Virtual Skinny: Wednesday Wisdom

9.7.2016

Good to Know:  Here’s your Wednesday Wisdom. Working on a startup? Look for venture capital money? At the very least, avoid these 11 things to up your chances of success. 

THE SKINNY


When Christmas Comes Early …

Today is Apple Inc’s annual product launch event in San Francisco.

When You Know What to Expect …

Ever since Apple sent out its “See You on the Seventh” invites, the blogosphere’s been abuzz about what’s likely to go down today. One word: iPhone 7. The latest iPhone is said to have minor changes from the ‘6’ version with things like a touch sensitive home button. The major change: No headphone jack. Apple has gone wireless so you can listen to your jam or watch your fave show without wires getting in the way. 

When You Don’t Know It All …

Unclear how much the ‘7’ will go for in terms of price. Other than the phone, there’s rumbles about a new Apple Watch version but not much has been leaked about it. Gotta keep some things close to the vest …

When Patience Is Still A Virtue …

With no major changes to the ‘7,’ analysts are feeling underwhelmed. They suggest that you wait it out till next year for the ‘8.’ Next year’s the 10th anniversary of the iPhone so they’re predicting major changes like ‘a wider display that reaches from one edge of the device to the other.’ In the meantime, the new iOS 10 software update is bringing us less text and more visuals in iMessage (i.e., stickers, funny faces, animated balloons, etc).

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?


Summer’s Over …

Time to get serious.  Twitter’s board of directors is huddling up this Thursday. On the agenda? To sell or not to sell. Twitter’s been struggling to perform well. In other words, it’s trying to grow its user-base and bring in more dolla bills. Co-founder and board member Evan Williams said the company needs to “consider the right options.” Looks like the options are selling to whoever can afford an US $18 billion company (Google, Apple, 21st Century Fox or News Corp. could be potential buyers). Option B? Another round of staff layoffs. The struggle is real …

This Was Not Part of the Plan …

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg surprised everyone when he headed to the continent. And by the continent, we mean Africa. The Zuck’s first stop? Lagos, Nigeria where it was biz mixed with a bit of fun: He visited a kids coding camp called the CcHub, had a Q&A with local entrepreneurs, sat down to dinner with Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, and even crashed a Nigerian hip hop video set. Zuckerberg said ‘Nigeria’s tech story is “under-appreciated across the world.” But, some local techies aren’t buying it. They are unimpressed by Zuck’s visit and want FB to build a true partnership with Africa’s tech community.

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Please Tell Me More…

Looks like Zuck’s got big plans for Africa, but he learned during his trip that he had a f*@# problem. Back stateside in Florida, a SpaceX rocket ship exploded and took down one of FB’s satellites used to beam high-speed Internet to Africa. Yikes!

It’s Not Translating …

According to reports, “democracy,” “human rights,” and “hunger strike,” are not in the Cuban government’s vocabulary. The government’s been blocking people’s text messages containing those words. Unclear how long this alleged filtering has been going on … 

THE STREETS ARE TALKIN’


Snapchat’s ditching its ‘local stories,’ the features that let’s you see what’s happening in big cities. It’s cut the ‘small team’ responsible and is now eyeing live events as a replacement. 

You’ll soon be able to search the Google machine by outfits. The upcoming feature, “Shop the Look,” will pull up outfits published by fashion bloggers in search.

Pandora plans to launch two new music services (US $10 Spotify type service so you and your tunes will always be together whenever and wherever & US $5 that’s a slight upgrade from its free web radio). Still waiting on when the official public announcement will go down since Pandora’s still trying to finalize things with music label partners. 

Box (the business version of DropBox) just worked on a collabo project with IBM called Box Relay to custom build work processes. 

WOD (WORD OF THE DAY)  


Demonetization: Think YouTube. The process of not allowing certain YouTube videos to make money off of ads because of its ‘unfriendly’ content. The company’s been in the demonetization game since 2012, but YouTube video makers didn’t know about it until last week. Turns out YouTube’s software isn’t perfect, and some legit and friendly videos got caught up in the mix. Unfortunately, some YouTube video makers haven’t been making their ‘pay-pah.’

Virtual Skinny: Did You Hear?


2.11.2016

Good to Know: It’s that time of year again … Valentine’s Day is coming up. Dating apps are changing this up.  Here’s 5 of them

THE SKINNY


When You Listen to Kanye West who took advice from “50”…

Twitter’s switchin’ its style up to hopefully watch its money pile up.

When You Make Things Easy … 

Following reports last week from BuzzFeed, the micro-blogging site is in fact making changes to its timeline.  But, it’s not what you think. To clear the air, no Twitter isn’t turning into Facebook so we can all cool it with the #RIPTwitter hashtags.

When You Step away for a hot minute … 

Some Twitter users follow many, many people. But, who really has time to check tweets all day? Twitter doesn’t want its users to miss the good stuff so it’s making two very similar but different changes. First up, the company will start placing more tweets at the top of users’ timelines (personalized, of course). And second, when users launch their Twitter apps, they’ll be greeted with the “best” tweets right out the gate. Confusing, but we’ll figure it out.

Keep ‘Em Coming Back For More …

Turns out CEO Jack Dorsey couldn’t do much to up Twitter’s user numbers (305 million monthly users) at the end of 2015. The company knows that it needs to make the platform more user-friendly, but it’s a work in progress.

kanye

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?


When Cam Newton Isn’t The Only “Sore Loser…”

The Indian government dealt Facebook a blow earlier this week when it put the kibosh on the social network’s Free Basics program.  The effort was intended to help spread Internet access across India by offering a bare bones version of the Web (the technical term is zero-rating). Civil societies in India opposed the program and turns out that their advocacy game is strong. Ultimately, the Indian government essentially banned the program. The Zuck put out a statement expressing his disappointment in the decision but also his commitment to the country. Reports speculate that this decision could potentially negatively impact the company. But before we even get there, the Zuck had to put out yet another statement distancing himself from one of his board members, Marc Andreessen. What did Andreessen say? Let’s just say he referenced colonialism in a tweet convo … Yikes! Many people were understandably upset … Andreessen has since apologized …

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When You Don’t Play By The Rules … 

Parker Conrad, Co-Founder and CEO of online HR software company Zenefits, is back in the market for a new job. The company grew pretty quickly and became a $4.5 billion in almost no time.But turns out, things don’t work out when you cut corners. The startup operates in the highly regulated industry of insurance, but the company wasn’t exactly on the up and up with compliance, licensing, etc.  The company wants to get right with its paperwork and processes so now Parker’s out, and the company’s Chief Operating Officer David Sacks is in

Wha???

FBI Director James Comey wants people to know that the U.S. government doesn’t want special access to your devices. No, not at all.  Comey said they’d rather just have companies like Apple, Google and Facebook to keep your encrypted data just in case the government needs it. *Head Tilt* While we’re talking encryption, two members of the U.S. Congress just introduced a bill that would ban states from passing laws, which would prevent manufacturers from encrypting smartphones. New York and California have already seen these type of proposals. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) don’t this is exactly feasible so they’re trying to stop the madness.

james

THE STREETS ARE TALKIN’ 


HBO came out with its HBO NOW streaming service for all you cordcutters, but things aren’t picking up like people thought it would. The service only has 800,000 subscribers.

Verizon Communications is in the market for another Internet company.  Looking at you, Yahoo.

Unlike Kenya’s government, Hungary is showing ride hailing app service Uber no love. The country’s considering banning the app.

kimmy k

Wanna step your selfie game up to Kardashian status? Easy … Just pony up US $55 for a Lumee lighting phone case.

Seems like everyone and their moms is on WhatsApp. But, Pope Francis does want he wants. He’s opting for messaging app Telegram to reach out to young peeps during Lent.

The Virtual Skinny: Back On Track, Yet?

1.5.2016

Good to Know: This year, expect a lot of chat about driverless cars, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, etc in the world of tech. But, increasing opportunities to buy Girl Scout cookies online is definitely something we are looking forward to in 2016.  

THE SKINNY


 The Future Is Here … 

General Motors (GM) is getting serious about the future of transportation. The company’s pumped US $500 millie into ride-hailing service Lyft.

It’s Not All About the Benjamins …

GM isn’t just ponying up a ton of cash to help out Lyft.  It’s also teaming up with the company on developing an “on-demand network of self-driving cars.” GM is betting on driverless cars as other companies like Google, Tesla, and Uber are looking into possibilities.

It Doesn’t End There …

No word yet on when to expect a functional autonomous car rental. But, GM-Lyft short-term car rentals for potential Lyft drivers could be happening in the near future. The way people navigate urban cities are a-changing. 

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON? 


The Champ is Here …

Or, not! Lyft’s rival Uber has been killing it in the U.S. market.  But, that’s not the case in other countries like Germany.  Uber has run into some major roadblocks due to Germany’s tough transport rules. And btw, local German taxi lobbies aren’t making things better.

Better Now Than Later… 

Yahoo’s stakeholders are worried about their pockets.  They are increasingly warming up to the idea of Yahoo selling its core Web business (think Yahoo Mail and other services) to the highest bidder. Why the rush? They’re worried that if they wait to do it later, Yahoo’s stock value may fall below what they’d like to see. They’re even willing to pay almost a billion dollars in taxes for the sale to happen.  Oh, we should also mention that word on the street is that U.S. telecom Verizon may be interested if Yahoo’s Internet biz is in fact up for sale.

New Year, New Me…

Netflix wants to bank some serious dolla dolla bills this year. The company and its investors have been ok with small profits as the company’s been working on its original content and expanding its global operations. Speaking of content, programs like the Making of a Murderer have been a hit, and the company’s getting ready to go Bollywood.

THE STREETS ARE TALKIN’ 


Twitter wants a piece of Muzik, a “connected headphone” company. Starting in May, Muzik will be selling its wireless headsets for $299.

Running about a mile a day and researching artificial intelligence to build a robot to help around the house.  That’s on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s agenda for 2016.  What are your New Year resolutions?

New York City is turning its pay phones into wireless hotspots. And, that’s what we call making something old, new again!

The Virtual Skinny: Run That Back!

12.11.2015

Good to Know:  friendswholiketrump.com will tell you if your friends support or are at least interested in Donald J. Trump and what he has to say. 

THE SKINNY


Let’s Go Halfsies? 

After its board meeting last week, Yahoo has decided to keep its stake in Chinese Internet company Alibaba. There’s also a chance it’ll put a “for sale” sign on its main Internet business (things like Yahoo Mail and its other websites).

But, Why? 

Well, Yahoo initially wanted to keep its core Internet business and sell of its Alibaba stake. But, turns out that idea comes with some major U.S. tax headaches. So, the company is switching things up. It has two options: (1) Make the sale or (2) Split off its Internet biz into a separate publicly traded company aka a “reverse spinoff.”  CEO Marissa Mayer and Chairman of her board Maynard Webb choose #2.  They say making a sale on something of low-value is generally not a good move. But, they’re still not completely ruling out that option.

Moving Forward … 

It’s business as usual for Yahoo. It just released an app to help you sift through online streaming content called the Yahoo Video Guide.  And in the midst of all her company drams, Mayer welcomed twin daughters just yesterday. Congrats!

WHAT ELSE HAPPENED? 


We’re Here For You …

That’s what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is telling the Muslim community. Zuckerberg is committed to protecting their rights.  In the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, CA, things got downright nasty. Earlier this week, U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump thought it’d be a great idea to suggest banning Muslims from entering the U.S. Pretty much everyone disagreed. Zuckerberg says even though people are turning against them, Muslims are always welcome on his social platform. 

Will The Real Slim Shady Please stand up? 

We all want to know who is responsible for bringing us the virtual currency bitcoin. To date, people credit Satoshi Nakamoto, but no one really knows whether Nakamoto is a person or a group of people hiding behind the name. Recently, publications Wired and Gizmodo think they’ve figured it all out. Based on a ton of evidence, these publications are pretty convinced that Craig Steven Wright either invented bitcoin or we’ve all been royally punked. Coincidentally, Australian federal police officers busted into Wright’s home and office. Authorities say reasons for the raid are tax-related and have nothing to do with bitcoin. Now, people are wondering if id-ing bitcoin’s creator even matters. Some say “who gives” because no single person owns the bitcoin network. But, others disagree. They want someone to step up and help sort out some of the network’s bugs.

It’s All About the Benjamins, Baby… 

Twitter needs to make more money. It’s targeting people who read tweets without actually logging onto its platform. Coming to a desktop near you, Twitter will be playing around with a feature that shows ads to these non-active users. This means about a half a billion more people each month. Since we’re talking numbers, that averages out to an additional US $2.50/user. With Jack Dorsey leading the company, lots of changes are underway. Add changing up the timeline to show tweets based on relevance rather than timestamps to the list. Twitter’s just trying to make sure you get the content you want to see.

Is The Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

The Chinese government says “half full” when talking about it web censorship.  China’s government says bringing more “order” leads to increased online freedom.  And, by order, it means doing things like shutting out Western Internet platforms like Facebook and Gmail. Oh, did we mention detaining bloggers for “spreading rumors online” and “picking quarrels?” China wants people to back off. It says if things were so bad, then its online economy wouldn’t be growing so quickly. Also, it doesn’t appreciate people bashing its ways then trying to make money off of its people.

When Things Aren’t Looking Good … 

In the U.S., drivers for ride-hailing app Uber want employee benefits and are fighting to upgrade from just contractors for the company to legit company employees.  Ohio and Florida state legislators have denied their wishes.  Both states just passed laws classifying Uber drivers as contractors.  It’s unclear what these laws say exactly, but these moves could potentially ease Uber’s pain if it loses a class action lawsuit drivers brought against it in California.

THE STREETS ARE TALKIN’ 


Walmart wants in on the mobile payment game along side Apple and Google. The mega-retailer introduced Walmart Pay, its new mobile payment system. The word is Walmart still plans to work with other retailers like Target and BestBuy on CurrentC, the collective’s answer to Apple Pay.

Speaking of Apple, all you iPhone 6 and 6s users will love this … The smartphone manufacturer’s developed a battery case called the Smart Battery Case.  It’ll let you run your mouth for 25 hours.

Streaming service Netflix raked in more Golden Globe nominations than old-school TV broadcasters (8 nominations to be exact).

Turkey’s government is telling Twitter to pay up TL 50,000 (US $51,000) for not taking down alleged “terrorist propaganda.” At least it’s a fine this time, Turkey’s been known to shut down Twitter within its borders all together.

When you think you’re doing a good thing but not really… Tech company IBM quickly ended its #HackAHairDryer campaign initially intended to encourage female coders and engineers. The “hair dryer” angle didn’t go well … Women engineers fired off tweets letting IBM know that they are capable of much more.

Crowdfunding site GoFundMe just landed its new Vice President of Policy & Communications, Dan Pfeiffer. He was formerly the White House’s Communications Director.

Who hasn’t this guy gone after?  U.S. Presidential hopeful Donald Trump piped up about e-commerce company Amazon’s alleged “tax shelter.” Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos now wants to #sendDonaldtospace.

Yahoo can’t keep its people. It wasn’t so hard for Ad Product Chief Prashant Fuloria to say goodbye to the com-pah-nee. He’s getting back into startups.

The Virtual Skinny: Blurgh!

12.2.2015

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. 

THE SKINNY


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 …

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?


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.

THE STREETS ARE TALKIN’ 


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.

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.