Brief Facebook outage prompts complaints on Twitter

 

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WASHINGTON: A brief Facebook outage on Friday prompted a flurry of complaints and comments on Twitter less than two months after a similar incident affected users worldwide.

 

According to the website downdetector.com, the disruption began around 1600 GMT and appeared to last less than an hour.

 

“Earlier this morning, some people had trouble accessing Facebook for a short time,” the California-based Internet titan said in reply to an AFP inquiry.

 

“We quickly investigated and are currently restoring service for everyone. We’re sorry for the inconvenience.”

 

Facebook has yet to pinpoint a cause, but the trouble appeared to be a technical issue.

 

During the outage, thousands of users complained they could not access the world’s biggest social network.

 

Similar to the brief June service interruption, Facebook users took to Twitter to vent or post comments, many using the hashtag #facebookdown.

 

“Facebook is Down?! Oh God! Now How the Hell Am I Going to Find Out How My Friends Feel About Facebook Being Down?!” one user tweeted.

 

Another wrote: “Facebook going down for 15 minutes is proof that today’s generation would’ve survived approximately 8 seconds in the 80s.“

 

A Twitter user with the handle @TheTweetofGod wrote, “#facebookdown. Please remain calm and do not attempt to interact with human beings“.

 

Some panicked users even called police for help, according to Twitter posts by a sergeant from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

 

Calls to the sheriff’s office came in on both the emergency and non-emergency numbers, the sergeant said.

 

“#Facebook is not a Law Enforcement issue, please don’t call us about it being down,” he urged in a post fired off from the @LASDBrink account.

 

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Facebook mobile app to offer free, limited Internet in Zambia

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SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook Inc is launching a mobile app that gives users in Zambia free access to a handful of online services on mobile phones, broadening an effort to boost Internet usage in underdeveloped countries.

The Internet.org app will offer, in partnership with wireless operator Airtel, more than a dozen services including online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, websites devoted to weather, job listings and health information, as well as Facebook’s own social network and messaging service.

The app will be available in additional countries over the coming months and years, Guy Rosen, product management director for Facebook’s Internet.org effort said on Wednesday.

Facebook will not pay Airtel for the bandwidth, Rosen said, but Airtel will benefit as users who are exposed to Internet services eventually decide to pay for broader, unrestricted access.

Access to the information on the app’s included services is free, but links that lead to information on other websites will require that users pay wireless data charges. The free version of Facebook in the app does not allow for the video playback.

Facebook has partnered with more than 150 wireless providers over the past four years to offer free or discounted access to its social network, but the new app in Zambia marks the first time the company has added Web services beyond its own social network to the menu of free services.

The move comes as Facebook steps up investments in its Internet.org project, which seeks to connect the “next 5 billion” users to the Internet, many of whom lives in places like Africa and India.

In March, Facebook announced plans to use drones and satellites to deliver Internet connectivity to people in certain parts of the world.

The initiative has the potential to boost the size of Facebook’s audience, which currently totals 1.32 billion monthly users.

Facebook & Whatsapp: War is costly, War is profitable.

M/s Koum and Acton scored a coup yesterday when Facebook announced its attention to acquire their instant messaging startup Whatsapp for $19 billion dollars.

Twitter is overflowing with media outlets, venture capitalist’s, silicon valley and the entire business world offering their perspective on this unprecedented landmark deal. There are many reasons to scrutinize every aspect of the deal including how its per user and per employee acquisition cost compares to the likes of Google’s acquisition of Youtube etc, but its also worth reviewing holistically and what this symbolizes for the shifting landscape.

Did Facebook have a choice? I don’t think so. Despite what their quarterly earnings state, Facebook is becoming increasingly less popular in public opinion for a myriad of reasons. Some of these are the advent of new, more interesting apps, the continual privacy problems and the shift in the average age of the ‘monthly active users’. With the billion dollar acquisition of a profitless and indeed revenue-less Instagram, and now the 19 billion dollar acquisition of Whatsapp, which monetizes by charging it’s 450 million users $1 (one US Dollar a year) it’s clear that Facebook isn’t valuing the profitability of it’s takeover targets, rather it’s buying relevance.

It’s an expensive deal – currently about 9% of Facebook’s capitalization – but it feels fairly necessary. Zuckerberg says that Whatsapp, like Instagram, will continue to operate independently; a decision perhaps borne of necessity, not desire. With Instagram ads being introduced recently, the no-ads policy of Whatsapp, and the persistent intrusiveness of Facebook, there seems to be no logical way to amalgamate the product offerings without experiencing attrition in the user base.

Why $19 billion though?

If Whatsapp currently generates $450 million dollars a year, even at their impressive user acquisition rate, it would be many, many years before Facebook sees a return on their investment. Facebook’s $3 billion acquisition offer for Snapchat was publicly refused as was Google’s $4 billion follow up offer for the same company. These offers are more about territory than financial viability and feasibility. What is interesting is that Google offered to pay Whatsapp handsomely, only for the privilege of being informed if and when it entered into acquisition talks with any other company.

Google is paying for information about its competitors. It isn’t revelatory, it isn’t espionage, but its certainly indicative of a fiercer form of competition; one where your own survival is threatened – war.

Using the same analogy, the profiteers in this scenario are the venture capitalists. Sequoia Capital invested $8 million dollars in Whatsapp a few years ago, and it was the only venture firm to back the company. Following the announcement, they stand to make approximately $3.5 billion dollars on their paltry investment. The number of successful exits via mergers and acquisitions has grown consistently and is a trend that is expected to continue in 2014 with North America dominating the field.

In the past couple of months, Google has tried to acquire Snapchat for $4 billion, offloaded Motorola, bought Nest, and expressed interest in laying down Fiber in dozens of cities. Is there a cohesive vision guiding these plans? Maybe.

Facebook also made a failed bid to buy Snapchat for $3 billion, acquired Whatsapp, launched Paper for iOS, begun testing ads with Instagram, and celebrated its 10-year anniversary.

With multiple acquisitions north of 100 million dollars in the past few months, the previously software-only companies are making a habit of encroaching across industries in the war for user dominance. Apple has been stuck in a process of refinement for the past couple of years, Microsoft, under its new leadership, will likely enter a period of consolidation in the interim. Yahoo is continuing to redefine itself slowly.

2014 is already shaping up to be a primer for a volatile 2015, when acquisitions, disruptions and advances in materials will likely culminate in the large companies adding additional dimensions to themselves. By definition, this makes for an unlikely scenario of unifying product offerings and instead, these companies will likely expand as holding companies, at least for the time being.

Whichever way it unfolds, its a phenomenal time to be a consumer since we, the consumers are now contentiously and publicly 

Why Facebook is buying WhatsApp for $19 Billion?

 

WhatsApp Facebook Secure Chat app

Popular Smartphone Messaging app WhatsApp’s $19 billion acquisition by Social Network giantFacebook made Headlines this week.

While Some are applauding the move, and many other users are worried about WhatsApp’s future and their privacy after this acquisition.
Why So Serious?
WhatsApp currently having 450 million active users and processes 50 billion messages a day. Service charges a nominal service fee of $1/year, that means Facebook is buying at $42.22 per user.

$19 Billion / 450 million users  = $42.22 per user

These figures show, obviously future revenue from WhatsApp can’t cover the acquisition cost in the short or mid-term.
You can still count on absolutely no ads interrupting your communication. There would have been no partnership between our two companies if we had to compromise on the core principles that will always define our company, our vision and our product.” WhatsApp founder said in a blog post.
So, What Facebook is planning for?

Facebook is by far the world’s most popular social network, with over 1.2 billion users worldwide, but all WhatsApp users may not have an account on Facebook. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted on his wall, “Our mission is to make the world more open and connected“, that means Facebook could merge WhatsApp data with them, but Mark also said, “WhatsApp will continue to operate independently within Facebook“.

Facebook Mobile Messenger is widely used for chatting with your Facebook friends, and WhatsApp for communicating with all of your contacts and small groups of people. Since WhatsApp and Messenger serve such different and important uses, we will continue investing in both and making them each great products for everyone.” Mark Zuckerberg added.

Mark said,’Making them each great products for everyone’
By design, WhatsApp collects all contact information from phones and uploads that information to the company’s servers. This is hugely valuable data that Facebook has apparently been after from last two years. In simple words, ‘Facebook Just Bought 450 Million Phone Numbers in $19 Billion‘.
WhatsApp claim that users’ messages are never stored on their server after delivery to the recipient. So we are expecting that Facebook could never dig into our private messages history, but that doesn’t mean — it will not store in the future.
Can we trust Facebook and WhatsApp?
Well, 70% users don’t trust Facebook with their personal information, whereas a large percentage of users still trust WhatsApp for sharing personal information.
WhatsApp has many Security issues as well as privacy issues, but that hasn’t scared off its more than 450 million users around the world.
Alternate Secure & Encrypted messaging Smartphone apps? 
If you care about your privacy a lot and don’t want to hand your communication to Facebook, you might want to look into secure messaging solutions, like – Surespot an open-source Android and iOS messaging solution and Threema, end-to-end encrypted app for Android and iOS.
What would be the next in Facebook’s shopping list? A mobile handset company?

Creator says game over for maddening Flappy Bird

HANOI, Vietnam: The young Vietnamese creator of hit mobile game Flappy Bird has removed it from the App Store and Google Play saying it ruined his life.

The game which was uploaded in 2013 but only surged to the top in downloads earlier this year was removed early Monday.

The success of the game that based its appeal on being simple and also maddeningly difficult made its creator Nguyen Ha Dong, 29, a minor celebrity.

The game was downloaded more than 50 million times on App Store alone. In an interview with The Verge website, Dong said Flappy Bird was making $50,000 a day in advertising revenue

But tech blogger Carter Thomas said the sudden popularity of Flappy Bird might have been due to use of fake accounts run by computers to create downloads and reviews.

Thomas said he couldn’t prove his suspicion and that the success of Flappy Bird might also be explained by it being “just a wildly viral game.”

Dong, from Hanoi, wrote on Twitter on Saturday that the Internet sensation caused by the game “ruins my simple life” and he now hated it.

“I will take Flappy Bird down. I cannot take this anymore,” he wrote.

Dong had agreed to talk to The Associated Press about the game in an interview scheduled for Friday, but canceled.

On Twitter he didn’t address the inflated downloads allegation but denied suggestions he was withdrawing the game because it breached another game maker’s copyright.

“It is not anything related to legal issues. I just cannot keep it anymore,” he wrote.

Google buys artificial intelligence startup in UK

LONDON: Google says that it has purchased the British startup DeepMind, an artificial intelligence company founded by a 37-year old former chess prodigy and computer game designer.

The American tech giant’s London office confirmed a deal had been made but refused to offer a purchase price, which is reportedly $500 million. The company was founded by researcher Demis Hassabis together with Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyman.

Hassabis, who is on leave from University College London, has investigated the mechanisms that underlie human memory.

Artificial intelligence uses computers for tasks normally requiring human intelligence, like speech recognition or language translation. DeepMind says the company, based in London, specializes in algorithms and machine learning.

Google, like other tech giants such as Facebook, are anxious to develop systems that work like the human brain.

Google builds a ‘nest’ for future of smart homes

SAN FRANCISCO: When our Internet-connected gadgets and home appliances all learn to talk to each other, Google wants to be at the center of the conversation.

This imagined future is still a few years away, but Google is already preparing with its $3.2 billion acquisition of high-tech thermostat and smoke-detector maker Nest Labs.

The surprise deal announced earlier this week will provide Google with more tools to build a valuable hub for homes. It’s a world of network-tethered toasters and tea kettles, or a so-called “Internet of Things,” that is destined to reshape society, experts say, in the same way that smartphones have done in the seven years since Apple unveiled the iPhone.

The research firm Gartner expects more than 26 billion objects to be connected to the Internet by 2020, a figure that doesn’t include personal computers, smartphones or tablets. That would be a nearly 30-fold increase from roughly 900 million Internet-connected things in 2009.

Google established itself as an instrumental player in smartphones with the 2008 release of Android, a free operating system that runs on more mobile devices than any other piece of software. Now, the company is gearing up for the advent of the smart home with the help of Nest Labs, a 300-employee company started in Palo Alto, California less than four years ago. Tony Fadell, Nest’s founder, is an Apple veteran who helped design the iPod and the iPhone.

As influential as smartphones have become, their role in understanding people’s habits and preferences could be eclipsed once everything in the home has a computer chip and is connected to the Internet.

“Google bought Nest in order to learn about this world where even more information is going to be accessible by computers,”said Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett.

Nest Labs quickly won over gadget lovers with its 2011 release of an Internet-connected thermostat that learns to cool and heat homes to suit the needs of the inhabitants. Late last year, the company followed up with a smoke and carbon-monoxide detector equipped with voice technology and the ability to communicate with the company’s thermostat. Nest hasn’t said how many of its devices have been sold, though analysts believe they are in just a small fraction of homes. The products have only been available in the US, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Google hasn’t disclosed its specific plans for Nest, but analysts anticipate an entire line of Internet-connected home products will be coming to countries around the world. Some of those Nest devices could be melded with existing Google services in an effort to make people’s lives easier. Such a move also would provide Google with the means to gather more insight that could be used to sell the digital advertising that generates most of the company’s revenue.

In a blog post about the Google acquisition, Nest Labs co-founder Matt Rogers promised that customers’ personal information will only be used for “providing and improving Nest’s products and services. We’ve always taken privacy seriously and this will not change.”

But that pledge won’t preclude Google from incorporating its services with Nest’s products, said Gartner analyst Angela McIntyre. For instance, Google already makes a digital assistant called “Google Now” that strives to learn what its users like and where they tend to go so it can provide helpful information without prompting. McIntyre believes Nest’s products will teach Google Now to become more helpful so it can increasingly take over more of the mundane tasks in people’s lives.

“They need to gather as much information as they can to understand the context in how we live our lives,” McIntyre said.

Google also could plug its digital mapping software into Nest products so it could learn the layout of a home, said Brian Proffitt, a technology analyst who is also a management instructor at the University of Notre Dame. That knowledge could then be deployed to delegate such household chores as vacuuming to a robot that would be able to rely on the interior maps to navigate its way through an entire home without human help, Proffitt said.

A Google division run by Android creator Andy Rubin is working on various ideas for robots, though the Mountain View, California company hasn’t shared many details about its goals. Google’s expansion into robotics is also being bolstered by a spate of acquisitions that included the recent purchase of Boston Dynamics, a US military contractor that has already built a variety of contraptions that can be programmed to run at rapid speeds, leap high into the air and climb rocky terrains.

Even as it explores various technological frontiers, Google still makes most of its money from advertising tied to search requests. Acquiring and developing products with Internet connections and environmental sensors can only help Google get an even better grasp on people’s interests.