State Attorneys General Team Up to Investigate Tech Firms

After several states began pursuing an antitrust probe of the big technology companies, sources reported that representatives of several state attorneys general met with top Justice Department officials to air their concerns about the lack of competition in the technology sector. Now, according to sources, a bipartisan group of states plans to initiate a joint antitrust investigation, to be launched as soon as next month. Sources say the investigation will focus on whether dominant platforms stifle competition. Continue reading State Attorneys General Team Up to Investigate Tech Firms

Google Search Updates Plan to Improve Podcast Discovery

Google now makes it easier for users to find individual podcasts in search results, showing potential episodes that fit search terms and playing back those podcasts. Users will have to ask Google or Google Assistant for podcasts about that particular topic — that is, “find a podcast on golden retrievers” — which will then open in Google Podcasts’ web app. Google, which houses a 2+ million podcast index, said it will eventually support third-party playback and drop the “podcast” search term requirement. Continue reading Google Search Updates Plan to Improve Podcast Discovery

Led by Search Dominance, Google Posts Strong Earnings

Despite analysts’ forecast of a slowdown and the threat of regulations, Google parent Alphabet posted strong earnings, with reported revenue of $38.9 billion, up 19 percent over the same period last year, and $9.2 billion in profits. The tech company’s continued dominance in search is foundational to its robust financial health. Announcement of the strong results, after a worrisome first quarter, caused Alphabet’s stock to rise 9 percent in after-hours trading. Google is expected to profit from advertising in Maps, YouTube and other areas. Continue reading Led by Search Dominance, Google Posts Strong Earnings

Pandora Rolls Out Voice Mode Assistant For All Platforms

SiriusXM’s Pandora unveiled Voice Mode, its voice assistant, to Pandora app users on all platforms. This broad rollout took place after a January debut of Voice Mode on about one million iOS and Android devices. The shortcut to Voice Mode can be found in the upper right of the Pandora app screen. Pandora chief product officer Chris Phillips noted that Voice Mode introduces “an even more natural and conversational way for listeners to discover new music … like getting recommendations from a friend who really knows you.” Continue reading Pandora Rolls Out Voice Mode Assistant For All Platforms

Twitter Releases Web Redesign That Highlights Community

Twitter’s desktop interface hadn’t been tweaked in seven years and its technology was woefully out of date. The company began working on a redesign of the site in 2017 and started beta-testing it in September 2018. After showing it to more users in January, Twitter finally released it widely this week. The new three-column design is faster, but other changes are subtle. According to Twitter senior director of product design Mike Kruzeniski, much of the design changes focus on “simplification.” Continue reading Twitter Releases Web Redesign That Highlights Community

Twitter Will Warn Users of Politicians’ Inappropriate Tweets

Twitter announced that it plans to hide messages that are posted by politicians who violate the company’s abuse or harassment policies. Such tweets will be hidden behind a warning label, but will not be removed from the service, since Twitter still considers them a matter of public interest. The notices will inform readers if a tweet violates rules regarding harassment or violent threats, and then readers will have the option of clicking through to access the questionable message. The move could complicate the current debate over political bias on Twitter in addition to the balance other social platforms are struggling with between free speech and offensive content. Continue reading Twitter Will Warn Users of Politicians’ Inappropriate Tweets

Change in Antitrust Thinking Could Be Problem for Big Tech

A shift in antitrust thinking is gaining momentum in the U.S. as regulators are increasingly scrutinizing Big Tech. Scholars are examining antitrust issues in a context that focuses on the clout of leading companies. Antitrust regulation has historically focused on consumer welfare and whether or not there is economic impact. In recent decades, tech giants such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have experienced massive growth by offering free or cheap digital services. “People might enjoy using the tech platforms but they are also asking, ‘What kind of society do we want?’” suggests Hal Singer of George Washington University’s Institute of Public Policy. Continue reading Change in Antitrust Thinking Could Be Problem for Big Tech

Amazon Enables Tailored Recommendations via AI Service

Amazon is launching a new service called Amazon Personalize in select regions of the U.S., Asia and Europe, with additional locations to be added. The service, first revealed at last year’s re:Invent conference, aims to personalize the customer experience by helping developers build apps, websites, email marketing and content management systems that provide product recommendations and personalized search results. “We are excited to share with AWS customers the expertise we’ve developed during two decades of using machine learning to deliver great experiences on Amazon.com,” said Swami Sivasubramanian, VP of machine learning. Continue reading Amazon Enables Tailored Recommendations via AI Service

Study: Google Earned $4.7 Billion From U.S. News in 2018

According to a study by the News Media Alliance, Google earned $4.7 billion last year from the work of news publishers via the company’s search and Google News services (and the estimate is considered conservative since it does not include the value of personal data that Google collects on readers when they click on an article). The estimate is close to the $5.1 billion from digital advertising the entire U.S. news industry generated in 2018. The News Media Alliance is a trade association that represents more than 2,000 newspapers in North America. Its president and CEO David Chavern says journalists deserve a share of the $4.7 billion. Continue reading Study: Google Earned $4.7 Billion From U.S. News in 2018

Netflix Tests Instagram Stories-Like Feature in its Mobile App

Netflix is currently testing a new feature in its mobile app that helps users stay connected with shows via trailers, alerts, videos and photos. Those who are in the test group will see an “Extras” tab positioned between Search and Downloads at the bottom of the screen. Rather than the vertical scroll of the current Coming Soon section, users navigate through the Extras feed horizontally, similar to the Instagram Stories model. Videos will play automatically, but require pressing a button to activate sound. Netflix has confirmed testing the new feature, but not whether it will become a permanent addition. Continue reading Netflix Tests Instagram Stories-Like Feature in its Mobile App

Etsy Turns to Google Cloud to Improve Search, Boost Sales

Etsy, the online crafts marketplace, boasts more than 60 million unique items and is using Google’s machine learning technology to help boost sales. Because more than 80 percent of its search-based purchases come from the first page of results, it is crucial to provide relevant items on that page. With that in mind, Etsy started a move to Google Cloud in 2017, motivated by the platform’s artificial intelligence capabilities. About three-fourths done with the migration, it’s already seen $260 million in incremental gross sales.

Continue reading Etsy Turns to Google Cloud to Improve Search, Boost Sales

Adobe Study: Most Companies Are Investing in Voice Tech

According to a study released by Adobe this week, nine out of 10 companies are currently investing in voice technologies, including things like voice-based commerce. Of the 401 companies surveyed, just over one-fifth have already released a voice app, while 44 percent plan to release one this year. A total of 88 percent are building apps for both Amazon and Google smart speakers and other voice-enabled devices, while only 39 percent are building for Apple’s iOS ecosystem; even fewer are building for Microsoft’s Cortana or Samsung’s Bixby.

Continue reading Adobe Study: Most Companies Are Investing in Voice Tech

Creative Commons Intros Search Engine With 300M Images

After more than two years of beta testing, the nonprofit organization Creative Commons publicly launched its search engine, which includes more than 300 million images indexed — a huge jump from the 9.5 million images that were available at beta launch. The engine aims to provide an easy way for users to search the organization’s archive of free content, available in the public domain to use under Creative Commons licenses. Since its beta, the engine has been updated with a redesign and faster, more relevant search functionality.

Continue reading Creative Commons Intros Search Engine With 300M Images

Cable Providers Update Boxes to Retain Fleeing Customers

With its Xfinity X1, Comcast has remade the traditional cable box, with a voice-enabled remote that allows search across live TV, on-demand and sources such as Netflix. It combines the multiple apps, passwords and monthly fees of streaming services into one place, with one bill. Perhaps we don’t need to get rid of cable, but rather to improve it. With the advent of ever-more choices from Apple, Amazon, Roku to Verizon and T-Mobile, the major cablecasters have the chance to bring their services into the modern TV age. Continue reading Cable Providers Update Boxes to Retain Fleeing Customers

EU Fines Google $1.7B for Antitrust Violations in Ad Market

European regulators yesterday fined tech giant Google 1.5 billion euros (about $1.7 billion U.S.) for violating antitrust rules in the online ad market. This marks the European Union’s third fine against Google since 2017. As part of its larger efforts to better regulate global technology powerhouses, EU authorities took action based on their contention that Google has been imposing unfair terms on those companies in Europe that use the Google search feature on their websites. In the U.S., regulators are also taking a closer look at business models and mergers involving big tech companies. Continue reading EU Fines Google $1.7B for Antitrust Violations in Ad Market

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