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Communications

Facebook 'Messenger Day' Is the Chat App's New Snapchat Stories Clone (techcrunch.com) 13

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Facebook is stealing the Stories format and invading countries where Snapchat isn't popular yet. Today in Poland it launched "Messenger Day," which lets people share illustrated filter-enhanced photos and videos that disappear in 24 hours, just like on Snapchat. Much of the feature works exactly like Snapchat Stories, with the ability to draw or add text to images. Facebook's one big innovation with Messenger Day is the use of graphic filters as suggestions for what to share, instead of just to celebrate holidays and events or to show off your location like with Snapchat's geofilters. At the top of the Messenger thread list, users see a row of tiles representing "My Day" and friends' Days they can watch, but there are also prompts like "I'm Feeling," "Who's Up For?" and "I'm Doing." Tapping on these tiles provides a range of filters "I'm feeling [...] so blue" with raindrops and a bubbly blue font, "I'm feeling [...] blessed" with a glorious gold sparkly font, "Who's up for [...] road trip" with a cute car zooming past, or "Who's up for [...] Let's grab drinks" with illustrated beer mugs and bottles that cover the screen. This feature allows people to share visually appealing images even if they aren't great artists or especially creative. These prompts could also spur usage when people are bored, sparking their imagination. Messenger is already an app people use all day with close friends, so it could end up a better home for the Stories format than cramming it into Facebook's core app, which the company tested as "Quick Updates" and scrapped.
AI

Microsoft Forms New AI Research Group Led By Harry Shum (techcrunch.com) 43

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: A day after announcing a new artificial intelligence partnership with IBM, Google, Facebook and Amazon, Microsoft is upping the ante within its own walls. The tech giant announced that it is creating a new AI business unit, the Microsoft AI and Research Group, which will be led by Microsoft Research EVP Harry Shum. Shum will oversee 5,000 computer scientists, engineers and others who will all be "focused on the company's AI product efforts," the company said in an announcement. The unit will be working on all aspects of AI and how it will be applied at the company, covering agents, apps, services and infrastructure. Shum has been involved in some of Microsoft's biggest product efforts at the ground level of research, including the development of its Bing search engine, as well as in its efforts in computer vision and graphics: that is a mark of where Microsoft is placing its own priority for AI in the years to come. Important to note that Microsoft Research unit will no longer be its on discrete unit -- it will be combined with this new AI effort. Research had 1,000 people in it also working on areas like quantum computing, and that will now be rolled into the bigger research and development efforts being announced today. Products that will fall under the new unit will include Information Platform, Cortana and Bing, and Ambient Computing and Robotics teams led by David Ku, Derrick Connell and Vijay Mital, respectively. The Microsoft AI and Research Group will encompass AI product engineering, basic and applied research labs, and New Experiences and Technologies (NExT), Microsoft said.
Facebook

WhatsApp Won't Comply With India's Order To Delete User Data (engadget.com) 77

An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report: WhatsApp's decision to share user data with Facebook has provoked the ire of yet another foreign government. Last week, India's Delhi High Court ordered WhatsApp to delete any data collected from users who opted out of the company's new privacy policy before September 25th. According to Mashable, however, WhatsApp has no plan to comply with the court order and it will have "no impact on the planned policy and terms of service updates." In August, privacy groups in the US spoke out against the change, which allows WhatsApp to pass account information like mobile phone number, contacts, profile pictures and status messages to its parent company. Facebook claims that sharing information between the two will help it to improve the experience and fight abuse across both platforms, while WhatsApp defended the change by saying that all messages on the service will remain encrypted.
Facebook

Facebook at Work To Report For Duty Next Month (fortune.com) 83

The debut of the long-awaited business social network is nigh. Facebook at Work is about to report for duty. The social networking company's long-awaited foray into business applications will formally debut in London on October 10, according to tech site TechCrunch. From a report:The news site further noted this would be Facebook's first major product launch to take place outside the United States. Thus far, Facebook is seen as a fun-and-games site, not something corporate employees use to converse or track each other. But Facebook at Work, a business-minded operation, could help change that image. As has been reported, it will be a separate version of the network that can be accessed only from a company's internal IT systems, and in theory, subject to stricter corporate security and access rules. Personal accounts will be cordoned off.
AI

Facebook, Amazon, Google, IBM, and Microsoft Come Together To Create Historic Partnership On AI (techcrunch.com) 87

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: In an act of self-governance, Facebook, Amazon, Alphabet, IBM, and Microsoft came together today to announce the launch the new Partnership on AI. The group is tasked with conducting research and promoting best practices. Practically, this means that the group of tech companies will come together frequently to discuss advancements in artificial intelligence. The group also opens up a formal structure for communication across company lines. It's important to remember that on a day to day basis, these teams are in constant competition with each other to develop the best products and services powered by machine intelligence. Financial support will be coming from the initial tech companies who are members of the group, but in the future membership and involvement is expected to increase. User activists, non-profits, ethicists, and other stakeholders will be joining the discussion in the coming weeks. The organizational structure has been designed to allow non-corporate groups to have equal leadership side-by-side with large tech companies. As of today's launch, companies like Apple, Twitter, Intel and Baidu are missing from the group. Though Apple is said to be enthusiastic about the project, their absence is still notable because the company has fallen behind in artificial intelligence when compared to its rivals -- many of whom are part of this new group. The new organization really seems to be about promoting change by example. Rather than preach to the tech world, it wants to use a standard open license to publish research on topics including ethics, inclusivity, and privacy.
Facebook

Facebook's Slack Rival Is Coming Next Month and Will Charge Per Employee (businessinsider.com) 63

Facebook will be launching a business communication service dubbed Facebook at Work next month. The service will be very familiar to Slack, a popular communications app. BusinessInsider reports: The enterprise messaging platform, which is called Facebook at Work, has been in closed beta since last January. Business Insider reported in May that Facebook at Work would be made commercially available by the end of this summer or in the fall. Previous reports said Facebook planned to only charge for premium features, like integrations with third-party apps. But one company testing the service that Business Insider talked to in May said that companies would pay a per-user, per-month fee. They had been quoted a cost between $1 to $5 a user by Facebook.
Privacy

Facebook Told To Stop Taking Data From German WhatsApp Users (bloomberg.com) 38

An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg report: Facebook, already under scrutiny in the U.S. and the European Union for revisions to privacy policies for its WhatsApp messaging service, was ordered by Hamburg's privacy watchdog to stop processing data of German users of the chat service. In a renewed clash with the social-network operator, Johannes Caspar, one of Germany's most outspoken data protection commissioners, ordered Facebook to delete any data it already has. The news comes as EU privacy regulators, who previously expressed concerns about the policy shift, meet in Brussels to discuss their position. There's no legal basis for Facebook to use information of WhatsApp customers, Caspar said Tuesday. "This order protects the data of about 35 million WhatsApp users in Germany," Caspar said. "It has to be their decision as to whether they want to connect their account with Facebook. Therefore, Facebook has to ask for their permission in advance. This has not happened."
Power

Amazon Pursues More Renewable Energy, Following Google, Apple, And Facebook (fortune.com) 85

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: Amazon will open a 100-turbine, 253-megawatt wind farm in Texas by the end of next year -- generating enough energy to power almost 90,000 U.S. homes. Amazon already has wind farms in Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio (plus a solar farm in Virginia), and 40% of the power for AWS already comes from renewable sources, but Amazon's long-term plan is to raise that to 100%.

But several of the world's largest tech companies are already pursuing their own aggressive renewable energy programs, according to Fortune. Google "has said it's the largest non-utility purchaser of renewable energy in the world. Apple claims that in 2015, 93% of its energy came from renewable sources, and its data centers are already 100% run on renewables (though that claim does rely on carbon trading). Facebook, which also uses Texas wind facilities, is aiming for 50% of its data center power to come from renewables by 2018. Even slightly smaller companies like Salesforce have made big commitments to renewable energy."

Last year for the first time utilities actually bought less than half the power produced by wind farms -- because tech companies, universities, and cities had already locked it down with long-term contracts.
Social Networks

VR Devs Pull Support For Oculus Rift Until Palmer Luckey Steps Down (vice.com) 637

After it was revealed that Oculus founder Palmer Luckey backed a pro-Trump political organization called Nimble America that is dedicated to "shitposting" and spreading inflammatory memes about Hillary Clinton, several developers of the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset have announced that they will stop supporting the headset until its founder steps down. One of the biggest developers for Oculus Rift, Insomniac Games, told Motherboard, "Insomniac Games condemns all forms of hate speech. While everyone has a right to express his or her political opinion, the behavior and sentiments reported do not reflect the values of our company. We are also confident that his behavior and sentiment does not reflect the values of the many Oculus employees we work with on a daily basis." Fez and Superhypercube developer Polytron also said in a statement, "In a political climate as fragile and horrifying as this one, we cannot tacitly endorse these actions by supporting Luckey or his platform." Motherboard reports: Motherboard has reached out to several other, more well-known VR developers who work with Oculus including Fantastic Contraption makers Northway Games and Job Simulator makers Owlchemy Labs. Northway Games couldn't be reached immediately for comment but tweeted the following: "What. The. Fuck. [accompanied with a link to the news via Kotaku]" and "Definitely using every fibre of my 'professionalism' to not tweet some tweets right now." Owlchemy Labs, which is currently developing for Job Simulator for the Oculus Touch controls, declined to comment either way. E McNeill, who has developed a couple of games for Oculus Rift and GearVR, suggested that like-minded VR developers raise money for Hillary Clinton's campaign to counter the money Luckey has raised for Trump. [E McNeill tweeted: "Idle Q: Would any Oculus devs join me in a donation drive for HIllary? We could aim to beat Nimble America's $11k. I'd start with $1k myself."] "This backlash is nonsense," said James Green, co-founder of VR developer Carbon Games. "I absolutely support him doing whatever he wants politically if it's legal. To take any other position is against American values."
Facebook

Indian Students Score a Partial Win in Facebook Privacy Dispute (bloomberg.com) 47

WhatsApp announced last month that it would stop begin sharing some of users' information -- phone number, contact information of people in your address book etc -- with Facebook. Two Indian students last month expressed their concern over this, adding that WhatsApp was "severely" compromising their privacy and those of other billion plus users, and that it was reneging from its original promise. They approached Delhi High Court, and after hearing from everyone, the bench of chief justice told WhatsApp that it must delete data of users who are opt out of privacy policy changes before September 25. Bloomberg adds: The Delhi High Court on Friday ruled that WhatsApp has to delete all data on users who choose to stop using the service before Sept. 25, when the new policy takes effect. Also, it can only share data collected after that date. However, going forward, WhatsApp is free to share information on users who haven't opted out. The court also asked India's government to consider if it was feasible to craft regulations to oversee WhatsApp and other messaging apps, though it didn't specify what form they could take.
Facebook

Facebook Inflated Video Viewing Stats For Two Years (cnet.com) 49

Facebook has admitted inflating the average time people spend watching videos for two years by failing to count people who watched for less than three seconds. CNET reports: The metric was artificially inflated because it only counted videos as viewed if they had been seen for three or more seconds, not taking into account shorter views, the company revealed several weeks ago in a post on its advertiser help center web page. Facebook has been putting a greater emphasis on video in recent years, particularly live video. In March, Facebook began giving anyone with a phone and internet connection an easy way to broadcast live video to the 1.7 billion people who use its service every day.
Businesses

Jawbone Fails To Pay Key Business Partners and Has Almost No Inventory In Stock: Sources (businessinsider.com) 67

BarbaraHudson writes: The battle between Fitbit and Jawbone may be coming to an end. Business Insider is reporting that wearable fitness maker Jawbone is facing some serious financial problems as the company has almost no inventory in stock and is running out of options to generate revenue. If you click on any of the products for sale on their site, it will say that they're all sold out. Business Insider reports: "Jawbone's Facebook page is littered with complaints from customers saying they have been unable to get in touch with a customer service representative to help with defective products. The Jawbone Facebook account has been responding to these issues, blaming a backup of complaints for the delays. A Jawbone spokesperson said the complaints were because of Jawbone's customer service restructuring. Another person close to Jawbone told Business Insider that there is almost no inventory left and the company is running out of options to generate revenue. The speculation among some Jawbone employees now is that the company might sell to a private equity firm if it can't raise more money, the person close to the company said. Jawbone also declined to explain why its inventory has sold out. A spokesperson said, 'they have sold through what they have to sell.' The company said it was not because it couldn't pay vendors though. It would not provide any estimate on when products would be available for sale on its site again, but did say it planned to make more products." The report says that, according to an internal NexRep email, the company cut ties with the customer service agency NexRep earlier this month after Jawbone failed to make payments. "The email, written to NexRep employees by a NexRep executive, claims that Jawbone is 'struggling financially' and that it couldn't pay NexRep for its services," reports Business Insider. "It also says Jawbone is 'fighting hard' to raise more funding. 'Jawbone is not able to pay us for past services, and their ability to pay us in the future is uncertain at this point,' the NexRep email reads." This resulted in "many staffers being laid off."
Republicans

Oculus Founder Palmer Luckey Is Secretly Funding Trump's Meme Machine (thedailybeast.com) 860

The founder of Oculus, Palmer Luckey, has backed a pro-Trump political organization called Nimble America that is dedicated to "shitposting" and spreading inflammatory memes about Hillary Clinton. In 2014, Luckey's virtual-reality company, Oculus, was acquired by Facebook for $2 billion. Forbes estimates his current net worth to be $700 million. The Daily Beast reports: "The 24-year-old told The Daily Beast that he had used the pseudonym "NimbleRichMan" on Reddit with a password given to him by the organization's founders. Nimble America says it's dedicated to providing that "shitposting is powerful and meme magic is real," according to the company's introductory statement, and has taken credit for a billboard its founders say was posted outside of Pittsburgh with a cartoonishly large image of Clinton's face alongside the words "Too Big to Jail." "We conquered Reddit and drive narrative on social media, conquered the [mainstream media], now it's time to get our most delicious memes in front of Americans whether they like it or not," a representative for the group wrote in an introductory post on Reddit. Potential donors from Donald Trump's biggest online community -- Reddit's r/The_Donald, where one of the rules is "no dissenters" -- turned on the organization this weekend, refusing to believe "NimbleRichMan" was the anonymous "near-billionaire" he claimed to be and causing a rift on one of the alt-right's most powerful organizational tools. Luckey insists he's just the group's money man -- a wealthy booster who thought the meddlesome idea was funny. But he is also listed as the vice-president of the group on its website. In another post written under Luckey's Reddit pseudonym, Luckey echoes Peter Thiel, the tech billionaire who used his wealth to secretly bankroll Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker. The Daily Beast adds: "'The American Revolution was funded by wealthy individuals," NimbleRichMan wrote on Saturday. Luckey confirmed to The Daily Beast he penned the posts under his Reddit pseudonym. 'The same has been true of many movements for freedom in history. You can't fight the American elite without serious firepower. They will outspend you and destroy you by any and all means.'"
The Internet

Blizzard Is Getting Rid of the Battle.net Name (theverge.com) 31

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The Battle.net name is no more. Today Blizzard announced that it's moving away from using the Battle.net moniker when referring to its online services. "Battle.net technology will continue to serve as the central nervous system for Blizzard games -- nothing is changing in that regard," the company wrote in a forum post. "We'll just be referring to it as Blizzard tech instead." Battle.net originally debuted way back in 1996 alongside the original Diablo, and since then has been used to power iconic games like Starcraft, World of Warcraft, and more recent titles like Hearthstone and Overwatch. According to the company, as online multiplayer has become an expected part of its games -- and as Blizzard expanded to new platforms like Facebook Live -- the name was no longer needed. "When we created Battle.net, the idea of including a tailored online-gaming service together with your game was more of a novel concept, so we put a lot of focus on explaining what the service was and how it worked, including giving it a distinct name," the company explained. "Over time, though, we've seen that there's been occasional confusion and inefficiencies related to having two separate identities under which everything falls -- Blizzard and Battle.net."
Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan Announce $3 Billion Initiative To 'Cure All Diseases' (venturebeat.com) 161

Yesterday, researchers on behalf of Microsoft said they will "solve" cancer within the next 10 years by treating it like a computer virus that invades and corrupts the body's cells. Today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced a $3 billion initiative to "cure all diseases." VentureBeat reports: The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a company created by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan to "unlock human potential and promote equality," today announced "Chan Zuckerberg Science," a $3 billion project that aims to cure, prevent, or manage "all diseases in our children's lifetime." "That doesn't mean that no one will ever get sick," Mark Zuckerberg later said. But the program hopes to eventually make all diseases treatable -- or at least easily manageable -- by the end of the 21st century. "Our society spends 50x more treating people who are sick than on finding cures. We can do better than that," said Zuckerberg. A press release from the Initiative says Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan will provide "at least $3 billion over the next decade to help jumpstart this work." "The plan," as Zuckerberg called it, is to "bring scientists and engineers together, build tools and technology, [and] grow the movement to fund science." That plan includes a program called Biohub, a partnership between Stanford University, Berkeley, and UCSF that "will focus on understanding underlying mechanisms of disease and developing new technologies which will lead to actionable diagnostics and effective therapies." You can watch the full Chan Zuckerberg Science presentation here.
Oracle

Will Oracle Surrender NetBeans to Apache? (infoworld.com) 69

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes InfoWorld: Venerable open source Java IDE NetBeans would move from Oracle's jurisdiction to the Apache Software Foundation under a proposal... endorsed by Java founder James Gosling, a longtime fan of the IDE. Moving NetBeans to a neutral venue like Apache, with its strong governance model, would help the project attract more contributions from various organizations, according to the proposal posted in the Apache wiki.

"Large companies are using NetBeans as an application framework to build internal or commercial applications and are much more likely to contribute to it once it moves to neutral Apache ground," the proposal says. While Oracle will relinquish its control over NetBeans under the proposal, individual contributors from Oracle are expected to continue contributing to the project.

On Facebook, Gosling posted the proposal meant "folks like me can more easily contribute to our favorite IDE. The finest IDE in existence will be getting even better, faster!" InfoWorld reports that when aked if Oracle had neglected NetBeans, Gosling said, "Oracle didn't single out NetBeans for neglect, they neglect everything... I'm thrilled that the NetBeans community will now be able to chart its own course."
Education

Laurene Jobs Awards $10M To Pet Charter School Network of Zuckerberg, Gates 51

theodp writes: The XQ Institute -- a nonprofit backed by Laurene Powell Jobs (Steve's widow) -- announced the winners of its $100 million competition (Warning: may be paywalled) to rethink the American high school this week. Among the 10 lucky schools winning a $10M grant was Summit Elevate ("a new high school planning to open in Fall 2018"), part of the Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg-supported Summit Charter Schools network (HP CEO Meg Whitman is on Summit's Board). In announcing the grant, XQ praised Basecamp, Summit's personalized learning software platform that was developed by Facebook engineers, which Bill Gates has spent $1+ million on to get schools to adopt it (the NY Times characterized the Facebook-Summit partnership as "more of a ground-up effort to create a national demand for student-driven learning in schools"). U.S. education, it seems, is becoming The Game of Billionaires -- at last May's NewSchools Venture Summit, former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (now working for Jobs) was interviewed by former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education and Gates Foundation Program Director Jim Shelton (now working for Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan).
Facebook

Web Security CEO Warns About Control Of Internet Falling Into Few Hands (cnbc.com) 87

The idea behind the internet was to make a massive, decentralized system that wasn't under control of anyone, but that is increasingly changing, according to Matthew Prince, CEO of web security company CloudFlare. His statements come at a time when Google and Facebook and other companies are increasingly building new products and services and locking in users to their respective walled gardens. From a CNBC report: "More and more of the internet is sitting behind fewer and fewer players, and there are benefits of that, but there are also real risks," said Matthew Prince, chief executive officer of web security company CloudFlare, in an interview with CNBC. His comments came at CloudFlare's Internet Summit -- a conference featuring tech executives and government security experts -- on Tuesday in San Francisco. "If everything sits behind Facebook and you can't publish pictures like that, is the world a better place? Probably not," said Prince. "Before you know it, you could wake up and find more of the internet sits behind a small number of gate-keepers," said Prince. Putting that sort of power in the hands of a small number of people and companies "might not be the best thing," he said. Still, the wave of consolidation among the major internet companies is likely to continue, at least for now, he said.
Privacy

Right To Be Forgotten? Web Privacy Debate in Italy After Women's Suicide (ndtv.com) 424

The suicide of a woman who battled for months to have a video of her having sex removed from the internet is fuelling debate in Italy on the "right to be forgotten" online. The 31-year-old, identified as Tiziana, was found hanged at her aunt's home in Mugnano, close to Naples in the country's south on Tuesday, reports Agence France-Presse. From the report: Her death came a year after she sent a video of herself having sex to some friends, including her ex-boyfriend, to make him jealous. The video and her name soon found their way to the web and went viral, fuelling mockery of the woman online. The footage has been viewed by almost a million internet users. In a bid to escape the humiliation, Tiziana quit her job, moved to Tuscany and tried to change her name, but her nightmare went on. The words "You're filming? Bravo," spoken by the woman to her lover in the video, have become a derisive joke online, and the phrase has been printed on T-shirts, smartphone cases and other items. After a long court battle, Tiziana recently won a "right to be forgotten" ruling ordering the video to be removed from various sites and search engines, including Facebook.
Microsoft

Microsoft Has More Open Source Contributors On GitHub Than Facebook and Google (thenextweb.com) 118

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Next Web: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has really embraced open source over the past couple of years. GitHub, a site that is home to a number of the web's biggest collaborative code projects, has counted more than 5.8 million active users on its platform over the past 12 months, and says that Microsoft has the most open source contributors. Microsoft has 16,419 contributors, beating out Facebook's 15,682 contributors, Docker's 14,059 contributors, and Google's 12,140 contributors. The Next Web reports: "Of course, this didn't happen overnight. In October 2014, it open sourced its .NET framework, which is the company's programming infrastructure for building and running apps and services -- a major move towards introducing more developers to its server-side stack. Since then, it's open sourced its Chakra JavaScript engine, Visual Studio's MSBuild compiling engine, the Computational Networks Toolkit for deep learning applications, its Xamarin tool for building cross-platform apps and most recently, PowerShell. It's also worth noting that the company's Visual Studio Code text editor made GitHub's list of repositories with the most contributors. You can check out these lists, as well as other data from GitHub's platform on this page." GitHub CEO Chris Wanstrath said in an interview with Fortune, "The big .Net project has more people outside of Microsoft contributing to it than people who work at Microsoft."

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