and easier to use,” Rhee added.

Even though Samsung is getting a late start with Bixby, Goertz said it stands to gain traction quickly, partly because Samsung is so large.

 

 

New FCC Chairman Pledges Faster Response On New Technologies

March 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

U.S. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has pledged his agency will implement quicker response times regarding new technology proposals, a move that might influence the direction of 5G development around the world.

Pai was appointed by President Donald Trump in January. In his first major policy address on Wednesday, Pai directed Federal Communications Commission staff to follow a little-known section of U.S. communications law that says the agency should decide within a year whether a new technology or service is in the public interest.

“Going forward, if a petition or application is filed with the FCC proposing a new technology or service, we’ll supply an answer within a year,” Pai said in his speech at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

With carriers and equipment vendors racing to test and deploy new 5G mobile technologies over the next few years, regulators are under pressure to act quickly. Europe, China, the U.S., Japan and South Korea each want to lead the next generation of mobile, and the regulators in these leading countries often follow each others’ leads, said analyst Roger Entner of Recon Analytics. A commitment to quick decisions can only help the U.S. in that race, he said.

The FCC has already opened nearly 11GHz of spectrum in high-frequency millimeter-wave bands for use in 5G mobile services, and has signed off on a number of 5G trials, Pai said. He thinks faster FCC decision-making could help to make even higher frequencies above 95GHz available for new uses. He favors opening up those bands to experimentation by letting companies try out new ideas.

Spectrum above 95GHz may be useful for high-speed backhaul connections in places where it’s expensive to lay fiber, or as an emergency backup in case fiber gets cut by natural disasters like earthquakes, said Michael Marcus, an independent spectrum technology and policy consultant and former FCC official. Some companies that want to use it have waited years for the FCC to review their applications, he said. Marcus hopes that Pai’s pledge is the start of a major shift at the agency. But the impact remains to be seen.

“It’s too early to say it’s a sea change,” analyst Entner said. “Like everything in Washington, there are intentions and then there is the reality of what actually happens.”

In the speech, Pai also called for efforts to bring broadband to underserved communities, through both federal programs like the Universal Service Fund and streamlined regulation of private carriers. He tied that goal, one he’s frequently promoted since joining the agency he now leads in 2012, to Trump’s call for investment in national infrastructure like roads and bridges.

“If Congress moves forward with a major infrastructure package, broadband should be included,” Pai said.

Chrome Making Updates To Make Tabs More Power Efficient

March 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google’s latest upgrade to the Chrome browser spearheads what will be a series of changes over the next few years to reduce the browser’s power consumption by limiting activity in background tabs.

“Starting in version 57, Chrome will throttle individual background tabs by limiting the timer fire rate for background tabs using excessive power,” Alexander Timin, a software engineer on the Chrome team, said in a Tuesday post to a company blog.

Chrome 57 debuted on Thursday, March 9. Some users, however, may not have yet received the upgrade.

Throttling background tabs isn’t new: All browsers do it to some extent, primarily by instructing them to check for a refresh to the pertinent page or app just once each second rather than more-or-less continuously.

With Chrome 57, Google got even more aggressive. According to Timin, the browser will further delay those timers to limit the average processor load to just 1% of a single-core CPU. Tabs that play audio — such as one aimed at spotify.com — and those that must maintain real-time connections, including those for video conferencing, will not be affected.

Timin claimed that the new throttling generated “25% fewer busy background tabs,” although he did not express that in a battery-savings format that, if not more precise, would be clearer to users.

Google has also outlined a longer-term program whose goal is to “suspend background tabs completely.” By the end of June, for example, the Mountain View, Calif. company wants to suspend all tasks in mobile Chrome’s background tabs; at some point next year, desktop Chrome should by default fully pause a background tab after N minutes, but still give web developers the option to keep their apps active when they’re not the front-most tab.

Although browsers once fought it out on speed, as performance equalized makers looked for other ways to trumpet their wares. Power usage, because of notebooks and smartphones as primary surfing tools, became a more important metric. Increasingly, browser developers have expended resources on reducing power consumption, applying tricks ranging from putting background tabs into cryosleep to barring Adobe’s Flash Player from running without explicit approval.

Microsoft, for instance, has been insistent that Edge, the native browser in Windows 10, is more power efficient than Chrome or Mozilla’s Firefox. After one such boast last year, Google shot back with counter claim.

 

Microsoft Gives Cortana For iOS A Facelift

March 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft gave its Cortana app for iOS a makeover, replacing its old black and blue aesthetic with a new look that puts the assistant’s key features at users’ fingertips.

The app now features Quick Actions, so that users can tap a couple of buttons and get Cortana to create an alarm, set a reminder, or tell them a joke. That means users can get at key features without having to talk or type queries, and it also gives them a framework for what they can do with the app, without them having to discover it on their own.

The virtual assistant market is a crowded one, between Cortana, Siri, Alexa and the Google Assistant all competing for users’ time and interest. Microsoft’s assistant is built deeply into PCs with Windows 10, but the company also needs to keep its apps for other mobile platforms up to date in order to meet users where they are.

In addition, the app’s phone call and messaging functionality got a facelift, so users who want to text using Cortana can do so, in a move that makes it even more competitive with Apple’s Siri.

Cortana’s messaging and calling capabilities got a redesign as well. When users ask Cortana to make a call, the app will fire up the iPhone’s dialer. Sending a message pulls up a view of the built-in messaging app.

The redesign is similar to one that the company gave Cortana’s Android app in December of last year.

Sega Acquires Crytek Black Sea Developers

March 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

In an effort to bolster Total War developer Creative Assembly, Sega Europe today has announced that it’s acquired Crytek Black Sea and added the 60-person team from Bulgaria to the prominent UK developer. Crytek Black Sea has been renamed Creative Assembly Sofia and will be working on a number of unannounced projects.

Tim Heaton, Studio Director at Creative Assembly, commented: “Now in our 30th year of games development, with an army of multi-million selling titles to our name and a history of world-renowned partnerships, Creative Assembly is proof of the UK games industry’s potential for global success. Due to this success, we are further expanding our UK base and developing additional projects overseas, whilst pursuing top talent from across the globe to join us, all in support of our commitment to creating high quality, authentic gaming experiences. Our continued growth allows us to be dynamic with our future projects, constantly seeking new opportunities and reaching a wider audience with our games.”

Jurgen Post, President and COO of Sega Europe, added: “The acquisition of Crytek Black Sea further enhances Sega Europe’s development capabilities and strengthens our ability to output diverse and engaging content for our IP. Creative Assembly Sofia will be working exclusively on content for Creative Assembly and will prove an invaluable asset given the multitude of unannounced titles currently in the works. This acquisition represents another step in the right direction for the growth of our global business, underlining our commitment to add value to our existing studios and our continued support for the UK games industry.”

Fresh off the Halo Wars 2 project, Creative Assembly has been in a growth mode over the last year, as the studio’s headcount has risen by 37% and is now over 500-people strong. The addition of Creative Assembly Sofia comes after the opening of the studio’s third UK site at the end of 2016, which resulted in an 88% increase in development space to its creative footprint (with over 70,000 square feet of in-house development facilities including a 45-camera motion-capture studio and dedicated audio suites).

Creative Assembly is looking to stay ahead in the UK games market, which generated £2.96bn in 2016, 1.3 times the size of the video market (£2.25bn) and 2.6 times the size of music (£1.1bn).

In an email interview prior to the news, Heaton informed GamesIndustry.biz that Creative Assembly has been looking to expand for a while. “[We] have actually been eyeing potential studios specifically to expand CA’s output for some time. Parties have been discussing this deal over the last few months, since the opportunity arose to purchase Crytek Black Sea, and integrate them into CA’s operation,” he explained.

“While Sega are always looking out for acquisitions that fit with the rest of the business, this addition has been motivated by the growing CA output, and the need to support that growth with talented and experienced teams,” Heaton continued. “CA has never had the aim solely to grow big, but our games have given us the opportunity to work on more projects. As we have taken those opportunities, we have needed to seek out more talent who reflect the calibre of our games.”

While Crytek has run into financial troubles and has unfortunately missed payroll at times, Heaton assured us that the new CA studio would not have to worry about its status any longer.

“We’ve been working closely with the CA Sofia team over the last few months to ensure they are setup for success, and have a comfortable and healthy work environment,” he said. “This has included upgrading their IT infrastructure, setting up clear HR support processes and integrating them with our UK teams; in fact, some of the CA Sofia team are with us in the UK at the moment, as part of their ongoing training and development.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Google Launches ‘Always Free’ Cloud Services

March 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google is offering its customers a taste of its cloud for free, without a time-limited trial. The company quietly launched a new “Always Free” tier last week that grants users  small amounts of its public cloud services without charge, beyond the company’s limited-time trial.

The tier includes — among other things — 1 f1-micro compute instance, 5GB per month of Regional Storage and 60 minutes per month of access to the Cloud Speech API. Using the free tier requires users to provide a credit card that Google can automatically bill for any use over the limits.

In addition, the cloud provider expanded its free trial so that users get $300 in credits that they can use for up to 12 months. Google will halt users’ workloads if they eat up all of the credits before the end of 12 months.

The free offerings are meant to help attract users to Google Cloud Platform at a time when the company is competing against Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and other public cloud providers for developers’ time and attention.

Google’s Always Free tier is somewhat similar to what AWS offers its customers. For example, both platforms allow users to run workloads using their respective event-driven compute services, AWS Lambda and Google Functions.

One thing that sets Google apart is its willingness to hand out a free virtual machine.

Google previously offered a 60-day free trial with $300 in credits. An extended trial was one of the cloud provider’s most-requested features, since the short time limit often wasn’t enough for a full proof-of-concept test.

The Always Free benefits are available from Google’s us-west-1, us-central-1 and us-east-1 regions. It’s unclear if the company plans to offer them in other countries.

Google Drive Gets Update, Allows Users To Stream From The Cloud

March 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google Drive users will be able to view all the files they have stored in the company’s cloud service on their desktop without downloading them, thanks to a new feature the company has announced.

The Drive File Stream offering will — as the name implies — show placeholder files on a user’s desktop, then download them only when a user needs to look at them. It’s similar to Dropbox’s Smart Sync feature, which recently entered beta.

Google also made a pair of its key enterprise-focused Drive features generally available last Thursday. Team Drives is a feature that lets administrators create shared folders for groups inside their organizations. Vault for Drive lets companies manage data retention and legal hold policies for content stored in the service.

To help enterprises move to Drive, Google acquired AppBridge , a partner that has helped enterprises migrate to the service. The company offers migration services from sources like SharePoint, Exchange and on-premises file storage.

These moves are aimed at making Google Drive more appealing to customers who might consider another competing enterprise file sync and share service like Dropbox or Microsoft’s OneDrive for Business.

Team Drives are important for enterprises, since they give administrators the ability to create shared storage spaces for groups without having one particular user own that space or the files shared within it. That way, if someone on the team leaves, all of their contributions stay with the other people who need them.

The news is part of the company’s suite of project announcements at its Google Cloud Next conference in San Francisco. Google also announced major changes to its Hangouts services and cloud price cuts.

Microsoft To Introduce ‘Teams’ Slack Competitor On March 14th

March 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft’s debut into the workplace chat app market will become  available in about a week. The company announced  on Tuesday it will mark the occasion with a webcast to discuss what’s new since the service was announced last year.

The Teams product is Microsoft’s answer to group chat apps like Slack and HipChat. The service provides Office 365 customers with shared workspaces they can use to discuss work with one another. It connects with Office 365 to let users collaborate on notes, documents, spreadsheets and more while discussing work in the same place.

Teams’ marquee features at the time of launch were its support for threaded conversations and rich third-party integrations that let companies bring the functionality of their services into Microsoft’s chat app. Teams has been in public beta since early November, but general availability is expected to bring new functionality to the service.

A Spiceworks survey released earlier this year showed that Teams drew the most interest from IT pros looking to deploy a group chat app in the future. One of the key advantages Microsoft has over its competition is that Teams will be included in Office 365, meaning that customers won’t have to pay an extra fee for group chat.

What remains to be seen is how Teams will fare in the market after launch. It’s missing features compared to Slack and other competitors, but it’s in the early days for Microsoft’s group chat app.

Mozilla’s Firefox Rolls Out Version 52, Bans Nearly All Plug-ins

March 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Mozilla has officially updated Firefox to version 52, which warns users when they put passwords into non-encrypted websites, bars all plug-ins other than Adobe’s Flash Player and adds support for an under-consideration technology standard that claims to run web apps at nearly the same speed as native code.

Firefox 52 also patched 28 security vulnerabilities, a half dozen of them tagged with the “Critical” label. On another security front, the browser now pops up a warning message when users start to type in a password into a page not secured — and encrypted — with HTTPS.

The just-instituted plug-in prohibition applied to NPAPI plug-ins, (Netscape Plug-in Application Programming Interface) a format from the 1990s and Netscape, the browser Microsoft buried in its antitrust-triggering battle over the browser market. NPAPI has now been banned from most browsers; Apple’s Safari is the largest exception.

But Mozilla trumpeted Firefox 52’s support for WebAssembly the loudest.

In a pair of posts — one to a company blog, another to Medium.com, Mozilla executives touted Firefox as the first to support WebAssembly; that wasn’t much of a surprise, since the potential standard stemmed from a Mozilla research project.

“WebAssembly is one of the biggest advances to the Web Platform over the past decade,” contended David Bryant, who leads the company’s platform engineering team.

According to Bryant, WebAssembly will let developers create CPU-intensive apps — such as games, 3D renderers, video editors — that run in near-native speed without relying on plug-ins. Bryant envisioned WebAssembly (which also goes by “wasm”) as leading to both revamped current web apps and new categories that have been stymied by performance issues.

Bryant also called WebAssembly a “game changer.”

Apple (WebKit, the foundation of Safari), Google (Chrome) and Microsoft (Edge) have also signed on to WebAssembly. Google has said it will enable WebAssembly support in Chrome 57, currently slated to ship March 14.

Firefox 52 can be downloaded for Windows, macOS and Linux from Mozilla’s website. Current Firefox users may trigger an update by selecting ‘About Firefox” from the Firefox menu.

Facebook Testing A ‘Dislike’ Emoji

March 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook executives have been mulling over the idea to introduce a dislike button, or something similar to it, for years.

Now it seems the social network is taking a big step in possibly giving users something similar to the dislike button they’ve been asking for.

A spokesperson for Facebook’s Messenger app confirmed to Computerworld today that they are running a small test of something akin to a dislike option.

“We’re always testing ways to make Messenger more fun and engaging,” she said. “This is a small test where we enable people to share an emoji that best represents their feelings on a message.”

The test is centered around what basically are thumbs up or a thumbs down emojis being added to the list of Facebook’s other emoji reaction options, like love, laughter, wow, sad and angry.

The new emoji options could be used if a group of friends is deciding on whether to order a pizza or to meet at a particular restaurant or park.

There’s no sign yet that Facebook executives are considering testing out the new like and dislike options on the Facebook website or app.

If the emotion options are pushed through, it would be the first additions since Facebook moved beyond just the “like” button in February 2016. That’s when the world’s largest social network added the haha, wow, sad, love and angry reactions.

If a dislike option is added, it would be a departure from what Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said about it in the past.

In a September 2015 town hall forum, Zuckerberg said they were working on adding to the single like option at the time but he was hesitant to give users a dislike option.

“It took us a while to get here because we didn’t want to just build a dislike button because we don’t want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people’s posts,” he said at the time. “That doesn’t seem like the kind of community we want to create.”

And in 2014, at another town hall event, Zuckerberg also voiced concern about the toxicity that a dislike button could spread on the social network.

Now it seems that the company is hoping people will use the thumbs up and down emojis as more of a way to vote on something, rather than to show their displeasure with someone’s post. Of course, there’s no stopping people from using the thumbs down or dislike button for any reason they choose.

Consumer Reports Plans To Rate Products On Data Security And Privacy

March 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Consumer Reports, a major source for gadget and appliance reviews in the U.S.,will begin to rate products on data security and privacy.

The nonprofit publication has unveiled a set of new testing standards it hopes will push the tech industry to create safer products.

“The goal is to help consumers understand which digital products do the most to protect their privacy and security, and give them the most control over their personal data,” the publication said.

Already, cybersecurity  experts are finding new tech products, whether they are cars or smart teddy bears, that are often poorly secured and easy to hack.

Other tech products have been found collecting data on their users, without their knowledge.

Government agencies and private groups have tried to address the problem by designing new guidelines for the industry to follow. However, none of them has received widespread support, Consumer Reports said.

But that doesn’t mean nothing can be done. “Consumer pressure and choices can change the marketplace,” the publication said.

Although Consumer Reports didn’t give a date, it will “eventually” use the new standards to test and rate products. In doing so, the publication can expose which vendors are failing to protect their consumers, and the information can help inform the public about the products they should buy.

“When consumers vote with their wallets and their clicks, we’ve seen that companies pay attention,” the publication said.

To develop the standards, the publication collaborated with three digital consumer protection groups including one led by a well-known cybersecurity expert Peiter “Mudge” Zatko.

Zatko is the director at the Cyber Independent Testing Lab, a nonprofit that has come up with a rating system to test software for security problems.

“You cannot tell people everything’s on fire and then not have anything positive for consumers to do,” Zatko said in a statement.

Consumer Reports has already made its testing standard available on GitHub, and it’s looking for feedback. The publication is also hoping that industry vendors will use the standard when developing new tech products.

“We think these standards address a real gap in the marketplace,” Consumer Reports said.

Although the publication is mainly focused on the U.S. market, it’s also part of Consumers International, a federation of consumer groups that’s working to protect people’s digital privacy across the world.

Imposter Scams Passes Identity theft, Says Federal Trade Commission

March 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

More U.S. consumers filed complaints about imposter scams than identity theft for the first time in 2016, as fraudsters relied more on the phone and less on email to find victims, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Impostor scams accounted for 406,578 of the 3,050,374 consumer complaints received in 2016 by the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network, just above the 399,225 received for identity theft, the agency said.

Debt collection generated 859,090, or 28 percent, of all complaints, more than any other category. Complaints overall fell 3 percent from the record 3,140,803 set a year earlier.

The FTC attributed the rise in impostor scam complaints to more fraudsters pretending to be trustworthy government officials, like from the Internal Revenue Service demanding payment of taxes.

Impostor scams topped the list of complaints from military personnel, accounting for 32 percent of the 115,984 received.

The 19 percent drop in identity theft complaints, meanwhile, came as authorities try to educate consumers about protecting personal data and reporting suspicious activity quickly.

Of the consumers reporting fraud, 77 percent said scammers contacted them first by phone, up from 54 percent just two years earlier.

Only 8 percent reported being first contacted by email, and just 6 percent through the Internet.

A total of 662,209 consumers reported losing $744.5 million through fraud in 2016, for an average $1,124 each, the FTC said.

Fifty-eight percent of reported fraudulent payments were made by wire transfers, and most of the rest by credit cards, debits from bank accounts, or prepaid cards, the FTC said.

The database includes complaints made directly to the FTC, various state and federal law enforcement agencies, and other groups including the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

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