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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 22nd Nov 2016

 

chinaReuters

Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and a Mars colonization evangelist, may face a big snag in his dream to bathe the globe in high-speed internet: the Chinese military.

On November 15, SpaceX asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to launch 4,425 internet-providing satellites. That is hundreds more satellites than currently orbit Earth, including the dead ones.

But as far back as January 2015, when Musk first debuted his global internet project at a new SpaceX satellite factory in Seattle, he noted how China could pose a significant hurdle for his plans.

The Chinese government would have to agree to let SpaceX build antenna dishes, or ground links, to send and receive data to and from the company's spacecraft. But that nation routes internet access for its 1.37 billion inhabitants through "the Great Firewall," a censorship technology that blocks foreign news, mentions of citizen uprisings (like the Tiananmen Square Massacre), or anything else Chinese officials don't like on the web.

"Obviously, any given country can say it's illegal to have a ground link. [...] And from our standpoint we could conceivably continue to broadcast," Musk said during the event. "I mean, I'm hopeful that we can structure agreements with various countries to allow communication with their citizens, but it is on a country-by-country basis."

So what if SpaceX continued to broadcast uncensored internet over China, despite not being given permission?

"If they get upset with us, they can blow our satellites up, which wouldn't be good," Musk said. "China can do that. So probably we shouldn't broadcast there."

Satellite killers

china pla mobile missile launcher military parade GettyImages 486281068A missile launcher similar to the one used by China to destroy an old satellite in 2007. Getty Images

Musk has good reason to fear the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China.

In January 2007, the PLA launched a "kinetic kill vehicle" — the space equivalent of a giant bullet — atop a mobile, multi-stage rocket.

The target was an old Chinese weather satellite called Feng Yun-1C (FY-1C), and the head-on collision between the two objects happened at roughly 18,000 mph (8 km per second).

It was an impressive, if frightening, demonstration that echoed the US military's anti-satellite test of October 1985. That US satellite-killing exercise blasted an old solar observatory called Solwind into more than 280 pieces.

china fengyun fy 1c satellite killer space debris celestrakRed dots are known pieces of China's destroyed FY-1C satellite. Green dots are low-Earth orbit satellites. Celestrak/Analytical Graphics, Inc.

In the case of China's 2007 anti-satellite test, however, the impact created nearly 4,000 new detectable chunks of space debris.

Hundreds of pieces of FY-1C have slowed down enough to burn up in Earth's atmosphere, but some 3,438 roughly softball-size pieces are still zooming around the planet at speeds of thousands of miles per hour. What's more,according to Space News, roughly half of those chunks will stay in orbit until 2027.

There may also be as many as 35,000 fingernail-size bits of FY-1C debris circling the Earth which — like so many tiny bullets — even the most advanced ground radar stations can't track, according to Popular Mechanics.

In fact, despite the vast distances that separate satellites hundreds of miles above Earth, pieces of FY-1C have already destroyed a Russian satellite and nearly whacked the International Space Station.

FY-1C's trash is just one source of space junk, though. Decades of launching artificial satellites into orbit has created an orbiting field of trash that NASA scientists fear is reaching a "critical density": when more junk is being created than is falling out of the sky.

Efforts are underway to figure out ways to clean up this deadly trash around Earth, including one effort by the Chinese, but it's an intractably difficult task and progress has been slow.

So even if China doesn't exercise its satellite-killing capabilities, which it has continued to develop, SpaceX will have to confront the persistent threat of space junk smacking into its giant constellation of internet satellites — and creating even more of a danger if that happens.

How SpaceX's global internet might work

falcon 9 spacexSpaceX/Flickr

According to a database compiled by the Union of Concerned Scientists, 1,419 active satellites are currently orbiting Earth. Roughly 2,600 satellites that no longer work are thought to be floating in space, but even factoring those in, SpaceX's planned fleet would be larger than everything already in space.

Some of the biggest telecommunications satellites can weigh several tons, be the size of a bus, and orbit from a fixed point about 22,000 miles, or 35,000 kilometers, above Earth.

According to SpaceX's FCC application, though, it seems these won't be typical telecommunications satellites.

Each satellite in SpaceX's planned constellation will weigh about 850 pounds, or 386 kilograms, and be roughly the size of a MINI Cooper car. They will orbit at altitudes ranging from 715 miles (1,150 km) to 790 miles (1,275 km).

From this lofty vantage point, SpaceX says, each satellite could cover an ellipse about 1,300 miles (2,120 km) wide. That's about the distance from Maine to the Florida panhandle.

"The system is designed to provide a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, governmental and professional users worldwide," SpaceX wrote in its application.

spacex internet satellite detailsSpaceX/FCC

SpaceX's filing with the FCC outlines a two-phase launch plan.

To get the party started, SpaceX wants to send up 1,600 satellites at one orbital altitude, then follow up with another 2,825 satellites placed in four shells at different altitudes.

"With deployment of the first 800 satellites, SpaceX will be able to provide widespread U.S. and international coverage for broadband services," SpaceX wrote. "Once fully optimized through the Final Deployment, the system will be able to provide high bandwidth (up to 1 Gbps per user), low latency broadband services for consumers and businesses in the U.S. and globally."

During his January 2015 talk, Musk said the full system "would be $10 or $15 billion to create, maybe more. Then, the user terminals will be at least $100 to $300 depending on which type of terminal."

And it's all a means to an end.

"This is intended to be a significant amount of revenue and help fund a city on Mars," he said.

Turbo speeds

two men computers typing technology digital online internetPatrick Lux/Getty Images

A speed of 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) globally would be huge.

The global average for internet speed per user in late 2015, according Akamai's "State of the Internet" report, was 5.1 Mbps second — about 200 times slower than SpaceX's target — with most of the higher speeds tied up in cable and fiber-optic connections.

SpaceX also makes the point in its filing's legal statement that, according to a July report by UNESCO's Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, "4.2 billion people (or 57% of the world’s population) are offline for a wide range of reasons, but often also because the necessary connectivity is not present or not affordable."

Bathing the planet in internet is one way to get those people online.

Here are some more details directly from SpaceX's filing, which are notable:

  • High capacity: Each satellite in the SpaceX System provides aggregate downlink capacity to users ranging from 17 to 23 Gbps, depending on the gain of the user terminal involved. Assuming an average of 20 Gbps, the 1600 satellites in the Initial Deployment would have a total aggregate capacity of 32 Tbps. SpaceX will periodically improve the satellites over the course of the multi-year deployment of the system, which may further increase capacity.
  • High adaptability: The system leverages phased array technology to dynamically steer a large pool of beams to focus capacity where it is needed. Optical inter-satellite links permit flexible routing of traffic on-orbit. Further, the constellation ensures that frequencies can be reused effectively across different satellites to enhance the flexibility and capacity and robustness of the overall system.
  • Broadband services: The system will be able to provide broadband service at speeds of up to 1 Gbps per end user. The system's use of low-Earth orbits will allow it to target latencies of approximately 25-35 ms.
  • Worldwide coverage: With deployment of the first 800 satellites, the system will be able to provide U.S. and international broadband connectivity; when fully deployed, the system will add capacity and availability at the equator and poles for truly global coverage.
  • Low cost: SpaceX is designing the overall system from the ground up with cost- effectiveness and reliability in mind, from the design and manufacturing of the space and ground-based elements, to the launch and deployment of the system using SpaceX launch services, development of the user terminals, and end-user subscription rates.
  • Ease of use: SpaceX's phased-array user antenna design will allow for a low-profile user terminal that is easy to mount and operate on walls or roofs.
  • Lifespan: The satellites will last between 5 years and 7 years and decay within a year after that.

Musk first discussed the unnamed satellite constellation project back in January of last year, later filing for an FCC application to test basic technologies that would support it.

At the time, Musk said during the Seattle event (our emphasis added):

"The focus is going to be on creating a global communications system. This is quite an ambitious effort. We're really talking about something which is, in the long term, like rebuilding the Internet in space. The goal will be to have the majority of long distance Internet traffic go over this network and about 10% of local consumer and business traffic. So that's, still probably 90% of people's local access will still come from fiber but we'll do about 10% business to consumer direct and more than half of the long distance traffic."

According to a June 2015 story by Christian Davenport at The Washington Post, Google and Fidelity invested $1 billion into Musk's company, in part to support the project. So it's a good guess that if and when the network becomes functional, those companies would partly assume control of it. (Google's parent company, Alphabet, is also working on its own effort to beam internet connectivity from the skies using satellites, balloons, and drones.)

The filing comes just two months after a SpaceX rocket exploded during a routine launchpad test. It was carrying the $200 million AMOS-6 satellite, which Facebook intended to license to beam free internet to parts of Africa.

SpaceX declined to comment or provide more details on the project beyond its FCC filing, including its projected timeline and how the satellites would be launched (presumably with Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets).

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 22nd Nov 2016
  • jeremy clarksonGetty/Gaye Gerard

Amazon paid about $250 million for its new show "The Grand Tour," a series from Jeremy Clarkson and the "Top Gear" team, according to Netflix's content boss, Ted Sarandos.

The first episode of the show's 12-episode first season dropped November 18.

The FT previously reported that Amazon had paid $250 million for three seasons of the show.

"The Grand Tour" is a huge moment for Amazon in its bid to rival Netflix as the top producer of high-quality streaming content.

Netflix even mentioned the show in its most recent earnings report, saying the company assumed it would make Amazon "as global as YouTube and Netflix." Amazon is poised to expand its video service to more than 200 countries, most likely starting in December, according to The Wall Street Journal.

 

 

If "The Grand Tour" is Amazon's calling card in its worldwide ambitions, it didn't come cheap. Though some had floated the idea that Amazon had paid about $160 million for it, Sarandos claimed Amazon paid much more.

"That's an under-reported number," Sarandos told The Telegraph. "It was about a quarter of a billion dollars. We'll be able to figure out later what it was that made the show the show. It'll be interesting with 'Grand Tour' to see how much of that is the players, who in many cases are big personalities, but what elements of 'Top Gear' will people miss?"

Amazon is doubling its spend on video content in the second half of this year, compared with last year, the company's CFO, Brian Olsavsky, said previously. Amazon most recently disclosed its investment amount on video content back in 2014, when it spent $1.3 billion.

Sarandos said Netflix pursued the show but implied his company didn't think it was worth what Amazon paid.

"We made a play for that show, definitely," Sarandos said. "But we've had every season of 'Top Gear' on Netflix in most territories in the world, so we had a better sense than most of what the audience was for 'Top Gear' on our platform. We knew what it was worth."

Netflix is no stranger to shelling out money, however. It plans to spend $6 billion on content in 2017.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 22nd Nov 2016

 

ibm data center durhamAn IBM data centre. IBM

IBM has announced that it plans to build four more data centres in the UK, confirming a report from earlier this month.

When complete, the US tech giant will have six data centres in the UK, 16 across Europe and more than 50 worldwide.

The New York-headquartered company uses a network of data centres worldwide to power its cloud business. They contain servers that allow IBM customers to access services like IBM Watson, the company's artificial intelligence platform, and IBM analytics applications, as well as more than 100 other IBM applications.

In the UK, the multinational currently has two data centres in Portsmouth and Chessington.

The first of the four new IBM data centres — expected to be operational next month, will be located in Fareham, which is a short distance away from IBM's existing data centre in Portsmouth. IBM refused to be drawn on where the other three new data centres will be but it did say they'll be up and running by the end of 2017. IBM also declined to comment on how much they're costing.

 

 

Robert LeBlanc, senior vice president of IBM Cloud, said in a statement: "By adding four new cloud data centres in the UK, IBM is giving local businesses an easy route to the cloud, helping them quickly innovate and respond to market demands."

Digital minister Matt Hancock welcomed the news, saying: "We are already among the most digitally connected countries in the world, with a globally successful digital economy worth more than £118 billion a year and strong cyber security defences to protect consumers and business.

"Today's announcement by IBM is a further boost for this thriving area, and another vote of confidence which shows Britain is open for business. These new cloud data centres will help our firms work smarter and quicker to become the world-leading businesses of tomorrow."

Almost all of the major US tech companies now have data centres in the UK or Ireland. Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Amazon have all opened facilities within the last few years to help them deliver a quicker and smoother experience for heir European users.

Apple is one of the few large US tech companies that is yet to open a data centre in the UK or Ireland. However, it's hoping to build one just outside the small Irish town of Athenry near the west coast of Ireland.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 22nd Nov 2016

 

Jony IveJony Ive.Kimberly White/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

In the autumn of 2015, Apple design guru Jony Ive said that if he wasn't working for Apple, he might create Christmas decorations.

"If I wasn't doing this, I think I would just be drawing or making stuff for friends," he told interviewer Charlie Rose. "Maybe it would just be Christmas tree ornaments, I don't know." 

Ive, if you're not familiar with him, is the head honcho of design at the Cupertino technology company. He frequently appears as an ethereal, disembodied voiceover on Apple's promotional videos talking about its iconic design.

Today, 49-year-old British knight continues to work for Apple. But he's gone and decorated a Christmas tree anyway.

Keep scrolling for photos of the tree...

This is Claridge's. It's a posh hotel in central London.

This is Claridge's. It's a posh hotel in central London.

Rob Price/BI

Every year, it gets famous designers to design Christmas trees for its lobby. In 2015, it was Christopher Bailey for Burberry.

Every year, it gets famous designers to design Christmas trees for its lobby. In 2015, it was Christopher Bailey for Burberry.

Claridge's

Dolce & Gabanna, Kally Ellis of McQueens, and John Galliano for Dior have also had a go. This is Galliano's 2010 creation.

Dolce & Gabanna, Kally Ellis of McQueens, and John Galliano for Dior have also had a go. This is Galliano's 2010 creation.

Claridge's

But in 2016, it's Jony Ive's turn! He designed it together with frequent partner-in-crime Marc Newson, as well as set designer Michael Howells. So how does it look?

But in 2016, it's Jony Ive's turn! He designed it together with frequent partner-in-crime Marc Newson, as well as set designer Michael Howells. So how does it look?

Sir Jonathan Ive, Senior Vice President, Industrial Design, Apple Inc poses with his Honour of Knighthood and designer Mark Newson (right) poses with his Commander of the British Empire (CBE) medal following an Investiture ceremony hosted by the Princess Royal, at Buckingham Palace, on May 23, 2012 in London.Rebecca Naden/Getty

Well ... it's a tree. There's nothing on it.

Well ... it's a tree. There's nothing on it.

Rob Price/BI

"Is it finished?" I cautiously asked a Claridge's staff member. The answer: Yes.

"Is it finished?" I cautiously asked a Claridge's staff member. The answer: Yes.

Rob Price/BI

There are smaller trees dotted about too — also without any decorations on.

There are smaller trees dotted about too — also without any decorations on.

Rob Price/BI

But then, what do you expect? Apple is famous for its ultra-minimalist design.

But then, what do you expect? Apple is famous for its ultra-minimalist design.

Rob Price/BI

The unfurnished firs are accompanied by a lobby bedecked to look like a winter wonderland. Fake snow lines the floor alongside real tree trunks, under a leafy canopy and shifting light-scheme.

The unfurnished firs are accompanied by a lobby bedecked to look like a winter wonderland. Fake snow lines the floor alongside real tree trunks, under a leafy canopy and shifting light-scheme.

Rob Price/BI

"Our aim was to create an all-enveloping magical experience that celebrates our enormous respect for tradition while recognising our excitement about the future and things to come," Ive and Newson said to design mag Wallpaper.

"Our aim was to create an all-enveloping magical experience that celebrates our enormous respect for tradition while recognising our excitement about the future and things to come," Ive and Newson said to design mag Wallpaper.

Rob Price/BI

Source: Wallpaper

"There are few things more pure and beautiful than nature, so that was our starting point, layering various iterations of organic forms with technology," they added.

"There are few things more pure and beautiful than nature, so that was our starting point, layering various iterations of organic forms with technology," they added.

Rob Price/BI

It is very pretty. And the birdsong and forest noises are a nice touch.

It is very pretty. And the birdsong and forest noises are a nice touch.

Rob Price/BI

But the closest thing to a traditional Christmas tree is this little one in the corner with some fake snow on. No decorations to be seen anywhere!

But the closest thing to a traditional Christmas tree is this little one in the corner with some fake snow on. No decorations to be seen anywhere!

Rob Price/BI

Visitors seemed to like it, happily posing for photos in the installation room.

Visitors seemed to like it, happily posing for photos in the installation room.

Rob Price/BI

At one point, a choir even turned up (though they're not an official part of the installation). It was positively idyllic.

At one point, a choir even turned up (though they're not an official part of the installation). It was positively idyllic.

Rob Price/BI

But yes — the tree is just a tree.

But yes — the tree is just a tree.

Rob Price/BI

There's no headphone jack, wifi, USB-C ports or HDMI output either, which is a bummer.

There's no headphone jack, wifi, USB-C ports or HDMI output either, which is a bummer.

Rob Price/BI

Ive's tree comes off the back of another unconventional project — a $300 book containing nothing but photos of Apple products. It was developed over an eight-year period, and Ive said Apple had to invent new kinds of ink and paper to do it justice.

Ive's tree comes off the back of another unconventional project — a $300 book containing nothing but photos of Apple products. It was developed over an eight-year period, and Ive said Apple had to invent new kinds of ink and paper to do it justice.

Apple

Source: Wallpaper

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 16th Nov 2016

Second youngster in court over incident

TalkTalk logo

Another hacker in court over TalkTalk hack

A 17-year-old has appeared in court today and admitted seven offences in relation to last October's TalkTalk hack.

The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was arrested in Norwich in November 2015 and charged with breaching the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

The attacks on TalkTalk resulted in the personal data of almost 160,000 people, and the banking details of 15,656 people, being accessed.

TalkTalk was fined £400,000 for the breach, which was discounted by 20 per cent for early payment, in an attack that Christopher Graham, information commissioner  at the time, described as a "car crash".

The attack exposed lackadaisical security at the internet service provider, which has more of a reputation for "value" than "quality", and cost the company £42m in total.

The teenager will almost certainly be handed a custodial sentence, and should probably be thankful that he chose a British organisation to attack, rather than an American one, and that he's therefore not being extradited to the US.

As many as five suspects across the country were arrested following the attacks, and it's not clear whether they are linked or whether they sought to take advantage of the original attack by, for example, some form of cyber extortion.

The hacker's day in court comes as TalkTalk warned that the firm still struggles in its core broadband subscription market in the wake of the attack. The company lost 98,000 retail subscribers in the first half of the year, but gained 69,000 via wholesale deals with third parties, resulting in a net loss of 29,000 subscribers.

However, these wholesale customers are much less profitable than retailers that subscribe to TalkTalk directly.

The loss of customers followed a big exodus to more competent ISPs immediately following the attack.

The company managed to post a £46m pre-tax profit in the six months to the end of September, largely as a result of slashing marketing spend prior to an October relaunch.

TalkTalk said that CEO Dido Harding claimed that the company had switched its marketing guns back on in a bid to staunch the flow of customers to Sky, Plusnet, BT and other rivals.

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 16th Nov 2016

Internet Association outlines policy positions in a letter to the president-elect

A group of tech companies including Facebook, Google, and Twitter has called on President-elect Donald Trump to protect encryption, reform immigration policy, and curtail surveillance during his administration. The Internet Association, whose members also include Uber, Amazon, and Netflix, outlined its policy positions in a letter published on Monday.

Tech executives have been wary and sometimes openly critical of Trump, in part due to the president-elect's divisive campaign rhetoric and positions on immigration and encryption. In June, more than 100 Silicon Valley leaders said in a letter that a Trump presidency would be a "disaster for innovation." The letter released Monday strikes a more optimistic tone.

"The internet industry looks forward to engaging in an open and productive dialogue," the letter reads.

"SUPPORT FOR STRONG ENCRYPTION MAKES AMERICA MORE SECURE."

During the Republican primary, Trump called for a boycott of Apple products after the company refused an FBI order to unlock an iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernardino shooters. He dismissed the company's argument that unlocking the phone would threaten the privacy and security of all iPhone users, saying in a February interview: "Who do they think they are?" The Internet Association hopes he'll reconsider.

"Laws that require companies to engineer vulnerabilities into products and services harm personal privacy and endanger national security," the letter reads. "Support for strong encryption makes America more secure."

The letter also calls on Trump to support net neutrality and implement stronger reforms on government surveillance programs. Trump has been critical of net neutrality in the past, and his transition team includes two prominent defenders of the National Security Agency (NSA). But he may be more sympathetic to some of the Internet Association's other policy priorities, including its calls to ease regulation of the sharing economy and lower regulatory barriers in Europe.

On immigration, the Internet Association wants Trump to "expand and improve the green card program," and to create a green card system for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) graduates. Trump built much of his candidacy around a hardline anti-immigration position, and although his position on expanding the H1-B visa program for skilled workers remains vague, there are concerns that the program could be curtailed under his administration.

Source: theverge.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 16th Nov 2016

 

Google PhotoScanGoogle PhotoScan video

On Tuesday, Google launched a new app called Photoscan that lets you easily digitize your old family photos and store them in the Google Photos app.

Google Photos uses artificial intelligence to take your photos to the next level. For instance, one person on Reddit, after seeing this video shared this story: 

"On my kid's 3rd birthday, Google Photos presented me with a short video titled 'they grow up so fast' compiled of photos and video clips from her entire life, from birth until the day before, highlighting birthdays and whatnot. It just knows those pictures are birthday pictures, and it knows these pictures are all the same baby, from a newborn all the way to a 3 year old. It is amazing."

The Photos app is cool, and the PhotoScan app seems useful.

But the video explaining the app is one of the best we've seen. If you are in need of a bit of a laugh (and these days, who isn't?), do yourself a favor and spend 1:45 watching it.

 

 

 

 

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 15th Nov 2016

CTO Zenon Hannick is looking to a future where micropayment donations are made within a VR experience

Virtual reality headset

Comic relief wants consumers to watch its programmes and donate via virtual reality

Comic Relief is aiming for a future where its programmes are experienced in virtual reality and donations happen within the experience via micropayments.

Zenon Hannick, Comic Relief CTO, discussed the future of payment mechanisms with V3 recently, explaining that he is looking for new ways to engage with the next generation of consumers.

"Digital is obviously central to that. We need to provide easier ways to donate. So we're looking to create the next experience that fits with where the audiences are and how they like to pay," he said.

Hannick also explained that Comic Relief has recently implemented payment services from Braintree, replacing an old and no longer fit-for-purpose system.

"There's something interesting about making immersive experiences with VR [virtual reality] and how you embed micropayments. When you provide an experience that's long-lived and provides a continuous engagement, can you have a micropayment strategy across that long-lived engagement?" he said.

Hannick explained that the challenge for Comic Relief is to provide an engagement that lasts throughout the year rather than simply over the course of the Red Nose and Sports Relief campaigns.

"You have to show the audience where the money has gone so they feel engaged. We as a charity fund other projects, so it's about telling their stories. There's a powerful story we can create about how the money we take can change people's lives, and VR can be a big part of telling that story," he added.

Hannick clearly sees VR as the future platform for Comic Relief, but he doesn't see wide-scale adoption of the technology until at least 2018.

"2017 will be the trough of disappointment for VR. There'll be some interesting story-telling experiences next year, but 2018 will be when it goes mass medium," he said.

Hannick concluded by stating that his organisation needs to "nail digital story-telling".

"In the linear TV world we've occupied, we show comedy followed by showing the need [for donations] and then allowing those donations, then showing where the money's gone. In the VR space it'll be much the same, but not so linear, so we're exploring those spaces," he said.

"Another area we're looking at is a payment mechanism around social. We're exploring that this year, so we're trying to see where that world is moving."

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 15th Nov 2016

WhatsApp is rolling out video calling today to its billion-plus monthly users. That’s basically the entire story — if you’d like to use it, update the app, open a chat, and tap the familiar video camera icon in the top-right corner. The video chat results look like the video chatting you’ve done before on FaceTime, Skype, Facebook Messenger, or Google Duo: two faces, one in a smaller window, with a handful of small features for changing the position of the chat windows or turning the camera around.

That video calls took until November 2016 to arrive on WhatsApp reflects the app’s cautious — some might say glacial — approach to product development. WhatsApp launched in 2009, but group chats didn’t come until two years later, and voice calls didn’t come until four years after that.

 

But 2016 has been unusually productive for WhatsApp, which Facebook bought in 2014 for $22 billion. This year the company introduced a desktop clientend-to-end encryption, and features for writing and drawing on top of photos. The company also wants to mingle its data with Facebook’s, so as to eventually make money from businesses chatting with you on WhatsApp, but Europe is having none of it.

AN UNUSUALLY PRODUCTIVE YEAR FOR WHATSAPP

That it took seven years for WhatsApp to add video calling likely reflects both the expense of doing so and the fact that many of its users around the world don’t have access to the high-bandwidth connections or data plans that would support it. And if version 1.0 looks basic, the company says it will evolve. “We will try to be the best video calling platform out there,” Manpreet Singh, WhatsApp’s lead mobile engineer, told me.

Last month at The Wall Street Journal’s tech conference I asked WhatsApp’s co-founders whether they felt pressure to make an app renowned for its simplicity more complex to allow for the features that make competitors like Snapchat more expressive. CEO Jan Koum told me he’s trying to strike a balance — but that lately the balance has tipped toward adding new avenues for expression. If nothing else, the arrival of video calling shows that those avenues are now under construction.

Source: theverge.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 15th Nov 2016

 

The Google logo adrons the entrance of Google Germany headquarters in Hamburg, Germany July 11, 2016.  REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen

The Google logo adrons the entrance of Google Germany headquarters in Hamburg, Germany July 11, 2016. REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen

Alphabet Inc's Google (GOOGL.O) and Facebook Inc (FB.O) on Monday announced measures aimed at halting the spread of "fake news" on the internet by targeting how some purveyors of phony content make money: advertising.

Google said it is working on a policy change to prevent websites that misrepresent content from using its AdSense advertising network, while Facebook updated its advertising policies to spell out that its ban on deceptive and misleading content applies to fake news.

The shifts comes as Google, Facebook and Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) face a backlash over the role they played in the U.S. presidential election by allowing the spread of false and often malicious information that might have swayed voters toward Republican candidate Donald Trump.

The issue has provoked a fierce debate within Facebook especially, with Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg insisting twice in recent days that the site had no role in influencing the election.

Facebook's steps are limited to its ad policies, and do not target fake news sites shared by users on their news feeds.

"We do not integrate or display ads in apps or sites containing content that is illegal, misleading or deceptive, which includes fake news," Facebook said in a statement, adding that it will continue to vet publishers to ensure compliance.

Google's move similarly does not address the issue of fake news or hoaxes appearing in Google search results. That happened in the last few days, when a search for 'final election count' for a time took users to a fake news story saying Trump won the popular vote. Votes are still being counted, with Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton showing a slight lead.

Nor does Google suggest that the company has moved to a mechanism for rating the accuracy of particular articles.

Rather, the change is aimed at assuring that publishers on the network are legitimate and eliminating financial incentives that appear to have driven the production of much fake news.

"Moving forward, we will restrict ad serving on pages that misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher's content, or the primary purpose of the web property," Google said in a statement.

The company did not detail how it would implement or enforce the new policy.

MACEDONIA NEWS

AdSense, which allows advertisers to place text ads on the millions of websites that are part of Google's network, is a major source of money for many publishers.

A report in BuzzFeed News last month showed how tiny publishers in Macedonia were creating websites with fake news - much of it denigrating Clinton - which were widely shared on Facebook.

That sharing in turn led people to click on links which brought them to the Macedonian websites, which could then make money on the traffic via Google's AdSense.

Facebook has been widely blamed for allowing the spread of online misinformation, most of it pro-Trump, but Zuckerberg has rejected the notion that Facebook influenced the outcome of the election or that fake news is a major problem on the service.

"Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99 percent of what people see is authentic," he wrote in a blog post on Saturday. "Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes."

Google has long had rules for its AdSense program, barring ads from appearing next to pornography or violent content. Work on the policy update announced on Monday began before the election, a Google spokeswoman said.

The company uses a combination of humans and artificial intelligence to review sites that apply to be a part of AdSense, and sites continue to be monitored after they are accepted, a former Google employee who worked on ad systems said. Google's artificial intelligence systems learn from sites that have been removed from the program, speeding the removal of similar sites.

The issue of fake news is critical for Google from a business standpoint, as many advertisers do not want their brands to be touted alongside dubious content. Google must constantly hone its systems to try to stay one step ahead of unscrupulous publishers, the former employee said.

Google has not said whether it believes its search algorithms, or its separate system for ranking results in the Google News service, also need to be modified to cope with the fake news issue.

Fil Menczer, a professor of informatics and computing at Indiana University who has studied the spread of misinformation on social media, said Google's move with AdSense was a positive step.

"One of the incentives for a good portion of fake news is money," he said. "This could cut the income that creates the incentive to create the fake news sites."

However, he cautioned that detecting fake news sites was not easy. "What if it is a site with some real information and some fake news? It requires specialized knowledge and having humans (do it) doesn't scale," he said.

 

(Reporting by Julia Love and Kristina Cooke; Editing by Jonathan Weber, Bill Rigby and Edwina Gibbs)

Source: reuters.com
 
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