Twitter Rebrands as ‘X’ in Next Step Toward ‘Everything App’

Elon Musk has begun rebranding Twitter as X with a simple black letter X-ing out the iconic blue bird logo. The reaction has been mixed so far. Some say it conjures cool, as in “X marks the spot,” while others suggest it evokes a corporate industrial “Big Brother” that could negatively impact the successful brand. Whether it will help Musk and CEO Linda Yaccarino monetize the social service remains to be seen, but it definitely marks a clean break from a colorful past. On Monday, at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters, feathered features like the company logo that once lorded over the cafeteria were removed, and stylized X logos were projected. Continue reading Twitter Rebrands as ‘X’ in Next Step Toward ‘Everything App’

Baidu Rushes Ernie Launch to Meet China’s Chatbot Demand

China’s Baidu is racing to meet the March 16 deadline to debut Ernie Bot, which it hopes will be the Eastern equivalent to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Teams have been working around the clock. In addition to programming duties, staff has been reaching out to borrow compute time on high-powered processors that Chinese companies can no longer purchase at their discretion due to U.S. sanctions. Ernie is still being trained ahead of its highly anticipated launch. Baidu intends to roll out its chatbot in stages, first to a limited pool of public users who can provide test feedback, observers say. Continue reading Baidu Rushes Ernie Launch to Meet China’s Chatbot Demand

National Security Pressure Continues to Build Against TikTok

Regulatory pressure continues to build against TikTok and the company’s Beijing-based owner. Another state has joined the federal fight to ban the short-form video app, with Virginia this month passing legislation prohibiting TikTok and WeChat from use on state government devices. Meanwhile, on Thursday Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) wrote Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen — who also chairs the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. — advising CFIUS  to “impose strict structural restrictions between TikTok’s American operations and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, including potentially separating the companies.” Continue reading National Security Pressure Continues to Build Against TikTok

Instagram Will End Live-Stream Shopping and Focus on Ads

Instagram will cease allowing product tags for live-stream shopping in the U.S. as of March 16, a functionality that has been available to creators and businesses since 2020. Although live-stream shopping is popular and profitable in Asian markets, it has been slow to take hold in the U.S. and Europe. Instagram says users will still be able to set up shops and leverage shopping opportunities across their feeds, stories and Reels, just not in live broadcasts. The company will “continue to invest in shopping experiences,” focusing on those “that provide the most value to our users.” Continue reading Instagram Will End Live-Stream Shopping and Focus on Ads

Blizzard Entertainment to Suspend Game Access for NetEase

Activision Blizzard’s Blizzard Entertainment has hit an impasse with licensee NetEase and will as of next week be suspending “most Blizzard game services in mainland China due to the expiration” of current agreements. The arrangement encompasses popular titles such as “World of Warcraft,” “Hearthstone” and “Diablo III.” Blizzard has worked with Chinese video game publisher NetEase since 2008. “The two parties have not reached a deal to renew the agreements that is consistent with Blizzard’s operating principles and commitments to players and employees,” Blizzard said in a statement. Continue reading Blizzard Entertainment to Suspend Game Access for NetEase

Musk Takes to Twitter Spaces to Share Plans for the Platform

Elon Musk is seeking a payments system for Twitter as he pursues his plan to make it a “super app” along the lines of China’s WeChat. Musk outlined his vision in a live presentation on Twitter Spaces to more than 100,000 users and advertisers, including reps from Adidas, Kate Spade, Nissan and Walgreens. Musk has been brainstorming with confidants over ways to improve Twitter and make it profitable. Last week, Twitter filed registration paperwork with the Treasury Department for approval to add payments. Meanwhile, top privacy and security executives are leaving the company after Musk told employees “bankruptcy isn’t out of the question.” Continue reading Musk Takes to Twitter Spaces to Share Plans for the Platform

Incubated at Twitter by Jack Dorsey, Bluesky Launching Beta

Bluesky, a decentralized platform conceived by Jack Dorsey while he was CEO of Twitter, has generated more than 30,000 waitlist signups as it prepares for a private beta launch of Bluesky Social. Bluesky’s main innovation is the Authenticated Transport (AT) Protocol, described as a networking technology “to power the next generation of social applications.” AT Protocol is an open standard designed to allow different social apps the ability to interoperate, giving users more control by letting them independently adjust algorithm settings or move profiles without losing data. Continue reading Incubated at Twitter by Jack Dorsey, Bluesky Launching Beta

Tencent Revenue Drops 3 Percent in First Decline Since 2004

Tencent’s nearly two-decade growth trajectory came to a halt Wednesday with a 3 percent revenue drop over the same period in 2021. The contraction marked the Chinese video game and social media giant’s first quarterly revenue decline since going public in 2004. Tencent’s April-June revenue fell by about $20 billion, the result of China’s slowing economy and sagging digital advertising revenue, as well as tighter government video game regulations and diminished consumer user spending. Prior to Q4 2021, Tencent had consistently posted double-digit — and sometimes triple-digit — growth since its IPO. Continue reading Tencent Revenue Drops 3 Percent in First Decline Since 2004

U.S. Firms Chase China’s WeChat in Bid to Build Super Apps

U.S. tech execs are experiencing app envy, with companies from Uber to PayPal and billionaires Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey setting their sights on building one-size-fits-all “super apps” to rival Tencent’s WeChat in China and SoftBank’s LINE in Japan. Where typical apps are built to do one thing really well, so-called super apps are generalists, which in theory means people will use them more often. Spotify and Snap have also expressed interest in super solutions, which have been popular in Asia since 2020 and are sparking new interest in the West. Continue reading U.S. Firms Chase China’s WeChat in Bid to Build Super Apps

TikTok Promises Government That User Data Will Remain Safe

In the wake of an FCC commissioner’s call to have TikTok banned from the Apple and Android stores, company CEO Shou Zi Chew issued a letter assuring senators that the China-based company is doing all it can to “remove any doubt about the security of U.S. user data.” Responding to questions from nine Republicans — including ranking Senate Commerce Committee member Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) — Chew reiterated the claim that TikTok maintains American user data on servers controlled by the U.S. company Oracle, with plans for third-party audits. The dust-up follows an incendiary report by BuzzFeed News. Continue reading TikTok Promises Government That User Data Will Remain Safe

Biden Administration Intends to Contain TikTok Security Risk

The Commerce Department is taking steps to shore-up federal rules against potential security risks from foreign-owned social platforms like ByteDance’s TikTok, expanding federal oversight to include apps that might be used by “foreign adversaries to steal or otherwise obtain data,” a recent filing in the Federal Register stipulates. The proposed rule allows the commerce secretary to designate certain foreign apps as security risks and force software connected to the Internet to submit to third-party auditing. Such audits could include monitoring logs that show user data as well as the parsing of source code. Continue reading Biden Administration Intends to Contain TikTok Security Risk

Big Tech Bristles as Antitrust Bill Moves to a Full Senate Vote

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to advance a bill designed to level the playing field between Big Tech and smaller players forced to rely on the giant firms to reach customers. Allegations that the behemoths abuse their power to subjugate competitors and exploit consumers permeate Capitol Hill. After being reminded by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) that antitrust laws haven’t been meaningfully updated “since the birth of the Internet,” the American Innovation and Choice Online Act was advanced on a bipartisan basis, setting it on a path for a full Senate vote. Continue reading Big Tech Bristles as Antitrust Bill Moves to a Full Senate Vote

Biden Introduces Broader Review of Foreign-Controlled Apps

President Biden revoked former President Trump’s executive order banning social-networking services TikTok and WeChat — developed by Chinese companies ByteDance and Tencent Holdings, respectively — but didn’t let Chinese companies off the hook. Instead, he replaced the previous order with another that establishes a broader review of the potential security risks found in numerous foreign-controlled apps. Biden officials said the new order would create “clear intelligible criteria” to evaluate those risks. Trump’s executive order was immediately challenged in court, and Biden’s move, said analysts, is intended to withstand such a test. Continue reading Biden Introduces Broader Review of Foreign-Controlled Apps

U.S. Will Remove Chinese Phone Maker Xiaomi From Blacklist

The U.S. Defense Department removed Xiaomi from a blacklist preventing U.S. investment in the Chinese tech company, an action taken during the Trump administration that alleged the company had ties with the Chinese military. Two months ago, in a Washington D.C. court, a judge criticized the rationale behind the blacklisting and ordered a temporary halt against its enforcement. Xiaomi shares rose 6.1 percent in Hong Kong following the news. TikTok and WeChat also found redress against Trump-era actions against them. Continue reading U.S. Will Remove Chinese Phone Maker Xiaomi From Blacklist

China Signals Tighter Big Tech Regulation with Alibaba Fine

The Chinese State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) fined e-commerce giant Alibaba $2.8 billion for antitrust violations, a rebuke to its founder, high-profile tycoon Jack Ma. Investigation into whether Alibaba prevented sellers from offering their goods on other e-commerce platforms began in December. The official Communist Party newspaper called monopolies “the great enemy of the market economy” and said regulation was “a kind of love and care.” In 2015, China fined Qualcomm $975 million, also for antitrust violations. Continue reading China Signals Tighter Big Tech Regulation with Alibaba Fine