Facebook Rolls Out Menus to Simplify Use of Messenger Bots

Facebook is updating its Messenger platform to make it easier for users to interact with bots. The interface now has a nested menu that categorizes all of the bot’s capabilities. Facebook also created a new option to allow developers to hide the chatting screen so that customers don’t even have to conduct conversations with bots anymore. This update seems to limit the capabilities of bots and future voice-computing software. It arrives as one launch partner of the bot platform is returning to email rather than using Messenger for customer notifications. Continue reading Facebook Rolls Out Menus to Simplify Use of Messenger Bots

More Teens Are Hanging Out Virtually with Group Video Chats

Teenagers of Generation Z who are spending less time hanging out with their friends in physical environments are going virtual, increasingly turning to group video chats as a substitute. Apps such as Houseparty, Fam, Tribe, Airtime and ooVoo, as well as more traditional messaging apps with a video chat feature like Facebook Messenger and Kik, are making “virtual chilling” possible as busier schedules and helicopter parenting interfere with more traditional forms of socializing. Continue reading More Teens Are Hanging Out Virtually with Group Video Chats

FCC: Pai Halts Privacy Rules, Foreshadowing Broader Repeal

After a 2-to-1 vote, the FCC put a halt to a portion of the privacy rules passed in October. New FCC chair Ajit Pai said those rules required high-speed Internet providers, such as AT&T and Comcast, to secure their customers’ data against hacking and other unauthorized uses. This stay of new government rules may be a foreshadowing of a broader repeal of privacy protections, believe some experts. In line with that, Pai also stated that the Federal Trade Commission, not the FCC, should “oversee broadband and Internet industries.” Continue reading FCC: Pai Halts Privacy Rules, Foreshadowing Broader Repeal

Copyright Holders Demand DMCA Update, Addition of Filtering

According to the Recording Industry Association of America and 14 other groups, the 19-year-old Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) needs to be updated. They’re telling the U.S. Copyright Office that new piracy controls are required. Currently, ISPs that “expeditiously” remove copyrighted content when alerted by rights holders get legal immunity or so-called safe harbor. But the RIAA and others say this process is not sufficient, as the pirated copy reappears instantly, requiring yet another takedown notice. Continue reading Copyright Holders Demand DMCA Update, Addition of Filtering

Facebook Drops Price of its Rift VR Headset to Spur Adoption

In an effort to jumpstart sales, Facebook-owned Oculus VR is slashing $100 off the price of its Rift virtual reality headset and its Touch motion controllers. The Rift headset will be lowered to $499, while the Touch drops to $99. Consumers will still need a computer with enough power to support the Rift. When the headset launched last spring, consumers were surprised by the $599 price tag. According to Jason Rubin, Oculus VR head of content, recent surveys indicate that cost has been the primary obstacle to sales. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes VR will take at least 10 years to become our next computing platform. Continue reading Facebook Drops Price of its Rift VR Headset to Spur Adoption

Netflix Foreign Sales Catching Up to North American Revenue

At the opening of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona yesterday, Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings gave a keynote address, indicative of the importance of his company’s many international partnerships with cellphone and cable operators. As a result of those relationships, Netflix is able to build out its subscriber base without much advertising and more readily enter new markets. Hastings’ appearance in Barcelona jibes with the company’s stated goal of focusing on subscribers outside the U.S. Continue reading Netflix Foreign Sales Catching Up to North American Revenue

Snap Opens Online Store for Spectacles and Readies its IPO

Snap Inc. will open the doors to a new online store dedicated to expanding sales of its connected sunglasses. Spectacles.com launches just as the company’s New York City pop-up store closes, and anyone in the U.S. can buy a pair of Spectacles, priced at $130. At the same time, Snap’s founders will start marketing its upcoming IPO to mutual funds and hedge funds in London. Snap released Spectacles, its first hardware product, before filing for its IPO. They were initially sold in a handful of vending machines. Continue reading Snap Opens Online Store for Spectacles and Readies its IPO

Google Develops AI That Can Detect Hateful Internet Speech

Google technology incubator Jigsaw has released software designed to help Web publishers moderate the unruly comments on their sites. The software is called Perspective and it is available free of charge to publishers that apply for access. Jigsaw used machine learning to help train Perspective to identify toxic comments. Each comment is assigned a score, so that human moderators or even readers can filter out responses that score above a certain toxicity level. Perspective is part of Jigsaw’s Conversation AI initiative. The team wants to help foster more civil discourse and eradicate Internet trolls.  Continue reading Google Develops AI That Can Detect Hateful Internet Speech

Half of Web Traffic Now Encrypted as Websites Adopt HTTPS

A new report from rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) found that half of today’s Web’s traffic is now protected by encryption. The increased adoption of HTTPS is largely a result of efforts from big tech companies, like Google and Facebook, and an increased awareness of government surveillance. Google started factoring whether a website was on HTTPS or HTTP into its algorithm. WordPress, one of the biggest Web hosting providers, switched to HTTPS last year. Continue reading Half of Web Traffic Now Encrypted as Websites Adopt HTTPS

Verizon to Pay $350 Million Less for Yahoo Internet Businesses

Verizon and Yahoo announced yesterday plans to move forward with the sale of Yahoo’s core Internet businesses. In the wake of major data breaches at Yahoo, the purchase price has been lowered by $350 million for a new deal valued at $4.48 billion. The companies plan to split future costs related to the data breaches. “The revised agreement,” notes The New York Times, “paves the way for the deal to proceed to a shareholder vote as early as April, although securities regulators are still assessing how Yahoo disclosed information about the breaches to investors.” Verizon is looking to compete with Facebook and Google in digital advertising and, according to The Wall Street Journal, plans to fold Yahoo’s ad tech and websites “into AOL, which Verizon acquired in 2015.” Continue reading Verizon to Pay $350 Million Less for Yahoo Internet Businesses

BuzzFeed News Tries to Expose Readers to Outside Viewpoints

BuzzFeed has introduced a new feature that is intended to help readers understand ideas that differ from the views held in their network of friends. The “Outside Your Bubble” feature will appear at the bottom of BuzzFeed News articles and a staff member will curate content for the feature from social media platforms and other sources. Because of the algorithms behind social media and search results, many people are living in “filter bubbles,” where they are only exposed to ideas that are similar to their own. Continue reading BuzzFeed News Tries to Expose Readers to Outside Viewpoints

WhatsApp Introduces New Feature Emulating Snapchat Stories

Messaging app WhatsApp has launched a new image-based Status feature that allows users to post a disappearing Status update, which erases after 24 hours just like Snapchat Stories. Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, has a pattern of integrating Snapchat-like features into its apps, such as Instagram and Facebook Messenger. With the new Status feature, a major departure for the text-based application, WhatsApp hopes to capitalize on the success of the format that Snapchat originated, which emphasizes videos and ephemeral content. Continue reading WhatsApp Introduces New Feature Emulating Snapchat Stories

Snap Inc. Preps for Public Offering, Embarks on Investors Tour

Snap Inc. revealed that it expects to be valued at as much as $22.2 billion in its upcoming public offering. Share prices are expected to land between $14 and $16, the midpoint of which would value the company at $20.9 billion. All of these figures are significantly higher than the $16.5 billion Snap valued itself at in late 2016, and the final pricing of the new shares, and the company’s overall valuation, could still change. First Snap executives will launch a two-week tour of investors across the country. Continue reading Snap Inc. Preps for Public Offering, Embarks on Investors Tour

Facebook’s New Mission Statement Emphasizes Global Issues

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg just released a 6,000 word document outlining the company’s new role in “social infrastructure,” to address terrorism, disease, climate change and other global woes. He suggested ways that the 13-year old company can work with governments, nonprofit organizations and other companies. Zuckerberg revealed that the company is building products and developing tools to fight the spread of fake news, and use AI to detect terrorism propaganda as well as promote global political engagement. Continue reading Facebook’s New Mission Statement Emphasizes Global Issues

Facebook Readies TV App for Streaming Video Through STBs

Facebook will soon launch a TV app that will let users stream videos in their News Feed through set-top boxes including Apple TV and Amazon’s Fire TV, and smart TVs from Samsung. The move to a television app is evidence of Facebook’s new directive from chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to become a “video first” company, and positions the social network to compete for TV advertising dollars. Users can employ the TV app to watch Facebook videos on their living room TV sets, and Facebook is in discussions to provide access to other video content. Continue reading Facebook Readies TV App for Streaming Video Through STBs

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