Virtual Skinny: Friday Alert!

9.9.2016

Good to Know: The U.S. FAA just hit the red alert button on Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones. Don’t even think about turning it on during a flight on account of its explosive batteries.  Exhibit A.    

explosion

THE SKINNY


When You Make the Effort …

AirBnB is stepping its anti-discrimination policy game all the way up.  

When You’ve Been Exposed …

In Dec. 2015, Harvard University hosted its very own #ExposeParty when it dropped a bombshell of a report calling out some exclusionary behavior taking place on AirBnB.  The paper said that users with ‘African-American- sounding names’ had a hard time simply booking reservations. It’s the ole “we’re booked for those dates” excuse. #AirbnbWhileBlack

exposed
When You’ve Gotta Move Quick …

Can you say damage control? AirBnB brought in heavy-hitters like former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and former director of American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office Laura W. Murphy to give their two cents on what it can do to reduce discrimination on its platform.

When You Want to Hear Solutions …

Murphy put together the 32-page report with some practical fixes. Starting Nov. 1, users must agree to treat others on the platform fairly and sans bias. Other things will happen like ‘instant booking’ so people can make reservations without first getting approval from the host. And, AirBnB plans to focus less on users’ photos and more on objective information on people’s profiles.

When You’ll Wait and See…

Verdict is still out on whether these changes will actually work. Mixed reviews from advocacy groups and even from founders of competing startups targeting people of color. But, it all raises a bigger question of Internet companies’ role in changing social attitudes and perceptions.

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?


Out with the Old, In with the New …

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission wants to make your cable TV watching a little easier. This week, the agency put out its final proposal on those expensive cable boxes. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler doesn’t want your cable provider (think: Comcast) to force you to rent pricey cable boxes. He’d much rather the provider offer an app for people to stream content on their device of choice (Apple TV, Roku, etc.). Wheeler says the change would be good innovation. The agency is set to vote on the proposal later this month (Sept. 29). Who knows? The cable industry may finally catch up to 2016. #SorryNotSorry

Trying to Stop A Moving Train …

Fun Fact: For many years, the U.S. oversaw the basic operations of the Internet. But like most good things, that is coming to an end. The U.S. plans to transition its oversight duties to ICANN. Formally, known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. The nonprofit group deals with the Internet’s daily operations. The transition is supposed to go down October 1st, but some Republicans aren’t having it. Four top Republicans just sent a letter to the Obama Administration basically saying that the switch won’t be going down on their watch. Reason for the opposition? They don’t want the U.S. to “giv[e] up control” of the Interwebs. The Internet and broader tech community says that’s not the case. The community sees it as a positive for the Internet’s global support. Republicans probably don’t have the votes to stop the transition, but it’ll at least make for good political drama heading into election season this fall.

THE STREETS ARE TALKIN’


The 90s comeback game is so strong. Super Mario is coming to the iPhone. mario

Alphabet (formerly known as Google) is teaming up with Chipotle to deliver burritos via drone. Virginia Tech will be the first test-site because it’s FAA approved. 

You can now hail a ride from Lyft or Gett directly from Google Maps

Norway is calling out Facebook for removing its Prime Minister’s post of the Pulitzer-prize winning ‘napalm girl’ photo during the Vietnam war.

Snapchat just hired Morgan Stanley to take out a new line of credit. The Information is reporting that the company’s gearing up for an IPO. Maybe, maybe not … 

MAKING MOVES


While we’re on Snapchat, the company just hired former White House strategic communications advisor Rachel Racusen. Racusen is Snapchat’s new Director of Communications . 

WOD (WORD OF THE DAY)


IPO: Known as ‘initial public offering.’  The first time when a private company releases stock to the public. Reasons for an IPO vary (e.g., to raise money to grow the company more or to allow the company’s owners and employees to make money off of their company stock).

The Virtual Skinny: TGIF

12.18.2015

Good to Know: Here’s a DIY holiday gift idea:  Socks that can sense when you fall asleep while binge watching your fave shows. It’ll trigger the pause button so you don’t sleep through the whole thing. Thanks, Netflix! 

THE SKINNY


When It’s Not Like Hey, What’s Up, Hello … 

Yesterday, a Brazilian court ordered mobile phone providers in the country to tell their customers that they’ve been cut off from Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp for 48 hours.

Ok… Why? 

Something about WhatsApp’s refusal to respond to a court order. Turns out there’s a criminal drug case going on, and the court wanted WhatsApp to give Brazil’s 5-0 wiretap access to its service for stealth mode listening purposes.  The app said #ByeFelicia and ignored the request in the name of protecting users’ personal data. So, the court hit back by shutting down access to the app.

Please, Tell Me More … 

About 100 million Brazilians actively use WhatsApp so people were downright outraged by the disruption. Later in the day, a higher court said that the decision was unreasonable. In other words, just because one company does something bad, doesn’t mean millions of Brazilians have to suffer.  Ban lifted … Crisis averted … The End!

So, What Does This Have To Do With Me? 

People are worried that it’s possible that governments and companies alike can decide to cut off certain people’s access without any justification. They say it would be completely legal under current law. Since many of us can’t go a few minutes without using services like Facebook, Gmail, and WhatsApp, that would be a big … BIG problem.

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON? 


They’ve Got Questions …

And, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is hoping that American companies like AT&T, T-Mobile, and Comcast have the answers. Lately, companies like T-Mobile and Comcast have come out with new promotion deals that allow their customers to stream videos, music, etc. from specific content providers for free (and with no limits). This type of unlimited streaming is known as “zero rating,” which is somewhat of a complication when it comes to net neutrality. Under the current net neutrality rules, Internet service providers can’t play favorites in the type of content they deliver nor can they block certain types of content. The FCC says this isn’t an official investigation but simply a way to stay informed. But, others aren’t buying what the FCC is selling. First, it’s simply a learning exercise, then before you know it – a full blown investigation.

THE STREETS ARE TALKIN’ 


Video service Vine is saying “it’s all for you.” The service wants to “cater to you” in a much better way with its new personalized channel offering called “For You.”

Facebook took the #1 spot for apps in 2015, according to Nielsen. Rounding out the top 3? YouTube and Facebook Messenger.

E-commerce company Amazon is in the market for planes.  The company’s looking to create its own overnight shipping service. Why rely on others, when you can do it yourself?

Smartphone maker Apple tapped Jeff Williams as its new Chief Operating Officer. And if you’re U.S.-based, we’ve got a recommendation for your Sunday night TV watching. CBS show 60 Minutes is touring Apple’s design studio. 

FRIDAY FUNDAY! 


Don’t mean to brag, but our lyrics quoting game is on point today. Bonus points for anyone who can name the artist and song title! Who knows? We may just shout you out! Tweet at us @virtual_skinny.

 

The Virtual Skinny: Oh, Hi!

12.7.2015

Good to Know:  Gmail account stolen?  Here’s how to recover it. 

THE SKINNY


Rarely Seen … 

In a speech from the White House Oval Office, last night U.S. President Obama addressed the American public in the aftermath of last week’s San Bernardino, CA mass shooting.

What We’re Not Going To Do Is … 

President O. told Americans that terrorist threats are real, but there’s no time for fear.  He wants the American public to keep calm because he’s a man with a plan. Obama and his Administration have a strategy to protect Americans against terrorist groups like ISIL aka ISIS. During his speech, he basically said, “Internet and tech companies, what’s good?” 

Step Up… 

Following in the footsteps of the French government that recently met with tech and Internet companies on counter-terrorism, the White House wants tech and Internet firms to step up their anti-terrorism game. More specifically, they want these companies to limit social media use for coordinating these types of events.  The Administration’s also planning a sit-down with companies to get down to the nitty-gritty of “…when … social media is being used actively and operationally to promote terrorism.”  Tech and Internet companies are already doing things on the low like taking down alleged terrorist profiles and content. But shhh… they don’t want people to think they’re working hand-in-hand with governments.

Let’s Talk Politics … 

U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton is making the media rounds and saying that she wants to work with companies to shut terrorists down.

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON? 


Step Away from the Device … 

Having a hard time shutting down your Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, etc? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.  Turns out Internet companies rely on what is called the “network effect” to make sure you keep coming back for more. Hashtags, notifications about comments or likes, requests to connect, etc. are all by design and not necessarily just for your convenience.  A new project called “Network Effects” wants to highlight that we’re not addicted to digital platforms solely because of our own freewill.  Apparently, endless access to content has a lot to do with it.

Now, We Wait … 

Last Friday in the U.S., telecom companies threw down against the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in front of three judges. They’re beefing over the FCC’s most recent net neutrality rules. Here’s what you should know about the situation. The FCC definitely put up a better fight from the last go around a couple of years ago, but it’s hard to say how the judges will rule on whether the FCC’s rules are legit or not. Looks like we use 70% of our broadband access to stream online videos so what the judges decide matters. Their decision could impact how everyday folks like us access online content. We won’t know anything until Spring 2016.

THE STREETS ARE TALKIN’ 


After a three-day pow wow with its board, no word yet from Yahoo on whether it’s going to sell off its Web business or not.  According to reports, it’s very likely that the company will continue to rely on CEO Marissa Mayer to make the company the next “comeback kid.”

Speaking of comebacks, Priceline’s got that on lock. Anything’s possible.

After years of research, 20-year old Maria Rose Belding, a sophomore at American University, helped create a social network to help cut down on food waste.  Her platform connects food pantries in 24 states so they can share any excess food that would’ve probably been trashed.

Facebook’s testing out its live streaming video feature with some regular people.

Actor and comedian Paul Scheer is bringing back old school Sunday comics via Vine with cult web comic White Ninja.

Check out Twitter’s 2015 Year In Review.

 

 

The Virtual Skinny: Snap Out of It!

11.30.2015

Good to Know:  You may soon be able to access the Internet via light bulbs aka Li-Fi. Btw, Happy Cyber Monday!

THE SKINNY


Lies, Fairytales, & Fallacies …

Or maybe not? The topic of climate change is bringing 45,000 people including about 150 world leaders alongside business people, young people, and celebrities like actor Sean Penn, etc. to Paris.  This is the 21st annual gathering, and some attendees seem a bit more jaded than others (looking at you, scientists). 

Climate Change? What Does That Even Mean?

You know what it is … It’s rocking your summer gear when you should really be bundled up. In other words, it’s comes down to significant, unusual weather changes in a particular location. These changes are said to be due to things like increased carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

Is there An End-Game?

At the end of the United Nation’s two-week long pow wow, leaders like U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping etc. are hoping this one goes down in the history books. They want people to know that climate change is the real deal by potentially signing off on climate change agreements.  Things like clean energy investment and fossil fuel reduction are on the check list.  Did you know that more efficient batteries could help steer us away from a fossil fuel “addiction?” Also of note: People are watching India because it’ll be the new China pretty soon.  

squad goals … 

Tech genius turned philanthropist Bill Gates is ready to pony up US $1 billion dollars out of his personal funds to help back a multi-billion dollar clean energy effort. Project Name? The Breakthrough Energy Coalition. The coalition ultimately wants to help fund research that can solve the world’s clean energy problem.  If governments get on board and allocate cash money to this area, Gate says he’ll fork over even more money, and others will likely join him.  Like who? Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Alibaba’s Jack Ma, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, etc. are on board. 

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?


Baby, I Swear It’s “Déjà Vu!”

In the U.S. this week (December 4), the free and open Internet is back in court. Well actually, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will once again have to defend its latest net neutrality rules against U.S. telecom companies. Net neutrality is the idea that all Internet traffic should be treated equally, and people should be able to access whatever they want, whenever they want online.  Telecom companies say the latest rules are crap and could harm their investment in broadband. They want these rules thrown out. This has happened twice before, and let’s just say it hasn’t gone well for the FCC each time. Everyone’s looking at federal judge David Tatel, who is one of three judges that will preside over the case.  Tatel presided over the last two cases as well, but people are saying this doesn’t necessarily mean that the FCC will take the “L” on this for the third time. 

When You Want More Responsibility… 

Will negotiations ever end? The U.S. and European Union (EU) are still locked in discussions on what a new data transfer agreement will look like moving forward. Previously, an old agreement called the U.S-EU Safe Harbor guided how American and European companies traded EU citizen’s data across the Atlantic (e.g., company data like human resource info or user data picked up by Internet companies). The EU trashed the old agreement because a court felt that the U.S. government just didn’t care about EU citizen’s privacy. The latest proposal is to increase the role of EU Member States’ privacy regulators when it comes to Europeans complaining about how companies are invading their privacy. This is just one issue of many that both sides need to figure out by the end of January 2016. Tick, tock … 

THE STREETS ARE TALKIN’ 


Yesterday, U.S. NBA star Kobe Bryant took us back to 1999 when he attempted to get into the rap game.  He tweeted his retirement from basketball after the current season. Rhymes were involved.  

South African conglomerate Naspers, Ltd. is taking on U.S. video streaming service Netflix’s international expansion. Naspers’ answer to Netflix is called Showmax, which will soon be available across Europe, North America, and Australasia. 

According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), 3.2 billion people across the globe now have access to the Interwebs (most of these people prefer to get online via mobile phones) … If you don’t know, now you know … 

“OMG, I’m literally dying” … “yasssssss” …. “I just can’t!” The New York Times is doing the most (aka trying too hard) by attempting to analyze how Millennials exaggerate online. 

Last week, Americans celebrated Thanksgiving. People ate and shopped online in excess. Who needs to duke it out in a store like these people when you can jump on your phone? Smartphone shopping is becoming a regular thing.  

The Virtual Skinny: Getting on Your Radar…

11.9.2015

Good to Know:  Online retailers are bringing their items to you in the real world just in time for the holidays. 

THE SKINNY 


Coming Up Short… 

Late last week, mobile payments company Square announced its IPO price, which had people doing head tilts.

Why?

Well, Square says its price will be between $11 and  $13 per share, which values the company at $4.2 billion. That’s obviously a ton of money, but people were originally expecting a $6 billion valuation.

What Does This Mean? 

Two things. First, the company agreed that it would have to fork over additional shares  to investors if its price came in below $18.55/share so that’ll probably happen. If Square’s shares go for about $12, it’ll be on the hook for about 5.3 million shares to investors. And for other “unicorns” aka companies valued at $1 billion or more, it’s not looking great for them.  This could mean that if other private companies in the $1 billion club decide to go public, their valuation probably won’t be high either.

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON? 


When You Hate To Burst Someone’s Bubble… 

Square’s latest IPO news had people saying that there’s a tech bubble, and that “ish” is about to blow.  Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen sees things differently. Andreessen took to Twitter to sound off on what the Square news means to him.  Put simply, he says that a tech bubble isn’t a thing at the moment.  Basically, for a tech bubble to exist, there’d have to be a ton of excitement and things happening with no real rationale or justification in equity markets.  Square’s “modest pricing” doesn’t quite live up to that type of hype. Don’t believe him? Andreessen dares you to compare and contrast what’s going on today with what happened in ’99.

When You Reinvent Yourself, Madonna-Style … 

In the world of online streaming and digital music, some small, non-profit music stations aren’t going out like that. Rather than fighting the Internet and streaming services like Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, etc., they’re taking a different approach.  KXEP, a Seattle, Washington-based radio station that’s put acts like the Lumineers, Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis on the map, says it’s no longer just a radio station but is using the Inter-webs to transition into a community organization.  These stations are taking a cue from online services and are building communities that turn to them for curated playlists by trusted sources that often help with the discovery of new artists. Nonprofit stations like KXEP are also turning to Internet platforms such as YouTube to expand their reach.  If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em …

When You Can’t Control Them … 

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is not getting into the online tracking business.  The agency said that it won’t do anything to make it hard for the likes of Google, Facebook, and other internet companies to track what you do online.  Naturally, Internet companies are happy about this since they rely on your information to make money. Privacy advocates, on the other hand, are understandably salty about the decision because they hoped the FCC would make it standard for online companies to recognize a “do not track” button while users are on their sites. But alas, the FCC said no and hopes that’s the end of that debate … at least as far as the FCC is concerned.

THE STREETS ARE TALKIN’ 


Verizon will soon start selling the Blackberry Priv, the first phone using Android mobile operating system that has a physical keyboard.  Speaking of … reviews are in and let’s just say it’s a mixed bag.

Online search via text is played out like an 8-track. “Discovery engines” is where it’s at, according to Pinterest. Starting today, you can search Pinterest with images only. This new tool could mean more ad sales for the company.

When your love only grows … for Snapchat.  The company says its daily video views are up to 6 billion.  It’s catching up to Facebook, which says its video views are up to 8 billion on a daily basis.

Facebook’s trying things out with its new digital assistant, M. FB wants to use a single interface to replace all those web searches you tend to do. The company sees M as a one-stop shop so to speak.  If things work out, all we’ve gotta say is … watch your back, Google.

Yahoo is enlisting management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. to clean things up. The Internet company wants McKinsey to tell it what parts of its biz to keep and which to chuck.

U.S. university MIT picked Hong Kong as the location for its new innovation center.

 

The Virtual Skinny: Spring Is Springing?

3.17.2015

Good to Know:  SxSw is in full swing, and tech companies are naturally making big announcements from Yahoo’s on-demand passwords available only in the U.S. to the premiere of “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine” documentary.  Too many cool things, we can’t even stand it!  

THE SKINNY.


It’s Finally Here … 

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission released its long awaited Open Internet rules.

Maybe Legal or Maybe Not? 

For weeks, we’ve all known that the 313-page Order would go into detail on three rules – no blocking, no throttling, and no paid prioritization.  In other words, Internet service providers (ISPs) may not block access to lawful, online content or services.  ISPs will also not be able to slow down Internet traffic to certain types of content.  And lastly, ISPs cannot be monetarily compensated to permit faster access to particular types of content, services, and applications.  While we’ve been expecting these rules for several weeks, the Order also raised legal uncertainties that are open to various interpretations.  One particular section under scrutiny is the “just and unreasonable” provision.

Anything You Can Do, We Can Do Better…

Well, now that the Order is out, the Republican led U.S. Congress is set to grill the Commission’s Chairman Tom Wheeler in a number of hearings this week.  Expect questions about how the Order evolved from a hybrid approach to its current state, particularly since the change happened soon after President Obama’s endorsement of Title II.  Congress thinks it can do better on net neutrality rules.  As they say, only time will tell.

What Else Is Going On This Week?


2015 = The Year of Apple?  

Last week, we predicted that April would be an Apple takeover but now this may just extend the full year.  According to media reports, Apple is planning on launching a TV streaming service this September.  The tech company is said to be in talks with Walt Disney and Fox but no so much with NBC given its current rift with Comcast, NBC’s parent company.  This streaming service is likely to drive sales of its hardware products – iPhone, iPad, Apple TV to name a few.

It’s Not All Good News … 

Though Apple Pay debuted with a bang, banks who were once singing its praises are now not so privately complaining about the service.  Banks are complaining about increased fraud rates, but industry experts say it may not be all on Apple Pay but the banks have something to do with it.   The vulnerabilities in the system seem to be happening because Apple Pay’s “onboard” system is kept deliberately simple, requiring basic credit card information.  In turn, the banks chose not to take extra security precautions nor did it require Apple to offer more detailed customer information.

Should I Post This on My FB?

The social network is clarifying its policies on what content it may remove if its deemed too sensitive (e.g., nudity, terrorism, hate speech).  In justifying this clarifications, FB’s Chief Mark Zuckerberg says the company is simply complying with “lawful government orders” to remove certain types of content.  FB also released new data on government requests to remove content, and the numbers in the latter half of 2014 decreased for the earlier part of last year among Western countries.

The Streets Are Talkin’


Are you sick of hearing about all things Apple?  Well, we promise this is that last mention for the week, but rumor has it that the company is working on a car project.  Code name – Titan.

Uber’s Chief Financial Officer Brent Callinicos is stepping down.  Nothing controversial from what we gather.  Callinicos just wants more family time with his wife and kids.

Pinterest just got a huge influx of cash.  The only scrapbooking service is now valued at $11 billion after raising $367 million in its latest round of financing.

The Virtual Skinny: House of Cards Season 3 Recovery

3.3.2015

Good to Know:  We all know that eBay is a major e-commerce website but ever wondered how it got its name?  Turns out that the “e” doesn’t stand for electronic after all.  According to founder Pierre Omidyar, the company’s name has connections to Ebola. Omidyar had once populated the site with content related to Ebola. So, the “e” stands for ebola and the “Bay” is for none other than the Bay Area. #TheMoreYouKnow      


THE SKINNY.

Getting Things Done.

Last week, we gave you the heads up that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission would be voting on its Chairman Tom Wheeler’s net neutrality rules.  Well, the vote went down and in a 3-2 party line vote among the Chairman and his four Commissioners (2 Democrats and 2 Republicans), it was net neutrality for the win.  While the FCC Dems were all in, the two other Republicans on the other hand called out the rules’ flaws and even laid out ways that these rules could get overturned whether through a new Commission, Congress, or the courts system.  Republicans on Capitol Hill are not pleased either as they see this as big government seeking increased control over the Internet, but solutions to address this issue is causing some rifts in the party.  Outside of government, the usual lines of demarcation remain the same.  Internet companies are pleased with the rules approach to reclassify Internet providers as public utilities in efforts to ban blocking and paid prioritization while increasing transparency.  Cable companies/Internet service providers are not. Needless to say, a legal challenge of these rules is on the horizon.  #DejaVu But in the meantime, on March 18, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing featuring Wheeler. Fun Times.

When Do We Get To See It?

The public still hasn’t seen the 317-page Order, but Wheeler hopes it’ll be released soon.  The Commission’s General Counsel Jon Sallet recently penned a blog post explaining the agency’s process when it comes to adopting rules.  In a nutshell, Sallet explained that the Commission simply follows Congress’s “blueprints” through the Communications Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, which provides guidance on federal administrative action.  These blueprints are followed in order to make sure that the rule “reflects public input, permits internal deliberation, and is built to withstand judicial review.”  Sallet indicated that once statements and requests for clarity are incorporated into the rule, then it’d be ready for public release.


What Else Is Going On This Week?

Belle of the Ball … 

Chairman Wheeler’s timing is impeccable.  Approval of his net neutrality rule came just in time for this year’s Mobile World Conference (MWC) in Barcelona.  The MWC is an annual conference attended by the who’s who in the mobile space.  This year, the spotlight is on Wheeler and his decision.  According to media reports, telecom execs want Wheeler at their table to question him about his thoughts on the implications of the rules.

Can You Feel The Tension?

Tensions between tech and telecom may be at an all time high at MWC, particularly in light of the Commission’s adoption of net neutrality rules.  Around the globe, telecom companies use the same argument against Internet companies offering over the top services.  Their number one gripe is that they’ve invested so much dolla dolla bills into building their infrastructure, and Internet companies are essentially free riding and profiting off of telecom companies’ networks and are not sharing.  And as people move to mobile, carriers are concerned that they’ll remain cut out of the revenues enjoyed by Internet companies.

But, Why Can’t We All Be Friends?

Google and Facebook think that this doesn’t have to be the case and are approaching relationships with carriers through partnerships with carriers.  For instance, Google’s Sundar Pichai announced at the mobile conference that the company has plans to launch its own brand of wireless service this year (at a small scale) and is reaching out to several carriers for potential partnerships.  Both Google and Facebook are also focused on bringing Internet access to emerging markets.  Facebook’s chief Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that he’s tried to forge partnerships with carriers on Internet.org, an initiative intended to bring access to 2/3 of the world’s population currently offline.  Airtel Africa is one willing participant to work with Facebook, and as these companies develop new technologies to bring access to developing areas without infrastructure, perhaps the tides may change in terms of which carriers are willing to forge partnerships.  If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

While You Were Celebrating…

Though most of the attention last week was focused on the Commission’s Net Neutrality Order, the Obama Administration released its long anticipated consumer privacy bill.  This bill is intended to take a comprehensive approach to privacy rather than a sectoral approach.   Already, it does not seem that many people including the broader technology industry and privacy advocates are not fans of this proposal.  Even the Federal Trade Commission weighed in.   A commission spokesperson said, “we have concerns that the draft bill does not provide consumers with the strong and enforceable protections needed to safeguard their privacy.”  It’s unclear who will champion this bill in Congress, if at all.

In Other News…

President Obama is out publicly criticizing China’s plans to impose rules on U.S. technology companies.  In order to do business in China, these companies would be required to give the Chinese government encryption keys and passcodes intended to protect data.  Companies would also be required to create “backdoors” in their systems for surveillance reasons.


The Streets Are Talkin’

eBay/PayPal are acquiring Paydiant, a mobile wallet platform for retailers and companies.

Tinder is trying to generate revenue and is hoping that Tinder Plus is the answer.  The pricing of this premium service will depend on agenda and users’ location.  Sorry J.Lo, but turns out that love does cost a thing.

The Virtual Skinny: Starting Off With A Clean Slate.

1.6.2015

Good to Know: Things we’d like to see left in 2014, corporations’ use of the word “bae” – meaning one’s significant other OR someone you want to be in a relationship with – in their social media campaigns.  A fake Twitter account popped up calling out companies for trying to relate to the kids. In other news, this year, we resolve to continue to bring you more on the latest top tech & Internet news.

THE SKINNY.


That Didn’t Take Too Long … 

As promised, right out of the gate this year, we’re hearing that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is planning to vote on final net neutrality rules in February.  The Commission’s next monthly meeting is February 26.

Not So Fast …

Not that this process would suddenly become an easy feat, but Republicans (who are not into classifying broadband as a utility) are considering putting out legislation to address the net neutrality issue to avoid reclassification of broadband services. Republicans see legislation as a way to avoid the likely legal challenges and hoopla that will come with the FCC’s rules as we’ve seen in the past – remember Verizon v. FCC?

It’s All About Timing … 

Republicans will have to until next month to see what the FCC comes up with before it can figure out next steps.  Game ON!

What Else Is Going On This Week?


Viva Las Vegas … 

The Consumer Electronics Association, a tech trade association in Washington D.C., is back in Vegas this week with its annual Consumer Electronics Show – a mega week-long showcase of the latest and greatest technologies.  This year, looks like technologies will be getting smarter, but here are some highlights so far: Dish Network is going up against cable with Sling TV – its new web TV service (and it comes with ESPN); Samsung Electronics is getting into the high-tech sensor business with technology to detect a variety of scents (interesting); oh and Ryan Seacrest made the case for Typo2 – his iPhone keyboard (Seacrest, out).

New Year, New Me … 

You’re not the only one making resolutions this year.  Mark Zuckerberg is feeling the need for a bit of self-improvement as well.  The Zuck is taking a cue from Oprah and is starting his very own book club (check out his “Year of Books” FB page).  His plan is to read two books per month.  First up is Moises Naim’s “The End of Power.”  If you’re interested, you should get your copy pronto as it’s already sold out on Amazon. Happy reading, ya’ll!

Russia, BYE!

Following in the footsteps of other U.S. tech companies, Intel is saying “da sveedaneeya” to Russia.  The company is shutting down its Russian-language developer forums because of the country’s new “Blogger Law.”  According to TechCrunch, this law would impose heavy restrictions on sites with over 3,000 daily readers and also subject these sites to increased monitoring by the Russian government. Additionally, these sites would be held to the same standards as professional journalists and would mandate that sites register with Roskomnadzor, Russia’s version of the FCC. Violations of the law could cost companies anywhere from 10,000 – 30,000 rubles ($285-$855) up to 500,000 rubles ($14,285) per violation presumably.

Pardon the Interruption … 

Twitter was down for a minute. Well, it was more of a delay in users’ Twitter timelines that lasted for about an hour and 40 minutes.  The issue has since been resolved, but this is the second technical outage in the past week.

The Streets Are Talkin’


Facebook just bought Wit.ai, an 18-month-old Palo Alto start-up focused on speech recognition.  For those of you developers already in the Wit.ai community, looks like it’ll still be free and open to all despite the acquisition.

Ever sent a text and then immediately regretted it? Us too! Strings, a new app, wants to spare you the embarrassment by allowing you to permanently delete texts not only from you phone but from whoever’s phone is on the receiving end.  And people can forget about trying to share your texts with others, as the app would require them to seek your permission first before being able to download the content.  Noooice!

Uber tops this year’s Washington Post list of top Internet IPOs for 2015. AirBnb, Pinterest, Spotify, and Xiaomi also made the cut.

The Virtual Skinny: All Net Neutrality Every-thang

11.11.2014

Good to Know:  November 11 is Alibaba’s Singles’ Day in China (and Veterans Day in the U.S. – thank you to all those who have served and are currently serving).  Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce site, is responsible for what is basically the anti-Valentine’s day and also the biggest e-commerce day of the year.  Sales have already reached over $8 billion. We’re starting to reconsider Cyber Monday and Black Friday. 

THE SKINNY.


The InterWebs Is All Abuzz…

Because on Monday, November 10, President Obama ensured that we’d be talking about net neutrality all week when he came out with a strong statement and video in support of net neutrality rules that would keep the Internet open and free.

Why Is This Big Deal?

First, the back-story… For many years, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been working towards implementing net neutrality rules. However, the Commission’s efforts have been consistently challenged in court – first by Comcast and then most recently by Verizon.  In January 2014, the D.C. Circuit struck down most of the Commission’s rules (namely no blocking and no discrimination).  Subsequently, the FCC had started a lengthy, record breaking public comment process of trying to figure out what rules to adopt and how it would legally carry out implementation of these rules.  Through this process, the FCC heard from about 3 million plus people, and many of you want the FCC to reclassify broadband services under Title II of the Communications Act (Title II) as a common carrier service.

What is Title II, and Why Should I Care? 

By reclassifying broadband services under Title II, it is argued that this would prevent ISPs from discriminating against certain types of services and content and stop them from charging Internet users a premium just to access our favorite online shows (kind of like how you have to pay more for HBO).  Proponents say going down the Title II route will protect the open Internet and allow us to do as we please online.   ISPs/cable companies are not feelin’ this idea and think things should be left just as they are.

Ok? So What’s the Punch Line …

Well, there’s been intense debate about what rules are appropriate and the best legal approach to get there.  Last week, we told you about the WSJ leak where we found out that the FCC was considering a hybrid legal approach, which pretty much everyone and their mother hated.  Then yesterday, President Obama called for strong rules that would prevent discrimination and blocking while encouraging transparency. And, Obama recommended that the FCC (an independent agency) implement these rules by reclassifying broadband services under… wait for it … TITLE II!  #MicDrop

What Does Obamacare Have to Do With This?

In a nutshell, the Democrats and Internet companies came out in support of the President’s statement.  As expected, Republicans and ISPs were not pleased.  Speaking of Republicans, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) went there and said that net neutrality is the Obamacare for the Internet.  Needless to say, the Internet responded, and it wasn’t pretty.

Till Next Year … 

President Obama’s statement is a game changer.  Originally, we all thought we’d see an official FCC proposal come out this December but looks like things have been pushed back until the new year.

What Else Is Going On This Week?


They’re Having the Last Laugh …

Remember when Facebook told you that you’d have to download its Messenger app to send messages via your phone? And we were all like ain’t happening … Well, turns out that 500 million of us gave in.  The social network now has over 1 billion users using messaging and has passed 500 million monthly users on its Messenger app in addition to 600 million active users on its newly owned WhatsApp.

Join the Social Movement …. 

In the fight against Ebola, Internet companies are coming out big.  Last week, Facebook released a donations function for its users to contribute towards these efforts. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife personally donated $25 million, and this week, Google donated $10 million to some non-profits and announced that it would donate $2 dollars for every dollar donated through its new campaign.  Oh, Larry Page and fam also contributed about $15 million.

More Stolen Data…

The U.S. Postal Service is the latest victim in data theft.  Though the public is just learning about it, back in September, databases containing about 800,000 employees and retirees personal information (names, birth dates, addresses, and Social Security numbers) were compromised. The government’s not sure who is responsible, but they think it looks like work of Chinese hackers.

The Streets Are Talkin’ 


Let’s talk more about Alibaba.  Last week, we told you about Alibaba’s much anticipated first earnings report.  The company killed it reporting its profit had increased by about 16%, and it’s now valued at $250 billion.  Now, its CEO Jack MA is saying that AliPay (its financial services arm) will definitely be going public.  Note to self:  Should’ve jumped on the bandwagon earlier.

The Virtual Skinny: Net Neutrality is Winning

7.16.2014

GOOD TO KNOW:  So, the FCC’s electronic filing system crashed.  In just 24 hours, the number of comments submitted on net neutrality climbed from 677,000 to 780,000 (and counting). Good work, people.  
 

THE SKINNY.


 

WHAT TO DO NOW?

The FCC pushed the deadline from midnight last night to Friday.  For those of you planning to weigh in (looking at you, procrastinators), it’s a good time to let the Commission know what you think of its proposal.

THIS IS HISTORY.

Here’s a quick rundown of the highest number of comments federal agencies have seen:

  • FCC 2006 Change to Media Ownership: 236, 315
  • IRS Proposal to Curb Social Welfare Orgs’ Political Actions:  143,497
  • Keystone Pipeline: 127,206

About 1.4 million submitters sounded off on the Janet Jackson (and Justin Timberlake) Super Bowl debacle.  However, that indecent exposure wasn’t part of an official rulemaking, comment period. Given that this is just the first round of comments, net neutrality is well on its way to reaching the 1 million mark.  We don’t speak for others, but Tim Berners-Lee is probably proud.

LOOK WHO’S TALKING NOW.

Mozilla says the FCC’s proposal is “rife with risk.”  It wants to see the Commission go down the Title II route and reclassify broadband services as a utility.  The National Cable and Telecommunications Association, on the other hand, wants the FCC to avoid Title II like it’s the plague.  Comcast has also chimed in and supports “putting in place legally enforceable rules to ensure that there is a free and open Internet, including transparency, no blocking, and anti-discrimination rules.”

SHOTS FIRED.

Meanwhile, Verizon doesn’t want over burdensome regulation and wants to be able to enter into “differentiated arrangements with broadband providers if they believe they can provide a service customers may want.” The ISP took this opportunity to point fingers at Google and Netflix as prime examples of content companies with growing market power. Verizon wants everyone to know that it cares about network openness and wants it just as much as the rest of us.

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?


 

NO ACTUALLY MEANS NO.

Ryan Block and his wife simply wanted to cancel their Comcast service. But, the customer service agent wasn’t having it.  After 10 minutes into the conversation, Block decided to record the back and forth.  The agent tries at all cost to convince the husband and wife otherwise.  Trying to assess why your consumer is unhappy with your service is fair, but sometimes you just gotta “let it go.”  Yup, we went there.

BUT, EVERYONE’S DOING IT.

Chair of the Federal Reserve Janet Yellen testified in front on Congress on the U.S. economy, which hasn’t quite fully rebounded.  According to The Fed, people are overpaying for stocks in certain sectors, including for social media and biotech firms.  Subsequently, shares of our go to social media sites declined.

THE STREETS ARE TALKIN’


 

Google is teaming up with Novartis, a European drug maker, to create “smart” content lens that could monitor blood sugar levels.  This information could be transferred via smart devices for real time monitoring by doctors and patients.  Pretty friggin’ cool.

Yahoo!’s ad prices decreased on average by 24% last quarter. The company previously saw improvements in its sales, but this step back may indicate that the company’s new ad offerings aren’t pulling in advertisers.

Amazon and Simon & Schuster are in the “talking” phase of a potential business relationship.  No word yet on the exact nature of these discussions.