The Internet

CompuServe's Forums Are Closing On December 15 (fastcompany.com) 142

harrymcc writes: In the era before the web, the forums on CompuServe were indispensable for everything from getting tech questions answered to chatting about movies. They still exist, albeit in diminished form. But Oath, which owns AOL, which owns what's left of CompuServe, is about to finally shut them down. I wrote about the sad news for Fast Company.
Businesses

Does Online Crowdfunding Actually Reward Innovation? (strategy-business.com) 93

Slashdot reader Anirban Mukherjee is an assistant marketing professor at Singapore Management University who led a team analyzing every Kickstarter project ever launched in nine product-oriented categories. An anonymous reader summarizes their results: One 2013 report predicted $96 billion a year in crowdfunding by 2038 -- nearly twice as much as what's currently funded by venture capitalists. (In a foreword, AOL co-founder Steve Case touts the potential of crowdfunding for "the rise of the rest.") "Many have predicted that online crowdfunding will democratize product development," writes business journalist Matt Palmquist, "allowing small entrepreneurs who lack the contacts, resources, and experience of larger companies to overcome economic, geographic, and social barriers on their way to market." But a large-scale analysis discovered that the biggest barrier may be consumers themselves. "The study's authors found that the amount of money pledged increased when the product description emphasized either originality or utility -- but dropped when both attributes were mentioned. The findings suggest that the crowd does not yet prize true innovation."

"The authors posit that the high degree of ambiguity surrounding crowdfunding might scare consumers away from supporting groundbreaking projects. In the typical shopping context, they point out, consumer regulations protect the buyer. But in crowdfunding, consumers may never receive the product... Another study found that more than 75 percent of successfully funded Kickstarter projects are significantly delayed... 'We speculate that the higher level of uncertainty in the crowdfunding context drives backers to choose modest innovations and shy away from more extreme innovations, i.e., innovations that are high on both novelty and usefulness,' the authors write."

After reviewing 50,310 projects, the team concluded that crowdfunding "may not be the panacea for innovation."
America Online

Regulate Facebook Like AIM (vice.com) 105

New submitter gooddogsgotoheaven shares a report from Motherboard arguing why the U.S. government should regulate Facebook like AIM: Sixteen years ago, the FCC approved a merger between American Online and Time Warner, but with several conditions. As part of the deal, AOL was required to make its web portal compatible with other chat apps. The government stopped AOL from building a closed system where everyone had to use AIM, meaning it had to adopt interoperability -- the ability to be compatible with other computer systems. The FCC required AOL to be compatible with at least one instant messaging rival immediately after the merger went through. Within six months, the FCC required AOL to make its portal compatible with at least two other rivals, or face penalties. The FCC's decision changed how we communicate with each other on the internet. By forcing AIM to make room for competition, a range of messaging apps and services, as well as social networks emerged. Instead of being limited to AIM, people who used AOL's portal could choose other platforms.

If Facebook were forced to make room for other services on its platform in the same way AOL made room for other chat apps, new services could emerge. "Facebook has to allow people to access their relationships however they want through other businesses or tools that are not controlled by Facebook," Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Open Markets Institute, said. "Having them control and mediate the structure of those relationships -- that's not right." Of course, people can opt out of Facebook and choose to use other, smaller social networks. But those businesses are essentially unable to thrive because of the hold Facebook has on how we communicate online. All our friends and family are already on Facebook, and because the platform is not regulated to allow competition, it's incredibly difficult for other, newer ones to emerge.

America Online

RIP AIM: AOL Instant Messenger Dies in December (usatoday.com) 117

It's the end of an era: as of December 15, AOL's Instant Messenger will no longer exist. From a report: In a statement from Oath, the new entity formed under Verizon combining AOL with the recently-acquired Yahoo, the service will be discontinued. "AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed," said Michael Albers, VP of Communications Product at Oath. AIM was a staple of personal computers since first launching in 1997, serving as a precursor to popular apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. However, AIM couldn't make the seamless transition to mobile, where most users rely on instant messaging services. Users will be able to manually download any images or files on AIM before the service shuts down. However, users won't be able to export or save their Buddy List, the group of contacts available on AIM.
Yahoo!

Yahoo Triples Estimate of Breached Accounts To 3 Billion (engadget.com) 41

An anonymous reader shares a report from The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): A massive data breach at Yahoo in 2013 was far more extensive than previously disclosed, affecting all of its 3 billion user accounts, new parent company Verizon Communications Inc. said on Tuesday. The figure, which Verizon said was based on new information, is three times the 1 billion accounts Yahoo said were affected when it first disclosed the breach in December 2016. The new disclosure, four months after Verizon completed its acquisition of Yahoo, shows that executives are still coming to grips with the extent of the security problem in what was already the largest hacking incident in history by number of users.

A spokesman for Oath, the new name of Verizon's Yahoo unit, said the company determined last week that the break-in was much worse than thought, after it received new information from outside the company. He declined to elaborate on the source of that information. Compromised customer information included usernames, passwords, and in some cases telephone numbers and dates of birth, the spokesman said.

Verizon

Verizon Up Offers Rewards in Exchange For Customers' Personal Information (wsj.com) 74

An anonymous reader shares a report: A new Verizon rewards program, Verizon Up, provides credits that wireless subscribers can use for concert tickets, movie premieres and phone upgrades. But it comes with a catch: Customers must give the carrier access to their web-browsing history, app usage and location data, which Verizon says it uses to personalize the rewards and deliver targeted advertising as its customers browse the web. The trade-off is part of Verizon's effort to build a digital advertising business to compete with web giants Facebook and Google, which often already possess much of the same customer information. Even though Congress earlier this year dismantled tough privacy regulations on telecommunications providers, Verizon still wants customers to opt-in to its most comprehensive advertising program, called Verizon Selects. Data collected under the program is shared with Oath, the digital-media unit Verizon created when it bought AOL and Yahoo. Since access to data from customers could make it easier to tailor ads to their liking, Verizon hopes the information will help it gain advertising revenue to offset sluggish growth in its cellular business.See a current list of Verizon plans here.
Music

What Happened To Winamp? (arstechnica.com) 332

Winamp was released more than 20 years ago, and last week marked the 15th anniversary of the release of Winamp3. An anonymous Slashdot reader tries to explain what finally happened to Winamp: AOL planned to discontinue Winamp in November of 2013, but instead sold it to the Belgian online radio service Radionomy. The last update on Winamp's Twitter account was September of 2015, though it announced that they were looking for a new senior C++ developer. Then in December of 2015 Vivendi Group became that company's majority shareholder, stirring hopes that the company might one day launch a revamped version of the classic mp3 player from 1997.

So did they? Radionomy's Winamp page is still showing download links -- though they now lead instead to a forum post which says "code licensed to the previous owner" is being removed or replaced. But that post has been updated five times -- as recently as last October -- with "info about the next Winamp release," each linking to a thread on Winamp's forums which offer tantalizing glimpses into a still-ongoing development process. And last October a Winamp dev posted on Twitter that "a Winamp 5.8 public beta release could be imminent," while the web page at Winamp.com still says "There's more coming soon," with a background image of a llama.

"There's no reason that Winamp couldn't be in the position that iTunes is in today if not for a few layers of mismanagement by AOL that started immediately upon acquisition," their first general manager told Ars Technica in 2012. (Winamp's developers had been earning $100,000 a month just from $10 shareware checks before AOL acquired the company in 1999 for $100 million.) In May TechRadar wrote that Winamp "is still a great media player...but it now relies on third-party extensions to add features found as standard in more modern players."

I still remember all the visualizations and custom skins -- but does this bring back any memories for anyone else? Leave your thoughts in the comments. And what mp3-playing software are you using today?
Google

Bing is 'Bigger Than You Think', Says Microsoft (onmsft.com) 220

Microsoft said this week that Bing is "bigger than you think" and provided some numbers that could be a surprise to many. The company claims that fully one-third of searches in the US are powered by Bing, either directly or through Yahoo or AOL (both of which provide results generated by Microsoft). From a report: With 9% market share worldwide and 12 billion monthly searches, almost half of that (5 billion) comes from the United States where Bing has 33% market share.
Google

Brits Look at Google and Facebook Every 210 Seconds, Says Survey (theregister.co.uk) 26

Ad companies Facebook and Google slurp one in every three and a half minutes that Britons spend online, according to a survey. From a report: This, says audience metrics company Verto Analytics, accounts for 17 per cent of British adults' time online, the equivalent of 42.7 million days a month across Google, YouTube and Gmail. Similarly, Facebook-owned sites, including the ad-driven data-mining website itself, Instagram and WhatsApp, account for 11 per cent of time online, or a relatively paltry 28.4 million days. "Google and Facebook's share of internet time and ad revenue is staggering considering the hundreds of thousands of websites that exist," said Hannu Verkasalo, CEO of Verto Analytics, in a canned statement. The Verto survey also found that of the top 10 websites used in the UK, the sole British one was the BBC. Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, "Oath" (the new name for the merged Yahoo-AOL beastie), eBay and Twitter were the others, along with Activision Blizzard.
Verizon

Verizon's New Rewards Program Lets It Track Your Browsing History (theverge.com) 84

The new "Verizon Up" rewards program released this week by Big Red awards users a credit for every $300 they spend on their Verizon bill that can be redeemed toward various rewards. The only catch is that Verizon requires you to enroll in Verizon Selects, a program that allows the company to track a huge chunk of your personal data. The Verge reports: That includes web browsing, app usage, device location, service usage, demographic info, postal or email address, and your interests. Furthermore, that data gets shared with Verizon's newly formed Oath combination (aka AOL and Yahoo), plus with "vendors and partners" who work with Verizon. Which is kind of a long list of people who have access to what feels like a fairly significant amount of your data. It's worth noting that Verizon has been operating under these terms and conditions for a while with an earlier rewards program called "Smart Rewards," which also required users to opt in to the Verizon Selects tracking program. But that doesn't make it any better that this is the trade-off you're forced to make to take advantage of the rewards.
The Internet

Verizon Is Killing Tumblr's Fight For Net Neutrality (theverge.com) 75

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: In 2014, Tumblr was on the front lines of the battle for net neutrality. The company stood alongside Amazon, Kickstarter, Etsy, Vimeo, Reddit, and Netflix during Battle for the Net's day of action. Tumblr CEO David Karp was also part of a group of New York tech CEOs that met with then-FCC chairman Tom Wheeler in Brooklyn that summer, while the FCC was fielding public comment on new Title II rules. President Obama invited Karp to the White House to discuss various issues around public education, and in February 2015 The Wall Street Journal reported that it was the influence of Karp and a small group of liberal tech CEOs that swayed Obama toward a philosophy of internet as public utility. But three years later, as the battle for net neutrality heats up once again, Tumblr has been uncharacteristically silent. The last mention of net neutrality on Tumblr's staff blog -- which frequently posts about political issues from civil rights to climate change to gun control to student loan debt -- was in June 2016. And Tumblr is not listed as a participating tech company for Battle for the Net's next day of action, coming up in three weeks. One reason for Karp and Tumblr's silence? Last week Verizon completed its acquisition of Tumblr parent company Yahoo, kicking off the subsequent merger of Yahoo and AOL to create a new company called Oath. As one of the world's largest ISPs, Verizon is notorious for challenging the principles of net neutrality -- it sued the FCC in an effort to overturn net neutrality rules in 2011, and its general counsel Kathy Grillo published a note this April complimenting new FCC chairman Ajit Pai's plan to weaken telecommunication regulations.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo's Ex-CEO, Says She's Looking 'Forward To Using Gmail Again' 187

Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who resigned on Tuesday after running the company for about five years, appeared at a conference in London today. At the conference, Mayer said one of the things she was looking forward to in her post-Yahoo life was using Gmail again. "I am always faster when using a tool I designed myself," she added.
Businesses

Verizon Closes $4.5B Acquisition of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer Resigns (techcrunch.com) 126

An anonymous reader shares a TechCrunch article: After Yahoo shareholder approval last week, Verizon today announced that it has finally closed its acquisition of Yahoo, which it plans to combine with its AOL assets into a subsidiary called Oath, covering some 50 media brands and 1 billion people globally. It will be led by Tim Armstrong, who was the CEO of AOL before this. As expected, Marissa Mayer, who had been the CEO of Yahoo, has resigned. "Given the inherent changes to Marissa Mayer's role with Yahoo resulting from the closing of the transaction, Mayer has chosen to resign from Yahoo. Verizon wishes Mayer well in her future endeavors," Verizon said in a statement. You can find Marissa in her own words here on Tumblr. It's a long list of the achievements made with her at the helm these last five years, and -- alas -- you will only read of the struggles that Yahoo went through between the lines. The deal, nevertheless, brings to a close the independent life of one of the oldest and most iconic internet brands, arguably the one that led and set the pace for search -- the cornerstone of doing business on the spaghetti-like internet -- at least until Google came along and surpassed Yahoo many times over, and led the company into a number of disastrous and costly attempts to redefine itself, ultimately culminating in the sale we have here today.
Verizon

Verizon Expected To Cut Up To 1,000 Yahoo, AOL Jobs After Acquisition (recode.net) 36

Verizon's acquisition and merger of AOL and Yahoo will result in many job cuts. According to Recode, up to 1,000 AOL and Yahoo jobs are expected to take place across the two companies as the merger is completed. From the report: This action is not unexpected, given that both companies have a lot of redundancies, including in human resources, finance, marketing and general administration. The merger between the two companies -- after Verizon bought both in succession to add tech and content to its mobile services -- is expected to be completed in the next week. The shareholder meeting to approve the deal takes place tomorrow. Plans to combine both companies have been in the works for a while, as the pair attempt to make a cohesive unit out of two entities that have multiple assets and also multiple problems. It will be headed by AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, who will become the CEO of Oath, the new name for the Verizon subsidiary.
Bug

Google Chrome Bug Lets Sites Record Audio and Video Without a Visual Indicator (bleepingcomputer.com) 36

New submitter aafrn writes: "Ran Bar-Zik, a web developer at AOL, has discovered and reported a bug in Google Chrome that allows websites to record audio and video without showing a visual indicator," reports BleepingComputer. "The bug is not as bad as it sounds, as the malicious website still needs to get the user's permission to access audio and video components, but there are various ways in which this issue could be weaponized to record audio or video without the user's knowledge. The bug's central element is a 'red circle and dot' icon that Chrome usually shows when recording audio or video streams." Bar-Zik discovered that if the JavaScript code that does the actual audio and video recording is launched inside a small popup, the icon is not shown anymore. This opens the door for various types of scenarios, where an attacker that has tricked a user into granting him permission to record audio and video records user data but when the user doesn't expect this (no visual indicator). For example, an attacker could disguise audio/video recording code inside popup ads. If the user doesn't close the popup, the popup continues to stream audio and video from the victim's house. Google declined to consider this a security bug.
Privacy

'World's Most Secure' Email Service Is Easily Hackable (vice.com) 77

Nomx, a startup that offers an email client by the same name, bills itself as the maker of the "world's most secure email service." The startup goes on to suggest that "everything else is insecure." So it was only a matter of time before someone decided to spend some time on assessing how valid Nomx's claims are. Very misleading, it turns out. From a report on Motherboard: Nomx sells a $199 device that essentially helps you set up your own email server in an attempt to keep your emails away from mail exchange (or MX) -- hence the brand name -- servers, which the company claims to be inherently "vulnerable." Security researcher Scott Helme took apart the device and tried to figure out how it really works. According to his detailed blog post, what he found is that the box is actually just a Raspberry Pi with outdated software on it, and several bugs. So many, in fact, that Helme wrote Nomx's "code is riddled with bad examples of how to do things." The worst issue, Helme explained, is that the Nomx's web application had a vulnerability that allowed anyone to take full control of the device remotely just by tricking someone to visit a malicious website. "I could read emails, send emails, and delete emails. I could even create my own email address," Helme told Motherboard in an online chat. A report on BBC adds: Nomx said the threat posed by the attack detailed by Mr Helme was "non-existent for our users." Following weeks of correspondence with Mr Helme and the BBC Click Team, he said the firm no longer shipped versions that used the Raspberry Pi. Instead, he said, future devices would be built around different chips that would also be able to encrypt messages as they travelled. "The large cloud providers and email providers, like AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail - they've already been proven that they are under attack millions of times daily," he said. "Why we invented Nomx was for the security of keeping your data off those large cloud providers. To date, no Nomx accounts have been compromised."
Businesses

Steve Case On How To Get Funded Outside Tech Corridors (hpe.com) 35

Long-time reader Esther Schindler writes: Innovation occurs outside the Bay Area, New York, Boston, and Austin. So why is it so hard for a startup to get attention and acquire venture capital? Steve Case and Kara Swisher discussed this never-ending-topic recently, such as the fact 78% of U.S. venture capital last year went to just three states: California, New York, and Massachusetts. Case sees a "third wave" of venture capital funding and through his VC firm is investing in startups based outside major tech centers.

But, points out Stealthmode's Francine Hardaway, if you're in Boise or Baltimore you don't have to wait for Case to come to town. She shares advice about what's worked in other startup communities, focusing on the #YesPhx efforts.

Conventional wisdom says you should be in a major tech center to get funding, but the article offers an encouraging counterargument. "Never rely on conventional wisdom if you're an innovator. Money follows real innovation."
America Online

Verizon.net 'Gets Out Of The Email Business' (networkworld.com) 73

"We have decided to close down our email business," Verizon has announced -- in a move which affects 4.5 million accounts. Slashdot reader tomservo84 writes: Strangely enough, I didn't find out about this from Verizon, itself, but SiriusXM, who sent me an email saying that since I have a Verizon.net email address on file, I'd have to update it because they were getting rid of their email service. I thought it was a bad phishing attempt at first...
Network World reports that customers are being notified "on a rolling basis... Once customers are notified, they are presented with a personal take-action date that is 30 days from the original notification." But even after that date, verizon.net email addresses can be revived using AOL Mail. "Over the years we've realized that there are more capable email platforms out there," Verizon concedes.

"Migration is going well," a Verizon spokesperson told Network World. "I don't have any stats to share, but customers seem to appreciate that they have several choices, including an option that keeps their Verizon.net email address intact."
Facebook

Facebook To Use Photo-Matching To Block Repeat 'Revenge Porn' (aol.com) 70

An anonymous reader quotes a report from AOL: Facebook is adding tools to make it easier for users to report so-called "revenge porn" and to automatically prevent the images from being shared again once they have been banned, the company said. "Revenge porn" refers to the sharing of sexually explicit images on the internet, without the consent of the people depicted in the pictures, in order to extort or humiliate them. The practice disproportionately affects women, who are sometimes targeted by former partners. Beginning on Wednesday, users of the world's largest social network should see an option to report a picture as inappropriate specifically because it is a "nude photo of me," Facebook said in a statement. The company also said it was launching an automated process to prevent the repeat sharing of banned images. Photo-matching software will keep the pictures off the core Facebook network as well as off its Instagram and Messenger services, it said.
Verizon

Verizon Is Rebranding Yahoo, AOL As 'Oath' (engadget.com) 106

Nathan Ingraham reports via Engadget: Somewhere along the way, Verizon's planned purchase of Yahoo got real complicated. Thanks to security breaches of gargantuan proportions, Yahoo has lost a ton of value -- and the company was struggling even when Verizon announced its intentions to buy the former internet juggernaut. Part of the value lost is in the Yahoo brand, which Verizon apparently considers toxic at this point. To that end, Verizon is changing the name of the combined Yahoo and AOL company. Business Insider first reported that "Oath" will be the new name of the company (which would be the parent company of Engadget). Minutes after we published this story, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong confirmed the change in a tweet. Engadget also makes note of a Recode report, which indicates that current Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer will not continue with the new company.

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