Three Tech Giants Experience Outages, Glitches This Week

Computer systems at Facebook, Google and Apple went offline temporarily when all three companies experienced a coincidental array of tech glitches. Facebook experienced a daylong outage that the company blamed on a server configuration error. The outage affected the Facebook app, photo-sharing app Instagram and WhatsApp messaging service. At Alphabet’s Google, services such as Gmail experienced a series of problems that reportedly resulted from engineers tweaking an internal storage service. In addition, some Apple iCloud services were affected for more than four hours yesterday. Continue reading Three Tech Giants Experience Outages, Glitches This Week

U.K. Considers Big Tech Regulation in Preparation for Brexit

The U.K. government released a 150-page report stressing that the country needs to update its antitrust policies to deal with big technology companies. The report, which was ordered by the U.K.’s top treasury official, Exchequer chancellor Philip Hammond, states that the U.K. should implement tighter rules on acquisition in the tech sector to make it easier for new competitors to arise. The European Union and U.S. presidential hopefuls Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Amy Klobuchar have expressed similar points of view. Continue reading U.K. Considers Big Tech Regulation in Preparation for Brexit

TV Networks Partner on Technology to Deliver Targeted Ads

A consortium of television networks teamed up to create a technology standard for targeted advertising. Project OAR (Open Addressable Ready)’s watermark technology makes it easier to send specific ads to consumers with smart TVs. The consortium expects to complete its work by 2020. Such collaborative ventures are atypical for the highly competitive TV market. Currently, TV networks depend on cable and satellite operators to send targeted ads, and this technology will help networks control part of the process for smart TVs. Continue reading TV Networks Partner on Technology to Deliver Targeted Ads

Microsoft Closer to Consumer AR, Streaming Games Service

Magic Leap and Apple are the two technology companies currently at the forefront of augmented reality, but, behind the scenes, Microsoft has also been working on AR for years. It’s easy to discount Microsoft, since its HoloLens AR headset is squarely aimed at the enterprise sector. But the company also has its sights set on the consumer market. In addition, Microsoft has started to leak details about its upcoming Project xCloud cloud-based game streaming system. Project xCloud will enter beta testing this year. Continue reading Microsoft Closer to Consumer AR, Streaming Games Service

Companies Bid On Their Own Brands For Google Search Ads

According to NetMarketShare, Google controls 81+ percent of the mobile search market, which is why many businesses believe buying ads on the platform is necessary to stay in business. Appearing on top of search results is critical for many companies, and buying ads is the best way to achieve that. The urgency heats up when it comes to branded keywords, whereby companies must bid on their own names or see their rivals capture the space. If Lyft, for example, doesn’t buy the ad, Uber likely will, and grab the top spot. Continue reading Companies Bid On Their Own Brands For Google Search Ads

Elizabeth Warren Looks to Break Up Major Tech Companies

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) aims to be the Democratic Party’s candidate for the 2020 U.S. presidential election, but she just alienated Silicon Valley when she proposed to break up tech companies that generate more than $25 billion in online revenue. Her rationale is that companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Google have become too big and too powerful, squashing small businesses and innovation, and more focused on their financial well-being than “the broader interests of the American people.” Continue reading Elizabeth Warren Looks to Break Up Major Tech Companies

Study’s Fantasy Text-Based Game Tests AI Agents’ Abilities

Facebook AI Research, the Lorraine Research Laboratory in Computer Science and its Applications (LORIA), and University College London recently conducted a study to determine if AI can navigate a fantasy text-based game, dubbed “LIGHT.” To examine the AI agents’ comprehension of the virtual world, the study investigated the so-called grounding dialogue, comprised of mutual knowledge, beliefs and assumptions allowing communication between two people. The large-scale, crowdsourced “LIGHT” environment allows AI and humans to interact. Continue reading Study’s Fantasy Text-Based Game Tests AI Agents’ Abilities

France Slated to Impose Tax on Digital Companies’ Revenue

The French government introduced a three percent tax on the revenue of technology companies such as Google and Amazon that offer e-commerce or targeted advertising in France. Experts estimate that the tax could reap “billions of dollars” from Silicon Valley companies. The tax is also likely to come up as a topic of conversation in U.S. and European talks, convened by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), about corporate taxes in the digital age. Europe is pushing to tax Silicon Valley companies on profits made there. Continue reading France Slated to Impose Tax on Digital Companies’ Revenue

Tech Companies Appeal an Increase in Songwriter Royalties

Spotify, Google, Pandora and Amazon have joined forces to appeal a decision of the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) they believe “harms both music licensees and copyright owners.” In separate filings, the companies are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to review the decision regarding “recently issued … U.S. mechanical statutory rates” that they said “raises serious procedural and substantive concerns.” With the rule as it stands, songwriters would receive a 44 percent increase in payments. Proponents suggest the rule is necessary for songwriters in a digital age. Continue reading Tech Companies Appeal an Increase in Songwriter Royalties

Elizabeth Warren Introducing Plan to Break Up Tech Giants

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) is proposing “a regulatory plan aimed at breaking up some of America’s largest tech companies, including Amazon, Google and Facebook,” according to The New York Times. “The proposal … calls for the appointment of regulators who would ‘unwind tech mergers that illegally undermine competition,’ as well as legislation that would prohibit platforms from both offering a marketplace for commerce and participating in that marketplace.” The plan would also call for the rollback of tech acquisitions, “including Facebook’s deals for WhatsApp and Instagram, Amazon’s addition of Whole Foods, and Google’s purchase of Waze.” Continue reading Elizabeth Warren Introducing Plan to Break Up Tech Giants

Google GPipe Library Speeds Deep Neural Network Training

Google has unveiled GPipe, an open-sourced library that makes training deep neural networks more efficient under the TensorFlow framework Lingvo for sequence modeling. According to Google AI software engineer Yanping Huang, “in GPipe … we demonstrate the use of pipeline parallelism to scale up DNN training,” noting that larger DNN models “lead to better task performance.” Huang and his colleagues published a paper on “Efficient Training of Giant Neural Networks Using Pipeline Parallelism.” Continue reading Google GPipe Library Speeds Deep Neural Network Training

Luminary Launches With Plan to Be the Netflix of Podcasts

Luminary is a podcast startup that has debuted with more than 40 exclusive shows and no ads. The company also has almost $100 million in funding and, for $8 per month, subscribers will get full access to the content lineup, which includes a new show from Lena Dunham and series from Conan O’Brien, Malcolm Gladwell and Trevor Noah. Co-founder/chief executive Matt Sacks stated that Luminary aims to be “synonymous with podcasting in the same way Netflix has become synonymous with streaming.” Continue reading Luminary Launches With Plan to Be the Netflix of Podcasts

Password-Free Logins Getting Closer to Becoming a Reality

WebAuthn, with the approval of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the FIDO Alliance, just became an official web standard for password-free logins. After W3C and the FIDO Alliance first introduced it in November 2015, WebAuthn gained the support of many W3C contributors including Airbnb, Alibaba, Apple, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla, PayPal, SoftBank, Tencent and Yubico. With WebAuthn, which is supported by Android and Windows 10, users can log-in via biometrics, mobile devices or FIDO security keys. Continue reading Password-Free Logins Getting Closer to Becoming a Reality

Consumers Are Adopting Smartwatches and Fitness Bands

Consumers around the world are warming to wearables, including activity trackers, fitness bands and smartwatches. IDC reports that the global wearables market increased more than 31 percent during Q4 2018, representing a new record of 59.3 million units. Total shipments of 172.2 million units for 2018 mark a 27.5 percent jump over the previous year (although IDC now includes ‘hearables’ such as headphones and earbuds in its calculations). Apple led the charge with 16.2 million devices shipped in Q4 2018, 10.4 million of which were Apple Watches. Continue reading Consumers Are Adopting Smartwatches and Fitness Bands

YouTube Disables Comments For Videos That Include Kids

After major brands including AT&T, Disney, Epic Games and Nestlé suspended their regular ad spending on YouTube, the popular video platform has made a move to temporarily disable comment sections on most video channels that feature children 13 and younger as well as teenagers that may risk “attracting predatory behavior.” The concern was that advertising was sometimes positioned along videos with minors that included predatory remarks in the comments sections. A few select channels will have comment sections that remain enabled, but will require monitoring for safety. Continue reading YouTube Disables Comments For Videos That Include Kids

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