Virtual Skinny: Where’s The October Surprise?


(WOD) Word of the Day: Virtual Reality describes a computer-generated environment that’s similar to real life but not quite. Side note: Virtual Reality is all the rage so it really should be the word for the month of October.


When You’re Waiting for the ‘October Surprise…’

This week, Wikileaks’ Julian Assange announced that he’ll be putting Google, the U.S. presidential election process, mass surveillance, etc. on blast over the next 10 weeks. 

When You Thought Sh*t Would Hit the Fan …

The 10-week timeline was unexpected. Assange held a press conference earlier this week where he told us about his new plan.  Rather than letting us in on some alleged truth bombs right then and there, Assange decided against it due to security concerns.  That’s what we call an October Surprise!

When You’re Not Sure What to Expect …

If you’ll remember, Assange’s release of the Democratic National Conventions’ (DNC) emails back in June forced Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to step down as the DNC’s Chair. So it’s expected that the upcoming leaks may derail Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. We’ve been put on notice that the latest documents related to the election will come out Nov. 6 (the day before the election). Assange won’t go as far as to confirm that he’s trying to host the #HillaryIsOverParty, but, he did say the info he has is ‘significant’ and will reveal ‘interesting features of US power factions.’ 


From Bad to Worse …

This week, reports came out that Yahoo was low-key using custom software to search through users’ emails. The company has neither confirmed nor denied this but looks like the U.S. government (NSA) may have made them do it. Some people who know about government surveillance are saying that this might just be the first time that an Internet company has complied with this type of government request. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made the call to move forward on the request though it seems some of her subordinates probably disagreed. Twitter, Microsoft, Google, and other tech companies said ‘not it’  and would like to be excluded from this narrative. Meanwhile, since Yahoo can’t stay away from the drams lately, Verizon is asking for a billion dollar discount off the initial US $4.8 billion sale price.


Snap, Inc. aka Snapchat wants to keep up with the Joneses. To get on the same level as Google and Facebook, it needs more money. IPO, anyone? Rumor has it that the company’s first public sale will do down early next year for a cool US $25 billion (at least). 

What a difference a week makes! Twitter was getting ready to hand out a rose to one of its potential suitors (Google, Disney, and Apple). Rumors of a potential acquisition by any of the three sent Twitter’s stock price up.  Then just like that all three backed away. Twitter’s stock went back down. Salesforce is the last company standing for now. #EmotionalRollercoaster  

Blood-testing company Theranos has been through A LOT of regulatory and business challenges. At one time, the company was valued at US $9 billion but now – not so much. Theranos just dropped over 40% of its employees like they were hot (and not in a good way). It’s also shutting down its clinical labs and blood-testing center. 

Blackberry doesn’t want to make its own smartphones anymore. It’s passing that off to its partners. With that said, expect a new Blackberry smartphone with a physical keyboard within the next six months.

Google’s going all in on hardware. The company just announced a slew of new products taking aim at its competitors. Say hello to Pixel (smartphone), Google Home (the company’s response to Amazon’s Echo); Daydream (virtual reality headset), Chromecast, etc. 

Facebook’s working with White House officials to make the Internet accessible all across America via its Free Basics program.  The program’s had issues in India, and it won’t get any better in the U.S. but worth the try. Meanwhile, FB was all VR every-thang. The social network wants to help people emote better via its ‘VR emoji.’  

virtual reality

Over the summer, home rental site AirBnB sued the city of San Francisco for trying to enforce a law that would require listings on the site to be verified by the city. AirBnB wants a federal judge to put an end to this requirement, but the judge seemed skeptical. Unclear where the case is headed, but New York’s probably got next.  


Virtual Skinny: Smile! You’re On Candid Camera


Good to Know: Placing stickers or plastic slides over laptop cameras is definitely a trend due to privacy and security concerns.  If FBI Director James Comey does it, then perhaps it’s worth jumping on the bandwagon. 


When You Call It Like You See It …

Last night, the Associated Press (AP) went right ahead and called the Democratic nomination for Hillary Clinton. Note to the AP: citizens in six states including California still have to cast their votes in today’s primary.

When It’s Not Over Till It’s Over … 

Hillary’s team immediately took to Twitter and sent out a clear message: We’re flattered, @AP, but we’ve got primaries to win. CA, MT, NM, ND, NJ, SD, vote tomorrow!

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When It’s all hands on deck … 

Calling all the “Bernie tech bros” aka the young white college-educated men in Silicon Valley that make up a good portion of Bernie’s base. You could say Bernie Sander’s campaign is version 2.0 of Obama’s 2008 campaign – heavy on online grassroots. Bernie supporters are tech savvy and like what they hear in terms of Bernie’s plans to disrupt Washington D.C.  They’re keeping the fight alive by relying on social media platforms and tools.


Make It Better … 

Uber’s trying to do right by its drivers. The ride-hailing service company just added a few new features for drivers’ benefit (e.g., drivers get will ride discounts when they participate on the platform as passengers and instant pay is now a thing). Even if you’re not an Uber driver, you’ll want to know about one feature:  The company plans to expand its new $5 or $10 penalty fee to more cities. Bottom line is just make sure you don’t keep the Uber driver waiting longer than 2 minutes.


Spotify just brought on Lady Gaga’s former manager Troy Carter as its Global Head of Creator Services. The music streaming company wants Carter to write a “bad romance” with artists, songwriters, and record labels.  And by bad, we really mean “good.” #RelationshipGoals

Attention iOS users: Sharing pics and videos on Insta just got a whole easier.  Launching the app isn’t even needed.

Verizon is willing to put up US $3 billion for Yahoo’s Internet parts.

Virtual Skinny: When Life Hands You Lemons …


Good to Know:  Make Lemonade aka the title of Beyonce’s latest album released exclusively on Tidal over the weekend and nearly broke the Internet. It’s coming to iTunes soon. Side note: Know the difference between Rachael Ray and Rachel Roy before making the decision on whether to fire off emojis of lemons and bumble bees. 


When You’ve Got A Brilliant Idea …

Frustrated with public transportation? Not to worry, Tesla founder and all-around genius Elon Musk says he’s got a solution.


Please, Tell Us More …

At a conference in Norway, Musk hinted at autonomous vehicles aka self-driving cars as the answer to curbing cities’ density problem.  Think a hybrid between Uber and public buses.

When Mums The Word…

Musk didn’t want to spill too much tea but did say that these new vehicles would take people to their intended destination rather than bus stops.  Cities around the globe like Lausanne, Switzerland, and Zhengzhou, China are already testing out something similar.


When You Throw Out the White Flag …

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is stepping away from its fight with Apple.  Late last Friday, the DOJ backed out of its NY suit against the iPhone maker. Apparently, it no longer needs the court’s help in forcing Apple to break into the iPhone involved in a drug-related investigation. It simply got the passcode from someone else. This comes after the U.S. government paid over US $1 million to unlock another iPhone in the San Bernardino situation. And, that’s what we call being resourceful, folks. #MondayMotivation

When You Want to Make Peace, Not War …

Beyoncé’s hubby, Jay Z, isn’t the only one looking to make peace. Rivals Microsoft and Google are calling a truce. Both companies agreed to stop throwing regulatory shade at each other. Moving forward, they’d like to compete on their products and not by legal complaints. Microsoft has even withdrawn existing regulatory complaints. #FairEnough

When You Don’t Quite Have the Numbers …

Director of U.S. National Intelligence James Clapper piped up to some reporters and put us on notice. His team is looking into just how many innocent people are getting swept up in the government’s Internet surveillance aimed at foreign suspects. Clapper’s comments aren’t unprovoked. A group of 14 lawmakers in the U.S. House of Reps put in the request.


In the U.S., it’s illegal to take a pic of your election ballot. Snapchat wants to make “ballot selfies” a legal thing. In official court docs, the company told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit that states banning pics in the election box is a First Amendment violation. In other words, a “ballot selfie” is simply free expression.

Speaking of elections, U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is taking his campaign to California. First stop? The Bay Area where he’ll talk business, trade, and economic growth. Trump should expect a tough crowd.

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Area 120 is Google’s soon to be in-house, startup incubator, intended to stop entrepreneurial employees from peacing out on it.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doesn’t want you to text and tweet, and it’s going after Twitter users that brag about doing just that.

Tweeting and Uber-ing is just fine, but you’ll probably soon have to tip your Uber driver.

Virtual Skinny: Run That Back …


Good to Know:  Reminder, if you haven’t gotten your U.S. taxes done, you’ve got until Apr., Run


When You Swear It’s Déjà Vu …

Now that the Apple v. U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) court battle has died down, Microsoft’s got next.

When You’re Like Hold Up! Run That Back …

The company wants to give you a heads up when the U.S. government is getting all up in your online biz. But, the government allegedly won’t let Microsoft put you on notice so the company’s fired shots with the lawsuit it filed earlier this week. 

When You Need The Details …

Microsoft’s argument comes down to the information you store in the “cloud.” For years, tech companies and privacy advocates have been calling out the U.S. government for using an old-school law (Electronic Communications Privacy Act aka ECPA) to gain access to people’s personal information stored in the cloud. They want the law changed.

When You’re Like, But How?

Well, look at it this way. If the government wanted access to information you’re keeping in your house or mailbox, it would need a search warrant under the 4th Amendment.  But, when it comes to your online stuff, less is required of the government to gain access.

When Things Are Backwards …

Even though it makes a ton of sense to change the law, not much has happened (sigh, politics).   The latest development is that the U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved its version of an amended bill to keep up with the times.  #SmallVictories


Try Take Over The World …

Mark Zuckerberg is legit on ‘Pinky and the Brain’ status. This week, Facebook put on F8, its annual developer conference. Per usual, FB’s got a lot on its “to do” list.  The Zuck kicked things off by not missing a chance to throw shade at Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Then, he kept the zingers coming (in a good way) by unveiling his company’s 10-year plan.  Basically, it comes down to chat bots, virtual reality, and sponsored messages (in case you were wondering why you may have gotten a FB message from Lyft).  Looks like FB Messenger is going to be kind of a big deal. We’re talking potentially being able to use Messenger to interact directly with businesses to meet our needs (i.e., pizza).

Baby Steps …

While Facebook’s on that world domination tip, Google’s taking a local approach. According to reports, Google – now known as Alphabet – is using one of its subsidiaries called Sidewalk Labs to build out a “digital district.” The company’s allegedly got big name consultants and urbanists on its team to “create an area in the U.S. that serves as a testbed for new technologies from super fast Internet to autonomous cars.”


In honor of Equal Pay Day this past Wednesday (Apr. 13), Facebook and Microsoft said they’re progressive because they basically pay men and women equally for the same job (for every $1 a man makes, a woman makes 99.8 cents).  Not quite equal pay, and the gender pay gap is still a major problem.


Twitter has its work cut out for it.  It’s been on a take-down rampage of tweets and accounts related to terrorism. But, a good thing has turned into a never ending battle. As soon as Twitter takes a tweet or account down, similar ones pop right back up. Enemy #1 is Abu al-Walid. He’s now on his 464th Twitter account. Oy …

While we’re on Twitter, can we talk about the Jack Dorsey- Azealia Banks connection? Let’s get into it. In 2015, Banks sent out tweets to promote Square Cash, the Venmo-like feature of Dorsey’s other company Square. Banks said she only did it because Dorsey promised to promote her mixed tape in return. He didn’t. She claims that he instead sent her his hair samples to “make him an amulet for protection.” Ok so, two things: (1) What TF is really going on? And (2) Watch your back, Jack. Yikes!

“Please silence your phones.” We’ve all heard that gentle reminder to not be that annoying person on their phones in the middle of a movie. Turns out AMC Theaters is admitting defeat. The CEO gets that millennials can’t part with their phones for too long so they want to make it acceptable for people to text and watch at their theaters. #ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmmm …

Amazon’s trying to get knee-deep in the fashion world so it’s looking to buy up startups like Everlane, Le Tote, Rent The Runway, ThirdLove and PreeLine.

Old things are becoming new again.  While the 90s are coming back with a vengeance, so are vinyl records. Startup ReplyYes wants to help you get your hands on the right vinyl records with its daily text recommendations.

Drone racing. Coming to ESPN in August 2016.

Virtual Skinny: No-no-no-NOTORIOUS!


Good to Know:  Techies are notorious for acronyms. Here’s a guide to what letter combos like MVP (minimal viable product) and UV (unique viewers) mean. 


When You Gotta Get Those Pay-pers …

The “Panama Papers” that is … Yesterday, the entire world learned about Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm at the center of what is being called the biggest leak of private documents to date.  In other words, this leak makes Edward Snowden’s NSA leak look like child’s play.

When You Want to Know What’s Going On …

Well, it really took one push of a button. About a year ago, an anonymous source sent an encrypted message to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ).  The message contained documents leaked from the Panamanian law firm about shell companies and offshore accounts belonging to some major celebs, politicians, and even organizations (ahem, FIFA) that are no strangers to alleged corruption.  Within a year, the stack grew to 2.6 terabytes of data. Basically, that’s enough information to fit onto just under 450 CDs (Remember those? Talk about Throwback!)…

When You’re No-no-no-NOTORIOUS

After SZ got their hands on the docs, it sent the information over to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Apparently, sifting through these docs is a joint effort – 107 media companies (including BBC Panoroma) spread across 78 countries are involved.  Already, we know that these docs discuss things like $2 billion that link to Russian president Vladimir Putin and his peeps, Iceland’s Prime Minister’s undeclared stakes in an offshore company, and members of FIFA.

When You Want No Misunderstandings …

To be clear, some shell companies are actually legit. For instance, the media believes Apple created shell company, SixtyEight Research, to secretly build a car with minimal media attention. Even tax avoidance (not to be confused with tax evasion) is on the up and up.  But, other shell companies and offshore accounts are simply just criminal.  From the looks of it, the “Panama Papers” could potentially expose what the world’s 1% are doing on the down low.

When You’re Getting The Popcorn Ready …

Redditors are fired up and ready to go, and the Twitterverse is already a buzz with people sounding off on the #panamapapers*Sips tea* 


It’ll Happen When The Time Is Right …

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice dropped its case against Apple.  It no longer needed the court’s help in compelling the company to help the U.S. government unlock an iPhone belonging to a terrorist in the San Bernardino attack. The government relied on technologists’ help and managed to unlock the iPhone. Now, the FBI is telling the law enforcement community that it’ll help them out in as soon as it’s cool under current law and policy.  But, it may not work out that way. Reports say the solution is likely to leak, and Apple will likely jump on the leak with a quickness to fix the flaw.   


Check out how the “Panama Papers” leak looks in comparison to some other major disclosures.

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Fashion do(s) … Massachusetts Institute of Technology aka MIT, small textile company Warwick Mills, and the U.S. Department of Defense want to give the entire textile industry an upgrade. The collabo is focused on figuring out how to get tiny semiconductors into fabrics for seeing, hearing, communicating, warming up, and cooling down, etc.  Think if your clothes were kind of like FitBits but better.

Ride-hailing companies like Uber and its Chinese competitor Didi Kuaidi are present in Latin America. But, now it’s a race to see who can dominate. All eyes are on Brazil.  It’s kind of a big deal being the 5th largest population in the world and all …  Speaking of Uber, the company is making moves on the African continent. It’s coming soon to Ghana, Uganda, and Tanzania in June 2016.

Facebook Live, the social network’s live video feature, may just be another annoying notification to us regular folks, but media companies and amateurs are loving it. Drawing large audiences FTW …

eHarmony is known for matchmaking for dating, and now it wants to help folks find the right careers with new site, Elevated Careers.

The Virtual Skinny: Time Flies!


Good to Know:  ‘ILI’ is described as the first wearable translation device. Seems like a bomb product, right? But then, this happened. #MarketingFail 


Time for a Pow-Wow…

Tech leaders and White House officials are getting together today to talk terrorism. 

Who’s On the List?

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, presidential counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, National Intelligence Director James Clapper, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers and reps from Twitter, Apple, Google, and Facebook allegedly.

What’s on the Agenda? 

(1) How to make things easier for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to I.D. terrorist groups online. (2) Ways to make things that much more difficult for militant and terrorist groups to recruit peeps via social media.  (3) Specifically, how to use technology to throw militant operatives off of their violent radicalization and recruitment game.

Team Work Usually Makes The Dream Work …

But, tech companies have a tough balance to strike. While they want to seem cooperative, they also don’t want to appear too friendly with governments.  Post Edward Snowden leaks, companies helping governments with surveillance is just not a good look.


Warning Shots … 

Pretty much everyone and their moms in the tech world are jazzed up about next-gen products. But, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is letting tech companies know that they should tread lightly.  The agency  wants companies to watch how they are collecting and using massive amounts of users’ data aka “big data.”  The FTC definitely understands that “big data” could have some important social benefits (e.g., proving people’s creditworthiness for loans), but it wants companies’ to make sure they are doing what they can to decrease social biases.

Who Does That Anymore?

If it’s up to social network Facebook, you should just forget about making regular calls and text messages.  Facebook Messenger has now got over 800 million users. The company not only wants to take over how you communicate with your peeps, but it’s got a virtual assistant feature in the works to help with your scheduling, shopping, etc.  Pretty cool …

We Want In … 

When you see an opportunity, jump on it immediately! That’s exactly what crowdfunding platform Indiegogo is doing with its new “enterprise crowdfunding” consulting service. Crowdfunding has typically been reserved for artist-types and pretty much anyone with a slightly weird but innovative idea.  Big brands like Brookstone want to be innovative too and are eyeing crowdfunding platforms. Why? Two reasons: (1) Major brands want to learn a thing or two about crowdfunding, and (2) crowdfunding platforms are a good place to scout out potential products/partnerships. Basically, a win-win situation.


It’s the same thing Netflix does every night … Try and take over the world. This week at a mega tech conference in Las Vegas, the streaming service announced that it’s now live in over 130 counties. #BizGoals

The new year may be off to a very rough start for some Yahoo employees. The company’s expected to let go of at least 10% of its workforce.

Going … going … GONE! Looks like the fashion deal site Gilt Groupe may have been a victim of its own flash sale model.  The company sold yesterday for $250 Mill to Hudon’s Bay, the parent company of Saks Fifth Avenue. The sale price is a mark down from the $286 Mill that Gilt previously raised.

Social scrapbooking site Pinterest is getting serious about increasing its diversity. The company just brought on Candice Morgan help step its game up.

Turns out giving young people Internet access via mobile devices is a recipe for success. And, these days India’s the place to be for Internet companies. That’s exactly why Tinder is setting up shop in Delhi.

And ICYMI, Twitter is trying to keep its users so the platform’s playing around with a 10,000 word character limit instead of the 140 we’re used to… Some people think this is no bueno.  We could see a change in the next couple of months.

The Virtual Skinny: Happy Holidays from Us to You!


Good to Know:  See here for our our end of year note to you! Yesterday, we branched out a bit and released the first newsletter of our new financial technology (FinTech) weekly series.  2015 has been great, and we’re looking forward to an even better 2016! We’ll see you back here on Tuesday, January 5, 2016! Happy New Year! 


In 5, 4, 3,  2, 1…

Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully launched and landed its Falcon 9 rocket yesterday after the rocket launched 11 satellites into space.

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

After some failed attempts in landing Falcon 9 over the past year, SpaceX dusted itself off and tried again. This isn’t a case where we can say “NBD” because it is in fact a very big deal. It marks the first time that a rocket of the Falcon’s size and complexity has shot deep into space then made a safe and controlled return back down to Earth.  The usual outcome? Rockets launched into orbit are usually either destroyed or lost. Huge step for reusable rockets, which could mean major cost-savings for space travel.

#FunShade or #ShadyShade? 

People celebrated the occasion, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns his own space startup called Blue Origin, chimed in with a tweet. Bezos tweeted “…Welcome to the club.” That was a reference to what Blue Origin did about a month ago, which was very similar to Falcon 9’s mission.  Differences being that the Blue Origin effort was a trial (not a real mission), and Blue Origin’s rocket was on a “suborbital” flight (i.e., it didn’t go quite as high as Falcon 9). On that note, we’re gonna say #FunShade.


You’re Not Hearing Us … 

Tech companies’ rejection of governments’ requests to gain more access to their users’ personal info is fast becoming their least favorite pastime.  The latest? The United Kingdom (UK) now has a bill known as the “Investigatory Powers” bill that would take things a little too far. Internet and tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Yahoo want no part in hacking their own users’ information on behalf of the UK.  These companies are speaking out against the bill because it has potential to violate other countries’ laws where they operate. The UK wants everyone to chill as it simply wants to make sure things like child sexual exploitation and crime cartels are handled. The struggle continues …

Lawyer Up! 

Google’s experimenting with its driverless cars and turns out that following traffic rules isn’t always safe. Since human drivers don’t always play by the rules on the road, there are more traffic accidents with the driverless cars than expected. Humans are to blame, of course. But, what happens if there’s a computer glitch and an accident occurs? If driverless cars go commercial, plaintiff lawyers may have a field day. The possibilities of whom to blame for accidents involving driverless cars could be endless … One more thing: Google’s said to be partnering with Ford on making the driverless car thing happen by 2020.

When You Mess up, But Not As Badly as Miss Universe Host Steve Harvey …. 

Facebook’s effort to bring Internet access to the entire globe,, is under fire in India. The issue is whether the program goes against net neutrality since it offers only a few select apps for free to participants and not the whole web. FB’s been sending out notifications to users in India to express their support of the program to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRIA). U.S. users received similar notifications, which people found strange. FB said “our b …” It was a mistake. BTW, whatever TRIA decides about is a big deal. For one, India is a massive growth market for FB, and other emerging markets like Brazil and Indonesia will be watching. #NoPressure


Short videos are the new selfies if Apple and Facebook have anything to do with it.  Look for that feature on FB in 2016.

Word to the wise: Don’t let people waste your time and be strategic about how you spend every minute of the day. That’s how Jack Dorsey is able to be the boss man of Twitter and mobile payments company Square at the same time. Jack definitely needs more sleep.  Being the boss is hard…

Twitter just filed a patent for “messaging with or from” drones … Interesting …

Operating system Android is still killing it in the U.S. market (sorry iOS).

Apps can be used for good and not just games. Social entrepreneurs are trying to figure out how to use apps to fight human trafficking.

The Virtual Skinny: TGIF


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! 


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.


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.


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. 


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!


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


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.


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.


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: Blurgh!


Good to Know: Use ride-hailing app Uber? Want that 5-star rating status? Just be a decent human being.  Sounds like general life advice to us. 


When A Crazy Idea Isn’t So Crazy After All … 

Wall Street is buzzing with news that Internet veteran Yahoo may actually consider selling off its core ad business to the highest bidder when its Board of Directors (board) meets this week. This is all according to the Wall Street Journal.

This Is How Rumors Get Started …

Thank activist investor Starboard Value for the suggestion. Last month, Starboard fired off a letter to Yahoo where it pitched the idea. The Internet vet has yet to respond publicly, but news reports triggered a 7 percent spike in Yahoo’s shares.

They Build You Up, Only to Tear You Down …

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer probably took on the role all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. The former Googler seemed like the answer to Yahoo’s problems. However, after three years on the job, Mayer’s attempts to put Yahoo back on the map aren’t doing much good. Lately, some company execs have said “deuces.” Media reports are speculating that Yahoo’s board isn’t happy, and this could mean curtains for Mayer. Reports have even dropped Facebook Sheryl Sandberg’s name as a potential replacement. Highly unlikely but still!

Everyone, Calm Down … 

It’s true. Yahoo isn’t in a good place. But, talk about selling its core business and numbering the days of Mayer’s tenure as CEO could be all media hype. Re/code says that the meetings this week are business as usual. And, the board isn’t ready to ditch Mayer as it still has faith in her leadership.  We’ll wait and see …


Taking Things To The Next Level … 

#GivingTuesday happened, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan got the memo. First, they announced the birth of their first child, a daughter named Max.  Then, they stunned everyone by vowing to give 99% of their FB shares (worth about US $49 billion) towards making the world a better place. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative intends “to advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation.”  The initiative is set up as a LLC and not a charity. So over the course of their lifetime, the Zucks will still have control over how their money is spent via private investments. #Mazel

There’s A First Time for Everything … 

Home-sharing service AirBnB and New York City (NYC) haven’t exactly had warm and fuzzy feelings for each other. The New York State Attorney General’s (AG) Office has traditionally been anti-AirBnB and is convinced that most AirBnB rentals in the city are illegal. Things came to a head earlier this year when a court ordered AirBnB to share anonymized data about its hosts with the AG.  But, that was the past. AirBnB’s now trying to smooth things over with local governments and is voluntarily sharing hosts’ data with NYC. The company hopes being transparent will show that 99% of hosts’ rentals are legit, and people benefit financially. As they say, you catch more bees with honey …

When Big Brother UK Means Something Different … 

GCHQ, the UK’s digital spying agency or its version of the NSA, is owning up to its hacking activities. The agency basically confirmed things we learned through the Edward Snowden leaks.  GCHQ admits that it hacks into people’s devices and networks not only in the UK but abroad as well. Proper search warrants not needed…. Awesome! Cambridge University Professor Ross Anderson says this behavior could harm the public. The agency sees nothing wrong and credits hacking for scrapping 6 alleged terrorist attacks this year alone.


Professional networking platform LinkedIn just upgraded its app. You’ll notice the common theme is all about de-cluttering the user experience. The app’s new private messaging feature’s got that texting-type feel.  TBH, it looks more like FB, and we don’t hate it.

It’s a hard knock life for Jay Z’s music service Tidal. The service has been out for only 8 months and is already on its third CEO Jeff Toig, previously chief business officer at streaming service SoundCloud. Toig starts in January 2016.

Software company Adobe is officially ridding itself of web animation tool, Flash. Not that anyone liked it in the first place. Hopefully, Flash’s replacement, Adobe Animate CC, is a keeper.

Ride-hailing app Uber is still snatching up Google employees. The latest? Former Google Maps exec Manik Gupta.