Facebook, Google and Others Challenge Zoom’s Dominance

The group video chat app Zoom has been No. 1 in the Apple store for more than a month, growing 740 percent in the last month, according to App Annie. The company, valued at $47 billion, now boasts 300 million daily participants. Success spurs competition, and Zoom is now in the crosshairs of Big Tech and telecommunications companies. After Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg urged a focus on completing its video chat projects, the company launched Messenger Rooms for as many as 50 people. Continue reading Facebook, Google and Others Challenge Zoom’s Dominance

Facebook Bumps Up Release of Mobile App for Live Gaming

Facebook will release its free Facebook Gaming mobile app, moving up the original June launch as people are sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The app, tested in Southeast Asia and Latin America for 18 months, is designed for creating and watching live game play, a burgeoning sector of the $160 billion global games industry. Having invested in gaming to shed a once-drab reputation, Facebook stated that now 700+ million of its 2.5 billion monthly users engage in gaming. Its rivals in live gaming include Amazon’s Twitch, Google’s YouTube and Microsoft’s Mixer. Continue reading Facebook Bumps Up Release of Mobile App for Live Gaming

China Launches Test of DCEP Digital Currency in Four Cities

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the country’s central bank, introduced a digital currency known as DCEP (Digital Currency Electronic Payment), which it said will share some features of bitcoin and Facebook’s Libra. It’s being internally tested in four large cities — Shenzhen, Suzhou, Chengdu and Beijing satellite city Xiong’an — aimed at improving its functionality and, in part, to prepare for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The PBOC started its digital currency research in 2014. Continue reading China Launches Test of DCEP Digital Currency in Four Cities

Pandemic Tests Big Tech Firms, Slows VC Money for Startups

This week, big tech companies such as IBM and Intel will report quarterly earnings, followed by Apple, Facebook, Alphabet, Amazon and Microsoft next week. Some companies — such as Amazon, Intel, Micron Technology and Microsoft — are doing well, even growing, whereas Facebook and Alphabet deal with a dramatic plunge in advertising. Even Apple issued a “rare profit warning.” The pandemic is hitting startups particularly hard, as venture capital money dries up and they are forced to lay off staff. Continue reading Pandemic Tests Big Tech Firms, Slows VC Money for Startups

Facebook Narrows Scope of Proposed Libra Cryptocurrency

Facebook and its partners pulled back their ambitious plans for the Libra cryptocurrency, which was unveiled last June as “a futuristic global money” that could be the foundation of a “new kind of financial system.” In the months since its June debut, the Libra project has encountered a range of obstacles and the scrutiny of regulators. The Swiss-backed Libra Association, citing global opposition to the project, now aims to create a payment network with coins tied to a local currency. Continue reading Facebook Narrows Scope of Proposed Libra Cryptocurrency

Big Tech Offers Financial Aid, More to Help During Pandemic

Tech companies are stepping up to offer much-needed resources and financial support during the global coronavirus pandemic. TikTok recently announced three funds with plans to provide $250 million for COVID-19 relief efforts in addition to $125 million in advertising credits for health organizations and small businesses. Apple and Google have joined forces to introduce contact-tracing apps for COVID-19, while both tech giants are using a number of their apps and services to help share valuable information with the public and assist with relief efforts. Other tech companies are also offering financial help, donating medical supplies and leveraging their popularity and services to provide support. Continue reading Big Tech Offers Financial Aid, More to Help During Pandemic

Instagram’s New Stickers to Help Support Small Businesses

Instagram noted that, “small businesses are an important part of our community, and many are facing immense challenges during the COVID‑19 crisis.” The social media platform is now making it easier for small businesses to share gift card, food order and fundraiser stickers in their profiles and Stories. Aimed at increasing user engagement, Instagram is also trying out a new “Challenge” sticker for Stories which, when applied, would allow users to tag connections and invite them to partake in visual competitions. Continue reading Instagram’s New Stickers to Help Support Small Businesses

Houseparty Chat Expands Beyond Teens to Wider Audience

Zoom has gotten a lot of attention as the popular video chat platform that’s soared in usage since the COVID-19 shutdown. But Houseparty is another video chat platform with free mobile and desktop apps that’s gaining traction. Originally targeting teens, Houseparty offers features designed to encourage interaction, such as jumping into a conversation or playing trivia games remotely. In the last month, Houseparty has had 50 million signups, about 70 times its typical number in some markets, said cofounder and chief executive Sima Sistani. Continue reading Houseparty Chat Expands Beyond Teens to Wider Audience

In Grim Ad Market, Even Facebook and Google See Declines

Facebook and Google’s ad businesses appeared to be unstoppable, tripling over the last five years and accounting for more than half of online advertising expenditure. That long run appears to be over with the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the global economy. Wall Street is now projecting that annual revenues for the two companies will decline for the first time in their histories, due in part to record low prices for advertising. Even so, prospects are even more dire for the overall digital advertising industry. Continue reading In Grim Ad Market, Even Facebook and Google See Declines

U.S. Moves to Hinder China Telecom and Links to Hong Kong

The Trump administration wants to revoke licenses used by China Telecom’s U.S. subsidiary to act as a common carrier, connecting domestic and international networks. The U.S. Department of Justice, leading the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, requested that the FCC permanently rescind these licenses. The administration stated that China’s technology interests are a threat to U.S. security. Citing the same concerns, U.S. gave Google permission to open a high-speed Internet link to Taiwan but not Hong Kong. Continue reading U.S. Moves to Hinder China Telecom and Links to Hong Kong

Amazon Warehouses Impacted by Spread of the Coronavirus

An Amazon warehouse, AVP1, in Hazle Township, Pennsylvania is the locus of at least 21 positive COVID-19 cases, becoming what appears to be the most severe among the company’s 10 such warehouses in its U.S. fulfillment network. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) opened an investigation into working conditions at AVP1 and Amazon issued a directive to let shipments from this site remain untouched for 24 hours. As cases are reported in numerous Amazon warehouses, chief executive Jeff Bezos made a surprise visit to a Dallas, Texas warehouse. Continue reading Amazon Warehouses Impacted by Spread of the Coronavirus

Google Offers Free Access to Stadia, Limited Pro Tier Games

Google is offering free gaming on Stadia, which ordinarily costs $130 for a game controller, Chromecast streaming device and game access, opening access to millions of people in 14 countries. With most people now confined to their homes, gaming has shot up, and even the World Health Organization has gotten into it, supporting a game industry initiative dubbed #PlayApartTogether. By making Stadia free, Google may also gain ground in cloud gaming against its competitors Amazon, Microsoft and Nvidia. Continue reading Google Offers Free Access to Stadia, Limited Pro Tier Games

Facebook Provides Early Global Access to eSports Feature

Facebook Gaming is introducing worldwide early access to tournaments for eSports amateurs. Though the feature had been in development for some time, said Facebook Gaming head engineer Mina Abouseif, the company released it early to help people shut-in due to the coronavirus pandemic cope better with the isolation. The tournaments feature was originally designed for live gaming events, but Facebook shifted it to one that will help people stay connected to friends, family and communities via “friendly competition.” Continue reading Facebook Provides Early Global Access to eSports Feature

Advertisers Reduce, Stop Campaigns in Face of Coronavirus

Coca-Cola, Kohl’s, Marriott and Zillow Group are among those companies that have reduced or stopped marketing efforts during the coronavirus pandemic. Facebook said its advertising business is “weakening,” and Amazon has cut back on its Google Shopping ads. Advertising giants Interpublic Group and Publicis delayed their financial forecasts, citing an uncertain future. During the Great Recession, said the WARC research group, $60.5 billion in global advertising vanished and it took eight years to “fully recover.” Some observers believe this crisis will be worse. Continue reading Advertisers Reduce, Stop Campaigns in Face of Coronavirus

MANRS Group Intends to Ramp Up Internet Routing Security

A group of Big Tech companies — including Akamai, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Netflix — have signed on to Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security (MANRS), a group designed to improve the Internet’s routing security. The ability to hijack Internet connections has proven too tempting and too easy for some evildoers, and MANRS is intended to tighten up security in an environment that has emboldened criminals and nation-state spies to create ever-bigger, more dangerous disruptions. Continue reading MANRS Group Intends to Ramp Up Internet Routing Security

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