Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Posts Tagged ‘facebook

Coin of the Facebook Realm

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And you thought you had a bad week.

Actually, my week was pretty good, but there were some that weren’t so lucky.

Like Tumblr. 

Remember them?  No?

The all-things-blogging-and-sharing site that Yahoo paid a cool $1.1B for in 2013, and which was later subsumed into the Oath/Verizon Media Group.

And which is now for sell, and which brings with it some 400M blogs but which Yahoo wrote down by $230M in 2016 before the sell to Verizon.

Speaking of Verizon, Can you hear me now?  I’m leaving you, Verizon. I was going to go to Google Fi, but I had one of the worst customer service experiences *ever* with them the other day.

The whole point of Google Fi (and other MVNOs) is to limit my interaction with humans on the phone.

But due to a billing situation when trying to order my Google Fi sim card, I was forced to call Google’s customer support, which made any trek I’ve ever had to the State of Texas Department of Motor Vehicles outlet feel like an excursion to Six Flags.

Never again, Google.  Keep to the algos, you’re clearly worst in class with the call centers.

So, instead, I’m moving to Tracfone…Don’t call me unless it’s really, really necessary.

If you’re having trouble giving your money to someone, check this out: Facebook’s apparently moving in to the crypto payments world, big time.

According to a report from TheBlockCrypto, Facebook’s “Project Libra” puts Facebook’s stablecoin at the center of a brand new payments network.

Summary:

  1. Facebook is planning to launch a full payments network (rather than just remittances) and in discussions with payment networks Visa and Mastercard, payments processors such as giant First Data as well as large e-commerce merchants to support the launch.
  2. Facebook is seeking up to $1 billion in investments collectively from these firms in order to act as collateral to bolster and back a stablecoin that will be associated with the payments network.
  3. A stablecoin will exist as the currency of the payments system in order to eliminate credit card fees for . merchants as well as to avoid the volatility of other cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether.
  4. The company is considering tying the coin to Facebook’s core ads engine, rewarding users for viewing ads and then purchasing goods, similar to how loyalty points rewards work.

Why do I think this is potentially a very big deal?

Facebook conquered its first couple a billion people by linking identity and demography, putting faces (sorry) to names on the Interwebs.

Now they’re going to possibly enable all those people to start trading in transactions with one another using cryptocurrency, in (again, possible) partnership with major payment processors and networks (Visa, MC, First Data), and with large e-commerce merchants.

And, they’re going to tie all that with their advertising network, which could flip the switch on the Facebook value exchange, whereby users could be paid to watch ads, early loyalty awards with their purchases, etc.?

People, we’re already WAY behind China when it comes to using mobile apps for simple things like payments for, well, pretty much everything!

Someone has to take on this e-payment capability sometime, and the Apple Pays and Venmos of the world aren’t moving the needle.  You say you don’t trust Facebook? But might you trust them partnering with Visa, MC, and other vendors you already *do* trust?

The Facebook Coin, if it proves out, could be the biggest tech news of the year.

Now, show me the money.

Written by turbotodd

May 3, 2019 at 9:59 am

Posted in 2019, blockchain, facebook

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Facebook Going Private?

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Facebook’s going private.

Not in the market sense of the term, but rather, in the sense that Mark Zuckerberg and company have decided to double down on privacy.

That, and I have a vast area of swampland in south Florida I can sell you for cents on the dollar.

But seriously, at its F8 developer conference yesterday, these were the words Zuck spoke:

“I believe the future is private…This is the next chapter for our services.”

As CNET had reported, Zuckerberg last month indicated Facebook would refocus the entire company around privacy, and that infrastructure of all of Facebook’s services — Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger — would be more technical integrated and prioritize end-to-end encryption.

As to what the company introduced in yesterday’s keynote, Business Insider described it this way:

the California-based tech giant announced a sweeping redesign of the social network — ditching its iconic blue menu bar and replacing it with a cleaner, white design, and placing greater-than-ever emphasis on groups.

And this:

The new Facebook design also gives Stories — the buzzy ephemeral-photo-sharing format — prominent placement at the very top of users’ feeds.

There are also significant structural changes that place greater emphasis on user-created groups. Users can post to groups directly from the homepage, groups are given greater prominence on the left-hand sidebar (on desktop), and new tools are being added to specialized types of groups.

The redesigned mobile app will launch “right away,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an emailed announcement, while it’ll roll out more slowly on desktop — “in the next few months.”

As of this morning, I’m still waiting for those changes to arrive.  That, and privacy on Facebook, which still makes chuckle out loud when I write that.

Why?

Because I’ve yet to figure out how a social network whose business model is based entirely on monetizing our personal information makes such a model work with private, more personal and encrypted communications.

But maybe I’m just slow.

Written by turbotodd

May 1, 2019 at 9:24 am

Posted in 2019, facebook

Tagged with , ,

Show Me the Money

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Facebook had a big quarter. Or, should I say, a BIG quarter.

Despite all the privacy snafus and regulatory chafing, the company reported Q1 revenue of $15.08B, with advertising revenue up 26% at $14.91B. 

Also, Facebook explained it would set aside $3B to cover expenses associated with a fine from the Federal Trade Commission over its privacy practice (although the fine apparently could go as high as $5B).

Facebook also indicated that its Facebook stories feature now has 500M daily users across both FB and Messenger, and WhatsApp’s status has 500M daily users (poor Snapchat has a paltry 190M DUs by comparison).

In other words, Facebook sneezes, the rest of the ad industry still catches cold.

Microsoft also announced big earnings, reporting Q3 revenue was up 14% to $30.6B and net income was up 19% to $8.8B. Intelligent Cloud Revenue was up 22% to $9.7B. 

Earlier today, the company became only the third U.S. company ever to pass a market cap of $1T (the other two were Apple and Amazon).

But it’s not just the techs who are in tech.

TechCrunch reported that Walmart announced earlier today a new “store of the future,” a sort of proving ground for emerging tech, including A.I.-enable cameras and interactive displays.

Code-named “IRL” (for, the “Intelligent Retail Lab”), the store operates out of a Walmart Neighborhood Market and contains over 30,000 items. Not unlike Amazon Go’s convenience stories:

the store has a suite of cameras mounted in the ceiling. But unlike Amazon Go, which is a grab-and-go store with smaller square footage, Walmart’s IRL spans 50,000 square feet of retail space and is staffed by over 100 employees.

Plus, in Walmart’s case, these A.I.-powered cameras are not being used to determine what items customers are buying in order to automatically charge them. It still has traditional checkout stations. Instead, the cameras will monitor inventory levels to determine, for example, if staff needs to bring out more meat from the backroom refrigerators to restock the shelves, or if some fresh items have been sitting too long on the shelf and need to be pulled.

The idea is that the A.I. will help the store associates know more precisely where and when to restock products. And this, in turn, means customers will know the produce and meat is always fresh and in stock when they arrive.

The system apparently generates so much data, 1.6TB per second, that it necessitates a big data center on site.

And yet it seems to be obviously avoiding getting into the business of automated checkout solutions (which Amazon has tackled head on), instead “using the A.I. system to ensure that there are shopping carts available at all times and that registers are open and staffed.”

But don’t kid yourself…it’s probably only a few years before we’ll be seeing a virtual Sam hologram himself welcoming you to the new and improved Ai-driven Walmart.

Save Money. Live Better.

Written by turbotodd

April 25, 2019 at 10:41 am

Floating Unicorns and Robert Mueller

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This is a big news day. Too much to keep up with.

Yes, the long awaited Mueller investigation report has been made public, and we mere mortals can finally read about what did or didn’t happen in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. I got my copy from the "failing" New York Times.

But there’s also big news in Tech. Pinterest and Zoom went public today, and Zoom shares are already zooming up some 75%. Pinterest began trading up 25%. Will these unicorns continue to prosper? Stay tuned.

I’ve got bad news for those of you who were excited about the coming Samsung Galaxy Foldable phones. The Verge (and other reviewers) have indicated the Folds have started to…well…uh…fold. Actually, the pictures they’ve shared show more of a crease, bu The Verge author indicated whatever you call it that "its just enough to slightly distort the screen."

Here’s more:

It’s a distressing thing to discover just two days after receiving my review unit. More distressing is that the bulge eventually pressed sharply enough into the screen to break it. You can see the telltale lines of a broken OLED converging on the spot where the bulge is.

FYI, the list price for the Fold is $1,980, and is expected to be available next week. Could we soon see a repeat of earlier Samsung recalls?

Me, personally, I’m find with my perfectly flat iPhone 7 plus for the time being, and I’m not an Android (although some might argue otherwise).

If you’re looking for a place to invest, you might want to look towards the future of crypto. Not necessarily just the currency, but also the pick and shovel plays that plan on putting the blockchain to work for business.

According to a report from Reuters, VC investments in crypto and blockchain startups this year have surpassed $850M, and reached $2.4B over 117 investments last year. Blockchain may be struggling to find a place it can call home, but that’s not keeping away the angel wolves willing to throw it a few million Bitcoins its way!

And whoopsie, I almost forgot: Facebook had another privacy breach. This time, they "unintentionally uploaded" 1.5 million people’s email contacts without their consent.

Writes Business Insider:

Since May 2016, the social-networking company has collected the contact lists of 1.5 million users new to the social network, Business Insider can reveal. The Silicon Valley company said the contact data was "unintentionally uploaded to Facebook," and it is now deleting them.

The more things change…

Written by turbotodd

April 18, 2019 at 11:27 am

Fast Burning Algos

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Watching Notre Dame burn yesterday seemed like yet another undeserved heavy punch dealt to one of my favorite cities across the globe, Paris.

But I’ve also seen the resilience of Parisians in years past, including after the Charlie Hebdo and November 2015 terrorist attacks, and was really happy to wake up to headlines that the church is still structurally sound and rebuilding is on the horizon once the investigation into what started the fire is complete.

However, some algos apparently got tripped up during coverage of yesterday’s Notre Dame fire. The Verge reported that many news networks were, logically, providing live coverage of the breaking news. But on YouTube, the algos apparently confused the breaking news from Paris with an undercarriage explaining the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in NYC.

The Verge explains that the small paragraph regarding 9/11 was actually part of YouTube’s fact-checking to "prevent the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories on the platform." Said a YouTube spokesperson, "These panels are triggered algorithmically and our systems sometimes make the wrong call."

And though real fires may drive algos, in turn, algos can also drive virtual fires, as apparently was the case with Facebook and news media organizations when the social network essentially de-emphasized media sites with algo changes it made early last year. WIRED goes deep on the disenfranchisement across the board in a new feature entitled "15 Months of Fresh Hell Inside Facebook."

I wonder if WIRED’s ranking just lost a few points on Facebook’s News Feed with that headline??

Written by turbotodd

April 16, 2019 at 10:20 am

Itch for a Twitch

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Twitch got an itch for a new type of Twitch, so they’ve added “Squad Stream,” a few feature that will let up to four Twitch streamers go live simultaneously in one window.

According to a report from The Verge, this new feature will make it easier for viewers to watch the action from four different angles and provide bigger channels the opportunity to host smaller creators and share their screen with the audience as well.

Meanwhile, MacRumors reports that Apple has released watchOS 5.2, the fifth update to the watchOS operating system that runs on modern Apple Watch models.  this version expands the availability of the electrocardiogram app to Hong Kong and 19 European countries.

There are also two new watch faces for Hermes watches that match the spring Hermes band collection. The update also introduced support for the Apple News+ feature added to iOS earlier this week.

And Facebook continues to be under the gun for its ad targeting practices. The Department of Housing and Urban Development filed charges against the company today for violating the Fair Housing Act by encouraging, enabling, and causing housing discrimination through the company’s advertising platform.

According to a report from Axios, HUD alleges that Facebook unlawfully discriminates against users by restricting who can view housing-related ads on Facebook platform and across the internet.

  • It also alleges that Facebook mines extensive data about its users “and then uses those data to determine which of its users view housing-related ads based, in part, on these protected characteristics.”
  • The charge also claims that Facebook groups users who have similar attributes and behaviors — unrelated to housing — via machine learning and presumes a shared interest or disinterest in housing-related advertisements.
  • HUD says this process functions “just like an advertiser who intentionally targets or excludes users based on their protected class.”

This a day after Facebook banned white nationalism and separatism on the platform, a policy which will be officially implemented next week according to a report from Motherboard.

Specifically, Facebook will now ban content that includes explicit praise, support, or representation of white nationalism or separatism. Phrases such as “I am a proud white nationalist” and “Immigration is tearing this country apart; white separatism is the only answer” will now be banned, according to the company. Implicit and coded white nationalism and white separatism will not be banned immediately, in part because the company said it’s harder to detect and remove.

 The decision was formally made at Facebook’s Content Standards Forum on Tuesday, a meeting that includes representatives from a range of different Facebook departments in which content moderation policies are discussed and ultimately adopted. Fishman told Motherboard that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was involved in the formulation of the new policy, though roughly three dozen Facebook employees worked on it.

Just another day in the life of Facebook circa 2019.

Written by turbotodd

March 28, 2019 at 10:46 am

Posted in 2019, AI

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The New AirPods Are Here

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$1.7B.

That’s how much Google is being fined in the EU for restricting rivals’ ads. 

According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, the fine:

…deals with abusing the dominance of its search engine to block competitors in the niche market of selling text ads on the search results that appear on third-party websites.

It doesn’t come with a specific order to change Google’s business practices because the commission says Google ended the last type of anticompetitive behavior at issue in the case shortly after charges were filed nearly three years ago.

Back here in these United States, Facebook has announced it will stop allowing ad targeting by race, gender and age groups in the housing, jobs, or credit categories by the end of the year, according to an article in The New York Times:

The changes are part of a settlement with groups that have sued Facebook over these practices in recent years, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Fair Housing Alliance and the Communications Workers of America. They also cover advertising on Instagram and Messenger, which Facebook owns.

And Apple fanboys/girls everywhere unite, as Apple has finally launched its second gen AirPods. 

As covered by 9to5 Mac, the new versions come with a wireless charging case, a new H1 chip, hands-free “Hey Siri,” longer battery life and faster connections to devices.

The new AirPods are $199 with the wireless charging case and $159 with the standard case, and existing AirPods owners can purchase the wireless charging case separately.

For those who have been on the fence about AirPods, here’s my personal endorsement not paid for by Apple or anybody else: Buy them.

They’re one of the single most useful items of tech I’ve purchased in years. 

The only regret I had about not buying the first gen AirPods was that I didn’t buy them sooner.

I’ve used them on planes, trains, and automobiles, in noisy airports, riding my bike around Ladybird Lake in Austin, and beyond without any real issues.  

The thing you notice most: There’s no cord to get in the way or get caught up on your desk, your seatbelt, etc.

Also, my concerns (which I’m sure others had) about losing one of them — which I surely figured I would have by now — have faded away.

If you’re on the phone or emeetings a lot, or you listen to a lot of music and use an iPhone, they’re a no brainer and worth every penny.

Written by turbotodd

March 20, 2019 at 11:51 am

Posted in 2019, airpods, apple

Tagged with , , , ,

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