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February 2013
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Easy Does It: How Publishers Can Monetize Their Content

Consumers are bombarded with more commercial messaging than ever before from countless sources, but it’s also easier than ever to tune ads out. People fast-forward past multimillion-dollar commercials or subscribe to web-based, commercial-free TV platforms like Netflix. They view more content on the web than ever, but online ads have become virtually invisible to them. [...]

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Study: Tablet and Mobile Video Viewing Doubled in 2012

Ooyala has released its Global Video Index: 2012 Year in Review, offering key insights into how viewers watch video online around the world. The Video Index affirms that consumer video viewing is shifting online and explains why content providers are experimenting with new types of premium content and delivery methods. Key findings in the Global [...]

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Study: Best Buy, Target at High Risk for Amazon Showrooming, But Others Face Even Greater Threat

SEATTLE, WA (February 27, 2013) – In the largest showrooming study to date, Placed identified Best Buy and Target as high-risk retailers for Amazon customers to view offline and buy online. Surprisingly, Best Buy and Target were not the most at risk for showroomers taking over their aisles. The results from the Placed: Aisle to [...]

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Resist Ebay! Google Glass Will Go Mainstream By The End Of 2013

Let the madness begin. Google's much-hyped augmented reality project, known simply as "Glass," has already hit eBay — and Google's Sergey Brin thinks that's absurd.

Glass Bidding Wars Reach Crazy Heights

Earlier today, a fishy Google Glass listing by eBay user bla7ckat had reached more than 25 bids — nudging upward of $15,000 — before it was pulled by eBay. Another listing, by eBay member dushy_i, started at $1,500 but appears to have been shut down by the seller. In a surprise appearance at the TED Conference, Brin dismissed the $15,000 eBay listing, noting that the consumer version of Glass will retail for less than $1,500. Patience is a virtue, after all. (See also: Finally! A Look Inside The Top-Secret Google Glass Foundry)

Brin also renewed the company's promise to deliver the wearable future-tech broadly to mainstream consumers by the end of 2013, though the company's pool of chosen developers (and some press) will get their hands on the device first. The Google co-founder's cameo also coincided with the end of Google's #ifihadglass contest, which invited anyone with a good idea and $1,500 to apply for access to an early batch of Glass.

A Hot, Scarce Device — For Now

As for the Glass bidding wars, we can only imagine that Wednesday's handful will be the first of many. I reached out to eBay, who told me that blac7kat's listing was in violation of the company's presale listings policy. Though it didn't specify which bit, I'd venture to guess the post was yanked due to the seller's inability to guarantee that Glass would ship within 30 days from the end of the auction — one of a presale's stipulations. Pre-sale and "placeholder" auctions are pretty common, though the listing was a bit conspicuous, as you can see in the excerpt below:

"I've been selected as an early adapter for Google's upcoming release. you are buying a brand new unopened pair of Google's Project Glass glasses. i will be personally attending and picking up my pair in either Los Angeles, or New York at Google's Project Glass launch event, which will take place some time after Feburary 27th."

Keeping Glass In The Right Hands

While Google Glass lacks a formal release date, the increased buzz around the Android-powered visors makes it feel like the wait will soon draw to an end for Google I/O Glass pre-orderers, known as "Glass Explorers." Conference attendees who pre-ordered Glass (myself among them) have yet to pay a cent, and it's possible that we'll be required to agree to a contract that might prevent a rash of early adopter price gouging on online auction sites, as noted by the second eBay Glass seller:"DISCLAIMER: If there is a contract from Google NOT to sell the glasses (I don't believe there is, but I want to cover that case), or if I don't receive the google glasses for some reason, I'll cancel the eBay transaction and refund you the entire amount."Google certainly knows a lot about its users. It's not hard to imagine that early editions of Glass could be tied closely to Explorers' Google accounts and unique Glass plaque numbers to prevent more astronomical eBay bidding wars. (See also: Google Glass Project Now Open To Regular People)The company has done a remarkable job of playing its cards close to its chest with Glass. Hardly a peep emerged from Google's first Glass hackathon last month. Well-timed subway appearances, runway debuts and surprise cameos at events like TED are just stoking the fire of the hottest, geekiest piece of wearable tech that we've ever laid eyes on. 

Ebay screenshot via Business Insider, Google Glass image via Google


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E-Commerce in China Poised To Top $265B, Higher Than The U.S. [Infographic]

China's economy is still on fire, with expected GDP growth of 8 percent in the first quarter of 2013. So it's no surprise that e-commerce is also soaring. According to compiled industry research from Alibaba Group, 2013 will mark the first time Chinese online spending exceeds that of the U.S.Alibaba expects e-commerce in China to reach $265 billion this year, up from roughly $194 billion in 2012. The U.S., which generated $209 billion in e-commerce sales last year, will add a mere $21 billion this year, according to the projection. Of course, China's 242 million online shoppers (out of an overall population of more than 1.34 billion) outnumber their U.S. counterparts by a cool 75 million. They buy lots of clothing and accessories, but relatively little in the way of household goods, digital media and electronics. Surveys show that China's online shoppers like the fact that they can save money on the Web, but still worry about product quality. product quality). For the full breakdown of Chinese e-commerce projections and behavior, check the infographic below:  



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Why A True 3D Desktop Would Be A Colossal Mistake

The 2002 movie Minority Report committed one unforgivable sin: it made UI designers want to design interfaces like Minority Report. The most recent example of this is the SpaceTop 3D desktop, which MIT grad student and former Microsoft intern Jinha Lee unveiled at the TED show this week in Long Beach. The user interface, which probably falls under the umbrella of beautiful, though unnecessary technology, uses a series of cameras and projected images to create a "true" three-dimensional display: users put their hands "into" their computer monitor and "grab" files and other documents, moving them around. Gestures can be used for more complex actions, essentially serving as macros. (See a video of Lee's desktop below.)An awesome use of technology? Undeniably. Impractical? In a normal computer environment, almost certainly. And the fatal flaw? The keyboard.

Touch: Either Superfluous Or Arbitrary

For the last few days, I've continued to use the Chromebook Pixel, Google's marvelous yet massively overpriced Chromebook. It's clear what Google has done here: create a so-called "aspirational" Nexus-style device that ChromeOS developers will want to own, as well as develop for. But one of the routes that Google has chosen has included touch, a technology that adds an additional element of cost to its "Companion PC."At this point in its development cycle, there is absolutely no reason that the Pixel should have included a touchscreen. Everything you would want to do via touch – moving windows around, repositioning the cursor, switching tabs – can be done as quickly and with more precision using the touchpad or a connected mouse. As I've noted before, touch-enabled apps like Microsoft's Contre Jour or the new ExploreTouch.ie site (which requires Windows 8, so they won't work on the Pixel) provide the best showcase of touch-enabled apps on the Web. Google has done nothing to enable them. (Is there a potential partnership here?)What the Pixel has done, in my mind, is brilliantly demonstrate just how arbitrary Windows 8's emphasis on touch actually is. Touch redefined how Microsoft should lay out its user interface  pack the elements of the screen closely together, and fat-fingered users would become frustrated trying to distinguish between them. Instead, everything needs to be spaced out, which has the unfortunate side effect of increasing unused space. (This isn't necessarily a bad thing. I've accidentally closed tabs in Chrome because I mistakenly clicked the "X" to close them, rather than "grabbing" the title to shift them around.)And there's the cost. As Microsoft's Tami Reller noted, the industry was caught short by the demand for touchscreen notebooks, which – and I'd agree with her – are the best way to experience Windows 8. But although prices are coming down, they're still premium devices, and cost a bit more. The true hidden cost of touch comes when you come home, sit down, at your desk, and realize that the lovely desktop monitor you invested in for Windows 7 has been rendered obsolete. Replacing it will cost about $300 more.From an ergonomic standpoint, however, a touchscreen display is a mixed bag – at least when you're at a desk. To its credit, Microsoft designed Windows 8 so that touch feels natural; swiping left and right with a touchpad simply doesn't reproduce the experience. All-in-one PCs, which already implement touch, are perfect for Windows 8. Otherwise, a keyboard still remains the superlative form of input for a PC. Many of you can type 60 words per minute or more. Every time your fingers move from the keyboard, in one sense, it means lost productivity. Swipe. Type. Swipe, type. You get the idea. That's precisely whey I fell in love with Tobii, an excellent eye-tracking technology which replaces your mouse with your gaze, and so neatly integrates with the keyboard.

Shackled To The Keyboard

The problem is that that keyboard is a boat anchor that weighs down the true vision of Windows 8. At about 3:48 into Minority Report, we see the first vision of John Anderton's computer: a curved sheet of glass, which serves as an overlay over a video wall. Tom Cruise's character swipes through various video windows and data feeds while presenting the "evidence" to a judge and witness. No keyboard is present.Instead, Anderton communicates by voice, asking the computer or his assistants for relevant information. The synergy fuses into a harmony of man and machine, embodied by the classical music Anderton uses as a backdrop.Whether it be Windows 8 or something from Google, a true Minority Report future won't be enabled until we can replace the keyboard with true speech recognition. This isn't impossible, technically – but it may be so, culturally.We know that both Apple's Siri and Android's own cloud-based speech recognition aren't perfect, but constantly improve. Google is also feverishly polishing Google Glass, trying to make voice commands and dictation part of the interface.We also know that we're increasingly forced to work on top of one another. A purely speech-driven interface is problematic, both in the crowded environs of a trading floor, as well as the library-quiet culture of my previous employer's sales staff. As cubes shrink – and as employers like Yahoo require workers to collaborate on-site – the problem will worsen. And I can't even begin to imagine how you'd write software code via voice command.The answer may be a further loss of privacy. In San Francisco, you can play a fun little game: is that person mentally deranged and talking to himself, or using Bluetooth? We're a bit more used to it on the street. Within the office, things tend to be a bit different.The alternative, though, may push even further into science fiction: subvocalization, or embedding a sensor into your larynx to allow users to quietly issue commands and dictation. Research in that direction will have to anticipate a voice-enabled future, too – one that, unfortunately, I'm pretty sure I don't ever want to see.Here's that video of Jinha Lee's transparent 3D desktop: Lead image via leejinha.com


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Last Word on The Oscars: J. Law, Affleck, Grey Poupon Generate Most Award Night Social Buzz

We know who took home those golden statuettes, but only Jennifer Lawrence won both the Oscar and the hearts and minds of the online social crowd, according to this infographic produced by ShareThis. The height of the night’s sharing activity came on Facebook (56%), followed by Twitter (30%).Socially speaking, the big winners were Lawrence and [...]

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BII REPORT: Why Mobile Video Is Set To Explode

In a recent report, BI Intelligence analyzes the impact of 4G LTE and device design improvements on mobile video growth, examines who watches mobile video and how they watch it, and details the mobile video monetization opportunity. Read More ... Subscribe to the free Adotas.com Newsletter addthis_url = 'http%3A%2F%2Fwww.adotas.com%2F2013%2F02%2Fbii-report-why-mobile-video-is-set-to-explode%2F'; addthis_title = 'BII+REPORT%3A+Why+Mobile+Video+Is+Set+To+Explode'; addthis_pub = 'adotas';

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Today’s Burning Question: Firefox to Block Third-Party Cookies By Default

Today, we asked our panel of industry experts: “What will be the implications of Mozilla’s intention to block third-party cookies by default in Firefox 22?” Here’s how they responded: “Blocking third-party cookies by default, without discretion, is the equivalent of using a sledgehammer when a ball-peen hammer would suffice. Privacy has been, and will continue [...]

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One Year Later, Instagram Triples To 100 Million Users

Well, that was fast. Almost a year after announcing that it had 27 million users, Instagram has surpassed the 100-million-user miletsone, according to the company's blog. Over the last year, Instagram has continued to refine its already polished app, adding new filters and a Web feed for viewing photos in a browser rather than on a mobile device. 

The service remains well-loved among existing users even as it chases new soon to be Insta-addicts. As much as its users have worried that Facebook will meddle with its photo-sharing darling, Instagram likely has Zuck and deep Facebook News Feed integration to thank for its threefold growth in the last year.Instagram only seems to get better with age. Last December, Instagram successfully defused a minor revolt over changes to its terms of service, suggesting that even under the wing of Facebook, the company remains nimble and autonomous. Image courtesy of Instagram.



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Can Zynga Bounce Back With Online Gambling?

Even as virtual farms lose their luster, Zynga is looking to rebound in greener pastures - ones lined with real cash.Even as it suffers a spate of bad news related to its traditional social-gaming businesses, the company is now working on ways to throw its weight behind real-money gaming in the U.S. - in the hope of very real new revenue streams. 

Zynga's Silver Lining Playbook

On Monday, Zynga announced plans to close offices in New York, Texas and Baltimore. The Baltimore office will suffer about 30 layoffs, with the rest of the staff being farmed out to other Zynga HQs. The team in Baltimore was focused CityVille 2, a social game that the company axed earlier this month just five months after its launch.That's a big come-down over the past year. In March 2012, Zynga shares were trading at a 52-week high of $15.91. They opened at $3.41 on Tuesday. Something has to change. The company may be synonymous with the advent of social gaming on Facebook - FarmVille, Mafia Wars, etc. - but its best hope now seems to shifting gears toward more lucrative real money games - assuming it can get legislators to go along.In a way, getting its hands dirty in gambling is a return to its roots. Zynga's first game, Texas Hold'Em Poker (now known as Zynga Poker) launched way back in July 2007 - two full years before FarmVille started polluting our Facebook feeds. Now, Zynga hopes to benefit from the rivalry between revenue-starved states eager to legalize - and tax - online gambling.

Online Gambling Legislation Fast-Tracked

After signing a fast-tracked bill into law last week, Nevada is the first state in the nation to allow virtual gambling. New Jersey is right on Nevada's heels, and Governor Chris Christie could sign a similar bill as soon as this week. The legality of online gambling in the U.S. has a confusing history - one typical of U.S. law trying to grapple with emerging online phenomena.The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which "prohibits gambling businesses from knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the Internet," solidified online wagering's illicit status back in 2006. So states like Nevada and New Jersey will still have to reconcile their state laws with federal regulatory agencies - a process that could delay big profits for Zynga and other companies hoping to get into online gambling. 

Is Zynga playing dead?An Uphill Battle Remains

According to The Wall Street Journal, Zynga may have to play the waiting game for another 18 months - and even then there's no guarantee of a big pay-out: "The opportunities within Nevada are somewhat limited since its population is small, but bigger opportunities might emerge. State officials have discussed the possibility of forming compacts with other states considering legalizing poker to merge markets and create bigger groups of players, much as lotteries have done with large lottery draws such as Powerball. California is among the other states that have considered bills in their legislatures to legalize online poker." Zynga Poker allows anyone over the age of 13 to play, but the company hasn't released hard numbers on who exactly plays the game. With age and location narrowing the pool, there are some big questions about how many of Zynga's existing players are ready to convert to real cash gamers.

A Sea Of Mishaps

In the meantime, Zynga has been hemorrhaging talent. Chief Game Designer Brian Reynolds, who worked at the Baltimore office, jumped ship last month.  Last October, Paul and David Bettner, co-founders of Words With Friends, left the company's Austin studio. That's a big deal because while the company has been quick to axe underperforming products, ad-ridden Scrabble-clone Words With Friends remains one of Zynga's top properties. The company reported that in December 2012 alone, players spent 7.5 billion minutes shuffling around virtual tiles in the game, which launched four years ago. (See also ReadWrite DeathWatch: Zynga.)Still, the failure of games like CityVille 2 point to a flaw in Zynga's casual-gaming formula. Zynga CEO Mark Pincus has admitted that the company's sluggishness and lack of innovation has failed to keep users engaged with its cadre of social games. But rather than improve its recipe to make better games - or better clones of other, better games - Zynga seems to have its sights on the real deal. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Zynga Is Ready To Gamble

Open any free Zynga game in the App Store and you'll be assaulted with a shamelessly busy user interface. There are so many pop-over and click-through ads that getting rid of them is basically a hyperactive mini-game all its own. Zynga's mobile and social games won't win any design or innovation awards - rather, they have addiction woven into their fabric. Incessant notifications draw users back, pop-up prompts prod players to invite their entire social circles. Those techniques should translate well to actual gambling.So in spite of all the bad news and likely delays in legalized online gambling, Zynga's shares have perked up lately. With 38 million players, Zynga already has the world's largest free-to-play online poker site - it only needs legislators to open the gates and let the cash start pouring in. Images courtesy of Shutterstock and Zynga.


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FTC To Smartphone Makers: Fix Security Or End Up Like HTC

Mobile device manufacturers should pay close attention to a recent settlement between the Federal Trade Commission and HTC, which the Commission claimed had failed to protect customer's privacy and personal data. Rather than affecting only HTC, the agreement is a warning that the commission is finally prepared to hold device makers responsible for securing their products.

How It Started

HTC drew the attention of the FTC by deploying customized software in 22.5 million Android devices that allowed third-party applications to bypass a security mechanism requiring user permission before installation. The HTC software was meant to gather data only to help the manufacturer troubleshoot problems, but its implementation showed HTC was clueless when it came to security.In investigating HTC's sloppy work, the FTC found a number of poor security practices. For example, HTC had no effective program for assessing the security of products before shipping them to consumers. In addition, engineering staff was not properly trained in security and privacy and there was no testing for security flaws. Also, there was no process for receiving and addressing vulnerabilities found by third-party researchers and academics.The FTC's findings were listed in a complaint that HTC settled by agreeing to a "comprehensive security program" that includes patching vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers and spammers. The agreement is a big deal, because taken together with the original complaint, the FTC has outlined for all device manufacturers what it considers best practices for security."To settle the case - the FTC’s first against a device manufacturer - HTC has agreed to a far-reaching settlement that imposes a first-of-its-kind remedy: patching vulnerabilities on millions of mobile devices," FTC senior attorney Lesley Fair wrote in the commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection blog.

Dismal Android Security

Makers of Android smartphones and tablets have created a huge security problem by shipping devices with older versions of the operating system and then failing to quickly update the software with the latest security fixes from Google. This has left millions of customers with devices that contain known vulnerabilities that cybercriminals are working feverishly to exploit."It's reasonable to assume that the next thing the FTC will look at is the unpatched vulnerabilities in Android itself that Google has fixed, but where the fixes haven't reached end users either because of the handset vendors or the wireless carriers," Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, said. "This is probably the most interesting FTC case to come out in the last couple of years."The rise in Android malware is substantially faster than any other Internet-delivered malicious app, according to Cisco's recent 2013 Annual Security Report. At the same time, cybercriminals are developing better software tools for breaking into Android devices.In October 2012, the FBI warned that cybercriminals had built a mobile version of FinFisher, commercial spyware sold to law enforcement and governments, to steal personal data from Android phones. Also last year, the first Android botnet was discovered on the Internet, according to Cisco. A botnet is a network of compromised devices used to distribute malware and spam.

The FTC Isn't Alone

The FTC won't be alone in demanding better consumer protection from device manufacturers. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), co-chair of the bi-partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, plans to reintroduce this year "The Mobile Device Privacy Act," which would require companies to get the permission of consumers before using any monitoring software on mobile devices.“With this important settlement, the FTC has sent a strong signal to the mobile marketplace that consumers’ sensitive information must be safeguarded,” Markey said.With so much government attention on mobile device security, it's clear that manufacturers can no longer treat data protection and consumer privacy as an afterthought. Both will soon have to become a top priority.Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


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The Power of ‘Real Identity’ & ‘Discovery’: How Facebook Could Unseat Craigslist and eBay

Facebook is moving to position itself as the hub of all interest-based communities (Pinterest, Spotify, Foodspotting, and Goodreads for example) with its OpenGraph platform. The people we follow in these networks are not necessarily our friends, but people whose content ‘interests’ us. At the end of the day, all these communities are peer to peer. [...]

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Report: Android Sprints Past iOS in U.S. Smartphone Race

Via CNET: During the three months ending with January,Android scored 49.9 percent of all U.S. smartphone sales, a 6.4 percent gain from the same period last year. Over the same time, iOS took second place with a 45.9 percent cut of smartphone sales, a drop of 4.7 percent from a year ago. Read More ... [...]

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The Fastest Growing Jobs in Marketing are in (Surprise!) Mobile, Social

Are you mobile and social enough? The recent Aquent and American Marketing Association’s (AMA) 2012 Salary Survey found that mobile and social media marketing will be the two hottest jobs in 2013 — both expected to increase by 19 percent in the next two to three years. The survey also revealed that social media marketing [...]

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Haters As A Leading Indicator Of Success

The only thing worse than dealing with haters of your company or product is not having any at all. The product without haters is destined for ignominy and failure. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that your product's success is positively correlated with the volume of venom directed at it.But first, let's define a "hater."There's valid criticism, and then there's hate. A hater, according to Urban Dictionary, feasts upon schadenfreude: "A person that simply cannot be happy for another person's success. So rather than be happy they make a point of exposing a flaw in that person." Jealousy factors heavily into a hater's temperament. Yes, jealousy. After all, no one hates a loser. That company with 1% market share? No one bothers to expend energy trashing it. Not seriously, anyway.No, haters reserve their hate for the winners. 

It's Good To Be Hated

Don't believe me? Let's look at some outsized winners, like Apple.Apple's market share may be sliding in both smartphones and tablets, in part because the market is growing around it, but Apple still commands profits (and revenues) that every company on the planet envies. It also commands disproportionate attention from haters. Social Mention pegs Apple's love-to-hate ratio at 2-1. Motherhood and apple pie? 7-1. (You can find similar results using Twendz or Amplicate, whose data indicates that 44% hate Apple and a massive 68% hate the iPhone.All to the tune of $137 billion in the bank. How about Microsoft? Haters have targeted it for years, including me. (Incidentally, I don't consider myself a hater, but that's beside the point: "hate" in this definition is what we do, not necessarily who we are. And I've written some serious broadsides against Microsoft for its early bullying of open source.) How much is Microsoft hated? Amplicate details a 63% hate rate against Windows, 69% against the company, and a whopping 89% against Internet Explorer. Social Mention (3:1 love-to-hate ratio) and Twendz reveal similar data. And yet Microsoft still manages to earn over $72 billion in revenue, with a "paltry" $68 billion in the bank. The list goes on. MySQL? It was once pilloried as a database that lost data, performed poorly, etc. Now it's the third-most popular database in the world. Linux? Microsoft system administrators used to ridicule its security, performance, and most everything else. Now it owns 21% of the server market and keeps growing as it is the default OS for cloud, Big Data, and other emerging trends. Facebook was lambasted for not groking mobile, even as mobile has grown in two quarters from 14% to 23% of the company's billion-dollar quarters.

Responding To The Haters

I could go on, but you get the point: haters are actually leading indicators of success. The more vociferous your haters, the more likely that you're doing something right, and it's driving them insane. Bonus points if you can claim a Twitter spoof account, as Apple once could thanks to @FakeSteveJobs/@RealDanLyons. No one bothers to parody a losing company or product, as no one would get the joke. This is not to suggest that you should ignore valid criticism, but rather to take it in stride and answer with product improvements, as each of the companies noted above has done. Even bile-fueled hate can be instructive, after all, so the key is to learn from it without becoming consumed by it.While it's hard to resist responding, don't. Doing so simply legitimizes the hater and amplifies their voice, as you almost certainly have more distribution than they do. I once heard wise counsel about someone criticized in a local newspaper. When they wanted to respond, they were told, "Don't. Half the people in town don't get that paper. Half that do won't have read the article in question. Half of those who read it won't believe it. And half that read and believe it simply won't care." Content on the Internet has an exceptionally short shelf-life. Don't respond. Let it die. The best response is always by delivering on your product, as PDA CTO Eliot Murphy intimates.

The Only Thing Worse Than Having Haters...

Again, in our hyper-connected world it's simply impossible to succeed without accumulating haters along the way. They indicate you're doing something right, as SpringSource founder Rod Johnson suggests:In other words, it's far better to have a popular but feverishly hated product than a Milque Toast product that no one can be bothered to criticize, as forum traffic on Oracle (Market cap: $164B), SAP ($94B), and CA ($11B) illustrates.  None of which is to suggest that everyone criticizes your product is a mindless hater and should be ignored. Far from it. But when haters start congregating around your product, listen to their criticism, evaluate its merits, don't respond, continually improve your product, and be very, very grateful that you have haters.After all, most companies have few to no haters at all. Pity them.Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


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Mozilla Unveils Firefox OS Smartphones At Mobile World Congress

It started with a gecko, of sorts. It then became a fennec, a type of winter fox. Now, it is a smartphone, and soon it will be available all over the world.

We are, of course, talking about Firefox OS, the open source, Web-based smartphone operating system created by Mozilla. The company announced Sunday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, that it has partnered with device manufacturers and mobile operators across the world to launch Firefox smartphones in 2013. 

Mozilla also officially launched the Firefox Marketplace, an app store featuring mobile Web applications and websites that will be able to operate on the new smartphones. Both the Firefox OS and Marketplace are optimized towards HTML5 development and open Web standards using Mozilla’s Firefox browser as its backbone. 

Mozilla claimed three initial manufacturers ready to build and deploy Firefox OS smartphones: LG, Alcatel and ZTE. These devices will be distributed to 17 global carriers in nine countries, including Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Serbia, Montenegro, Poland, Spain, Hungary and Venezuela. (Note that these are largely developing markets, and the list does not include the United States.) Since the announcement yesterday, Sony has also said that it would build and release Firefox OS smartphones in 2014. On the other hand, market leader Samsung has said that it is not interested in building smartphones for Mozilla (likely due to its investment in the similar Tizen platform).

Mozilla’s Evolution

The seed of Firefox OS came from Mozilla’s first ventures into the mobile browser wars against Android. Mozilla started with its rendering layout engine, Gecko, and applied it to Android as a third-party browser. Initially, the Gecko-boot of Firefox for Android was named Fennec. 

Mozilla then started thinking bigger.

As HTML5 has evolved into the newest open Web standard, Mozilla became a leading developer and evangelist for HTML5 websites and apps. The problem that Mozilla had with smartphones, though, was that it was not possible to tie smartphone hardware capabilities to mobile browsers. If you ever hear of the “Web vs. Native” argument when it comes to apps, the issue of tying Web browsers to smartphone and tablet hardware (like a camera, accelerometer etc.) is central to the issue. Mozilla wanted to fix that and created what it calls Web APIs (application programming interfaces) to access hardware through a browser. 

(See more ReadWrite coverage of HTML5.)

That goal was what ultimately led Mozilla to announce its own smartphones this year at Mobile World Congress. It has dedicated itself to open Web standards and mobile evolution, all in the name of consumer choice. Firefox OS smartphones will be extremely affordable and targeted at emerging smartphone markets where there is still a lot of potential to make a dent in the industry. 

Building The Marketplace

As shown in the rise of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, the name of the game in smartphones is apps. Mozilla plans on leveraging the power of the Web to build out its app store by enabling websites and app developers to create apps for the mobile Web that can easily be integrated into Firefox OS. 

To start, Firefox announced that a variety of content and app partnerships with the likes of AirBnB, Box, Disney Mobile Games, EA Games, Facebook, Pulse News, Sound Cloud, Twitter and others. Mozilla stated that it will have a variety of games, news and media, productivity and business apps.

When it comes to apps built for the likes of iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry, many already have a core of HTML5 and Web-based technology powering them. Apps are often built as mobile websites and then “wrapped” with native properties to help them connect to device hardware before being deployed to the various native app stores. Mozilla’s plan is to eliminate that need to “wrap” apps and let developers build straight for the Web. The potential  is that almost any app that will work in browser can easily be deployed to the Firefox Marketplace, reducing the cost for developing and distributing apps.

We will see the first Firefox OS smartphones in developing markets later this year. Does Firefox OS excite you? Let us know what you think of the project in the comments. 



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Six Strikes Anti-Piracy System Makes Its Debut

What if every time you shared an illegally downloaded file a copyright alert went off and notified your Internet service provider? Well, that day is pretty much here.It's the new "six strikes" plan against alleged pirates, formally known as the Copyright Alert System. It's been slow to get off the ground, having first been scheduled for launch last July, and then again last November. It may amount to little more than a wrist slap for copyright violators. But it is exactly what the Center for Copyright Information (CCI) and five major ISPS – Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, Cablevision, and Time Warner Cable – are apparently finally launching this week to try to scare you out of sharing pirated material.The plan, backed by ISPs and Hollywood studios, has been a running joke in some quarters due to the internal tensions of its backing coalition and the general toothlessness of its sanctions. The CCI itself insists its system is intended to educate consumers, not punish them. Online chatter about this new system depicts it as less "big brother" and more as a big bother.But we should care about Six Strikes, because it's likely to slow down the Web for some, subject others to burdens such as "mandatory" online educational courses, and widely violate the privacy of Web users – whether they're really pirating movies and music or not.Bark Or Bite?Back in November, leaked documents reported by TorrentFreak revealed that Verizon would monitor BitTorrent users and respond to alleged copyright violators in a staged fashion, starting with two email warnings. Should users continue their alleged infringing activity, Verizon will push out third and fourth warnings in the form of intrusive popups that force users to confirm receipt. If that doesn't do the trick, the ISP would slow down Internet connections to roughly dialup speed for 14 days.But that's just Verizon – every ISP will be free to tailor restrictions. Last October, TorrentFreak likewise reported that AT&T will block users until they complete a copyright course, and in November relayed that Time Warner will temporarily disrupt service.Here's the service in action, in a soothing video produced by the CCI:

What To Expect

Major ISPs actively monitoring and "trolling" our usage remains a major privacy issue, even if so far the modus operandi isn't as nefarious as it might sound. The simple fact that third-party outfits can identify the IP address of someone sharing or distributing copyrighted material and then report them to the ISPs is likely to alarm many users once these alerts start going out.The new system doesn't force ISPs to shut off Web service to repeat offenders, but you can probably count on ISPs sharing the identities of alleged violators with copyright owners to pursue legal action. In the above video, the CCI says it won't give out customer information, but if the backers of the program – many of them the creators themselves – lean hard enough, ISPs will probably cave.As it stands now, Six Strikes won't stop piracy. On the one hand, it's just too easy to get around – widely available VPNs, proxies and similar measures all bypass the kind of monitoring that's central to the system. Committed users can also just ignore the notifications, since there are apparently no sanctions past the sixth warning at ISPs like Verizon.Still, this is interference, big time, from ISPs of a sort that Americans haven't previously experienced. Even in attenuated form, Six Strikes could have unexpected consequences, such as killing public Wi-Fi. (Though the CCI denies that coffeehouse hotspots are in any danger.) And it's not at all unreasonable to think that the sanctions could get more Draconian, given Hollywood's well-known history of pushing for ever-stronger restrictions once the camel's nose is under the tent.So mind your bits and torrents, folks. This could get nasty.Photo courtesy of Shutterstock


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Box CEO Aaron Levie On The Future Of Data Storage [Video]

Last week, ReadWrite Editor-in-in-Chief Dan Lyons sat down with 27-year-old Box CEO Aaron Levie to discuss the complex market of enterprise cloud technology in the third ReadWrite Mix event in San Francisco.(See also Aaron Levie On The Uncertain Landscape Of Enterprise SoftwareAaron Levie On Finding Mentors & Mixing Enterprise/Consumer Cultures and Aaron Levie On Growing Up During The '90s Tech Boom)When not discussing his hilariously-named teenage startups or early ambitions to join the MLB, the one-hour sit-down saw Levie and Lyons discussing nearly every facet of the enterprise software business, from how it started and what is now to how Box aims to lead the way into its uncertain future.This 2:19 clip illustrates Levie's uncanny ability to make even the most seemingly mundane topics - the growth of data storage - sound fascinating  As storage costs go down, Levie sees Box's opportunity to give away more space at a lower price. "Probably in the future, you will use us for infinite storage," he says, because "the amount of capacity we have is increasing at a faster rate than our ability to use it."  



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Facebook Bugs Have Been Messing With Your Page Reach

In yet another Bad News Friday post, Facebook has informed us that it hasn't exactly been counting the audience for our posts quite correctly. In fact, the social network has been significantly understating the "reach" of Facebook posts – especially paid posts – for at least the past several months.In a blog post yesterday on Facebook Studio, the social network's marketing hub, the company admitted that coding errors have been misrepresented the audience reached by Facebook posts since sometime last year (though it hasn't yet been much more specific than that). Facebook stresses that these bugs have only impacted reporting and not delivery, meaning fans were still receiving the posts, even if Facebook wasn't counting them properly. The company said the stats should update once Facebook cleans up its code. This admission could be a big deal for Facebook, which has taken some serious heat from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and other big brands for allegedly throttling their access to their Facebook fans. Last November, Cuban complained, both on Twitter and in heated articles on sites like The Huffington Postthat Facebook was restricting brands' ability to engage their fans in order to juice sales of paid "promoted posts."

Less Bang For The Buck

The bugs Facebook is describing, however, could also conceivably have led brand and business owners like Cuban to believe they were getting less bang for their Facebook marketing buck. In its post yesterday, Facebook claimed that the bugs held down the reported audience for paid newsfeed posts, meaning that such promotional posts actually reached a larger number of users than the social network's statistics previously suggested."As soon as we found the bugs our engineering team began work to resolve them as quickly as possible. We're rolling out fixes beginning this morning and over the weekend," Facebook's post states. That's certainly reassuring for anyone who relies on Facebook for social marketing, but the underreporting to date is still a pretty big deal. It's an even bigger deal where paid reach is concerned, since that involves placing ads placed in users' news feeds – ads that then reported back inaccurate numbers. Here's what will change as a result of the ongoing bug fixes, according to Facebook:
  • Total reach to stay the same or increase for most Pages
  • An increase in paid reach if you ran News Feed ads
  • An increase or decrease in organic reach, depending on many factors such as the composition of your fan base, when and how often you post and your spending patterns
  • A change in metrics computed from reach and impressions, such as engagement rate and virality
  • We know that accurate data is fundamental to building and improving your Facebook presence. We are taking this very seriously.  We have already put a number of additional quality and verification measures in place to prevent future bugs and resolve them quickly if they arise

Where It All Began

Facebook says the problems originated during an update to its iOS and Android apps, TechCrunch reported. While trying to speed up mobile performance of its site, Facebook ended up stripping away a little too much of the data reported back to its servers. This resulted in a couple of bugs that failed to count page posts as users upgraded to new versions of the apps, and then a lesser bug that counted the viewing of a desktop news feed ad twice, as both an organic and then a paid impression.It wasn't until a number of complaints from clients that Facebook decided to perform an internal audit, which uncovered the bugs and forced the company to begin an intense three-week fix. While you can certainly argue that the bugs didn't cause that much damage – after all, many pages will soon show improved reach as a result of the fixes – the problem certainly does some damage to Facebook's reputation as a secure and accurate social hub for business. But if you're a brand manager who's been feeling a little down in the dumps over your failure to engage readers with paid posts, you can take heart in Facebook's two-minute video reiterating its solutions. With alarmingly low depth-of-field, a woman with a very calming voice explains everything you need to know about this not-a-real-problem to soothing piano music. Surely your average social media manager shouldn't require much more than that to fend off frustration. 


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Microsoft's Rotten Friday: Hack Revealed As Azure, Halo Go Down

Microsoft ended the week with a pair of black eyes: a failure to secure a security certificate brought its Azure cloud service tumbling down, and the company also confessed to being the latest corporate victim of a high-profile hacking attempt.The Azure failure also affected Microsoft's Xbox game, Halo 4, Microsoft confirmed.The highest-profile incident may have had the least effect: "a small number" of Microsoft PCs were penetrated by an unknown intruder. No user data was compromised, Microsoft said in a blog post. "Consistent with our security response practices, we chose not to make a statement during the initial information gathering process," Matt Thomlinson, general manager of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Security unit, wrote. "During our investigation, we found a small number of computers, including some in our Mac business unit, that were infected by malicious software using techniques similar to those documented by other organizations. We have no evidence of customer data being affected and our investigation is ongoing."The attacks were consistent with other efforts to penetrate computers within Apple and Facebook, Microsoft said. Facebook discovered its attack last week, which followed attacks on the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times via an unpatched exploit within Java, exploited, experts believe, by the Chinese military.Separately, ZenDesk reported Friday that it too, was hacked, exposing emails that clients Tumblr, Twitter and Pinterest used to communicate it with it for service-related requests. 

Lack Of SSL Certificate Brings Azure Down

At press time Friday night, Microsoft still had not implemented a fix for the Azure issue, caused by a failure to obtain a new SSL certificate. That brought its Azure storage services down across all of its worldwide regions, as well as services that were dependent upon them.At 9:30 PM UTC (4:30 PM ET), Microsoft discovered that "HTTPS operations (SSL transactions) on Storage accounts worldwide are impacted," the company said.  By 9:45 PM UTC, the the management portal, WindowsAzure.com, and the service bus, plus the websites that Azure serves were also down. By 10:15 PM, the company had begun validating steps to repair the problem, but hadn't formally announced a fix. After users began circulating screenshots of what appeared to be an expired SSL certificate, the company acknowledged its error."Windows Azure Storage has been affected by an expired certificate," a spokesman said in an emailed statement. We are working to complete the restoration as quickly as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused our customers. For more information please go to http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/support/service-dashboard/." Microsoft also apologized to customers via Twitter.Microsoft also reported problems with its Compute services, preventing users from creating new virtual machines. That left users who needed to create those virtual machines to host new apps scratching their heads. "Most of our apps are screwed up now!" pinvoke.in, one commenter, complained. "WHATS NEXT? All compute instances die because someone at the data center switched them off?"Unfortunately for Microsoft, this sort of thing has happened before. At the end of February 2012, Microsoft failed to account for the leap day at the end of the month, Feb. 29. As a result, the Azure services was down for more than 12 hours before Microsoft could issue a fix. Microsoft hasn't said whether or not the recent outage was a result of an oversight, or a more serious technical error.Oddly enough, Netflix began reporting problems of its own on Friday night, leading to the intriguing possibility that two cloud services may have been failing at the same time. But although Netflix has gone down before when Amazon's AWS service failed, Amazon's own AWS service dashboard didn't indicate any problems.


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AddThis Adds Its Own Pre-Oscar Data

Although the Academy cast their final ballots earlier this week, AddThis has revealed this year’s winners as chosen by the American public. AddThis, a leading data, distribution and decisioning company, makes easy-to-use consumer engagement tools and services across 14 million websites, and its platform can extract data around what’s buzzing in the socialsphere from more [...]

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VIDEO: ‘All Earned Media is Not Created Equal’ Session at #SMWNYC

Today, as part of Social Media Week New York, social marketing company House Party hosted a session, “All Earned Media is Not Created Equal: Winning Hearts, Minds and Wallets via Experience-Driven Social Marketing.” House Party’s Peter Storck, SVP, analytics and research, was joined Sunni Thompson, associate digital strategy director for JWT, and Brad Fay, COO [...]

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Topsy Offers Oscar Predictions from the Twitterverse

If the Oscars were awarded by the Twitterverse,”Silver Linings Playbook” would be taking home Oscars gold on Sunday, according to theTwitter Oscars Index,a daily measurement of Twitter users’ feelings about each of the nominees, co-designed by Topsy and Twitter. Here is a snapshot of the other big winners as selected by the Twitterverse. Best Actor: [...]

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Zendesk Hack Compromises User Data Of Twitter, Tumblr & Pinterest

What better way to celebrate the week hackers ran rampant than with another security breach? Zendesk, a company that offers IT support tools and customer service software, announced on Thursday that it had been hacked. In a blog post, CEO Mikkel Svane stated, "We've become aware that a hacker accessed out system this week," though he did not say by which method or for how long.

What separates this attack from the malicious malware that infected machines at Facebook and Apple is that these hackers managed to compromise a healthy amount of Zendesk's stored user data, putting users of three of the company's big clients - Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest - at risk for phishing and other attacks.

"Our ongoing investigation indicates that the hacker had access to the support information that three of our customers store on our system," wrote Svane, adding, "We believe that the hacker downloaded email addresses of users who contacted those three customers for support, as well as support email subject lines."

Svane did not specifically cite Tumblr, Twitter and Pinterest, but support emails sent out from the companies informing users of the attack confirms that user data could have been compromised indirectly. While usernames and passwords were not compromised, the threat of individualized attacks aimed at gaining access to accounts and stealing personal information does exist.

Tumblr, for example, sent out emails stating the following: 

"The subject lines of your emails to Tumblr Support may have included the address of your blog which could potentially allow your blog to be unwillingly associated with your email address."

It went on to advise users to review any emails received from support, abuse, dmca, legal, enquiries or lawenforcement with a @tumblr.com tagged on the end. The fear is that hackers, equipped with people's email addresses and the issues they raised with specific departments at a service like Tumblr, could then phish users with a masked version of that same address.

Tumblr's support email ended with a warning along those very lines: "Tumblr will never ask you for your password by email. Emails are easy to fake, and you should be suspicious of unexpected emails you receive."

While it's not exactly comforting to know that you should be suspicious of any and all "unexpected emails," companies like Twitter are taking measures to ensure that the tools are in place to help flag these attacks if they do occur.

In a public announcement yesterday, Twitter said that it has been utilizing DMARC authenticaion technology  to help lessen the risk of users giving away personal information. Using established authentication protocols, DMARC gives email providers a way to block email from forged domains. "While this protocol is young, it has already gained a significant traction in the email community with all four major email providers - AOL, Gmail, Hotmail/Outlook, and Yahoo! Mail - already on board…" the post reads.

While its good to know that Twitter is addressing the hacker threat alongside its fellow social network giants, all these measures are merely reactionary moves following widespread breaches. The Zendesk hack makes it abundantly clear that we need more proactive security measures that include third-parties to keep these attacks from wreaking havoc. Until then, the hackers will keep succeeding, and users will pay the price. 



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Why We're Not In A Cyberwar With China

Recent reports of Chinese cyberspying have revealed hacking operations with a shocking scale and level of sophistication. China's hackers appear to be stealing massive amounts of intellectual property and proprietary information from U.S. companies, including those connected to the nation's critical infrastructure, such as waterworks, the electrical power grid and oil and gas pipelines. A recent study  by security company Mandiant has shown that, in all probability, some of the snooping has been done by an arm of the Chinese military.The revelations of China's misbehavior have led some writers to rashly declare that the U.S. is at war with our Asian rival, at least in cyberspace. This could not be further from the truth, and here's why.

There's No War

First, something obviously needs to be done to punish China for its thievery. But to describe the current state as war or cyberwar draws emotions at the expense of rational thinking. We are not at war with China, either in or out of cyberspace.Real cyberwar would start with an attack that destroys something valuable or vital, kills people, or both. If the recipient labels the strike an act of war then time for negotiations is over. "Reacting diplomatically and legally to an act of cyberwar is inadequate," says Stewart Baker, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson and a former assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security. "It's an act of war, we need to treat it as such and respond with our own acts of war."An example of a true cyberattack was the Stuxnet malware that destroyed centrifuges in Iran's nuclear facilities. Discovered in 2010, Stuxnet was designed by the U.S. and Israel, according to media reports.We are not under attack by China. The country is not our enemy. It is our economic and political rival. There is no evidence China wants to destroy anything. What it wants is information that provides a trade advantage, and at the moment there's no better way to get data from U.S. competitors than to let your spies loose on the Internet.Most experts assume the U.S. also hacks China's computers to gather intelligence. The Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, has identified two growth areas in the U.S. defense industry, drone manufacturing and the development of malware capable of exploiting software vulnerabilities not yet known to the developer.Governments have always spied on each other, so it's no surprise that China, the U.S. and many other countries are using the Internet to steal information. Where China goes too far is in hacking U.S. companies. By law, the U.S. government cannot break into the computers of private companies for the sole purpose of taking intellectual property. China has no such restrictions.

What We Can Do

So the U.S. is within its rights to use every diplomatic, political, legal and economic tool at its disposal to pressure China to stop hacking private companies – or to at least negotiate an informal agreement that sets limits. While it's true China holds $1.2 trillion in U.S. debt, the U.S. is also the biggest buyer of Chinese goods. The U.S. is not without leverage here.The Obama administration has already put China on notice. On Wednesday, the White House released its strategy for preventing the theft of U.S. trade secrets. The plan includes ratcheting up diplomatic efforts and making prosecution of foreign companies a top priority.Such pressure could eventually lead to informal agreements that start small and grow in scope as trust builds. A starting point for the U.S. and China could be a ban on the destruction or disruption of critical infrastructure or technology driving the global economic system.In the past, nations have reached understandings governing maritime transportation, air transport, the behavior of navies and international trade well in advance of formal treaties on these subjects, according to a recent paper by Richard Clarke, a former White House adviser on cybersecurity and cyberterrorism, entitled "Securing Cyberspace Through International Norms." For example, the U.S. and Russia are in discussions to establish a cyber hotline in order to prevent cyberspace activity from escalating into a conflict.In the meantime, the U.S. should move much faster to adopt regulations for securing critical infrastructure and corporate networks. A good start would be passage of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which would establish rules for sharing cyberthreat information between private industry and government agencies. Such information is important in strengthening defenses.Eventually, China and the U.S. will draw lines in cyberspace that neither will cross. To get there, we should avoid nonsensical discussions of war that paint China as the enemy, and look for areas of agreement from which we can move forward.Photo by Shutterstock


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RIAA Slams Google For Anti-Piracy Fail

Frustrated and bitter that laws like SOPA and PIPA have yet to get pushed through Congress without those pesky constituents objecting to turning the U.S. government into muscle for entertainment industry, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is taking out its anger on Google. The music industry lobbying group is accusing the search engine giant of failing to effectively demote search results that lead people to those nasty little download sites.In a blog post on the RIAA site yesterday, Steven M. Marks, EVP & General Counsel, RIAA made it clear that the music copyright association thinks that Google, despite making some headway, remains a day late and a dollar short."We recognize and appreciate that Google has undertaken some positive steps to address links to illegal music on its network," said Steven M. Marks, the RIAA's executive vice president and general counsel. "Unfortunately, our initial analysis concludes that so far Google's pledge six months ago to demote pirate sites remains unfulfilled. Searches for popular music continue to yield results that emphasize illegal sites at the expense of legitimate services, which are often relegated to later pages. And Google's auto-complete function continues to lead users to many of those same illicit sites."(This isn't the first time: see also RIAA Slams Google's Anti-Piracy Efforts, Demands Even More Unreasonable Measures.)

Testing The Claims

I wanted to see if the RIAA might be overstating its concerns, something that they've been known to do before. So I performed a little one-man experiment, using the song "Some Nights" by Fun. as the guinea pig. Your mileage may vary, of course, but my quick-and-dirty test revealed that the RIAA may have some valid claims.A search for "Fun. album" returned a first, second, and third page of results that were absent of any results that would seem to contain illegal downloads, with the bottom of the third page containing three DMCA takedown notices that point to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's ChillingEffects.org for more information.But down in the "Searches related to" section of all of the results pages, "fun. some nights download" was among the listings, and a click-through pulled in the plenty of links to aggregate MP3 download sites, mixed with a few legitimate sites, like iTunes (#3), Amazon (#7) and the official video on YouTube (#8).As for the RIAA's claim that Google's AutoComplete will suggest search terms that could lead users to sites containing unlicensed copies of songs, I found this was indeed true. By the time I typed "fun. some", Google had filled in four results:fun. some nights
fun. some nights lyrics
fun. some nights meaning
fun. some nights mp3On a whim, I turned on SafeSearch to see if that would make a difference. Results did differ on some search results, such as "fun. some nights download", where legitimate sites (like the Wikipedia entry for the album) were moved up slightly on the first page of results, but the sketchy download sites were still in full-glory display.I should also note that the RIAA did not take Microsoft's Bing service to task, even thought the same experiment on Bing yielded very similar results, even in the auto-complete results. Type in "fun. some" on the Bing home page and you get these helpful suggestions:fun. some nights lyrics
fun. some nights
fun. some nights meaning
fun. some nights torrent
fun. some nights video
fun. some nights album download
fun. some nights mp3
fun. some nights review

Search Engines As Police?

Based on these (admittedly quick) search tests, it seems like the RIAA has a point, and Google is failing to block apparent pirate sites on its search results, and its demotion policy announced in August 2012 isn't really working all that well, either.But let's be clear: Google has said all along it wasn't going to block site results from any site unless it receives a specific copyright removal request from the rights owner."Only copyright holders know if something is authorized, and only courts can decide if a copyright has been infringed; Google cannot determine whether a particular webpage does or does not violate copyright law. So while this new signal will influence the ranking of some search results, we won't be removing any pages from search results unless we receive a valid copyright removal notice from the rights owner," senior vice president of engineering Amit Singhal wrote back in August.At the time, what Google said it would do was add a new signal to how it ranks search results."Starting next week, we will begin taking into account a new signal in our rankings: the number of valid copyright removal notices we receive for any given site. Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in our results," Singhal stated.The RIAA is contending in its statement this week that Google has failed to live up to that promise.One has to wonder, though, if trying to keep up with the sheer number of sites that provide access to unlicensed media content is comparable to spitting on a forest fire. If the signal for page ranking depends in some way on number of takedown attempts, perhaps the RIAA and other rights holders are not sending enough signals. Or maybe these sites know who to game other ranking signals to boost their status on Google and Bing search results.It is very easy to point fingers at Google and Bing and accuse them of not doing enough to keep people away from pirated media. If you forget, of course, that this not their job.Complaining about the auto-completing results would seem to be a more valid concern, until you remember that there could be legitimate results for "download X."The RIAA wants to protect the rights of its artists and producers, a valid concern. But it is not clear at all that Google, Microsoft and the other search engines should be relied upon as key allies in the recording industry's ongoing quest to stomp piracy. Search engines' missions are to provide data, not analyze that data for legality.Despite what they're asking for here, I suspect even the most vehement anti-piracy activists would not care for some of the implications of a world where search engines were to undertake that goal.


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Today’s Burning Question: Marketing Implications of Google Glass

Another day, another screen size! On the heels of Google’s unveiling of new details about Google Glass, we asked our panel of movers & shakers: “How will online marketers capitalize on the impending availability of Google Glass?” Here’s how they responded: “Google Glass represents the coming of the future of consumerism. When users ask for [...]

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Larissa’s Picks to Click: Social Ad APIs, Windows 8 Campaign, Ad No-Nos

EDITOR’S NOTE: Adotas Editorial InternLarissa Lohman routinely scours online media for big news and offbeat developments to share with our readers. Got your own “pick to click”?Send her a link. The weekend is so close, I can almost taste it! Anyone have any exciting plans for the last weekend of February? TechCrunch looks at Twitter’s [...]

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Google’s Plan to Kill Groupon Revealed

Google Offer Extensions are the latest and greatest AdWords advertising extension, enabling advertisers to make some powerful adjustments to their standard-issue Google ads. Offer Extensions integrate offers with search, allowing you to attach a clickable coupon, rebate, or discount offer to any standard Google Search ad. Previously, Google Offer Extensions were available in a private [...]

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Intel Acquires AppMobi's HTML5 Developer Tools And Staff

Intel has gutted the HTML5 mobile-app development firm appMobi, acquiring its tools and related staff – but not the startup itself. The move is part of Intel's bid to build out its own suite of developer tools for mobile applications.According to documents obtained by ReadWrite (see below), appMobi will turn into a pure play cloud services provider, offering developers backend service support for HTML5 mobile applications. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

ReadWrite's 2012 Most Promising Company

ReadWrite named appMobi “the most promising company of 2012” for its work on creating HTML5 solutions for mobile application developers. The company aimed to rethink how developers can use HTML5 for audio and video as well as accelerating performance for Android and iOS. It created Mobius, a mobile video standard that aimed to kill Flash (which ended up dying in mobile anyway) and helped create innovative ways for HTML5 developers to monetize their products. appMobi’s most innovative (and controversial) product came in the form of jqMobi, a HTML5/JavaScript framework designed to give mobile developers a mobile-ready JQuery. The company created a proof-of-concept, fully HTML5 game called BoomTown to show game developers that, yes, fully functional mobile games can be built using a mobile browser as a backbone.

Tools And Migration

Specifically, the tools that Intel is acquiring from appMobi include the XDK IDE (Integrated Developer Environment), PhoneGap XDK, GameDev XDK, jqMobi and jqUI developer frameworks, directCanvas HTML5 acceleration, the Mobius Web browser along with testing and debugging tools.The tools most important to Intel will be the jqMobi and directCanvas products which give developers environments to build HTML5 applications and to accelerate them on mobile devices. Developers that are currently using appMobi's tools will not be effected by the move to Intel except for a one time re-registration to Intel's systems. The HTML5 tools will continue to remain free to use through Intel. Ultimately, this will be a smart move for Intel as it tries to validate its presence in the mobile development space. By acquiring a robust set of HTML5 tools it can give developers the option of creating cross-platform apps that will work in any environment on any device and (most importantly) any computer chip. Here's appMobi's email to developers on the Intel move, followed by a FAQ also produced by the company:


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Sony PlayStation 4: There's Still No "Mass-Production Box"

After Wednesday night's PlayStation Meeting event, a flurry of questions still surround the future of next-gen gaming and where the PlayStation 4 will fit in.

(See also The PlayStation 4 Is Here, But We Don't Know What It Looks Like)

Since then, Sony has been nice enough to clear up a few of the most pressing issues, namely why it did not show the console even once throughout its two-hour presentation. The answer, from Sony CEO Jack Tretton, is that there is no "mass-production box" at the moment.

"The Console Is Just A Console"

Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony's Worldwide Studios group, complemented that answer by explaining that event was aimed at expressing the company's next-gen vision, not showcasing hardware specs and final design. "The console is just a box… the controller was very important to show because it has the share button, but the console is just a console," he said in an interview with Polygon.

Sony also addressed some of the less important questions surrounding the PS4:

  1. The Dualshock 3 controller will not be supported on the new console.
  2. The PS4 will in fact support 4K video and photo streaming, but not for games.
  3. 3D is not important. Yoshida explained the company's dismissive mindset when it comes to 3D, "…All of the companies have shifted focus from 3D TV to something else, so if they're not talking about it, why would we?"
  4. Used games? To the many gamers who feared the PS4 would integrate a ban on used games, Yoshida offered concise, yet vague, reassurance. "Used games can play on the PS4," he said in an interview with Eurogamer, leaving open the possibility of a potential access code that customers might have to purchase to access a used title.
  5. Social and offline play. In a cheeky swipe at those adverse to Sony's big push for social media integration, Yoshida said, "We understand there are some people who are anti-social! So if you don't want to connect to anyone else, you can do that."

For those who like to salivate over processing power and performance, Sony released a full spec sheet, confirming its AMD innards. The processor will be comprised of eight x86-64 AMD Jaguar CPU cores and a next-gen AMD Radeon-based graphics engine that will push 1.84 teraflops. 

Sony is still playing mum on an official release date and pricing, and Yoshida didn't shed much light on whether or not the physical console box will be ready for an E3 unveiling: "We're still trying to decide that," he said.



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The Chromebook Pixel Is Doomed By A Major Identity Crisis

When they were introduced, Chromebooks made sense as a Google-branded evolution of the netbook for the tablet shy. But in 2013, consumers still don't understand why there are so many versions of Android - much less what Google's Chrome OS is or who it's for. With the Chromebook Pixel, Google's cloud-happy notebooks have created a full-on identity crisis. (See also Google Chromebook Pixel: Bold, Beautiful And Very, Very Expensive)

Chromebooks Are Already Confusing

Following a leaked video and a typically detail-sparse report from The Wall Street Journal, Google has launched the Chromebook Pixel, an HD touchscreen notebook that will run on its Chrome operating system and retail starting at $1,299. The Pixel, with its high price and Google-built bare bones operating system is an odd bird. With a 239-pixels-per-inch display, the aptly-named Pixel one-ups Apple's 13" Retina MacBook Pro and its (paltry!) 227 PPI seemingly just for the hell of itOh, and it's a touchscreen, too, meaning you can smear your fingerprints all over that beautiful display.The touchscreen means that beyond "taking on" the Retina MacBooks, Google's Chromebook Pixel will also compete directly against Microsoft's over-hyped, overpriced Surface tablets. But for all the buzz around hybrid devices that blur the line between notebooks and tablets (Lenovo Yoga, anyone?), consumers don't seem to have the same hunger for them that they have for "pure" tablets. The advent of the touchscreen notebook was a weird side effect from 2010-era iPad panic - there's no evidence that consumers even want a device that combines the power of a laptop with the finger-friendliness of a tablet. And if there was, a pricey notebook with a kajillion pixels running on the hamstrung Chrome OS probably wouldn't be it.

Missing The (Price) Point  

Want a powerful notebook with a (pretty) nice screen for around $1,200? Buy the $1,199 13" MacBook Air. Want to spend a little less for a slightly weirder device, or hung up on Windows 8 for some reason? Buy a Surface Pro. Drunk? Buy an Ultrabook!Google has gained market share in recent times by offering well-built, affordable alternatives. Android tablets like the Nexus 7 and even existing entry-level Chromebooks can chip away at the competition because Google can afford to undercut the its competitors on price - the most important spec of all. The Chromebook Pixel seems to have forgotten that lesson. At $249 and $199, the existing Chromebook line is a smartly priced alternative for users heavily invested in Google's cloud ecosystem. Starting at $1,299, Google's touchscreen Chromebook Pixel can only hope to attract inebriated would-be power users who wandered into the wrong aisle of Best Buy.On the Venn Diagram of people who need a serious computer and people willing to put up with the limitations of the Chrome OS, that little center slice is altogether empty.Photo by Mark Hachman.


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Adobe Unveils Early Results of Twitter Ads Program

As an early Twitter Ads API partner, Adobe just announced that their customers can benefit from Twitter’s new ads program starting today withAdobe Media Optimizer, the only ad platform that manages more than $2 Billion in annual ad spend, optimizes and forecasts the performance of campaigns across social, search and display. Adobe also unveiled early [...]

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How It Feels (Through Google Glass)

From Google’s YouTube channel: Want to see how Glass actually feels? It’s surprisingly simple. Say “take a picture” to take a picture. Record what you see, hands free. Even share what you see, live. Directions are right in front of you. Speak to send a message, or translate your voice. Get the notifications that matter [...]

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More Tags, More Problems

Delivering tags down to a web page is the prime directive of any tag management system. However, a properly delivered tag is still subject to the hostile environment of the browser where syntax errors, server outages and deferred tag loading can cause the data in the tag to be lost on its way to tag [...]

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Google's Sergey Brin & Facebook's Zuck Team Up On $33 Million Breakthrough Prize

Google's flashy visionary and Facebook's hacker boy-king are putting their heads together - but they're not cooperating to drum up more likes or clicks, thank goodness.The pair, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, have teamed up for social good, establishing a science research prize that's already awarded $33 million in its inaugural round.  A Big Stakes Science FairThe award, known as the Breakthrough Prize, will be doled out to five winners each year, though a robust selection of 11 recipients were announced in the first round. The founding members of the new science foundation have committed to establish five annual prizes of $3 million for outstanding research that advances cures for intractable diseases.

Other founding members of the Breakthrough Prize include the wives of both Brin and Zuckerberg, who are both more science-minded than their tech-star partners. Anne Wojcicki, married to Brin, is the founder of 23andme.com - a genetics startup. Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg's wife, graduated from medical school after meeting Zuck at Harvard and was accepted to a prestigious pediatric residency at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) last year.

“Priscilla and I are honored to be part of this,” Zuckerberg wrote in the prize's announcement. “We believe the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences has the potential to provide a platform for other models of philanthropy, so people everywhere have an opportunity at a better future.”Apple chairman Art Levinson will serve as the new foundation's chairman, rounding out the trifecta of major tech companies with a hand in the new science prize.

Zuckerberg, Forgotten Philanthropist (In A Hoodie)

From disheveled boardroom 20-something to amoral hacker, Zuckerberg's image runs the gamut - and it isn't always flattering. But in 2012, the Facebook founder ran up a tab as the second biggest philanthropist in the U.S., giving away 18 million shares of Facebook stock valued at $498.8 million to a health and education foundation in Silicon Valley.Brin is no stranger to writing epic tax deductible checks - or to co-founding his own nonprofit. Beyond Google's own active nonprofit arm, the quirky Google co-founder has donated millions to foundations ranging from fighting poverty in the Bay Area to Parkinson's disease research.

For more on the prize, the Breakthrough Foundation's site has the full list of its first prize recipients. Photo by Taylor Hatmaker.


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Box CEO Aaron Levie On Finding Mentors & Mixing Enterprise/Consumer Cultures [Video]

Last Wednesday, ReadWrite Editor-in-in-Chief Dan Lyons sat down with 27-year-old Box CEO Aaron Levie to discuss the complex market of enterprise cloud technology in the third ReadWrite Mix event in San Francisco.(See also Box CEO Aaron Levie On The Uncertain Landscape Of Enterprise Software [Video])In the one-hour sit-down, Lyons and Levie covered surprisingly diverse topics, from Levie's personal life as a notorious workaholic to what it means to sit in the middle of the enterprise and consumer software landscape that has steadily begun to merge. Levie also showcased his sense of humor with descriptions of the companies he started as a teenager (Zazap, the fastest search engine on the Internet - except for Google), and spot-on caricatures of stuffy enterprise types to illustrate how he keeps his company loose and fast-moving. This 2:28 video touches on Levie's thoughts on having grown up in the startup landscape with his high school friends, the laughable stereotype of enterprise software culture and seeking out mentors in Silicon Valley (Hint: There's no risk to to sending an email. So what if you don't get a response, he says). 



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The PlayStation 4 Is Here, But We Don't Know What It Looks Like

Throughout the entirety of Sony's two-hour PlayStation 4 event Wednesday night, everyone from gaming luminaries to publishing executives plugged the system's many features, from its social integration to its primary focus on player experience that spans the living room and mobile devices.The one thing we didn't get was a look at the console itself.We did get a glimpse of the controller, which seemed to confirm the leaked images that surfaced late last week. It seems that Sony is content with making everyone wait to see what the console will actually look like with an unveiling perhaps at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo in June. The PS4 will hit shelves this holiday season, Sony said.Sony did touch on nearly everything else media outlets were furiously speculating over. The PS4 will support full social media integration with Facebook, and will connect with Ustream to utilize an already much-discussed streaming feature that lets players view the screens of other players, communicate with them in real time and even jump in and take control of the game to help them out.The new controller will sport a share button that will help instantaneous connections with social media channels, as well as a touchpad and a light bar that interacts with a bundled stereo camera. To show off the share button, developer Guerilla Games posted its new trailer right to Facebook during the event.The system will not natively support PS3 games, though Sony did announce that it is working on a cloud-based system to allow the playing of titles from various past PlayStation platforms to be playable on both the PS4 and the Vita. As for the specs, the PS4 will have an X86 CPU and 8GB of memory, as well as a "highly enhanced PC GPU," which is coming from AMD, according to earlier reports. The system will boot up instantly, and you'll be able to start playing games while they are still downloading. System memory is still being backed by local storage, and may likely be the reason behind the two differently priced models Kotaku says will hit shelves at launch

Bringing Out The Superstars

Sony flooded the event with superstars from the industry, like Jonathan Blow, the acclaimed creator of Braid, who unveiled a trailer of his new game The Witness in which players can explore a tightly compacted island full of puzzles. David Cage, founder of French developer Quantic Dream and director of the hauntingly life-like and emotional Heavy Rain, also made an appearance to demo the capabilities of the new console when it comes to showing character emotion in unprecedented depth and detail. Among the other games demoed were four confirmed titles. The first was Mark Cerny's Knack, a cartoony platforming game, while the second and third were new installments to the Killzone and Infamous series (Killzone Shadow Fall and Infamous: Second Son). The fourth was a new team-based driving game called Driveclub from Evolution Studios, which will mix excruciatingly executed supercar renderings with international, challenge-oriented competition. Other highlights were a new Watch Dogs demo from Ubisoft and the confirmation that the open-world game will be a next-gen title available on the PS4, as well as the announcement that Blizzard Entertainment is bringing Diablo 3 to both the PS3 and PS4. Capcom's Yoshinori Ono showed off the company's Panta Rhei game engine, with a fantasy game with the working title Deep Down. Following that was Square Enix's demo of its new Luminous engine, with a surprise announcement from Final Fantasy Brand Director Shinji Hashimoto that the RPG series will be unveiling a fresh installment at this year's E3. The event ended with Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg introducing part of the Bungie team to speak about the 10-year effort to create Destiny, a massive first-person shooter that is now confirmed for the PS4. 


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Told Ya So: AP Confirms Hotmail’s Demise

Confirming our February 4 story, The Associated Press reported today that Microsoft will retire the world’s most popular free email platform, Hotmail, in favor of its new service, Outlook.com. The AP reports that the switch will be accompanied by “what [Microsoft] believes to be the biggest marketing blitz in the history of email,” in the [...]

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Paid Search Prices Continue to Rise; Better Returns in Social

Paid search for online retailers can become a spend suck, and price for keywords is still on the rise. In the second quarter of 2012, Google reported a 42% increase in paid click revenue. While more targeted and relevant ads can make the rising price of paid traffic worth the investment, many companies are beginning [...]

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Appinions Blog: ‘Use Pinterest to Build Influencer Relationships’

In a recent blog post, Nyerr Parham, marketing manager at Appinions, touts Pinterest as an emerging opportunity for brand marketers. She notes that while it doesn’t yet match the marketing punch of Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest now has almost as many users as LinkedIn. “Though it does provide a way to reach out to consumers,” [...]

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Kim Dotcom Boasts About Mega's First-Month Milestones

To file-sharing guru, alleged pirate and international Internet activist Kim Dotcom, his one-month old creation - the encrypted file-sharing service Mega - is not only a company, it's also a "belief," not to mention "a guardian angel of your rights, freedom, and privacy."

Grandiose Declarations

This grandiose declaration came via Twitter on Tuesday, where Dotcom also announced some quick figures on his new site's growth. After one month, Mega has hit 3 million users, with 125 million files uploaded. This is certainly nothing to scoff at, and more evidence that U.S. Department of Justice charges of copyright infringement, racketeering and money laundering are not slowing the man down.

Mega, the rebirth of file-sharing service Megaupload, which was shut down by U.S. authorities in January of 2012, has been gradually working its way into headlines since its lavish January 19 launch, where Dotcom staged a fake FBI raid to blaring techno music, among other wild antics. Notably, the service hit 1 million users in the first 24 hours, and Dotcom announced through Twitter last Saturday that Mega would be accepting bitcoins as currency.

Dotcom has also announced that mobile Mega apps are on the way, which bodes well for those looking for almost completely unrestricted on-the-go file storage options for iOS, Android, etc. And in case you were wondering, Mega's international traffic rates rank France, Spain, Brazil, Germany and the U.S. as the top five, in that order.

Mega's Perks & The Cloud Storage Battle

Known for his ability to massively disrupt institutions, Dotcom is also making the news for his service's competitive pricing. Mega's rates currently stand at 50GB of free cloud storage. Users can also opt for a Pro Membership package, with tier-1 offerings of 500GB of storage, 1TB bandwidth rate for 9.99 (or roughly $13) per month. Tier-2 quadruples the storage and bandwidth amounts of the previous tier for 19.99 per month, while tier-3 doubles all of tier-2's offerings for 29.99 per month. 

Mega's free option alone beats out the storage offerings of Dropbox, iCloud and Google Drive combined. The additional perk is, of course, the privacy. Dotcom's service ensures that users' files are completely protected from peeking by way of an encrypted key. So unless you supply them with access, even Mega staff cannot access your files.

Mega: Privacy vs. Piracy?

That said, it remains to be seen whether the service will become another source of rampant copyright infringement. Considering Dotcom's history, and the enormous amount of freedom Mega hands to users, that possibility certainly looms large. Being able to share anything and everything is great for privacy, but not so much for content owners hoping to keep file sharers from unauthorized dissemination of every new song, movie and TV episode. 

(See also Is Kim Dotcom's New Site, Mega, the Wild West of Piracy?)

Whether or not Dotcom will be extradited from New Zealand to the U.S. to face his numerous charges will be decided in March. Until then, he seems to be enjoying his new site's steady climb to the top of the file-sharing and cloud-storage leaderboard.



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Hotmail Users, It's Time To Move To Outlook.com, Like It Or Not

"OK, people, listen up. Seymour, pay attention. Elsie, turn on your hearing aid. It's time to move your Hotmail accounts to Outlook.com. Hey! No, stop complaining. Don't use that language, Ethel, it's un-ladylike."Yes, the the time has come - the hundreds of millions of email users who are currently using Hotmail will be migrated over to Outlook.com by this summer, Microsoft said Tuesday. For many of Microsoft's long-time customers, this will be their first experience with the Windows 8-styled "Metro" user interface that Microsoft is propagating around its properties.(See also Outlook.com: Take A Tour Of Microsoft's Hotmail Replacement.)"We've been very excited by the adoption of the preview and how it's delivering on our promise of a new, reimagined email service," David Law, director of product management for Outlook.com, said in a blog post on Tuesday. "Throughout the preview, we learned a tremendous amount from seeing how people used the service.  Early adopters have told us what they liked, what they'd like to see next, and what we needed to do to make more people switch. And we've used that to add new features and fine-tune the services to scale.  Now that Outlook.com is coming out of preview, we'll be kicking off a huge push across a number of countries around the world to drive even greater awareness and adoption of Outlook.com."Last July, Microsoft reworked its email system and unveiled Outlook.com, a beta of a dramatically improved email client that it said at the time would eventually replace Hotmail. The Windows 8 style "Metro makeovers" eventually reached SkyDrive, the new Office Web Apps, and a revamped MSN, among other Microsoft propertiess. Although Hotmail and Outlook.com share several elements - social connections to Twitter and Facebook, for example, and the ability to put rich media - including videos - within the client itself, Outlook.com is a bold reimagining of the Web email client in the Windows 8 vein.

The Dad Problem

The problem, unfortunately, is Dad.My father, like many fathers, is a wonderful man. But even though he's an engineer, he despises technology. He hated beepers. Cell phones. ATM cards. Computers. Since I convinced my mother that a DVR could record Oakland A's games or St. Mary's basketball games, they've added a (standard-definition) video recoreder, which collects dust under their 27-inch Sony Trinitron CRT television. To their credit, we were one of the early families to adopt the microwave, which still resides in our kitchen, waiting for me to reset the clock in the event of a power failure.My father has an AOL account.My father quite logically points out that he has no need for an additional email address, since that AOL account is now embedded deep in the list of contact of their friends. And, cheapskate that he is (a compliment, in our family) he quickly bailed out of AOL's dialup service when a better ISP deal came along.But there is no way on God's green earth that my father wants Windows 8. He's quite happy with Windows XP, thank you, which chugs along on his old Dell PC. I'm pretty sure he would still be on an ancient version of Internet Explorer had I not upgraded him for fear of him getting hacked.No, my father does not have a Hotmail account, but I suspect that there are plenty of people just like him who do. Shifting from Hotmail to the Outlook.com environment is definitely going to blow some minds. I suspect that after glimpsing the Windows 8 style interface, some people may never venture upon the Internet again.

Easing The Transition?

I kid, of course.Honestly, I'm sure some users will be blown away by the look and feel of Outlook.com, and the wealth of new features it offers. Some may even feel comfortable enough to upgrade their PCs to finally enter the 21st Century. And give credit where credit is due: Law and Microsoft are definitely trying to make the transition as easy as possible:"Everything from their @hotmail.com email address, password, messages, folders, contacts, rules, vacation replies, etc. will stay the same, with no disruption in service," Law wrote. "When upgraded, they'll also get all the benefits from the redesigned Outlook.com experience - a fresh and intuitive user interface, lots of new features and better performance. And we won't ever make you switch your email address to an @outlook.com address if you don't want to."But when I read all that, I still can't help but think of this quote:"I used to be with it, but then they changed what *it* was. Now what I'm with isn't *it,* and what's *it* seems weird and scary to me. It'll happen to you..." Abe Simpson, The Simpsons: "Homerpalooza"Image source: Flickr/pauldwaite.


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Which Q&A App Sucks The Least? [Chart]

Savvy – and even not-so-savvy – mobile and online users know that most Question & Answer platforms aren't worth the time and effort it takes to scan them.

But the good folks at the Butler University Business Accelerator set out to learn exactly how bad they are, and which ones suck the least. 

The Butler University Q&A Intelligence Index aims to measure how accurately and quickly various mobile Q&A apps could provide quality answers to a variety of questions. The idea was to measure "the likelihood that a user could expect to receive a correct answer in a timely manner to any random query using natural language."

The contenders included Ask.com, Answers.com, ChaCha Google, Quora, Siri and Yahoo Answers, among others. Questions covered advice (“What if a girl doesn’t want to talk to you?”), objective (“What are the 10 most common names?”), and subjective (“Who would win in a fight, The Hulk or Superman?”).

The winner – or, if you ask me, the least terrible – was ChaCha, while the ultimate loser was Quora. Apple's Siri was second worst, while the oft-reviled Yahoo Answers came in a respectable fourth – which certainly makes me wonder about the strength of the competition.

Here are some highlights from the research:

ChaCha Rocks: “ChaCha delivered the highest-quality responses consistently across the largest group of categories and question types,” Trent Ritzenthaler, operating director of the Butler Business Accelerator, said in a statement.

Objective Questions: Ask.com did best on objective/temporal questions, such as “When does summer end?”

Tough Questions: Quora was best able to answer "difficult questions that require expert and extensive explanations," but answered only 24% of all questions and consistently failed to answer at all – and often presented matches that did not include a viable answer.

What Is Siri For? Siri accurately answered only 37.5 percent of the questions posed, but Siri’s biggest strengths are considered to be in local discovery and operating system commands, which were not highly represented in Butler’s study of more mainstream questions.

100% Google: Google’s response rate was 100%, but the first organic result was correct only about half the time.



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Larissa’s Picks to Click: Is Your Ad Seen? Augmented Reality Sells, and Pepsi Harlem Shakes

EDITOR’S NOTE: Adotas Editorial InternLarissa Lohman routinely scours online media for big news and offbeat developments to share with our readers. Got your own “pick to click”?Send her a link. Presidents’ Day? I wish I still had off from school for this “holiday.” ClickZ examines display ads, showing on average 3 out of 10 ads [...]

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Don’t Be That Guy (or Bot)

We work in an electronic industry, and as such, one might think that email would be an appropriate form of communication. At least that’s the notion with which I decided today to reach out to some prospective new industry contacts and apprise them of available editorial opportunities at Adotas. Imagine, then, my surprise at receiving [...]

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Facebook Strikes Back at Google with Billion$ at Stake

Facebook and Google have been inching in on each other’s domain for years, aiming to become the primary method that consumers use to engage with each other – and with brands – online. Google’s “Facebook killer” Google+ has been growing steadily since its launch in 2011, but is far from being the social media juggernaut [...]

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Burger King Twitter Account Hacked, Hilarity Ensues

Twitter accounts get hacked all the time. Most of the time it is a random user whose account gets turned an unwitting spam bot. But sometimes it's a big brand and the results can range from catastrophic to hilarious.The latter has just happened to fast food chain Burger King’s Twitter account. Around noon EST today, Burger King’s account was hacked, and whoever took it over promptly announced that Burger King had sold itself to McDonald’s. The hackers changed the Burger King avatar logo to that of McDonald’s and have been on a hilarious rampage ever since. The hack appears have been perpetrated by members associated online “hacktivist” group Anonymous. Tweets are being signed with the tag @DFNCTSC, which stands for "Defonic Team Screen Name Club." A teenage hacker in the @DFNCTSC group pled guilt to hacking Paris Hilton in 2009 and was sentenced to 11 months in a juvenile corrections facility. It is often difficult to tell if malicious hackers are members of Anonymous or not as the group has little centralized structure and primarily communicates with the world through a variety of Twitter accounts. Whoever has hacked Burger King posted the tweet below, telling people to follow @YourAnonNews, the primary news account for the group and calling the Burger King hack #OpMadCow. The hackers seem to be enjoying themselves. The @BurgerKing account is retweeting nearly any mention of the hack it can find while mentioning a variety of hip hop recording artists in its tweets.At the time of publication, Burger King had not yet reclaimed control over its Twitter account. One Twitter user noted that the Burger King hack may not really be such a bad thing overall as it elevates Burger King into the national conversation, even if it is for a horribly embarrassing incident. Any publicity is good publicity, right?Update: The Burger King account was suspended by Twitter around 1:35 p.m. EST. 



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Platform-as-a-Service: 6 Ways PaaS Will Change The Enterprise

Guest author Bart Copeland is CEO of ActiveState.

Jetpacks, flying cars, hybrid cloud. Which one will be ubiquitous in two years? Here’s a hint: It’s the one that doesn’t involve personal air travel.

In two years, the cloud-computing-enabled enterprise will have the enviable luxury to take much for granted, including accelerated time to market, seamless deployment, true polyglot coding and agile-as-you-want development.

And the technology that will enable that bright future? Here’s another hint: It starts with “private PaaS” or private Platform- as-a-Service. Think of private PaaS as cloud middleware for the enterprise — Platform-as-a-Service technology for on-premise service delivery behind a firewall, or an operating system for an enterprise private cloud.

Here are six ways private PaaS will change the enterprise cloud space by 2015:

1. Mobile apps will drive enterprise cloud and private PaaS adoption.

Two years from now, the biggest driver for cloud adoption won’t be traditional applications, it’ll be mobile apps. Disparate workforces already make Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) a cost of doing business for the enterprise: More types of enterprise work will require more types of mobile applications. And that will burden IT leaders mandated with managing the cloud. To retain control (and sanity), those IT leaders will embrace private PaaS technologies to provide integrated application management of mobile (and Web and cloud) applications.

2. Private clouds will dominate the enterprise market for now… but hybrids will win in the end.

Marketers spin idealized tales of cross-cloud hybrid love, with capacity-enabling bursts to the public cloud, easy multi-datacenter application administration, better security management, and redundancy/failover operational models abstracted from the developers and employees doing the actual work. It’s a great, achievable vision. But for most enterprises, that hybrid cloud vision is still two years away. Which is why they’re investing in private PaaS architectures now. Today’s enterprise cloud adopters see private cloud — and in particular, private PaaS technology — as the path to tomorrow’s hybrid cloud glory.

3. Smaller "public PaaS" players will dwindle as Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) subsumes PaaS.

To differentiate themselves against commoditization, IaaS service providers will continue to incorporate PaaS technology into their infrastructure service offerings. Service breadth will expand, prices will fall and small business will embrace the low-cost public cloud. But those competitive pricing scenario will challenge small standalone public PaaS providers as VC funds dry up and competitors either partner with or get absorbed into larger cloud-services corporations.

4. 2013 PaaS purchase criterion: deployment acceleration. 2015 PaaS purchase criteria: administrative control, true polyglot development, easy extensibility to Big Data.

In the PaaS world, 2013 will be the year of rapid application deployment: Enterprise private PaaS adopters will see their cloud application deployment cycles reduced from weeks or months to just minutes. In two years, cloud adopters will take that speed-tomarket for granted. As a result, enterprise cloud adopters will evaluate private PaaS technology not just for how it accelerates workflow, but for how it impacts the bottom line. In 2015, private PaaS technologies will offer even easier administrative control, support for development in any language, seamless integration to corporate applications (particularly big-data databases), and hybrid cloud capabilities.

5. Beyond polyglot, "anyglot"" development will move apps forward in ways we can’t yet imagine.

In today’s cloud technology market, enterprise developers must often choose between their preferred development language and the development language dictated by their IaaS/PaaS solution. When infrastructure services (whether public or private) mandate development environment, it’s the coders who suffer, and they’re the ones who must adapt to the new world order. In some cases, that can mean learning new languages and recoding (or even dumping) legacy applications. But two years from now, we’ll look back on inconveniences like that and laugh. Envision truly polyglot cloud middleware. Applications developed in multiple languages. True cloud application portability. Both developers and cloud managers (DevOps) collaborating. Dogs and cats living together in harmony. Really.

6. Agile development will be so agile we’ll need a new name for it (“SuperAgile?”).

Tomorrow’s agility will make today’s agility look laughably slow. In 2015, we’ll enjoy polyglot application development and dynamic deployment. With those capabilities will come newfound agility… not just accelerated nimbleness for cat-herders, but flexibility: Developers can work in the (fast) way that’s right for them. More apps, better apps, delivered to market faster.

The future looks… um, bright.

 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.



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Box CEO Aaron Levie On The Uncertain Landscape Of Enterprise Software [Video]

Last Wednesday, ReadWrite Editor-in-in-Chief Dan Lyons sat down with 27-year-old Box CEO Aaron Levie to discuss the complex market of enterprise cloud technology in the third ReadWrite Mix event in San Francisco.Lyons and Levie touched on a wide array of subjects, from sly stabs at Microsoft to how Box grew from a dorm room project to the forefront of cloud storage and collaboration. Levie also shared some of his wisdom on how to outmaneuver the competition, understand the early mover conundrum and keep delivering better technology. This 2:48 video touches on the uncertainties facing enterprise software companies like Box, as well as the opportunities that lay ahead in a market where, as Levie says, it's not clear where one service starts and another service stops. 



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Social Media Week New York: Schedule of Events

Social Media Week kicks runs from Monday, Feb. 18 through Friday, Feb. 22 in 28 cities around the world. In New York, the events of the week actually start off with three invitation-only events on Sunday, Feb. 17. For those who are unable to attend SMWNYC this year, some of the conferences and events will [...]

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Follow the Live Twitter Feed from Social Media Week NYC

Social Media Week is a worldwide event exploring the social, cultural and economic impact of social media. Our mission is to help people and organizations connect through collaboration, learning and the sharing of ideas and information. In just under five years, Social Media Week has become a platform and a community that has grown to [...]

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Today’s Burning Question: Are Ad Sales People Becoming Irrelevant? (Pt. 1)

Here’s the latest burning question we posed to our readership of industry influencers: With the rise ofprogrammatic bidding and high-quality inventory being available to equally bid against low-quality inventory, will ad sales people eventually be replaced by the algorithm? “Technology is slowly reducing the workforce.More jobs are being eliminated because of automation.Businesses see a great [...]

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ADOTAS POLL: Consumers Have the Least to Gain from Yahoo/Google Alliance

Last week, we asked our readers: “Who will benefit the most from Yahoo’s contextual ad alliance with Google?” Google (31%) Marketers (28%) None of the above (28%) Yahoo! (9%) Consumers (3%) This week’s poll question is one we posed in our recently featured story: “Is the move to mobile a race to the bottom for [...]

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Today’s Burning Question: Are Ad Sales People Becoming Irrelevant? (Pt. 2)

  … Previous “The answer is: no. The advertising ecosystemwilllikely always need a direct salesforce. What it doesn’t need however is more people to sell, traffic and optimize standardized banner ads–programmatic mechanisms are clearly compressing these taxes out of the system. The need for a qualified, educated direct sales team to connect marketers with publishers [...]

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Zuckraking! Randi Zuckerberg Is Writing A Book About Facebook

Apparently it's not enough being a former Facebook marketing manager, owner of your own self consciously hip-yet-somehow-bottom-feeding media company, executive producer of the Bravo realityfest dot-bomb Silicon Valley, and social-media manners maven. Oh, right, and Mark Zuckerberg's sister.So the notoriously shy and retiring Randi Zuckerberg, who has never traded on her better-known billionaire brother's success and influence to further her own ambitions, has decided to grace the world with what the Associated Press describes as a "memoir/lifestyle book" about her time at Facebook. Titled, naturally, Dot Complicated, which coincidentally is also what the demure Ms. Z calls her invitation-only "modern lifestyle newsletter." About which a little more in a moment.

A Good Zuckraking

What's RZ going to tell us? HarperCollins tells us she'll relate her "entrepreneurial journey" through her time at Facebook and beyond. You can probably count on her to give a whitewashed version of her parting of the ways with Facebook, which so far sounds pretty spicy. (Ms. Zuck herself has previously described herself at the time as being "a little irresponsible with my creativity" and going "a little rogue.")You'll also doubtless be fascinated to learn that RZ'berg will also enlighten the masses on  believe it or not – "the multifaceted complications of our socially transparent world today, including issues of privacy, social identity, authenticity, crowd sourcing and the future of social change." Surely the ethics and human decency of photo sharing deserves its own chapter.(See also Yes, Randi Zuckerberg, Please Lecture Us About 'Human Decency')But wait, that's not all! Dot Complicated will also come as an enhanced e-book with "innovative and engaging interactive components," including a "platform for crowd sourced stories and social media integration" – whatever that is. Who wants to wager that Ms. Zuck will herself skillfully navigate the multifaceted complications of our socially transparent world by steering entirely clear of any controversies involving privacy, social identity, authenticity, crowd sourcing and the future of social change?The divine Ms. Z had this to say for herself in the HarperCollins press release:
Technology has changed virtually every part of our lives, resulting in a modern, digital society that feels a lot like the wild, wild west. I am thrilled to be working with HarperCollins to share some of my own crazy experiences on the front lines of social media, and to inspire people of all ages to embrace technology, as well as the new set of social norms that come along with it.
As for what to expect from the "lifestyle" parts of the book, you can't do better than to sample Z's Dot Complicated newsletter and blog. (Invites to the newsletter are apparently pretty easy to come by, as I had no trouble acquiring one – though you never know when the velvet rope will go up.) The blog, for instance, currently features:But even a talent as unassuming as Randi Zuckerberg can't be confined to one book. She'll also publish a children's picture book simultaneously with Dot Complicated, about which she and HarperCollins had virtually nothing else to say. If you needed a new reason to fear for the next generation, you're apparently in luck.Both books are due out in the fall. At least you have plenty of time to brace yourself.Photo via Flickr user nrkbeta.no under CC 2.0 license.


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The Top-Secret Google Glass Foundry: Finally We Get A Look Inside

Remember that top secret Google Glass Foundry event?You know, the one for developers for Google's cool new augmented reality (AR) glasses? The one with the ultra-strict non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that we'd heard nary a peep out of since the second half of the event wrapped up at the beginning of this month? On its Google+ Developers account, the company that fully intends to whisk us all into a wearable future of computing just gave us a little peek at what went down at the San Francisco and New York Google Glass hackathons. 

Meet The Google Glass Pioneers

The pair of two-day events invited about 40 developers to set up camp at Google's respective bicoastal offices, handed them each a set of Google's AR visors and... well, we're still not exactly sure what took place. But we're betting that the hackathons yielded Google Glass applications far more compelling than Sergey Brin's obsession with live-streamed video stunts from Google I/O last year. According to the brief official Google+ recap, Foundry attendees broke into teams and dreamt up more than 80 new tricks for Google Glass. Participants in the hackathons scored special "Pioneer" edition glass bars, like the placeholders handed out at Google's I/O conference.The eight teams that came out on top won the grand prize of a free pair of the futuristic AR devices, which went on pre-order at Google I/O for $1,500 (though we've yet to pay a dime of that). The Glass API is still on lockdown for the time being, so don't expect to hear too much unless you can get your hands on a Medieval torture device and a Pioneer or two.  

SXSW And Google Glass 

As Google Glass Explorer #961, I can hardly wait to get my hands (ears?) on the things. While no release date is set yet for those of us who pre-ordered at I/O, Google will apparently be holding a SXSW Interactive session for developing for its newest, coolest platform. Here's the description for the SXSW Google Glass event, hosted by Google Senior Developer Advocate Timothy Jordan:"By bringing technology closer, we can get it out of the way. This is what Glass does. It provides an experience to the user that's there when they want it, and unobtrusive when they don't. In doing so, Glass creates a new kind of computing that's more about people than it is about computers. In this session, we'll look at Glass in people's lives with emphasis on how to use the cloud API to build new experiences and bring people closer together."Below are more new photos from the Google Glass foundry events. Now that we've got Google Glass "pioneers" my status as a Google Glass "Explorer" suddenly feels a little inadequate. You can view the full album on Google+ Photos by Daniel Gaines Photography and Philip Montgomery.


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...And Facebook Got Hacked, Too

Seems you can't turn around without hearing of another big company having its shirt pulled over its head by hackers. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal both got exploited by Chinese hackers recently, and a Michigan television station put out a zombie-related Emergency Alert message in a clever, though probably momentarily distressing, hack. Just this morning, UBM announced that its website enterpriseefficiency.com was taken down due to a full-scale denial-of-service attack on its networks.

And now Facebook has announced that some of its machines were infected. An announcement on the company's Newsroom blog – posted in the bad-news graveyard of Friday afternoon leading into a long weekend – revealed that the social networking site was targeted by a "sophisticated attack" last month.

When a handful of Facebook employees visited a compromised mobile developer website, a hosted exploit snuck malware onto their devices. Thanks to antivirus software, Facebook discovered the attack and "remediated" the machines – by which we can only hope means they were fantastically destroyed (though probably they were just wiped and restored).

After alerting law enforcement, Facebook says it launched a "significant investigation" that's still underway. The company also claims that no user data was compromised in the attack. Facebok offered a more detailed explanation on its security blog, excerpted below: 

After analyzing the compromised website where the attack originated, we found it was using a "zero-day" (previously unseen) exploit to bypass the Java sandbox (built-in protections) to install the malware. We immediately reported the exploit to Oracle, and they confirmed our findings and provided a patch on February 1, 2013, that addresses this vulnerability.Facebook was not alone in this attack. It is clear that others were attacked and infiltrated recently as well. As one of the first companies to discover this malware, we immediately took steps to start sharing details about the infiltration with the other companies and entities that were affected. We plan to continue collaborating on this incident through an informal working group and other means.


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ADS-CON Recap: In the Age of Data Science, Is There a Place for Intuition?

The inaugural Advertising and Data Science Congress (ADS-CON), hosted last month by Media6Degrees (m6d) and NYU Stern Center for Business Analytics, brought forth a range of speakers from the industry to academia to discuss the impacts of the data science revolution on advertising and society. Over 150 attendees, including representatives from the IAB, American Express, [...]

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Valentine’s Day 2013: More About ‘Me’, Less About ‘Us’

SocialVibe, a pioneer inengagement advertising, has announced the results of a survey on consumer attitudes, plans and activities for Valentine’s Day 2013. The survey found only moderate enthusiasm for the holiday among digital consumers, with a big focus on “me” and less on one’s significant other. The study revealed four key findings for Valentine’s Day [...]

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Adobe: Facebook Exchange Delivers Strong Performance

Facebook recently announced that Facebook Exchange (FBX) servednearly 1billion impressions daily and supported over 1,300 advertisers. Adobe’s ad solution forFBX is now out of beta, andpreliminary results from customers show that performance is strong.Beta clients running retargeting campaigns withAdobe Media Optimizer tested the top eight Real Time Bidding ad inventory sources including FBX. The data [...]

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Former BlackBerry CEO Jim Balsillie Has Dumped All His Shares

Former BlackBerry co-CEO Jim Balsillie has entered his own vote of no confidence in the company he helped run into the ground back when it was known as Research in Motion.In an SEC filing today, Balsillie revealed that he sold off every single BlackBerry share he owned last year. He used to hold 26.8 million shares, which at the end of last year would have been worth $318.1 million. As of Dec. 31, 2012, though, he owned zero shares -- worth, of course, zero dollars.Financially, that's already been a bad move. BlackBerry shares closed at $11.87 on Dec. 31. Today, they're trading around $14.80 -- up almost six percent since news of Balsillie's sale hit. Which of course could just be coincidence.Balsillie had already become something of an unperson around BlackBerry following his departure as BlackBerry co-CEO. He resigned from BlackBerry's board of directors almost a year ago, wasn't introduced during the keynote launch of BlackBerry 10 in New York City in January (although Mike Lazaridis, who also gave up the co-CEO reins more than a year ago, was), and has mostly remained silent since stepping down in early 2012.Now he's not even a shareholder. Lazaridis, by the way, remains vice chair of the board and still held 29.9 million BlackBerry shares as of Dec. 31, currently worth $442.5 million.Since Balsillie's sell-off, of course, the company has reinvented its core product with the BlackBerry 10 operating system and announced two new smartphones, the Z10 and Q10. It's hard to see Balsillie's move as exhibiting much faith in BlackBerry's new direction.Top photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons



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Why The iOS 6.1 Exploit Is No Reason To Worry

Want to break into someone's new iPhone? It's easy! First you click the emergency call button, hold down the power button, click cancel, tap the numbers 112, begin the call, and then quickly end the call. Got it? Part two: return to the passcode screen and start holding the power button. In the fraction of a second before the 'slide to power off' option appears, tap the emergency call button again.Presto! You're in. Try it a few dozen times and you'll definitely get it. Maybe.

This iOS 6.1 exploit, which is currently enjoying its 15 minutes on the Web, is obviously a large and puzzling security flaw in Apple's iOS Passcode Lock system. But there are a couple of reasons why iPhone owners who keep their software up-to-date shouldn't worry too much. 

First off, this trick is incredibly hard to pull off. I tried for roughly an hour to break into my own iPhone, but I just couldn't make it happen -- those button presses have to be expertly timed. Unless a would-be iPhone hacker has some serious gaming skills, it likely won't be easy for them to nail this on the first, or even fifth, try.

Check out the YouTube video below to see how it works. If you can master the bypass, you would theoretically be all set to steal someone's phone and perform meaningless actions. That leads to the second point, which is that if you do happen to get through the Passcode Lock, all you can do is play around in the phone app itself. That is fortunately far less risky in a personal-information sense than, say, access to other apps such as Notes (which might contain more sensitive info) or Facebook (which could lead to cruel hacking such as like self-deprecating status updates or a rude private message or two). When you really think about it, only so much harm can come from accessing someone's contacts and making some calls. 

Now, if a theoretical hacker does access your contacts, he or she could also get into your photo albums by way of trying to set a new contact photo. But that doesn't pose much more of a risk than accessing the phone app does. (Unless you happen to keep particularly incriminating pictures on your photo roll. But that one's on you.)

The lesson here is simple. While of course Apple should fix this bug, there's no reason to abandon the iPhone over the purported permeability of the Passcode Lock. A smarter move would be to ensure that you have full access to the My Find iPhone service, which would let you locate the device, and wipe it if you so choose, in the 45 minutes it'll take the thief to break in. If he ever does, that is.

Image via Apple



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Microsoft, Big Data Pick Oscar Winners - And They Are...

Ten days before Hollywood hands out its Oscar statuettes, a pair of studies - one by Microsoft's in-house "Nate Silver," and another measuring social influence - have already picked the winners.Microsoft Research's David Rothschild, who, like Silver, used early polls to correctly predict the outcome of the presidential elections in all but Florida, has used the predictive nature of the early awards shows to place his bets on who will be winning the various Academy Awards. Meanwhile, an English analyst firm, Brandwatch, has attempted to slice social media data in a couple of new ways (by both critical reaction and popular acclaim) to anticipate the winners.

And who are those winners? The envelopes, please...

  • Best Picture: Argo
  • Best Director: Steven Spielberg (Rothschild, Brandwatch popular) / David O. Russell (Brandwatch critics)
  • Best Actor: Daniel-Day Lewis
  • Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence (Rothschild, Brandwatch popular) / Jessica Chastain (Brandwatch critics)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones (Rothschild) / Christoph Waltz (Brandwatch popular) / Robert de Niro (Brandwatch critics)
  • Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway
  • Best Animated Film: Brave
  • Best Original Song: Adele's "Skyfall"
The remaining categories, including best makeup, screenplay, documentary shorts, and others, can be found on the respective sites: Predictwise for Rothschild's predictions, and the Brandwatch Oscars site.

Why Will They Win?

In November, Rothschild used the same methodologies employed by quant hero Nate Silver to determine the outcome of the 2012 Presidential election: examining polling information collected before the election to determine the outcome. In February 2012, Rothschild wrote that Obama would win, well before election season got underway. As it turned out, of course, he was right.

(See also Why Nate Silver Won, And Why It Matters and Nate Silver's Model A Stunning Portrait Of Logic Over Punditry)

 “I approach forecasting the Oscars the same way I approach forecasting anything, including politics,” Rothschild said in a blog post. “I look for the most efficient data, and I create statistically significant models without any regard for the outcomes in any particular year. All models are tested and calibrated on historical data, with great pains taken to ensure that the model is robust to 'out-of-sample' outcomes, not just what has happened in the past. The models predict the future, not just the past.“Thus, the science is identical, but there are differences in which data prove most useful,” Rothschild wrote.The predictive models that Rothschild could tap into are the ones that most people are now using to handicap Oscar races: previous awards shows like the BAFTA awards, Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards, and the Golden Globes. Some data he tossed out: For elections, fundamental data such as past election results and economic indicators can be used as predictive tools. But in movies, box-office figures and even ratings are not statistically effective, he said."I focus even more heavily on prediction markets, which are very robust, but I also include some user-generated data that helps me learn more about correlations within movies and between categories, such as, ‘How many categories will Lincoln win?" Rothschild added.Finally, he updates his results in real time. Naturally, there's a way to tap into these results yourself: the Oscars Ballot Predictor app for Microsoft Excel, one of the few apps to provide real-time data for Microsoft's Office suite. The app allows users to vote, and includes the real-time, up-to-date Oscar predictions.What could be Rothschild's next step? "Sports is something we're looking at," a Microsoft spokeswoman said via email.

Whose Opinion Matters: Critics, Or Audiences?

Brandwatch has taken a more "traditional" approach: pull together mentions of each actor, director, movie, or other category across a broad swath of social media to look for positive, relevant references that can indicate a good chance of winning.Brandwatch taps into the Twitter firehose, and to date relevant Oscar mentions have totaled 304,550 mentions, with about 1,400 to 1,600 per day being added at the end of January. Naturally, that number will go up. Twitter makes up about 40% of the data that Brandwatch samples, according to a FAQ provided to ReadWrite.One surprise, it found, was that Lincoln was the early odds-on favorite to win Best Picture. But sentiment flipped after Argo started winning the title at the Producers Guild of America, British Academy Film Awards, LA Film Critics Association, the Golden Globes and others.What Brandwatch tries to do - differently, it says, from other studies - is pull together the volume of positive predictions. There are two variables: the number of mentions, as well as the sentiment behind them. This tries to ensure that a large number of comments on Helen Hunt's red-carpet dresses, for example, won't be factored in any more than a smaller number of positive comments for rival Jessica Chastain's performance.However, the study also breaks down the projected winners by two categories: Critics, both "professionals" at major papers, plus semi-pro bloggers at enthusiast sites, and the general public. The skews show both sides of the acting industry, who aren't paid critics but know their business presumably more than the average joe.Brandwatch was hired to perform the study by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), most known for its aggressive stance on copyright and attacks on file-sharing networks. But Brandwatch suggests another use for the data: "The findings hold wider implications for the film industries. If winners diverge from viewer favorites, this could indicate a greater need to relate to target audiences. Further qualitative analysis can uncover why film titles are recommended online: vital information for gaining endorsement and boosting box office takings. Key actors and directors can be correlated with film titles: To what extent does an established cast boost online reputation (and by extension sales)?"It's not quite clear why Brandwatch's critic/public split is a better gauge than Rothschild's single number. But if you're running a betting pool, the smart money is on Argo, Daniel Day-Lewis and Anne Hathaway going home with Oscar on their arm.Image source: flickr/ebbandflowphotography.


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Performance Marketing: Mobile to Drive Record Revenues in 2013

Performance marketing is setting the stage for a banner year in 2013. Expanding digital ad budgets and options, new screens and platforms, big data, and industry and technological convergence will all move the performance marketing industry forward at an unprecedented pace. New opportunities will open up and take shape, while challenges will continue to emerge [...]

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Who Should Run Your Brand’s Social Media?

Gone are the days when daily social media tasks could be added to another marketing professionals’ list of job responsibilities. Today’s social media audience is savvy; they know when your approach to social media lacks commitment. Once that perception takes hold in your target community, you’ll lose them along with the benefits social media brings [...]

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Social SEO: The 12-Day Plan

There are a lot of reasons why it is a good idea to practice social SEO, but whenever I’m pressed to narrow it down I ask clients to do two things. First, I ask them to perform a variety of brand searches for their company (Brand, Brand + Reviews, Brand + Scam, etc.). Then I [...]

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Slacker Redesign Sets Streaming-Music Battle With Spotify & Pandora

Music streaming service Slacker has been around for quite a while - six years and counting - but has never been able to gain the traction enjoyed by its competitors Pandora and Spotify. That may begin to change with Slacker's full mobile and browser facelift, which rolled out to users Tuesday and comes equipped with a handful of new channel additions.

In an effort to make things cleaner, simpler and a bit brighter (a good move considering it differentiates the design from that of Spotify's darker hue), both the mobile and Web versions Slacker is now awash in a pleasant blue-and-white scheme. The browser version has an elegant single-page interface that prompts you to jump right into streaming with a search bar. One look at the old site, which can still be accessed through a link at the bottom of the homepage, illustrates just how much Slacker's design sensibilities have improved. It also went ahead and axed its old motorcycle-company-look logo, opting to simplify the design to better fit with the new color scheme and cleaner interface. 

But better design means nothing without stronger functionality to go with it. Slacker has always had competitive features, but the redesign makes them more accessible - and make now a good time to check out the oft-overlooked service. One strength is that Slacker is everywhere - on Blackberry, iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, Nokia and Palm as well as through your browser.

Slacker has also cut deals with a handful of car companies and entertainment-hardware manufacturues, from Ford and Tesla to Sonos and Logitech. So while it may lack the cultural pervasiveness of Pandora and Spotify, it certainly has the physical ubiquity to be a major player.

The new update adds a radio section with plugins for big players in the sports radio and news marketplace - ESPN and ABC News - with more to arrive in coming months. You can also find a few comedy channels in the section, opening the door for a slew of podcast and other unique Web chat platforms to find their way to Slacker. 

But Slacker's big strength has always been its more than 200 hand-curated sections, an output of creative human manpower that puts even the best algorithmic music-selection tools to shame. The ability to pinpoint the work of an artist during a certain timespan - a period that may not be tied to a specific set of albums - and then create a "station" built off that by other human listeners is invaluable.

Slacker's service, much like its competitors', is free if you can tolerate advertising. For $3.99 a month, you can get Slacker Plus, which kills the commercials, and $9.99 a month gets you the Premium version, which adds offline listening. To promote the new and improved Slacker the company is offering a free 1-month Premium subscription on February 14 and 15.



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MacBook Pro Retina Models Get A Price Cut & Faster Processors

The steep cost of owning a MacBook Pro laptop outfitted with Apple's Retina display just became a little more manageable. The company announced Wednesday that its 13-inch model is getting bumped down in price, while the 15-inch version is receiving a speed boost at the same price point as the prior iterations.

So if that illustrious pixel count and flash storage used to be a couple hundred dollars out of your price range, now might be the time to grab that new notebook you've been wanting.

Price Cut For 13-Inch MacBook Pro

The 13-inch MacBook Pro now starts at $1,499, down from $1,699. If the the 128GB of storage of that model is not enough for you, the 2.6GHz model now costs $1,699 - and it comes with 256GB of storage.

If you have the cash, and absolutely need the extra screen space to explore the Retina display's full potential, the 15-inch model had its specs amped up a bit. The base model is now .1 GHz faster, from a 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 chip to a 2.4GHz version. It starts at $2,199, the same price as before.

15-Inch Models Keep The Same Price

The higher end model - with 16GB of memory and a 512GB solid state hard drive - had its already blistering 2.6-GHz quad-core processor upped to a 2.7 GHz, still at the bank-busting price of $2,799.

Apple made no secret of the targeted audience of its Retina Display MacBook Pro models when they debuted last summer; Only the truly dedicated (and well off) Apple fans were likely to spring for that much.

But after a bit of bruising to its stock, and the rumor mill flying at top speed over cheap iPhones and risky smartwatches, it seems Apple thinks a little price cutting might help get its high-end laptops into more hands. 

Image via Apple. 



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Intel Confirms Its TV Plans - There's No Way It's Going To Work

Four years ago, Intel executives stood on stage with representatives from, Yahoo, Comcast, Disney and Sony, with endorsements from CBS and device manufacturers like Motorola, promising to revolutionize the television. They failed. This week, Intel disclosed that it had launched a new division, dubbed Intel Media, that would set out to give it another try with an Internet television service and set-top box to be released later this year. Erik Huggers, vice president and general manager of Intel Media, spoke at the All Things Digital "Dive into Media" conference on Tuesday, where he confirmed long-standing rumors that his company plans to enter the streaming market with a complex new service.

Why Will Intel's TV Plans Work This Time?

Why will Intel succeed this time? The smart money says that it won't.Huggers described Intel's goal as an "all-in-one solution," providing live television, on-demand, plus what he called "proper" catchup television, modeled on the BBC iPlayer: which offers every second of BBC programming, including radio and television, for seven days after it airs.The box would also ship with a camera, presumably similar to the Kinect peripheral for the Xbox, that will identify who's watching and provide targeted ads. The creepy camera won't scare off viewers, Huggers promised, and the targeted advertising will apparently pay for some of the content deals that Intel will provide.Not only will Intel be providing a streaming box - naturally equipped with an Intel chip - but the streaming box will also come with a kind of cable hybrid subscription service, of which there are not many details at the moment. It's likely that customers will get the streaming mainstays - Netflix, at least, plus services like Hulu and possibly Amazon. But Huggers also said that his company has been working with content providers to offer programming not offered through the usual non-cable services.

Playing Nice With Big Content Providers?

"We are working with everyone right now, and we are confident that by the time we launch, we'll have a very compelling product," Huggers said.That's unlikely, though. So far, Huggers hasn't identified who is responsible for the company's content licensing efforts.At the All Things D event, Huggers said that his marketing chief is a woman who helped launch Apple's "iProducts," plus he has executives with experience from Netflix and the BBC on board. But so far, he hasn't put forward a point person on content.History proves that Intel hasn't had much traction in this area.The Yahoo-Intel partnership began life as the "Yahoo Widgets Channel" - which debuted on TVs from Samsung, Sony and Vizio. But the widgets, little mini-apps that provided bare-bones interfaces to services like Netflix and sites like HGTV, quickly faded into obscurity. Today, Yahoo Widgets have been replaced by the more consumer-friendly "Apps." Yes, Yahoo has a Web app store, but its connected TV platform doesn't. On the other hand, it has struck deals with the National Geographic Channel and Showtime for "broadcast interactivity," sort of a second-screen experience actually on the TV screen, like Google TV - another platform that has struggled for relevance. It was telling that Huggers also referred demeaningly to the problems that his son had in using the television remotes to load up Netflix - not only was there no mention of the Yahoo partnership, but apparently current solutions weren't good enough.Here's another thing to consider: in Sept. 2010, Google hired Robert Kyncl, Netflix's content chief, to be its emissary to the studios. It took until May 2011 for Google to add 3,000 movies to rent, including "blockbusters" like Oscar winner The King's Speech. It took even longer to bring Google Play up to speed with other online services. The point is that negotiating content deals can be a long and painful process - and that's just to keep up with the Joneses, much less break new ground.Huggers did tease the possibility of a la carte programming - being able to purchase a subscription to ABC, ESPN, Syfy and nothing else, for example - before pulling it back. "I believe that if bundles are... bundled correctly, they add tremendous value," he said, referring to the "curation" that presumably broadcasters provide.But Intel's offering, on the surface, doesn't appear to be any cheaper than what anyone else is offering. "It's not a value play, it's a quality play where we'll create a superior experience for the end user," Huggers said with respect to the cost comparison between Intel's offering and traditional cable.But with that said, it's hard to see at the moment what will differentiate Intel's offering from everything else, especially as Sony and Microsoft gear up to bring their respective next-gen consoles to living rooms this coming holiday season. Meanwhile, Roku has the value streaming-box market sewn up. Products like Simple.tv, which offer recording of live over-the-air television, mixed with streaming offer one solution that Intel could emulate.In this space, it doesn't matter who makes the box, or the components within them. Only content is king. And if Intel doesn't realize this, it might as well pack up and head home."Rome wasn't built in a day," Huggers said this week. True. But if it's not going to save you that much money compared with cable, won't play the latest games and/or live sports, and will simply plug in all your subscription streaming services like any other player, an Intel box doesn't sound like a very desirable device - and hardly a game-changer.Additional reporting by Nick Statt.


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Larissa’s Picks to Click: Brands Get the Picture, Facebook Offers New Apps, Heart$ Go Out to Charities

EDITOR’S NOTE: Adotas Editorial InternLarissa Lohman routinely scours online media for big news and offbeat developments to share with our readers. Got your own “pick to click”?Send her a link. Still trying to find a Valentine? It’s okay, I’m still holding out for Mark Wahlberg. Check out which major brands are talking less and showing [...]

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Hearst Revamps Online Magazines for Mobile Generation

Publishing powerhouse Hearst is embarking on a new strategy to change the way people consume editorial content, also giving rise to providing more integrated brand experiences offered by advertisers. Over the next several months, Hearst Digital Media’s portfolio of magazines will be getting a new look and feel. The publisher is responsible for several major [...]

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UPDATE: Malware Attack Permanently Shuts Down OpenX OnRamp

Publishers and advertisers who used OpenX’s free, open-source OnRamp service are left scrambling to find alternatives after hackers infected the ad server with malware over the weekend and forced the company to permanently shut it down today. Users were first notified of the issue ina message posted on the OpenX help forum at 7:46 a.m. [...]

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Warning! Top 10 Valentine's Day Scams [Infographic]

Nothing says "I love you" like falling for a fake diamond ring sale and getting your identity stolen in the process. Bitdefender, an antivirus solutions provider, has sent out an alert to online Valentine's Day gift buyers, warning of rampant scams aimed at extortion, phishing for personal information and luring unsuspecting loverbirds to malware-infected sites.

Bitdefender's Top 10 infographic (below) stresses that men are the top target of V-Day scams because they spend 75% more on gifts than women, according to CreditDonkey.com.

Among the scams to watch out for are malicious Valentine's Day cards that use blackhat SEO techniques to redirect buyers to search results that may install viruses, Valentine's Day wallpaper downloads that contain malware, and 'love calculator' and other relationship-themed apps from unofficial Android app stores that infect your devices and steal personal info.

With the astronomical number of fake profiles floating around social media, Bitdefender stressed the dangers of giveaways and information soliciting through phony social media profiles promising love.

Some of the more blatant cons can be easy to spot, such as phony flower sales and cheap limousine offers. But the last scam on Bitdefender's list should be a dead giveaway: "heart experts." Specializing in healing one's relationship wounds, these online offers sound like antivirus ads from a decade ago, but resurface every February alongside an array of these other scams.

The number one rule leading up to this Thursday? Stay smart and trust your spam filter.

 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock



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How To Watch President Obama's 2013 State Of The Union Address Online

Unless you're Tim Cook, you probably don't have a front row seat lined up for President Obama's State of the Union (SOTU) address on Tuesday night. That's okay though, because the ever-more-interactive speech is best experienced online, where it will be accompanied by more context and conversation than in any other medium. When it comes to tuning in online, this won't be anything like the Summer Olympics. There will be plenty of free livestreaming options across a variety of devices, as well as any number of social chats, on-camera analyses and interactive features from media outlets, journalists and the White House itself. 

Livestreaming The State Of The Union Address

The White House will not only be live-streaming President Obama's speech Tuesday night, but it will be displaying relevant charts and data in sync with whatever the President happens to be talking about. The White House's "enhanced livestream" begins at 9pm Eastern Time (6pm Pacific Time) and will be followed by a live panel discussion with policy experts. All of this will be available on the White House's website, as well as its official iOS and Android apps. If the White House stream freezes up right as your SOTU drinking game is just getting rowdy, you can always jump over to C-SPAN.com, which will be streaming the speech as well. On C-SPAN, you can also compare Obama's fourth State of the Union with archived addresses from the past. The C-SPAN folks have written transcripts dating back to Franklin Delano Roosevelet and archived videos as far back as Ronald Reagan's fourth State of the Union address in 1984. For even more historical analysis, check out Al Jazeera's interactive tool comparing Obama's past State of the Union speeches. And if all of those options aren't enough, CNN, Wall Street Journal, YouTube and HuffPost Live will also be live streaming the speech. 

The State Of The Union Is… Interactive

These days, it's pretty much a given that any big news or entertainment event is the "most interactive" instance of that event that's ever happened. That's what progress is all about.The State of the Union is no exception, and not just because people are increasingly connected and more prone to live-tweet TV events in general. The famously tech-savvy Obama administration has been proactive about baking interactive elements into the speech and encouraging online participation. On Twitter, the White House has officially endorsed the #SOTU hashtag and is encouraging users to use #WHChat to submit questions to on-air policy experts after Obama's speech. The administration will also be actively maintaining conversations with citizens on Facebook and Google+. Meanwhile, Republicans will be live-critiquing Obama's speech on the official GOP website and encouraging rank-and-file conservatives to do the same over various social channels. Media outlets are running their own interactive features during the speech as well. Huffpost Live, for example, will be doing its usual thing, live-streaming the speech and post-speech reactions while inviting viewers to join on-air discussions and live chats. 


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Marissa Mayer Plans To Cull Yahoo's Herd of 70 Apps - And Buys A New One

Yahoo's mobile gameplan is shaping up fast - or its stable of mobile apps is, anyhow. Yahoo has now acquired Alike, a mobile location-based suggestion engine app la Foursquare. The news broke on the same day that CEO Marissa Mayer took the stage of the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference to repeat her clarion call for Yahoo's new direction.  

Paring Down Yahoo's Mobile Mess

At the conference, Mayer took a verbal machete to Yahoo's existing tangle of apps, announcing plans to cull Yahoo's ridiculous current mess of 60 to 70 apps down to around a dozen core mobile products. At the same time, though, Mayer also keeps adding apps. In her tenure at Yahoo so far, she has already brought two other mobile apps with social tendencies on board: Stamped, a social-suggestion network that could be interwoven with Alike's DNA, and OnTheAir, a livestreaming app that facilitates video chat.There's no word yet on how much Yahoo paid for the small Seattle-based company, which will integrate into Yahoo's San Francisco and Sunnyvale offices. In a statement on its website, the team behind the now-discontinued Alike app announced the big news.

Alike To Join Yahoo In The Sunshine State

"We’ve always been passionate about the growing power of intelligent mobile experiences," read the statement from the Alike team. "We believe that distilled information, deeply personalized and made accessible anytime and anywhere, is what makes mobile experiences a part of our customers’ daily lives. In Yahoo! we've found a team as excited about this vision as we are, and who are serious about making it real."While pruning Yahoo is no small task, Mayer is making decisive moves toward her roadmap for the ailing internet giant. With a trio of nimble mobile teams under her wing and a clearer vision for a company recently known for trying to do everything at once, she just needs to stay her own course.


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AFAIK: Honda, MediaBrix, Rightster, MediaShift, Travora Media, Adap.tv, Marketo, LSN Mobile

Here’s what our virtual drum circle is pounding out today: Honda has partnered with MediaBrix on a fully integrated, immersive and interactive advertising experience withinSongPop as part of the company’s launch of the 2013 Civic.The campaign kicked off yesterday. Honda reportedly is also the first automotive company to feature a branded playlist onSongPop,which includes music [...]

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Larissa’s Picks to Click: Paid Twitter Trends, Capcom’s Mobile User Campaign and ESPN’s Clutch Moments

EDITOR’S NOTE: Adotas Editorial InternLarissa Lohman routinely scours online media for big news and offbeat developments to share with our readers. Got your own “pick to click”?Send her a link. The Grammys were good last night, huh? … Anyone else watch The Walking Dead instead? Got $200,000 to spare? Great — now you can buy [...]

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Winners and Losers: The Grammys on Twitter

What were the mostbuzzed about Grammy moments from last night? To figure it out,Whispr Group, asocial media intelligence agency (Spotify is among its clients), looked at all publicly available Grammy tweets posted on February 10, 2013 – spanning nominees, performances, red carpet looks, memorable moments, hashtags, etc. – and created a very cool infographic to [...]

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Flickr Admits To A Bug That Made Private Photos Public

If you're a Flickr user, you may want to dig through that bulk inbox for an important heads-up from the photo sharing site. Reports have emerged that between Jan. 18 and Feb. 7, a portion of Flickr users' private photos were made public due to a software bug discovered during routine maintenance. While the photos wouldn't have shown up in a search, they were visible on affected users' photo streams during that time. 

Scope Of The Breach Remains Unclear

Rather than reporting this on its company-wide blog, Flickr opted to selectively notify individuals affected by the mishap. The company has only admitted that the issue impacted a "small percentage of photos," so the scope of the privacy breach remains unclear for the time being. For compromised accounts, the bug only exposed photos uploaded between April and December 2012. 

To mitigate further damage, Flickr locked down affected users' photos with additional privacy settings, requiring some users to manually re-adjust the privacy settings on their entire Flickr photo collections - no small task for a longtime user.Between a slick new iPhone app and a lot of Instagram malaise, Flickr got a major shot in the arm late last year. We don't yet know how many users were affected, but it's certainly triggered a wave of negative sentiment for the Yahoo-owned photo site.If you had any relatively naughty Flickr activity last year, now's the time to go through your privacy settings with a fine-toothed comb.


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Bill Gates Does An AMA On Reddit - Promotes Robots, Speech & More

Bill Gates, Microsoft's onetime supreme lord and the current chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation took to Reddit Monday morning to allow users to ask him anything.The tech pioneer was asked about everything from tech skeletons to personal finance - and even if he still jumps over chairs. "Less than I used to," Gates replied, and lamented that he's no longer as hard core as he once was. But from the tone of this back and forth, and the velocity of his answers, Gates proved he is still very core.

ON SOPA & Internet Freedom

When asked what his thoughts were to SOPA and a free and open Internet, Gates said the "Internet has benefited from having lots of free stuff and lots of commercial software." He danced around the SOPA issue, and instead discussed freemium versus pay models. More telling was his closing line about security and privacy, arguably one of the biggest unsolved Web issues: "I am surprised how little progress has been made in the identity space," Gates said, "but it will improve."Some Redditors weren't that pleased with his answer, though, claiming Gates "sidestepped the question," while others defended him.

What's Next In Tech?

Not surprisingly, many participants wanted Gates' predictions on the next big innovation in tech."Robots, pervasive screens, speech interaction will all change the way we look at 'computers,'" Gates wrote. "Once seeing, hearing, and reading (including handwriting) work very well you will interact in new ways."Biased he may be, but Gates is a Bing man, calling it "the better product at this point. Try the challenge. I am biased but the work to make Bing better has been amazing."What kind of computer does Gates use? Do we even have to ask?"I just got my Surface Pro a week ago and it is very nice," Gates said. "I am using a Perceptive Pixel display right now - huge Windows 8 touch whiteboard. These will come down in price over time and be pervasive."Not convinced? Check this out:

Microsoft What Ifs

When asked what half-baked Microsoft product was never fully developed or released, Gates answered that his former company once worked on a "client/cloud store that was part of a Windows release that was before its time."Redditors guessed it was the WinFS, to which Gates responded: "Correct!" He went on to say that "Vista was what eventually shipped but Winfs had been dropped by then."

On Coding And Steve Jobs

So does Gates still code? "Not as much as I would like to. I write some C, C# and some Basic. I am surprised new languages have not made more progress in simplifying programming. It would be great if most high school kids were exposed to programming."Did Gates and Steve Jobs, arguably the two biggest Silicon heavyweights of their time, get along? While the outside word sees them as frenemies, Gates said they were closer than we knew."He and I respected each other," Gates explained. "Our biggest joint project was the Mac, where Microsoft had more people on the project than Apple did, as we wrote a lot of applications. I saw Steve regularly over the years, including spending an afternoon with him a few months before he tragically passed away."

How Does Gates Pause?

When not saving the world or glued to the Web, how does Gates disconnect? The answer includes tennis, bridge and reading. And a bit of nerdy travel: "I like to tour interesting things with my kids like power plants, garbage dumps, the Large Hadron Collider, Antarctica, missile silos (Arizona)."Of course, Gates also donates millions to philanthropic causes, mostly geared toward helping children. He's even put a number on how much money he's leaving his own children: $10 million."I definitely think leaving kids massive amounts of money is not a favor to them. Warren Buffett was part of an article in Fortune talking about this in 1986 before I met him, and it made me think about it and decide he was right. Some people disagree with this, but Melinda and I feel good about it."

Gates' Favorites?

So what didn't you know about Gates that you're still burning to learn?Favorite bands: Weezer and U2.Favorite book: The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, by Steven Pinker.Photos courtesy of Bill Gates/Reddit


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Dead Dutch Programmer Sues Facebook For Patent Violations

Facebook is no stranger to being sued, but a new lawsuit filed against the company this month might be the weirdest to date. As of February 5, Facebook is being sued by deceased Dutch programmer and apparent social web pioneer Joannes Jozef Everardus Van Der Meer, who passed away in 2004 - the year of Facebook's founding. The late Van Der Meer's justice will be sought by Rembrandt Social Media, the company that now owns his patents, and the law firm of Fish & Richardson. 

Thomas Edison's Legal Team v. Facebook

The lawsuit, filed in the state of Virginia's federal court, alleges that Facebook infringed upon two of Van Der Meer's patents. The first, U.S. Patent No. 6,415,316, introduced a "Method and apparatus for implementing a web page diary," which the suit will contend was a precursor to Timeline. The second, U.S. Patent No. 6,289,362outlined a "System and method for generating, transferring and using an annotated universal address," and has the Like button in its sights. The patents were filed in 1998 and issued to Van Der Meer in 2002 and 2001, respectively. So both pre-date the 2004 launch of Facebook. Social bookmarking company Add This is also being sued for violation of the second patent.While it's hard to imagine that such a strange case will have much ground to stand on, Fish & Richardson has deep roots in intellectual property, counting Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers among its early clients. Facebook's legal team hasn't been around since 1878, but isn't exactly new to this sort of thing. (And hey, it's hiring - this might be a long one, after all.) Patent-holder Rembrandt claims that the patents "represent an important foundation of social media as we know it" and is seeking royalties on this so-called foundational knowledge until 2021.

Um, Surfbook?

According to Ars Technica, it gets even weirder. Around the time he filed the patents, Van Der Meer also owned www.surfbook.com, though what he intended to do with the domain is a mystery. According to a Whois search, surfbook.com is now owned by brand protection group MarkMonitor. The IP claim on "web page diaries" would seem to have some big implications for pretty much the whole internet. Besides, some of us were already avidly documenting what we had for lunch on sites like Open Diary and LiveJournal in the internet dark age of 1999, back when Timeline was only a twinkle in Zuckerberg's eye. Image of Mark Zuckerberg by Taylor Hatmaker


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BI: Ad Sales Boost Gives AOL First Revenue Gain in 8 Years

AOL just reported earnings. Revenues beat Wall Street expectations, thanks to strong ad network and search revenues. AOL’s core business, display advertising, did not grow. Read More ... Subscribe to the free Adotas.com Newsletter addthis_url = 'http%3A%2F%2Fwww.adotas.com%2F2013%2F02%2Freport-ad-sales-boost-gives-aol-first-revenue-gain-in-8-years%2F'; addthis_title = 'BI%3A+Ad+Sales+Boost+Gives+AOL+First+Revenue+Gain+in+8+Years'; addthis_pub = 'adotas';

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AFAIK: Forbes’ Most Promising Firms, Opera, Affiliate Window, Brandwatch, Rakuten LinkShare, Anametrix, Dachis Group, Marketing Zen, Datonics, MediaMath, IMN

Here’s what’s charting now on the digital marketing hit parade: Rocket Fuel was named No. 4 on the 2013 Forbes Most Promising Companies in America. Rocket Fuel was the top-ranked of six digital ad companies in the top 50, which also includes OpenX (7), Adroll (30), ShareThis (35), Rubicon (40) and BlueKai (50). Anametrix, the [...]

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SpaceX Team Tells Us To Learn C++, Says They'll Take Us To Mars In 5 Years

Today on Reddit, private commercial spaceflight company SpaceX set its software engineers loose in an AMA. On the site, AMA stands for "Ask Me Anything", and an AMA thread (found on /r/IAmA/) is a no-holds barred session of questions and answers in real-time via Reddit's nested comment system.In the past, even President Obama stopped by an AMA for a little while to chat about the White House homebrew recipe.At SpaceX, the engineers design code for rockets and spacecraft and the code that goes into the manufacturing process. They basically make this happen:Want to be a professional rocket-launcher with equity in one of the hottest companies in the hottest emerging industries around? In the AMA, members of the SpaceX team explain how they scored one of the sweetest programming gigs ever, describe what it's like to work with Elon Musk and take a quick jab at North Korea, (naturally).

1. What Happens When Things Go Wrong... In Space

2. On How Big The Code Base Is

3. No Really, Pyongyang - Is That You?

4. Linux Powers SpaceX

5. On The Scope Of SpaceX's Computing Power

6. Want To Be An Astronaut? Learn C++ Instead

7. What's Next For That Whole Space Exploration Thing

8. When Can We Go To The Red Planet, Already?

Image courtesy of NASA


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HP Sets Factory Rules To Combat Chinese Labor Abuse

Hewlett-Packard is forcing its Chinese suppliers to limit their use of student and temporary labor. The new rules, reported by The New York Times Friday, indicate HP is joining Apple in taking a stand on labor abuse, as the tech industry grows increasingly concerned about being tainted by Chinese practices.

HP's Rules

HP wants to separate itself from the use of student labor in assembly factories when sudden spikes in orders lead to labor shortages. With the help of local governments, manufacturers round up high school students, vocational school students and temporary workers. Students complain that school administrators order them to do the work, which often involves long hours and lower pay and have no relevance to the students' studies. As an incentive, factories will pay school administrators a bonus for sending them cheap labor on short notice.Wisely, HP wants no part of this, and has told its suppliers that all work on its orders must be voluntary and students and temporary workers must be free to leave without repercussions. In addition, the work has to be related to a student's studies, a rule that likely will give most students a way out if factory work isn't to their liking.By imposing the rules, HP hopes to avoid the kind of scandal that sullied Apple's reputation last year. Labor abuse at supplier Foxconn led Apple to join the workplace-monitoring group Fair Labor Association, which inspects Chinese factories making computers, iPhones and other devices for Apple.

Lessons Learned From Apple

Apple's troubles had an impact on HP, Intel and other electronics companies. Many started to look at overhauling their relationships with foreign factories and workers, according to The Times. "The days of easy globalization are done," an Apple executive who requested anonymity told the newspaper. "We know that we have to get into the muck now."How much impact the actions of HP or other tech companies will have on workplaces in China is unclear. Some manufacturers ignore Chinese laws on labor practices in order to meet customer demand amid labor shortages in the country.Nevertheless, HP has decided to try and avoid having its reputation dragged through the mud of China's labor injustices.Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


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After Living With BlackBerry 10, I Went Back To Android

I tried to love the new BlackBerry Z10. I really did.The operating system is interesting, it handles communications well and has generally decent hardware. I planned on making the Z10 my personal device for at least a month to really get a good understanding of what it is and where BlackBerry is going.I couldn’t pull it off.This is the ultimate test of a mobile device: When you live with it, does it allow you to do everything you need to do in a seamless and facile manner? When it came down to it, the BlackBerry 10 could not satisfy that essential requirement. So, three weeks prematurely, I pulled the SIM card out of the Z10 and put it back into my Android phone.And breathed a sigh of relief. I reserve the right to go back to the Z10 in the future when it may bebetter suited to my needs. But for now, my Android phone is just more… useful.Here is a breakdown of the things I missed most about Android while living with BlackBerry 10.

Maps

BlackBerry 10 does not have a native maps app but rather licenses its maps to a third party, rumored to be TomTom. The overall experience leaves much to be desired. The best test of how a smartphone handles your needs is to travel with it. When you are in a new city and need the maps app to tell you where you are and where you are going, the location needs to be as granular as possible. It also needs to accurately and efficiently perform search functions. BlackBerry’s maps app does both of those things... just not very well. Especially when you compare it to Google Maps in Android which is probably the most refined digital maps available - with Google’s robust search capabilities baked right in. Left: Google Maps on Android Right: BlackBerry maps trying to load.BlackBerry maps are slow (over LTE and/or Wi-Fi) to load, do not track well in real time and are difficult to search. If you are walking down the street and need to know when to turn a corner, you have to stop and let the app catch up.If it even works. It is not just a slow app, it is flawed and buggy, sometimes failing to load at all (see screen shot above). This is a fundamental failure of performance. 

Apps & Performance

Facebook "app" on BlackBerryIf you are a current or former BlackBerry user, you are really used to the “hard reset.” That is when you pop the back off your device, take the battery out and put it back in. BlackBerry users had to perform this routine whenever apps would not load, the operating system would hang or crash or the device would not receive notifications. Lags, crashes and poor performance were an accepted matter of course on BlackBerry devices for years. People learned to live with it.BlackBerry has eradicated a lot of those problems in BlackBerry 10. Just not all of them. The frustrating feeling that is all too familiar to BlackBerry users when something just does not work remains alive and well on the Z10. There are a couple reasons for this. The first is BlackBerry’s app strategy. Yes, BlackBerry has done well to ensure a good choice of apps at launch by allowing developers to port Android apps to BlackBerry World. But those ported apps do not always work all that well. BlackBerry 10 also relies on Web apps to fill in the gaps where neither native BlackBerry apps or ported Android apps are available.The biggest, and buggiest, examples of this issue are found in BlackBerry's YouTube and Facebook apps. The YouTube “app” is little more than a mobile Web-app with a shortcut pinned to the home screen. It performs about as well as can be expected for a enough for a slow Web app but it is far from optimal. The Facebook app is the poster child for BlackBerry 10's apps problem. First trouble indicator: It wasn't built by Facebook, but rather by BlackBerry (Research In Motion Limited is the technical developer name as it was made before the rebrand to BlackBerry). It is based on a previous version of Facebook’s Android app -from before Facebook took its Android app native to improve performance. That means that BlackBerry’s Facebook app is, more or less, just the m.facebook.com site with an Android wrapper ported to BlackBerry. The basic functions work well enough, but if you go to a different section, say an Events page, it will leave the Facebook app and open Facebook’s mobile page. This approach creates a lot of moving parts within the app - and none of them work particularly well.

Premium Apps & The Android Experience

Full screen widgets are a luxuryAndroid users may not realize quite how much they rely on Google apps until they change platforms. That includes the likes of Gmail, Search, Talk (GChat) and even often-overlooked functions like automatic photo uploading to Google Plus. These apps are the backbone of the Android Experience and make life easier and more connected. Then there is Google Play. Say what you want about the quality of Android apps on the whole, at least the app store has what you need. For me, that means go-to apps like Spotify and RunKeeper, Zite and Voxer, Uber and Ingress. These apps are not present in BlackBerry World and none of the publishers have said whether or not they will build (or port) to the BB 10 platform or not. Even while I was living with the Z10, I still carried my old Android phone just to download Spotify playlists so I could listen to music. To be fair, it is still early in BlackBerry 10’s life cycle. These apps could arrive in the next couple of months and be terrific. But they are not there now. Other aspects of the Android Experience not present in BlackBerry 10 are the notifications system and widgets. Android's pull-down notifications menu is the best in the mobile industry and has been copied, to a certain extent, by almost everybody, including Apple and BlackBerry.The recent apps screen of BlackBerry 10 also does not substitute for Android’s customizable widgets. The ability to turn an entire home screen into a calculator or to do a voice recording straight from the Evernote widget are under-appreciated features of Android. You miss them when they are gone.

More Time In The Distillery

Going back to Android after living with the Z10 is not a complete condemnation of BlackBerry 10. It is just a sign that while BlackBerry has made some great strides with the BlackBerry 10 operating system, it has not yet gone quite far enough. The corner-cutting with apps, the lags and bugs found in various aspects of the OS, the crashing and hanging can all be fixed.The problem for BlackBerry is that Android used to have all these same types of problems as well - and it took years of fine tuning to eradicate them. Locked in a death struggle to stay relevant in the fast-moving mobile market, BlackBerry does not have years to smooth out the kinks in BlackBerry 10. 


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Brands Score Deeper Engagement By Using Ad Selector Platforms

Want to ensure that consumers are watching a your brand’s video to completion? Advertisers can now provide an incentive to consumers who view their ad content online. Earlier this week,Selectable Media launched its ad selector platform for mobile that enables brands to deliver high-CMP video content to consumers. (The ad selector platform has already existed [...]

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Reaction: Yahoo’s Contextual Ad Alliance with Google

The industry is understandably abuzz about yesterday’s announcement that Yahoo! had formed a strategic partnership with Google. “… We’re excited to announce that we recently signed a global, non-exclusive agreement with Google to display ads on various Yahoo! properties and certain co-branded sites using Google’s AdSense for Content and Google’s AdMob services,” reads the posting [...]

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Spin All You Like, Tablets Are NOT PCs, Dammit

When is a tablet a PC? Apparently when it can garner a catchy hook for a desktop survey from yet-another analyst firm. In this case, Canalys is making the claim that, if you count iPads and other tablets as PCs, then suddenly a market that looked to be in decline is suddenly as rosy as, well, an apple.It really is a tale of two analysts: according to the Gartner 4Q global PC report that came out last month, shipments of PCs, which Gartner describes as the desktops and laptops with which we're usually familiar, went down 4.9% in the last quarter of 2012.And tablets, Gartner said, were a big reason for the decline."Whereas as once we imagined a world in which individual users would have both a PC and a tablet as personal devices, we increasingly suspect that most individuals will shift consumption activity to a personal tablet, and perform creative and administrative tasks on a shared PC," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. "There will be some individuals who retain both, but we believe they will be exception and not the norm. Therefore, we hypothesize that buyers will not replace secondary PCs in the household, instead allowing them to age out and shifting consumption to a tablet."Kitagawa's perception reflects what a lot of us are seeing in our own homes: instead of replacing family member's PCs with another PC device, many people are opting to be multi-tablet families instead.

Hold On, Pessimists!

But if you take the alternate world view that iPads are, under the strictest definition, personal computing devices and therefore are "PCs," the picture is far less bleak. In this Spock-with-a-beard-alternate universe, where tablets are PCs, Canalys reports, "[w]orldwide PC shipments increased 12% year-on-year in Q4 2012 to reach 134.0 million units, with pads accounting for over a third."Oh, and don't forget the grabber headline: One in six PCs shipped in 2012 4Q was an iPad.You might, given my choice of words, that I hold the Canalys report in somewhat lower regard than the Gartner report.If so, you'd be correct.While "personal computing device" is a broad enough term that I could see it including tablets and even smartphones, the simple fact is that lumping tablets in with PCs doesn't really make sense.The two are fundamentally different. Unlike PCs, tablets are hardly configurable, barely expandable and to date it's been hard to actually consider them even adequate platforms for productivity applications or creation of data and content.This is not to say the Canalys report is completely without useful information. Buried deep in the release about the report was this piece of news:
"Despite record shipments, Q4 saw Apple's pad share dip to 49%, becoming the first quarter it has not controlled over half the market. 'Apple timed the launch of the iPad mini well,' said Pin-Chen Tang, Canalys Research Analyst. 'Its success proves there is a clear demand for pads with smaller screens at a more affordable price. Without the launch, Apple would surely have lost more ground to its competitors.'"
If accurate, this would mark the first quarter that Apple's vaunted iPad did not hit 50% market share. The Canalys news did not specify the tablets to which the iPad product line was losing ground, but it did note that Samsung shipped 7.9 million tablets in Q4, a 226% increase for the South Korean company. Android-based tablets, Canalys reported, accounted for 46% of tablets shipped in 4Q 2012.

Small Is The New Large

The upshot here isn't so much that the iPad is losing ground to the Android tablets, but rather that low-cost smaller form-factor devices are garnering a lot more sales these days. If Apple hadn't kicked off its own entry in this niche, it would have had some serious problems.If anything, the popularity of the smaller tablet devices proves the point against calling these devices PCs. You can make a good case that larger tablets can better be used as work/production devices, but there's no way anyone could classify an iPad Mini or Kindle Fire as something with which you could get much real work done.For simplicity's sake, it makes a lot more sense to keep PCs and tablets in separate market categories, because that's how customers see them: separate devices with their own distinct uses.Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


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Facebook Partners With Chinese Chipmaker To Invade Cheap Phones

Facebook isn't building a phone - it absolutely doesn't need to. But it does need to continue its aggressive march onto mobile devices, and that means not-so-smartphones in not-so-western markets too. In order to pursue that end, Facebook is deepening its ties with Spreadtrum, a Chinese mobile chipset maker.

The Frontier Of Low-Cost Smartphones And Feature Phones

Spreadtrum, which launched a low-cost Android chipset platform last year, will work closely with Facebook on upcoming low-cost smartphones, to potentially be distributed in emerging markets like Latin America, Africa, India and Southeast Asia. (Since Facebook remains banned in China, distributing on Spreadtrum's home turf won't be in the cards.)Facebook's app is already baked-in to Spreadtrum's system as part of the company's turnkey platform. The new partnership will be more of a direct collaboration when it comes to the testing and user experience optimization development phases - and of course, getting that little Facebook icon on new devices rolling out to the masses.

Expanding Into Emerging Markets

"Working with Spreadtrum will extend Facebook's reach in emerging markets, leveraging the rapid shift from feature phones to smartphones that is now taking place globally," said Vaughan Smith, VP of Facebook Mobile Partnerships and Corporate Development.Facebook is maxing out its reach in western markets like the U.S., where it's arrived at an impressive level of mobile hypersaturation. While Facebook still has no compelling reason to get its hands dirty in the hardware businesses, deepening partnerships with manufacturers in emerging markets is yet another avenue to establish every phone as a Facebook phone. 


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Facebook Hijacks Internet Sites For An Hour Thursday Afternoon

Something weird happened to the Web this afternoon - and it's apparently Facebook’s fault.Websites that use various Facebook integrations were being dragged from their landing pages to the Facebook error page shown above. For instance, if while logged into Facebook you went to a wide variety of sites, including Yahoo News, xoJane.com, SlickDeals.net or many, many other sites, you were redirected after a couple seconds to the error page shown above. Sites such as Gawker, Fox News, The Washington Post and others reportedly were also affected by the mysterious bug.This is a very big deal. The Facebook connection was not just passively disrupting sites, as Web plugins sometimes do, but actively dragging users away from their destination sites to Facebook’s own platform. Developers at Say Media, ReadWrite's parent company, believe that the problem was caused by Facebook Connect having problems with oAuth authentication that allows users to sign into a site using their Facebook profiles. The bug affected users for a portion of the afternoon, apparently starting around 4pm Pacific Time. As of 5pm PT, the bug appears to have been fixed. 



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Today’s Burning Question: Google AdWords Enhanced Campaigns

Google today announced enhancements to AdWords as ”a first step to help you more simply and smartly manage your ad campaigns in today’s multi-device world.” As you might expect, folks around the industry are reacting: “Many features are excellent additions to AdWords functionality; the bid boosting, sitelink management, and new reporting features will help advertisers [...]

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ShareThis Ranked 35 on Forbes’ ‘America’s Most Promising Companies’ List

PALO ALTO, CA. (Feb. 6, 2013) — ShareThis, the company that connects audiences to publishers and advertisers through sharing, announced it ranksNo. 35 on Forbes’ annual benchmarking of “America’s Most Promising Companies.” The third annual list recognizes the top 100 privately held, high-growth companies that possess compelling business models, strong management teams, notable customers, strategic [...]

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AFAIK: SpotXchange, Federated Media, DG Media Mind, The Weather Company, Viralheat, Integral Ad Science, Tealium, Dailybreak, Undertone, Yieldex

Here’s what cropped up on our virtual radar this week: SpotXchange, which bills itself as the largest global marketplace of digital video ad inventory, has experienced explosive growth in its video RTB marketplace as the platformsaw 10 times the revenue growth and a 596% increase in global bid requests from 2011 to 2012, according to [...]

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Why I Bet Google's Hi-Def, Touchscreen Chromebook Is Real

Android Authority has snagged an intriguing video that purports to show a sleek, new Chromebook with 2560 x 1700 resolution touchscreen called the Chromebook Pixel. The video claims the machine is "designed by Google, down to the last pixel."Is this for real?There's no smoking gun, but I have subtle yet compelling evidence that it is.
New ChromeBook - Next Generation Concept... by androidauthority

Where Did This Video Come From?

The video came from Android Authority, as far as I'm concerned, because it has disappeared from its original sources. Bogdan Petrovan at Android Authority tells it like this: A developer named Franois Beaufort, who spotted exciting upcoming features in Chrome last week, posted this video on Google+. It disappeared shortly thereafter, but not before Android Authority could snag it.The description made it sound like the clip came from a company called Slinky.me, which makes some kind of visual guides to things. The company posted on Google+ claiming that its servers were attacked by hackers and apologizing for "the fact that many projects have been shown previously ! ! ! Please re-share ! This is very important" [sic].Now, that sounds like classic tech blog trolling to me. "Whoops! You've never heard of us, but we accidentally lost control of a sexy new Google product video! We're really sorry!" And then the company gets press. That's a win for some companies, even if it means getting blackballed by Google forever.But I've been dealing with Google PR for a while. I've covered ChromeOS device launches and had briefings with the team. And there are some clues in here that seem totally legit to me.

Smells Like Google

First of all, we've been seeing evidence of touchscreen Chrome OS for a long time. My instinct was always that this meant a development in the other direction, a Chrome tablet, rather than a touchscreen Chromebook. And I wouldn't rule that out, either. When I interviewed the Chrome OS people in May, VP of engineering Linus Upson said to expect "a number of different form factors." A touchscreen laptop would qualify under that description as well.But the telltale sign about the Chromebook Pixel to me is in just one line from the narrator in the video. "Your computer actually gets better over time," the disembodied voice says. This was straight out of the Google PR playbook. The Google PR folks intoned it over and over again when I talked to them ahead of the Samsung Chromebook and Chromebox launch.The translation is that Chrome OS devices get better because they're just a browser in a box, and whenever Google improves Chrome, the machine's whole OS benefits. But it's a subtle point, a geeky point. One Googlers would care about more than anyone else. It's one you'd have to be very familiar with Google's party line not to miss.So I'll go out on a limb here and say this machine is real. A high-spec Chromebook is definitely what Google needs to prove the worth of the Chrome OS idea, and a touchscreen is icing on the cake.


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Yelp Reports Q4 Losses As Local Gets More Crowded Than Ever

Yelp just reported its fourth quarter earnings and things aren't looking that sunny for the stalwart local discovery site. In Q4 Yelp raked in $41.2 million in revenue, losing $.08 cents per share for a net loss of $5.3 million, an outlook a bit grimmer than projected losses of $.03 per share. Still, the company exceeded analyst estimates, which pegged the Yelp to report $40.2 million in revenue. The company's stock predictably dipped in after-hours trading by around 3%.Yelp should own local. But it doesn't. The company, founded in the mobile dark age of 2004, is being assaulted on some major fronts. There's Foursquare of course, but the biggest threat is Facebook's renewed interest in local, which the company will be building out in the coming months in the form of a feature called "Nearby."Nearby is a big threat to Foursquare too, if Facebook doesn't fumble the reboot. You might recall Facebook Places, which was shuttered in 2011, well before Facebook commanded the mobile savvy and the mobile products that it does now.

Still, Yelp did have a little good news: Its web portal hit 100 million unique visitors in January 2013. The company also reported that reviews were up 45% in 2012 and its reach on mobile devices grew by 60%. (You can find more Yelp stats in the infographic below.)

The heat is on to see who can monetize mobile the fastest - but clearly Yelp just isn't quite there yet.Images via Yelp



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Incoming! Microsoft Launching Another Pathetic Smear Campaign Against Google

Get ready for another blast of anti-Google propaganda from Microsoft and its PR maestro Mark Penn. Sources tell me that the Borg is about to launch another broadside against the search giant, this one aimed at Gmail, under the title, "Don't get Scroogled by Gmail."Microsoft flacks have been briefing reporters under embargo today. (I wasn't on the list.) The news will break at 11 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday night.The gist of the scare campaign is that Google is a scary, scary company that reads your private emails in order to send you targeted ads. Even if you don't use Gmail, if you send email to someone who does, Google goes through those emails to generate advertising revenue too," Microsoft warns in material sent to reporters. Oh, and Microsoft points out that six class-action lawsuits have been filed against Google over this issue, and asks people to sign a petition "to tell Google to stop going through your personal email messages."This is basically an ad campaign for Outlook.com, Microsoft's new mail service. Microsoft points out that Outlook.com doesn't go through the contents of your email. (Though it's worth pointing out that Outlook.com does have advertising.)

Nothing Better To Do?

Microsoft has tried this before. Just about a year ago, the Borg launched a campaign about the "Gmail Man," featuring a video of a mailman who reads everybody's private mail:More recently, Microsoft introduced its "Scroogled" campaign claiming that Google's search results were skewed by advertising and even created a site, Scroogled.com, to make its case.(See also Scroogled? Microsoft Charges Google With Manipulating Search Results.)These are all part of an ever-more-nutso obsession that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has developed with Google over the past 10 years. As I reported recently, Microsoft has spent millions of dollars lobbying regulators in the U.S. and Europe hoping to land Google in trouble, though so far it hasn't worked.

The Hand Of Mark Penn?

The recent smear campaigns appear to be the work of political pollster Mark Penn, who ran Hillary Clinton's disastrous 2008 presidential campaign and signed on with Microsoft to bring negative political tactics to the world of tech. The strategy seems to be to keep hammering away on Gmail, hoping that if Microsoft just keeps repeating the same message over and over - that Google is a scary Big Brother spying on everything you do - it will finally sink in and scare people away.That kind of stuff sometimes works in politics. Whether it will work in tech remains to be seen. So far, however, it's falling short.Gmail has surged to 425 million users, and now has leapt ahead of Microsoft's Hotmail and Yahoo Mail. Of most concern to Microsoft must be that Gmail has been catching on inside universities and corporations. (ReadWrite and our parent company, Say Media, rely on Gmail.) A Microsoft spokesman confirmed that the campaign was launching tonight.In a statement, Google said, "Advertising keeps Google and many of the websites and services Google offers free of charge. We work hard to make sure that ads are safe, unobtrusive and relevant. No humans read your email or Google Account information in order to show you advertisements or related information. An automated algorithm - similar to that used for features like Priority Inbox or spam filtering - determines which ads are shown."As I pointed out in my recent article, the risk of what Microsoft is doing is that it could backfire and make Microsoft look nasty and desperate. Instead of whining and running smear campaigns, why not just make better products? Why not just kick Google's ass in the marketplace?The problem with campaigns like this is that it looks like Microsoft considered that option, realized it was impossible, and went with the negative ads instead.Images by ReadWrite.


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This Week’s Burning Question: Big Data vs. Creative

One CEO recently remarked that data is the new media. But some say Big Data’s rise to prominence has come at the expense of creative.What is the right recipe for a successful marriage of these two families? Here’s what industry leaders had to say: “The answer is:That CEO is wrong. Plain old dead wrong. Audiences [...]

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Digitas Merges with LBi

The Publicis Groupe is merging Digitas and LBi to create a leading digital agency global network (5,700 strong. 25+ countries). Luke Taylor (pictured), chief executive of LBi, has been named Global CEO of the newly formed DigitasLBi. The Publicis Groupe acquired the Amsterdam-based LBi last September in a deal valued at more than $52 million. [...]

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Can The Internet Help This Woman Find The Perfect Gigolo?

You may not know this but ReadWrite is owned by a company called Say Media, which owns a handful of other sites, including XOJane, whose readers are mostly women, and not just any women, but the kind who like to do naughty sex-type things and write about it on the Internet. Just check out this article about how to have Skype sex, by a woman who claims to have developed some expertise in this area.So, right. Let's just say there's not much overlap between the XOJane audience and our audience here at ReadWrite. But that may be changing, because the deputy director of XOJane, Mandy Stadtmiller, is on a quest, and she'd like our readers to help.You see, Mandy is looking for gigolo. And she wants the Interwebs to choose him. She is crowd-sourcing the decision and is letting readers vote on which of seven hunky dudes she should hire. The guys all work for a service called Cowboys4Angels, and they have names like "Vin Armani" and "Bradley Lords."You can check out their photos here, or in Mandy's post on XOJane, but I warn you, there are a lot of pulled-down tighty-whiteys, which might be NSFW, depending on where you W. For what it's worth, I'm voting for the gigolo who's out hiking in a cowboy hat, no shirt and plate-sized belt buckle, because why not?Not only can you vote on the guy, you can also vote on which roleplaying fantasy Mandy should act out with the guy, and whatever readers decide, Mandy swears she will do it. Because that is just how she rolls. And, um, pageviews.

Thank You, God, For The Internet

Cynics might see this as just a craven ploy to gin up pageviews, which it is. We got wind of it when one of our reporters, Dan Rowinski, happened to visit the New York office of Say Media, where XOJane's offices are located. Somehow Rowinski got talking to the staffers at XOJane, who told him that hey, we're working on a tech story, and maybe you guys at ReadWrite can do something with it. This was the gigolo project. Now, Rowinski is a shy lad who has led a sheltered life. He managed to make an escape. But when I ran into him the next day he told me about it. I knew right away that we must get involved with this important sociological experiment. Plus here at long last was our chance to achieve synergy with our sisters in arms at XOJane.I traded some mail with Stadtmiller this evening. She told me she came up with this idea after writing a somewhat disturbing post about depression and medication and sexual dysfunction, titled, "I've Been Going To Some Dark Sexual Places Lately In Fantasy - And It's Bumming Me Out." A sympathetic reader wrote in telling Stadtmiller she should do what the reader had done when she needed something to pick up her spirits, which was, "Go professional." In other words, hire an escort.The reader told Stadtmiller about Cowboys4Angels. "I followed up as I knew it would be a fun, hilarious story," Stadtmiller tells me. "I decided to do the crowdsourcing angle because I'm a dork, and I love shit like that. This seemed like a terrific way to involve crowdsourcing in something that was sexy and sexual and fun --and encourage reader engagement."Ah, yes. Reader engagement. We talk a lot about that at ReadWrite, too, but so far our ideas have been much less daring. The best we've done is give away a Nexus 7. Different strokes, I guess.

Sorry, No Sex

Stadtmiller, who is in a relationship, says she will act out some roleplay fantasies with the gigolo, but won't actually have sex with the guy, if only because "super handsome ripped guys aren't really my thing." The roleplay choices are pretty tame. There's no two-girls-one-cup action on the menu.Stadtmiller has pulled a gigolo stunt before, when she was reporting for the New York Post and hired a "prosti-dude" at a brothel in Las Vegas and wrote about her experience. It's a hilarious read. Here's a clip of her talking about it on the Joy Behar show in 2010: Stadtmiller will go on the Joy Behar show later this month to talk about the new gigolo project, and to let that audience join in the voting. Then she'll choose her gigolo. "I'm just hoping for a great story and experience," she tells me. "I don't have trouble getting dates, but this is an experience where readers can live vicariously through me - especially with the crowdsourcing component." Is this what Tim Berners-Lee had in mind when he created the Web? Probably not, but who knows? TBL always struck me as a nerd who might get up to some freakiness. Anyway, here we are. The end times are upon us. Women are going crazy and turning into man-eating sex monsters. Next thing you know they'll want to vote. Now if you'll excuse me I'm going over to XOJane to choose a gigolo.


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Most Facebook Users Have Quit For At Least A Few Weeks

It looks like we're not the only ones unplugging from Facebook. According to new data published on Tuesday by the Pew Research Center, 61% of current Facebook users have taken a break from the infamously addictive social network. The telephone survey culled its data from a sample of 1,006 adults in the U.S in December 2012.Some more interesting tidbits about these Facebook comings and goings:

  • 67% of online Americans are Facebook users
  • 8% of online adults who do not currently use Facebook are interested in becoming Facebook users in the future.
  • 20% of the online adults who don't currently use Facebook say that they used to use the site.
  • 8% of the 61% of users admitted to taking a break from Facebook due to to concerns that they were spending too much time on the site.
  • 21% of those users said that their break from Facebook was the result of being busy and not having time to spend on the site.
  • 28% of Facebook users say the site has become less important to them than it was a year ago. 
  • Only 3% of Facebook users say they plan to spend more time on Facebook in the coming year.
  • 27% of Facebook users say they plan to spend less time on the social network in the next year. (Good luck with that!)
  • Some 38% of Facebook users ages 18-29 expect to spend less time using the site in 2013.
  • 92% of people who use social networking sites maintain a Facebook profile.
Pew also includes a funny little selection of comments in which people explain their Facebook breaks. Justifications include everything from “Too much drama" to “I gave it up for Lent.” Fair enough. The big finding here is that almost two-thirds of Facebook users have taken a break from the site. Facebook owns an insane amount of engagement, especially on mobile devices. But the majority of its users have been compelled to step back, voluntarily taking a break from the social network for a period of at least several weeks. Is the social network suffering from dangerous levels of user fatigue? But of course, while only 3% of users plan to spend more time on Facebook in 2013 than in 2012, the majority of Facebook users will likely maintain or increase the time they spend on the site as the company figures out new ways to become even stickier with its huge user base.Have you considered taking a Facebook break? Have you pulled it off?We're in the process. One day at a time, right?Image by ReadWrite


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Africa Gets Cutting-Edge Solar Broadband, Phones From Microsoft

Microsoft has launched a Kenyan pilot network of solar-powered towers that tap into unlicensed "white space" frequencies to provide wireless connectivity to rural communities in the east African nation. Microsoft also said it would contribute "tens of millions of smart devices" in consumers and small businesses by 2016, with a phone it co-designed with Huawei.Microsoft's work is being done as part of its Microsoft4Afrika Initiative, which aims to bring 1 million African businesses online and assist up to 200,000 Africans by teaching them entrepreneurship and other business skills. The technology deployed in Africa could be eventually deployed in the U.S.You might think of this as a charity. It's not. In fact, this project highlights an interesting dichotomy with how some people see efforts by charities like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, plus celebrities like Bono and Bob Geldof, who allegedly collect money for Africa, but don't actually provide the means for Africa to grow - turning Africa into a "theme park for good intentions."For Microsoft, this is about investment. "When we look at the world, many see China or the BRIC countries as the next big opportunity for growth," Ali Faramawy, corporate vice president, for Microsoft Middle East & Africa, wrote in a blog post Tuesday. "At Microsoft, we view the African continent as a game-changer in the global economy."So what is Microsoft doing besides just donating money? Building.

Kenya Gets More Broadband

In collaboration with the government of Kenya’s Ministry of Information and Communications and Indigo Telecom Ltd., Microsoft said it would launch a pilot project, dubbed "Mawingu," delivering low-cost wireless broadband access to previously unserved locations near Nanyuki and Kalema, Kenya. The base stations use solar panels, often mounted on roofs, and conventional TV aerials, according to a video of the technology. So-called "white space" frequencies are the Wild West of radio, unlicensed spectrum not currently being used. As such, they run free of interference, which can improve their range and performance. Microsoft is teaming with Adaptrum to develop the base stations, while trying to convince local governments to adopt the technology continent-wide. Up to 6,000 people will eventually be served by the stations.In the U.S., the technology is slowly making its way through the FCC, as long as it doen't impede licensed frequencies. The FCC is collecting "databases" of the available frequencies, so radio devices can stick to these white spaces.

First World Disconnect

Somewhat crassly, the video also includes scenes of Microsoft executives handing out Surface tablets to rural African students. The disparity between the brightly colored tablets and the packed dirt floors of the school does make one wonder whether Microsoft's money could be better spent, until the students begin quickly flicking through the tablets, and apparently start learning. Indigo Telecom chairman's metaphor of a "mist of information" floating over the school suddenly seems less hyperbolic. And yes, the kids can apparently use Windows 8.Microsoft will also co-develop a low-cost Windows Phone 8 phone with Huawei, the Asian developer who has specialized in low-cost phones. The phone looks like any other Windows Phone: it's a customized version of the Ascend W1, launched at CES last month: 4-inch 480 x 800 touch LCD, 5 Mpixel camera, dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 and Adreno 305 GPU. More importantly, however, it can deliver up to 420 hours of standby time and 560 minutes of 3G talk time via aggressive power saving.  The phone will initially be available in Angola, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa later this month. The Huawei 4Afrika phone, which is the first in a series of smart devices branded with “4Afrika,” will be targeted toward university students, developers and first-time smartphone users, the company said.It's not the first smartphone designed for the continent. Safaricom and Intel launched the Yolo in Nairobi last month, powered by Kenya's Safaricom.

Microsoft's Charity Track Record

Granted, it appears that Microsoft's 4Afrika Initiative will place millions of Windows Phones and Surface devices into Africa as part of the program through the next few years. Cynics will chuckle snidely and call this dumping failed products into a market where they'll never be seen again.That's not the way it should be seen. Whether charity or investment, few companies take the time, or spend the money, to improve developing nations. Last September, Microsoft said it would "close the opportunity divide" through YouthSpark, funded by $500 million over three years.Between July 2011 and June 2012, Microsoft gave $900 million in cash and software to more than 62,200 nonprofits worldwide, Microsoft representatives said. Of this total, nearly $100 million in cash alone was donated to charities through the employee giving program. Since 1983, Microsoft employees have raised $1 billion in cash (inclusive of the company match) for more than 31,000 nonprofits and community organizations around the world. Kenya's Daily Nation reported that Microsoft will spend the equivalent of $75 million as part of the 4Afrika Initative. That's 6.52 billion Kenyan shillings.That kind of investment goes a long way in Africa.(Updated at 3:39 PM with additional comment from Microsoft.)


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The Rise of the Second Screen Creates New Opportunities for Marketers

If International CES 2013 was any barometer, the 2010 Recession might finally be behind us. Sony’s (and several other of the major TV manufacturers) confident unveiling of 4K TVs listing for $25,000 is an economic indicator that we’ve weathered the storm. That optimism is grounded with other reality points as well. Despite the worst economy [...]

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AFAIK: Ticketmaster, Solve Media, Ensighten, Opera, Neomobile, Brainshark, RevTrax, Open Table, The Weather Company

Here’s what The Log Lady – a pioneer in wireless communication — told me this week: Ticketmaster has replaced Google’s reCaptcha with a solution from New York-based startupSolve Media. Given Ticketmaster’s high volume of e-commerce, it’s focused on eliminating loopholes and scourges through technology. SolveMedia, led by CEO Ari Jacoby, is a leader in providing [...]

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BlackBerry Z10: Steep Learning Curve, Decent Payoff [Review]

This is the new BlackBerry. It is going to take some getting used to.BlackBerry devices have a completely new operating system, a point the company emphasizes by calling it a “first-generation operating system.” Along with the name change from Research In Motion to BlackBerry, it looks like the company wants to put its painful recent history behind it and forge a new identity. BlackBerry released two new BlackBerry 10 smartphones this week. The Z10 is a 4.2-inch full-touch device, while the Q10 will have a 3.1-inch screen and a full physical QWERTY keyboard. We got our hands on the Z10 to put it through the paces. Below we examine the hardware, user experience, apps and more.

Hardware

The specs on the Z10 are good. Not spectacular, but nothing to quite be ashamed of. It boasts a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, 1280 x 768 resolution at 356 pixels per square inch (technically better than the iPhone 5’s Retina display), a 1800 mAh battery, a removable back and 2GB of RAM. It can be LTE capable, has 16GB of memory with a microSD slot and a microHDMI port. The Z10 has a 8-megapixel back camera and a 2-MP front camera, as well as the usual array of sensors including an accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS, proximity and magnetometer. Yes, it even has NFC.The Z10 is relatively thin at .35 inches and weighs a reasonable 4.84 ounces. It does not feel flimsy (in the way that many Samsung devices do) nor does it feel like a brick, like the Lumia 920. It is not compact, thin or light as the iPhone 5, but it holds up well enough to the other top of the line smartphones available. If you know your phones, you might comment that the closest comparative design to the Z10 is the Motorola Razr M. BlackBerry employed the same “edge-to-edge” concept with the Z10 as Motorola with the Razr M. The M is smaller, but otherwise they look remarkably similar. Left: Razr M Right: Z10This is not the last time you will hear the Z10 compared to Android. In many ways, BlackBerry 10 is kind of like a brother to Android, once removed. Many operating principles are similar and BlackBerry 10 even runs apps that have been ported over from Android. At first blush, the camera is fairly standard. The controls are simple, the 1080p appears to work as advertised and boasts an interesting “Time Shift” that allows you to edit aspects of a photo from a couple of seconds before it was taken (say, if one person was smiling before you took the picture but were not when it the shutter was snapped). In a quick jaunt around the neighborhood, the Z10 camera performed well. Not stupendous but extremely serviceable. Here are a couple shots.The front camera is better than most. With many front pictures, you expect a grainy shot unless the light is absolutely perfect. 

Gesture Interface & Home Screens

BlackBerry borrows concepts from Apple and the iPhone while at the same time giving old-time BlackBerry users fond reminders that it is still, indeed, a BlackBerry device. It looks like BlackBerry learned a lesson from Windows Phone to not stray too far from the app/row/icon design of Android and iOS. You can group apps into folders in the same way you can in iOS and the interface has multiple sliding home screens like Android.One feature, a little jarring at first if you are coming from Android (or even Windows Phone), is that there really is no central home screen. Yes, there is a lock screen with message icons, but it is not the hub of your experience while using the Z10. When you turn the device on, you are in a screen that shows you what recent apps you had open. You can scroll between the apps or swipe left/right or down from the top to access various features. These tiles are kind of like Android-style widgets but you can only open the apps from the central screen, not interact with them the way you would with Android.  This is where new users are going to get confused. BlackBerry says that the entire operating system is “gesture based.” Reviewers and commenters have harped on this fact while many people have said “that does not mean anything, iOS and Android are gesture-based too.”Well, yes and no.If you are coming from Android, you are used to a back button of some sort on the bottom of the device. Whether that is a firmware button or an actual hardware button depends on the manufacturer. You will also get a search button (it is Google’s OS, after all) and a home button that will center you back to the home screen. With the iPhone, you have the classic round home button that serves a variety of functions such as activating the device, backing out of an application and going back to your home screen.None of these exist in BlackBerry 10. Wait, how do you navigate? By gestures of course. If you swipe left to right, you get to the BlackBerry Hub where all of your messages are kept. That includes social applications like Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/Foursquare, BlackBerry Messenger, email, text, voice mail/calls and any other notifications. You can activate any one of those applications from the Hub. If you swipe from right to left, you get to your apps/rows/icons. This is where you will feel most comfortable coming from the iPhone and where it allows you to group apps into folder categories. Swiping from the top down will bring you to the settings/connections space where you can connect to Wi-Fi, set the alarm, Bluetooth, rotation and notifications. Then there is swiping up from the bottom. You had better get used to this gesture because it is basically how you get around BlackBerry 10. Since there is no back or home button, if you want to back out of an app, you swipe up. If you want to get back to your “home screen” of recent apps, you swipe up. If you want to activate the device from a black screen, you swipe up (or press the top power button). This gesture is the equivalent of a home/power/back/quit button.

Operating System

Once you figure out how to get around, you can start exploring exactly what it means to use a BlackBerry 10. This is also where you remember that the Z10 is a BlackBerry… for good and bad.There are several features ingrained into the operating system that you are going to become very familiar with. The first is Hub, the second is Flow. BlackBerry describes Flow as a, “seamless user experience which provides full control and flexibility in every moment and touch.” Basically, Flow is tied through Hub to always have your apps and connectivity working in the background of the app with which you are working. If you do not want to fully leave the app you are in, you can do a half-swipe to “Peek” at Hub. So, if you are in a browser, you swipe from the right and can get to Hub or another app that you were already in. It gives BlackBerry 10 a interconnected feeling where all of your apps are hiding just beyond the edge of your screen. Once you get used to it, Flow/Peek becomes very useful. Users will find a learning curve to typing on the Z10. The keyboard employs BlackBerry’s new semantic learning technology that predicts what word you are trying to use with each successive letter you type. It will display likely words about the potential next letter you are going to type. For instance, if you type “for” the word “fork” might hover above the K to spell fork. Instead of hitting the K, you swipe up on the word and it places it in your message. This can help with longer words to cut back how long it takes to type a message but the feature is unique enough that you have to spend significant time with it to master. Where you really get the old BlackBerry experience is in settings, preferences, account registration, email and messaging, security and privacy. Everything you either loved or hated about the back-end of BlackBerry OS devices is present in BlackBerry 10. One new tweak is BlackBerry Balance, which allows users to separate data and applications on the device. If you are using your BlackBerry Z10 or Q10 for both work and personal use, you can have your IT administrator enable balance and the BlackBerry certified Work apps. 

The App Ecosystem

Speaking of apps, BlackBerry 10 has plenty of them for a “first-generation” operating system. BB 10 has 70,000 or so to start and the company has pulled off every trick in the book to get them on the platform. BlackBerry hosted “port-o-thons” to get developers to wrap Android apps for BlackBerry, use a variety of Web apps with home screen short cuts (similar to early iOS) as default applications (such as for YouTube) and has apps built specifically for the platform.BlackBerry announced 1,000 partner apps that either are currently in the BlackBerry World app store or will be shortly. If you were to pick up a Z10 today you might be disappointed that promised apps like Skype, Fruit Ninja and others among the 1,000 apps that are missing. BlackBerry promises they are coming soon. At the same time, we have heard little about some popular apps that many users count on for day-to-day operations. That includes Spotify, Netflix, Zite, Flipboard, RunKeeper or any hint of an app from Google like Maps, a dedicated Gmail app (Gmail does work through Hub), Talk or Music. If you have a specific app that you cannot live without, check BlackBerry World out before buying the device to make sure it's available. If many BlackBerry apps have an Android feel to them, well, it's because they are Android apps. Near 40% of BlackBerry apps were ported from Android including the good, bad and ugly of Google Play. Even the BlackBerry World app store has a vaguely Android-esque feel to it, including media offerings like music and video. For the time being, you are going to have a hard time finding a good dedicated music streaming service on BlackBerry 10. Rdio, Slacker, TuneIn, Songza and SoundHound are on their way, according to BlackBerry, but many are not yet present.

Steep Learning Curve, Decent Payoff

BlackBerry president Thorsten Heins announces the Z10 & Q10 in New York CityMany consumers have grown content with the iPhone/Android duopoly in the smartphone market. They can buy a new phone and automatically know how to use it and take half an hour or so to set it up just how they want it. That is not the case with the Z10. It will take the better part of a couple of days to really be comfortable with how to use BlackBerry 10 and the gesture-based user experience of the Z10. Configuring Hub and messaging settings and sounds can be a touch confusing and requires several layers of swipes and settings to get it just right. Typing can be an interesting experience at first with the auto-suggestions in the keyboard. Like many other things with the Z10, it takes time to get used to.Users will like the customization of the recent apps central screen and the iOS-like folders of the apps and icons. The hyper-connected will love Hub and Flow. The hardware is above average and the screen display is high quality. It is reasonably thin and holds well in one hand. If you are among the legion of desperate BlackBerry fans awaiting the new Z10, you are not likely to be disappointed. BlackBerry took some of the good qualities from both iOS and Android, gave them a distinct BlackBerry feel and packaged it into a zippy and attractive body.Are you going to buy a BlackBerry Z10 when it becomes available? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. 


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Twitter Hack Compromises 250,000 Accounts #BadNews

Add Twitter to the list of this week's high profile hacks. Friday afternoon Twitter joined the ranks of recently compromised sites like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, disclosing that as many as a quarter of a million Twitter accounts may have been compromised in the intrusion. In a blog post, Twitter describes the breach:

We discovered one live attack and were able to shut it down in process moments later. However, our investigation has thus far indicated that the attackers may have had access to limited user information – usernames, email addresses, session tokens and encrypted/salted versions of passwords – for approximately 250,000 users.
Affected users can expect to receive an email from Twitter, though the company encourages all users to use this week as a reminder to practice good "password hygiene" by tweaking their Twitter password if it isn't up to snuff (or making a new one even if it is). It's always a good idea to mix things up, so be sure to sprinkle in a generous dose of alt-caps, numbers and symbols if you've been betting the farm on "Password123" all this time. "This attack was not the work of amateurs, and we do not believe it was an isolated incident," Twitter said in the blog post. "The attackers were extremely sophisticated, and we believe other companies and organizations have also been recently similarly attacked."While Twitter is remaining mum for the time being on the specifics of the hack, it alluded to a known vulnerability in Java and instructed users to disable Java immediately. We'd suggest you do the same. 


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Sneak Peek: BlackBerry's Super Bowl Commercial

BlackBerry is going to hit the Super Bowl hard on Sunday with a new advertising campaign for its new BlackBerry 10 devices. The actual commercials have yet been released, but if the BlackBerry 10 launch event in New York City earlier this week was any indication, it will be likely over the top.

Will new “global creative director” Alicia Keys make an appearance? I would lay good money on it. Will BlackBerry take pot shots at Apple and Samsung? That is a pretty good bet too.

BlackBerry sent over a still shot sneak peek of an image (above) for the commercial. Nothing like giving people a glimpse and holding the rest back to drum up al little anticipation, huh?

What is it? Looks like a rainbow smoke explosion on a city sidewalk. But what the heck would a rainbow smoke explosion be doing in a BlackBerry commercial?

This is what the company had to say:

BlackBerry will be featured in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday for the first time ever. This unique execution will be part of a broad marketing campaign about the totally re-designed, re-engineered and re-invented BlackBerry. As part of this activity, we are sharing a still image of the Super Bowl commercial with our social channels – including 30 millions fans on Facebook and Twitter – to draw them into a conversation about BlackBerry 10 during this highly social event.

So, BlackBerry basically admits to pandering to its social audience. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but couldn't it have chosen a more revealing image?

What do you think it is? Let us know in the comments. 

 



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App Annie: Gap Between iOS, Google Play is Narrowing

App Annie, the app store analytics and market intelligence provider for the global app economy,published its JanuaryApp Annie IndexTM analyzingmajor apppublisherrevenue and download trends across the iOS and Google Play app stores worldwide.The Index reveals veryinteresting and largely untold insights on what’s driving growth on both platforms, and which publishers -– both established as well [...]

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Leveraging Artificial Intelligence to Reap the Rewards of Big Data Advertising

Luxury marketing executives know reaching the right audience is critical to marketing success. Campaigns must reach and “speak to” high-income, luxury-minded, brand-conscious consumers, instead of just reaching mass-market audiences like other brands. That’s why it’s so important for luxury brands to embrace “Big Data” advertising – analyzing every bit of audience and advertising data at [...]

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Today’​s Burning Question: Super Bowl Ad Spend (TV vs. Online)

Earlier this weekvia email, we asked industry leaders: Is a significant portion of Super Bowl ad dollars shifting from TV to online this year? Here are the responses. “I wouldn’t say a significant portion is shifting from TV to online. However, I will say that the investments in online advertising during the Super Bowl are [...]

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BlackBerry 10: Where Does The Company Go From Here?

The exuberance of the young man sitting next to me was hard not to note. We were sitting in the front row of the press section at the BlackBerry 10 keynote launch in New York City on Wednesday awaiting the start of the show - and he was practically bouncing in his seat. He was a mobile developer that had somehow acquired a press pass for a small blog and was at his first-ever smartphone launch event. It had been so long since Research In Motion (now BlackBerry) had done anything significant that it was difficult to remember that the company once boasted perhaps the most loyal customer base of any mobile platform on the planet. As the show started (with a weird E! News style introduction of Blackberry VP of developer relations Alec Saunders), the young man started to clap with the rest of the crowd. I had to remind him that reporters do not clap, root or otherwise show emotion. At least at these types of events. There is no cheering in the press boxHe started peppering me with questions and predictions. “Is BlackBerry going to succeed? How could it not with the great new devices being launched? I think they just set themselves up for years to come.”I shook my head and shrugged. I noted to him the last lines of my article from the day before on BlackBerry’s keys to success.“RIM could do everything right with this launch and still be dead at the end of the year, sold off for pieces and patents, taken over by Microsoft or somebody like that. There is no guarantee of success,” I said. That shut him up. At least for a little while. Now that we know more about the BlackBerry 10 platform, let's revisit BlackBerry’s keys for success and see whether or not that eager young man was on to something.

The Complications Of Distribution

Several people asked me during the BlackBerry launch event how long it would take before we know if BlackBerry 10 is a success.“End of Q3 this year,” I replied. That gives BlackBerry two full quarters to get its distribution down and a little more than six months to get the marketing message out to smartphone buyers whose contracts will be up and are shopping for new devices. If RIM posts two good quarters (or two bad) come September, we will have a pretty good idea of its near term future. On the distribution front, BlackBerry 10 started both good and bad. Consumers in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates (an apparent stronghold for BlackBerry) will see almost immediate availability. The rest of the world should see availability in regional carriers by the end of February. Then there is the ever-important market in the United States. While all four major U.S. carriers have said they will carry the new BlackBerry 10 devices (Verizon said the Z10 will cost $199 on a two-year contract), there is no firm launch date for either of the new BlackBerry smartphones in the U.S. BlackBerry president and CEO Thorsten Heins told reporters that the full-touch Z10 will be available sometime in March, while the physical keyboard Q10 will come sometime in April. Many of the U.S. reporters in the room let out a collective “WTF?!”But those familiar with how the U.S. carriers work were not surprised. Smartphone manufacturers and the carriers tend to have a complicated relationship. The carriers try to force manufacturers into making concessions on software, price, availability and exclusivity all the while running extensive network tests on new devices so as to protect their precious (and often fragile) cellular networks. Any smartphone manufacturer that wants to make a unified launch of a device across all four carriers at the same time is going to run into a logistical nightmare. ReadWrite asked AT&T about the delay of bringing the BlackBerry Z10 in the U.S., noting Heins’s comments on the complicated relationship. AT&T declined to comment. This is very big deal. As recent history has shown, launch delays in the U.S. can sound the death knell for a fledgling smartphone. Look at the delays plaguing phones that have ended up performing poorly in the U.S. - the HTC One X (Apple injunction), Nokia Lumia 900 (AT&T exclusivity and months between announcement and delivery) and Nexus 4 (supply issues between Google and LG) - and you start to get the idea. Heins announces the end of Research In Motion

Assessing The App Ecosystem

We learned on Wednesday that the BlackBerry World app store has 70,000 apps for the launch of BlackBerry 10, with 1,000 “premium” publisher partners. We also learned that 40% of those apps (about 28,000) are “ports” from Android. BlackBerry World also has TV, music and movie content in its app store, similar to Google Play, the Apple App Store and Windows Phone Marketplace. The port strategy is a good one… to start. It gives BlackBerry and developers the ability to easily get apps into BlackBerry World that would not have been there otherwise. But it also comes with complications.A developer noted in Reddit earlier this month that pirated Android apps are making their way to BlackBerry World through the port utility. Piracy, that eternal bane of the hardworking developer, could end up thriving in BlackBerry World. And that could discourage legitimate developers from writing BB 10 apps.There is also the matter of quality. As pretty much everyone knows, many apps in both the Apple App Store and Google Play are basically garbage. A quick tour through BlackBerry World shows that much of that garbage has been ported from Android. Clones of popular apps have also come along for the ride. For instance, BlackBerry lists Fruit Ninja from Halfbrick Studios as a premium partner, but a search of BlackBerry World does not turn up the game. Instead you will find a variety of clones (“Killer Fruit,” Kiwi Slice” etc.). BlackBerry has done well to make sure many top apps are available at launch, including staples like Skype, Kindle, Angry Birds Star Wars, Twitter, Facebook and so on. But many go-to apps - including Netflix, Spotify, Hulu Plus, Pandora and others - are not.Furthermore, it looks like apps from Twitter and Facebook were actually developed by BlackBerry as opposed to directly by their source companies. This is similar to what Microsoft did by creating its own Facebook and Twitter apps (Facebook by Microsoft) for Windows Phone 8. While the social apps are optimized to the operating system, not having Facebook and Twitter build directly for BlackBerry can make for a sub-optimal user experience.

Heins & Keys at BlackBerry 10 LaunchConfusing The Message

BlackBerry desperately wants you to believe it has done a stupendous job with BlackBerry 10 and the first Z10 and Q10 smartphones. And for the most part it looks like a success in development. Nobody really expected BlackBerry to ever release anything worth a damn again, much less anything this good. Heins told the crowd on Wednesday that BlackBerry 10 is "true mobile computing." It is difficult to ascertain exactly what he means by that.Is it the work/life balance of the BlackBerry system he refers? The hub of communication, entertainment and professional life? Yes, BlackBerry 10 boasts some great and unique features that differentiate itself from the iPhone, Android and Windows Phone but that does not necessarily make it revolutionary.BlackBerry 10 wants to be everything to everybody. That makes it hard to read what its real strengths are. Add to that the name change from RIM to BlackBerry, the weird announcement of Alicia Keys as the company's “global creative director,” the litany of partnerships and the dual consumer/enterprise focus and it's hard to tell exactly what the message is supposed to be. BlackBerry does not have a clear positioning in the way that Steve Jobs outlined when he placed Apple at the “intersection of technology and liberal arts.”“Simplification is all about getting closer to customers. BlackBerry needs to create a simpler customer experience for current and potential customers,” said Russ Meyer, global strategy director at Siegel+Gale. "But their messaging is muddled.”

Is BlackBerry’s Future Bright?

BlackBerry 10 will help keep or even bring back many of the company’s loyal customers, like the young developer sitting next to me at the launch event. Top developers will eventually come around and built (or port) for BlackBerry 10 and the app ecosystem will round out. BlackBerry can expect a modest degree of short-term success from its loyal user base and an uptick in enterprise clients. But, like BlackBerry’s message, the truth of the company’s prospects are difficult to ascertain. Certainly, the Z10 and Q10 were good starts to the year for BlackBerry, the most important year in the history of the company. Can it ride that momentum all the way back to respectability and relevance? In six months, we will have the answer.


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Twitter Outages = Snow Day On The Internet

Ah! Good morning! I'm feeling mighty fine! How are you? Oh, why am I so cheerful this morning?Because Twitter was down.It's coming back online now, but it was straight-up out of commission for most of the morning. It's the third outage this month, in fact. And it makes me so happy each time. I only wish this morning's outage had lasted a little longer into the day for us West Coast folks.

Snow Day

Why the schadenfreude, you might ask? Why take delight at the misfortune of others? Well, let me be clear. I have endless compassion for the brilliant engineers at Twitter. They've built something unbelievably powerful, and it's a testament to their talents that it runs at all. But I think the human users who spin the wheels of that real-time interruption machine could use a break every once in a while.When Twitter is down, it's like a Snow Day on the Internet.I understand that most people can and do use Twitter by choice. That's a very good thing. As an intentional hobby, Twitter is immensely valuable. Just dipping into the stream can provide an hour's or a day's worth of news, humor and even friendship, if you keep your Twitter feed tidy enough. "Twitter is my rosary," my word-hero Erin Kissane once said.But Twitter is slightly darker for some of its users. In fact, it's the dark part that Twitter the company has decided to focus on for its business goals. Those users would be the media. That's us.For the blogosphere, Twitter is the tip of the spear. Sifting through it all day for leads is the only way to even try to know what's happening everywhere at once. And if a blogger like me wants to take a break from Twitter to concentrate on something, too bad. If I do, I'll miss a hundred other things. So, except for those brilliant emergencies at the top of the news cycle, the decision to concentrate is basically the decision to give up.

The Heartbeat

Most of the time, to ignore Twitter is to fall behind. Whether you care about that or not is up to you, unless it's your job. But not on Internet Snow Days. On Snow Days, everything is nice and quiet.I'm just being poetic, of course. Twitter outages are actually excellent opportunities to break news, but that's precisely because so many other people are out playing in the snow. The media have become so dependent on this one service, this one critical point of failure, that it has begun to coalesce around it. Twitter is the heartbeat of the media now. That's great for Twitter. Long may it reign.But for me, as a little neuron in the brain of the media, I could use a rest.Oh, what? Twitter's back up? Great. I'll refill the coffee.Photo credit: Jon Mitchell


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posted at: 12:03am on 01-Feb-2013
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2012 Holiday Season Ruled By Tablets - PCs Not So Much

PC shipments dropped 6.4% in the fourth quarter of 2012, while tablet sales rose 75.3% in those three months. The two latest numbers from research firm IDC, taken together, confirm what now seems to be an inevitable trend in personal computing: Tablets are now driving the computer market, while PCs have to be content to follow. If these trends continue, in fact, it won't be that long before tablets outsell PCs overall - just over a year or so, in fact.IDC reported Thursday that the tablet market shot up at an almost unbelievable rate during the fourth quarter, as iPads and other tablets apparently became the gift to give and receive this holiday season.

Sun Setting On the PC?

Tablet sales not only spiked more than 75% from a year ago, to 52.5 million units, they grew 74.3% from the third quarter of 2012 - implying that some catalyst drove fourth-quarter sales in particular. IDC concluded that that spark was the Apple iPad mini, whose sales of 22.9 million units caused Apple tablet shipments to spike by 48.1%. However, the rising tide of Android tablets rose slightly higher over Apple's head, as Cupertino's market share dropped from 46.4% in the third quarter to 43.6%.In a report released this month, IDC concluded that the "advancement of computing no longer starts and ends with the personal computer," an acknowledgement of the now-accepted belief that the PC is has lost its primacy: that the personal computer is following the smartphone and tablet, rather than driving it.One question is how much of Microsoft's legacy in the PC is affecting sales of its Surface tablets. IDC reported that Microsoft sold fewer than 900,000 Surface RTs, the cheaper, ARM-based tablet that was released before the Surface Pro hits stores next month

Microsoft Surface "Failed To Gain Much Ground"

"There is no question that Microsoft is in this tablet race to compete for the long haul," Ryan Reith, program manager for the Mobile Device Tracker program at IDC, said in a statement Thursday. "However, devices based upon its new Windows 8 and Windows RT operating systems failed to gain much ground during their launch quarter, and reaction to the company's Surface with Windows RT tablet was muted at best. We believe that Microsoft and its partners need to quickly adjust to the market realities of smaller screens and lower prices. In the long run, consumers may grow to believe that high-end computing tablets with desktop operating systems are worth a higher premium than other tablets, but until then [prices] on Windows 8 and Windows RT devices need to come down to drive higher volumes."For comparison, 900,000 tablets sold doesn't even match the Barnes & Noble Nook, which finished fifth with 1 million tablets sold. IDC estimated that the Nook sold 1.9% of all tablets sold, leaving Microsoft with about 1.7% of the total market. That's bad news for Barnes & Noble, whose sales dipped from 1.4 million units a year ago, and an indication that Amazon is clearly  winning the war between the two online book giants.Still, it's all small potatoes compared to the leaders: Apple (22.9 million units, 43.6% market share), Samsung (7.9 million units, 15.1% market share), Amazon (6.0 million units, 11.5%) and Asus (1.0 million units, 1.9%). You can see how each vendor has fared in IDC's interactive historical chart, below. 
 
The massive growth in tablets overshadowed some of the individual success stories. Although Apple's iPad mini delivered a supremely successful launch, Samsung's growth more than doubled (263%) from a year ago. And even that paled in comparison to Asus, whose popular Google-branded Nexus 7 tablet helped drive 402.3% growth, from 2% market share to 5.8%.
For now, PC sales still retain their handy lead over tablets: 89.8 million units versus 52.5 million units sold during the fourth quarter.That probably won't change right away, as the first and second quarters of the year are traditionally the industry's slowest, so both PC and tablet sales numbers should return to earth. But over time, if the numbers hold, the number of tablets sold could pass the number of PCs sold as early as sometime in 2014. That's because total tablet sales from 2011 to 2012 nearly doubled, from 68.7 million units to about 127.2 million units. PC sales should continue to drop, as they did from 363.9 million units in 2011 to 351.4 million units last year.

Winners And Losers?

Microsoft recently reported a record quarter, while Intel, the other engine of the PC market, reported a tidy $11 billion profit on $53 billion in revenues. But Intel's outlook is fueled by a healthy server market, virtually the entire desktop and notebook space, as well as new entries in smartphones and tablets. In many ways, Intel and Microsoft are on parallel paths, trying to expand their traditional oligarchy: the PC. Intel is clearly succeeding: Microsoft's path is less certain."As Windows 8 matures, and other corresponding variables such as ultrabook pricing continue to drop, hopefully the PC market can see a reset in both messaging and demand in 2013," Jay Chou, an IDC analyst wrote earlier this month. It may be too late.


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