On Feb. 26, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on net neutrality rules proposed by Chairman Tom Wheeler. The proposal would reclassify broadband Internet access service as a telecommunications rather than information service under Title II of the Communications Act, a move that President Obama supports. Most technology companies praise the FCC plan, which would give the commission greater legal power to regulate Internet service providers and enforce an open Internet for consumers, while ISPs predictably oppose the change. Congress is pressuring the chairman to release the proposal for public review.
President Obama’s 2016 budget proposal includes $14 billion for cybersecurity to better protect networks (public and private) from hacking threats.
The White House’s Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection met at Stanford University on Feb. 13. Speakers included President Obama as well as Apple CEO Tim Cook. Originally broadcast live, the entire event can be viewed on YouTube.
A study by digital security firm Gemalto says that data breaches, particularly caused by identity theft, increased 49 percent from 2013 to 2014, with almost 1 billion data records compromised in 1,500 attacks in 2014.
A report by Alcatel-Lucent found that malware in mobile devices increased by 25 percent in 2014, up from a 20 percent increase in 2013, meaning that approximately 16 million devices worldwide have been infected by malicious software.
Microsoft unveiled its next-generation Windows 10, an operating system that will enable "universal apps" that work across platforms including PCs, phones, tablets and Xbox. A free upgrade will be available for Windows 7 and 8.1 users within the first year of launch, and the switch to a software-as-a-service model will provide future updates for free through the cloud.
Microsoft also showed off the revolutionary
Wanting to eliminate hoaxes and untrue information from its news feed, Facebook will enable users to report a post as a "false news story." Stories flagged as false will have reduced distribution.
Startup video channel Vessel promises 20 times more revenue for video posters. Run by Jason Kilar (former head of Hulu), Vessel charges viewers $2.99/month to subscribe and shows videos three days before they appear elsewhere.
YouTube is cracking down on sponsorships and product placements that do not give YouTube a cut of the revenue. A simple text disclaimer is allowed, but YouTube no longer permits overlays of sponsor logos or product branding on videos unless the sponsoring company has a "full Google media buyout."
Snapchat is seeking $500 million in funding based on a valuation of $16 to $19 billion. If obtained, the valuation would make the social app the third highest valued venture capital-backed startup in the world.
In other Snapchat news, the service is testing a new local Our Story feature that enables only people in the local vicinity of a story to see it.
Google’s share of the U.S. search market dropped by 1.6 percent in December as a direct result of Firefox’s switch to Yahoo as its default search engine. Simultaneously, Yahoo’s search share increased from 10.2 percent to 11.8 percent, according to comScore data.
AdWords advertisers that use tracking parameters in URLs got welcome news when Google announced "upgraded URLs" that can split the landing page portion of the URL from the tracking information, so advertisers can update their ads without stopping and resubmitting them.
Google AdWords updates are now documented on one page, similar to release notes, for advertisers’ reference.
Google announced the next four urban areas where its super-fast Internet service, Google Fiber, will be offered: Atlanta, Georgia; Nashville, Tennesee; and Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte, North Carolina. Meanwhile, other carriers are responding to the competitive pressure in Kansas City, where Google Fiber already operates. Dominant provider Time Warner has already tripled its speed at no extra charge to customers, and AT&T announced plans to offer its Gigapower service at a matching price and speed to Google’s.
Googlebot can now support crawling of locale-adaptive pages, web pages that change the content depending on the user’s country or language settings.
Google stepped into the role of content creator this month by adding health information to its Knowledge Graph. The fact-checked content, which includes symptoms, treatments, and facts about the illness or condition that have been reviewed and approved by medical professionals, now appears at the front of search results
Russia’s competition watchdog opened a case against Google Inc. to determine whether it has violated anti-monopoly laws in Russia. Yandex (Russia’s largest search engine) had filed a complaint that Google was restricting competition on its Android smartphone platform.
Twitter CEO Dick Costelo confirmed that Twitter and Google have a deal to reconnect the "firehose" delivering tweets directly to Google for search results, which would extend the platform’s reach beyond logged in users. Costelo said it may take months to launch.
Twitter launched two new features: group direct messages and a mobile video camera that lets mobile users capture and edit video to share in tweets. Twitter also announced plans to start syndicating promoted tweets on other platforms, which could signal the beginning of a Twitter ad network and a new revenue stream for the company.
Twitter also announced TweetDeck teams, which allows multiple users to manage a Twitter business account using their own TweetDeck logins.
Twitter’s fourth-quarter financials revealed the lowest growth rate of monthly active users ever (1.4 percent). Twitter said that though 8 million MAUs were added, 4 million users were lost due to a problem in Apple iOS 8. Concern for the growth rate overshadowed the company’s stellar quarterly earnings of $479M, its highest ever.
Twitter is putting its Crashlytics analytics information into a standalone Answers dashboard, so that non-developer staff can see how their Twitter feed and their user base are doing.
Many technology companies’ financials for the last quarter of 2014 soared. Facebook’s fourth quarter financial reports showed an "insane" $3.6 billion in total advertising revenue, with mobile ads accounting for 69 percent. Facebook’s total revenue for 2014 was $12.5 billion. Similarly, LinkedIn posted Q4 revenue of $643 million, up 44% from fourth quarter of 2013, largely fueled by content-marketing "sponsored updates" income. In other news, Google’s Q4 earnings drew a mixed reaction: the quarter’s $18.1 billion revenue was the highest on record and 18 percent above the previous quarter, though it missed projections by 2 percent and CPC (cost per click) revenue was down. Meanwhile, Amazon’s earnings per share of $0.45 more than doubled predictions, and sales were up 20 percent in 2014 compared to the previous year.
Facebook has announced a new hyperlocal feature called Place Tips, which puts information at the top of a user’s feed about a particular place they are at, such as a museum, restaurant or landmark. Initially, the feature is rolling out in the New York area to iPhone users.
Facebook now lets you specify a legacy contact who can manage your profile after you die.
Now advertisers can take out Product Ads on Facebook. Ads can show single or multiple products, and targeting can be by interest, user location, or behavior. System can automatically stop showing ads when product is out of stock.
Yahoo’s search market share increased for the second month in a row since Firefox’s decision to replace Google with Yahoo as the browser’s default search engine. Yahoo went from 8.6 percent of U.S. searches in Nov. 2014 to 10.9 percent in Jan. 2015, according to StatCounter data. Correspondingly, Google’s U.S. search share fell during the same period from 77.3 percent of U.S. search share in Nov. to 74.8 percent in Jan.
Yahoo showed its commitment to mobile at its first-ever mobile developer conference by announcing a new Yahoo Mobile Developers Suite that combines analytics, search and advertising components.
Uber has reportedly opened a robotics factory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to develop its own driverless taxis. The location facilitated hiring 50 top scientists from nearby Carnegie Mellon University, and also permits some secrecy away from tech rivals in Silicon Valley. The plan puts the company in direct competition with one of its biggest investors, Google, and may cause Uber to eject Google executive David Drummond from its board of directors.
Google rolled out a new layout for news-related search results in its mobile app. A carousel feature can display within the vertical list of results that groups together all subject-related content (articles and videos) from a selected news website. Google says it is still making additional news sites available.
Pinterest is readying a ’Buy’ button powered by Stripe that will enable people to process payments and make purchases on the site. Rollout is expected sometime this year.
Lenovo was caught preloading Superfish software in new computers. Besides causing third-party ads to be injected in Google search results in the Internet Explorer and Chrome browsers, Superfish may also have installed its own secure certificate that could decrypt secure requests and eavesdrop on users’ secure connections. Lenovo has discontinued preloading Superfish, and the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security urges consumers to remove the software.
A new comScore study claims
that over half (57 percent) of Latin American smartphone owners are on Twitter. That’s a high percentage compared to overall 23 percent of U.S. adults online who are on Twitter.
The just-launched LinkedIn Lead Accelerator expands the company’s Marketing Solutions platform to let businesses segment their audience and deliver ads and content to various groups across the web, purportedly moving customers through the entire sales cycle.