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?

Turkey approves Internet restrictions

ANKARA: Turkey’s Parliament has approved legislation that would tighten government controls over the Internet.

ANKARA: Turkey’s Parliament has approved legislation that would tighten government controls over the Internet.

With a show of hands, the legislators late Wednesday endorsed allowing Turkey’s telecommunications authority to block websites for a privacy violation without a prior court decision.

The legislation also would force Internet providers to keep records on Web users’ activities for two years and make them available to authorities when requested, without notifying the users.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has said the measures would “compound” Turkey’s already “dismal” press freedoms. The government has said they would protect privacy and not amount to censorship.

The measures are part of a package of legislation, the rest of which is expected to be approved by Parliament on Thursday and signed into law by the president.

The love chatroom crackdown

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has cracked down on “immoral” love chat services offered by mobile phone companies, stifling hopes of illicit romance in the conservative Muslim country, where dating is frowned upon.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said the ban was enforced last month due to protests from parents and lawmakers, but critics warn it is the latest attempt at creeping censorship.

The PTA first pulled the plug on dirt-cheap chat rates and late-night discounts in November, but operators simply started offering the services under different names.

So the regulator tightened the ban late last month, ordering telecommunication companies to scrap immediately “all kinds of chat services, irrespective of the time of day”.

In a country where parents keep young people on a tight leash and dating is considered inappropriate, late-night chatting over the phone or Internet can be a way to find love below the radar.

In Pakistan girls can be beaten or even killed by male relatives if there is any hint they are having a relationship and parents like to strictly control the marriages of their offspring.

A 20-year-old university student who did not want to give his name said that the ban had hit him hard as he is now unable to chat with random girls and find new dates.

“The cruel world has once again conspired against lovers and made it difficult for them to communicate,” he declared.

“It was so inexpensive and an easy way to find a date,” he added.

The 25-year-old manager of a boutique in Islamabad stated that he had found the “love of his life” through the service.

“I am going to marry her,” he said.

“We chatted, we exchanged numbers, we started talking and I was surprised to find out that she lived nearby,” he said.

There is no public data about how many people used the romantic chat, but of the 68.6 percent of the population with access to a mobile phone, it is likely to have been a small number.

Normal call charges are about two rupees ($0.02) a minute and 1.50 rupees for a text message, but chat services were offered at an hourly rate for a fraction of those rates.

A customer would dial a particular number after which a computer generated voice or text message guided subscribers through various options.

For example, if you want to chat to a girl press 1, a boy press 2, then you select your preferred age group before being connected to another caller by SMS conforming to your criteria.

Two of Pakistan’s five mobile phone companies said they had shut down romantic chat rooms, but would continue to offer calling services that stick to general interests, such as hobbies.

Another company said they had shut down all chat rooms, while two others were not reachable for comment.

Saeeda Khan, a 45-year-old mother of three, welcomed the ban.

“I am worried as they’re busy all night on the phone with their friends and cousins,” she said.

Khan said she worried about “what kind of people” are in the chat rooms and that children “are exposed to strangers”.

“I would never approve of chatting with unknown people,” the mother of three added.

Meanwhile, mobile phone companies have filed petitions in the Supreme Court against the ban, but no date has been set for a hearing.

Pakistan’s oldest English-language newspaper Dawn earlier accused the PTA of acting as an “unwanted morality brigade”.

“The intermingling of young men and women is not a matter that should concern the state which has nothing to gain except opprobrium by acting as self-appointed guardian of society’s morals,” DSS wrote in an editorial earlier this month.

“It (the PTA) should mind its own business.”

The PTA defends the move as a response to public anger, but the ban has raised fears about growing censorship in Pakistan.

The government frequently shuts down mobile networks to prevent militant attacks and access to YouTube has been blocked for a year over a low-budget American film deemed offensive to Islam.

In November 2011, the PTA also tried to ban nearly 1,700 “obscene” words from text messages, which included innocuous terms such as “lotion”, “athlete’s foot” and “idiot”.

In 2010, Pakistan shut down Facebook for nearly two weeks over blasphemy and continues to restrict hundreds of online links.

Independent technology think-tank Bytes for All, Pakistan stated that the fresh ban was a violation of human rights.

“Any regulation on the basis of ‘morals’ falls under moral policing, which is unjustified, undemocratic, dictatorial and a violation of fundamental rights,” said Furhan Hussain, Coordinator Advocacy and Outreach at Bytes for All, Pakistan.

One engineering graduate, when asked if he had ever used the chat service, said he regretted only hearing about it after the ban.

“Damn! I could have been dating girls, now I regret it.”

Google Android exec poached by China’s Xiaomi

New York City, New York – China’s Xiaomi has poached a key Google executive involved in the tech giant’s Android phones, in a move seen as a coup for the rapidly growing Chinese smartphone maker.

Hugo Barra, who was Google’s vice president in charge of Android product management, said in a blog post late Wednesday that he is joining Xiaomi to help them expand their business outside China, where they already have some market share, but are well behind Samsung and Apple.

“After nearly 5 1/2 years at Google and almost 3 years as a member of the Android team – the most amazing group of people I’ve ever worked with in my life – I have decided to start a new career chapter,”

Barra wrote.

“In a few weeks, I’ll be joining the Xiaomi team in China to help them expand their incredible product portfolio and business globally – as Vice President, Xiaomi Global.”

“I’m really looking forward to this new challenge, and am particularly excited about the opportunity to continue to help drive the Android ecosystem.”

Android is the Google-developed smartphone operating system that is battling with systems from Apple and Microsoft for dominance in the smartphone market. It is already offered on Samsung and other phones. But Xiaomi staked out in just two years a 2.5 percent share in the coveted Chinese market, according to Analysys International, with a strategy of discount prices for phones with high-end features.

Xiaomi was co-founded by a former Google executive, Lin Bin.

“We wish Hugo Barra the best,

“We’ll miss him at Google and we’re excited that he is staying within the Android ecosystem.”

Google gives Android mobile operating system software away free to gadget makers and banks on making money from its search, email, maps and other online services tailored to work well on the resulting devices.

International Data Corporation reported early this month that smartphones powered by Android software increased their global market share as iPhones lost ground in the absence of new models being unleashed by Apple.

Android’s share of the smartphone market grew to 79.3 percent in the second quarter while that of iPhone slipped to 13.2 percent from 16.6 percent in the same three-month period last year, according to IDC figures.

While analysts believe Apple is well positioned to recapture market share with the release later this year of new iPhone models, there is pressure for a low-price version of the smartphone tailored for the China market.

Barra’s move is a win for Xiaomi while likely to have little to no effect on Google or the California company’s Android team, according to S&P Capital IQ analyst John Kessler.

“Xiaomi is a really exciting and interesting story when it comes to spartphones in China, a very large market with very big opportunities,” Kessler said.

“Getting someone from Google Android’s upper-level management presumably tells something about perceived opportunities for Xiaomi.”

“We don’t really look at it as having an impact on Google,” he noted.