Coronavirus Disruption Leads to Jump in Cloud Services Use

Amid the disruption of the coronavirus, cloud-computing services have become crucial in keeping people online and connected. Amazon, Google, Microsoft and others also provide the foundational technology for e-commerce, workplace collaboration tools like Slack Technologies, streaming video services such as Netflix and streaming game services. In fact, cloud services are pushed to their limits in some areas. In Australia, Microsoft advised some customers that Azure cloud is running out of capacity in some regions. Continue reading Coronavirus Disruption Leads to Jump in Cloud Services Use

YouTube Streams Globally in Standard Definition for a Month

Due to increased Internet traffic during the coronavirus, YouTube will reduce the quality of its streaming videos to standard definition for a month. Viewers will, however, be able to choose to watch in high definition. In instituting lower resolution, the Google-owned company is extending the policy enacted in Europe, where regulators asked all streaming companies — including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video — to do so. Sony, Microsoft and others are also working to minimize the impact of game downloads on bandwidth. Continue reading YouTube Streams Globally in Standard Definition for a Month

Instagram Unveils Co-Watching Feature for Group Video Chat

Facebook’s Instagram recently debuted Co-Watching, a feature that makes it possible for users to video chat while they browse the app. With Co-Watching, users can engage in direct-message video-chat conversations to look at saved, liked and suggested photos and videos together. Co-Watching is just one example of ways that Facebook and Instagram are shifting to accommodate users and communities during the coronavirus pandemic, when many are confined to home. Instagram first began testing Co-Watching a year ago. Continue reading Instagram Unveils Co-Watching Feature for Group Video Chat

Europe Attempts to Ease Strain From Increased Internet Traffic

European carriers such as Vodafone are experiencing a spike in data traffic due to increased usage by home-bound consumers. The European Commission, which has net neutrality regulations in place, warned the telcos to avoid blocking, slowing down or prioritizing traffic as they attempt to avoid gridlock. At the same time, the Commission is concerned that crucial services including healthcare and online learning might be impeded. Netflix, Disney+, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Amazon Prime are among the companies cooperating with the European Union to curtail bandwidth usage for the time being. Continue reading Europe Attempts to Ease Strain From Increased Internet Traffic

Fox Corporation Acquires Streaming Platform Tubi for $440M

Fox Corporation is purchasing San Francisco-based, ad-supported streaming platform Tubi for $440 million in cash and the potential of $50 million in future deferred consideration and unvested options. Tubi, which currently has 25 million users in North America and Australia, streams thousands of movies and TV shows from more than 250 content partners including Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Tubi is accessible via numerous streaming devices, including the Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Roku, and smart TVs from brands such as Samsung and Sony. Continue reading Fox Corporation Acquires Streaming Platform Tubi for $440M

Stanford Project Studies Phone Use, Aims to Identify Patterns

Starting three years ago, Stanford University researchers began the Human Screenome Project to create a digital map with detailed information about how people use their phones. Stanford School of Medicine professor of pediatrics Thomas Robinson, one of the lead researchers on the project, is focused on the portion of the project on adolescents. Although the iPhone first debuted over ten years ago, said the researchers, we have very little information about how such screens impact this cohort’s well-being. Continue reading Stanford Project Studies Phone Use, Aims to Identify Patterns

Coronavirus: AMC Is Latest Theater Chain to Close Locations

In response to precautions being taken to avoid spread of the coronavirus, AMC Theatres announced that, as of yesterday, it is closing its U.S. locations for at least 6-12 weeks while remaining flexible to comply with CDC and government guidelines. “AMC Stubs A-List members will automatically have their accounts paused” for the period of closure (without billing or payments), while film fans “are encouraged to continue the AMC movie-watching experience through AMC Theatres On Demand.” AMC joins Regal Cinemas, which announced earlier that it would be closing all its theater locations “until further notice.” Continue reading Coronavirus: AMC Is Latest Theater Chain to Close Locations

Work-at-Home Software on the Rise Amid COVID-19 Concerns

As more companies ask employees to work from home due to the global spread of the coronavirus, Google, Microsoft and Zoom have responded by providing their workplace software for free. Microsoft’s Teams saw a 500 percent increase in meetings, calls and conference usage in China since the end of January, and demand is rising in the U.S. as work-from-home policies are instituted. Many Microsoft employees have been instructed to work from home and, last week, their Teams chat volume rose 50 percent, with video/audio meetings up 37 percent from a week earlier. Continue reading Work-at-Home Software on the Rise Amid COVID-19 Concerns

Bipartisan Bill Would Further Regulate Online Content for Kids

Senators Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) introduced the Kids Internet Design and Safety (KIDS) Act, which would regulate how companies such as YouTube and TikTok handle what is accessible to children online, including advertising, app design and potentially harmful content. One of the main targets of the new bill are so-called unboxing videos, such as YouTube channel “Ryan’s World,” which can get millions of views. The KIDS Act would not ban the content, but prohibit the platform from recommending it to kids, curbing its distribution. Continue reading Bipartisan Bill Would Further Regulate Online Content for Kids

New App Leverages AR to Let Users Dance with Music Stars

The stage appearance of a Tupac Shakur hologram at the 2012 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival marked the beginning of the music industry’s fascination with the new tech. Now, augmented reality startup 1RIC convinced five artists to dance and pose, surrounded by 106 cameras. The resulting 3D images of these performers reside on Jadu, 1RIC’s app, which consumers can use to create their own videos of themselves dancing with the stars. Chief executive Asad Malik said Jadu is an effort to make 3D holograms more accessible. Continue reading New App Leverages AR to Let Users Dance with Music Stars

Spotify Tests a Beta Version of Music App Aimed at Children

Spotify Technology has just unveiled an app specifically designed for children between the ages of 3 and 12. Spotify Kids, which is available for free to Spotify Premium Family members, is being tested in the U.K., Sweden, Denmark, Australia and New Zealand. The most notable change is visual: Spotify Kids offers kids the animated creature of their choice to act as an avatar in an environment full of colors and doodles. There are two Spotify Kids versions, one for younger children and another for older ones. Continue reading Spotify Tests a Beta Version of Music App Aimed at Children

Google Chrome to Adopt New Coalition for Better Ads’ Rules

Beginning in August, Google Chrome will block the Internet’s most intrusive ads: long pre-roll video ads that can’t be skipped, mid-roll ads that appear part way through a video, and large display ads covering more than 20 percent of the screen. These ad types will be banned only on short-form videos under eight minutes. Google’s move follows new rules just set by the Coalition for Better Ads (CBA), whose other members include Facebook, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and the World Federation of Advertisers. Continue reading Google Chrome to Adopt New Coalition for Better Ads’ Rules

AT&T TV Launches Today With Hundreds of Live TV Channels

Following several months of testing in 13 U.S. trial markets, AT&T TV launches nationwide today. The broadband service features a 4K- and HDR-capable Android-based set-top box, 500 hours of DVR storage, access to hundreds of live television channels and 40,000 on-demand titles. Streaming services such as Disney+, Netflix, Pandora, Spotify and YouTube are available, as well as 5,000+ apps through the Google Play store. Additionally, the voice-enabled remote control is integrated with Google Assistant. Chromecast support is also built in. AT&T TV will be integrated with HBO Max when it launches in May. Continue reading AT&T TV Launches Today With Hundreds of Live TV Channels

TikTok Now Political Forum For Youth, Tech Execs Decry App

The younger demographic that gravitates to TikTok is turning it into a political force, forming political coalitions — called hype houses — for their favored candidates, fact-checking others, posting news updates and commenting in real-time. Hype houses come in conservative, liberal, bipartisan and undecided flavors, and are amassing hundreds of thousands of followers. Reddit chief executive and co-founder Steve Huffman, however, is concerned about TikTok’s privacy policies, calling the app “fundamentally parasitic.” Continue reading TikTok Now Political Forum For Youth, Tech Execs Decry App

Appeals Court Agrees Internet Platforms Can Censor Content

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled unanimously that privately operated Internet platforms can censor content at will — a rebuke of the argument advanced in conservative circles that the platforms are bound by the First Amendment. The case in question was the YouTube channel of Prager University, a non-profit founded by radio host Dennis Prager. YouTube tagged dozens of PragerU’s videos as “inappropriate,” and stripped their advertising, which led the channel to file a lawsuit in 2017. Continue reading Appeals Court Agrees Internet Platforms Can Censor Content

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