Facebook’s video censorship dilemma
Continued here: Facebook’s video censorship dilemma
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Facebook’s video censorship dilemma
Continued here: Facebook’s video censorship dilemma
Facebook announces higher profits and revenues in the first quarter of 2013, boosted by a jump in advertising revenue.
View post: Facebook profits from mobile ads
Britain’s big three mobile networks have united on a project to make debit cards of our smartphones. And they’re even planning to outsmart Google
There is a scene in the 2002 film Minority Report where Tom Cruise walks into a clothes store and a computer scans his eyes. “Hello Mr Yakamoto, welcome back to the Gap,” chirrups a sales assistant in hologram form. “How’d those assorted tank tops work out for you?”
Brands from Nokia to Bulgari collaborated in the Steven Spielberg film to paint a picture of what a shopping trip might look like in 2054. But we may not have to wait that long – science fiction could become reality later this year.
In the real world, though, individual shoppers will be identified not by iris scans, but by the portable devices in our pockets. The UK’s three largest mobile phone networks, EE, Vodafone and O2, have joined forces to turn smartphones into virtual wallets that know who we are, where we are and what we buy.
“Imagine: you are walking past Topshop and an alert pops up on your phone offering you a discount in store today,” says David Sear. The new chief executive of Weve, the company set up by the networks to manage the mobile wallet project, is giving his first interview.
You’d then walk into the store, pick out a purchase, scan the barcode, and pay by tapping your phone on an Oyster-card-style reader, rather than at the till.
“It is a bit of joy,” claims Sear. Bargain lovers would agree; others might find it intrusive. To those standing in line to pay, it could seem downright rude.
The idea is not a new one, but despite the efforts of companies ranging from Google to Barclays it has yet to gain traction with consumers. Google Wallet, launched in the US in 2011, has not made it to these shores. But Weve says 15 million mobile phone customers have already opted in to its service.
At the moment, those users receive nothing more than text messages alerting them to offers. But within months, Weve says it will have opened its database, allowing companies that buy advertising slots on web pages access to data ranging from users’ physical location to the websites they visit on their phones.
Before the end of the year, Sear hopes to have created an app capable of holding dozens of virtual loyalty cards, and to have recruited its first brand. Payment mechanisms will follow.
“My background is in disruption,” says Sear, who has made his career with payments firms that challenged the big banks. An early venture used data to help retailers spot cheques that would bounce. At online transactions firm WorldPay he helped shoppers in one country buy goods in their own currency from sellers abroad.
“I succeeded with the cheque business because we enabled people to do things at the point of sale which they couldn’t do before,” says Sear. “I have 17 loyalty cards sitting in my sock drawer because I can’t be bothered to carry them all around. I think there’s a real opportunity to create one place where you might hold competing loyalty mechanisms.”
But why should an unwieldy coalition of mobile phone firms, more used to competing than collaborating, succeed where a digital native like Google has so far come unstuck?
“People in the loyalty industry know what Google wants: their data. One of the large US supermarket chief executives said the thing he didn’t want to do was give Google his data. Whatever we do, it has to be a coalition of the willing.”
Weve claims it will share details of every purchase with the relevant loyalty card issuer. The system will also ask mobile phone customers to opt in, rather than acting like Facebook and Google and assuming users will accept advertising in exchange for a free service.
For the networks behind Weve, this is one of the advantages of having paying customers. Facebook has to presume we want advertising because it has few other sources of revenue, but mobile phone companies can afford to be a little less pushy.
“We want consumers to have bought into the value of the service,” says Sear.
He is particularly critical of Facebook Home, a new app from the social network that takes over a smartphone’s home screen to display ads alongside news and photographs from friends. “I personally do not want to see ads popping up on my phone when the screen is locked. In Facebook’s case I don’t think they are really asking for permission; it’s just part of the deal you sign up to on that system.”
Weve will not be a consumer brand. The networks will sign up customers themselves, using a dashboard of information-sharing options. Details shared could range from the first part of a postcode to age, gender, location, web browsing history and likes or dislikes. Some will be compulsory, some optional, and the requirements will vary by network. Google has a similar dashboard, but few users are aware of its existence.
“The consumer is more powerful in this stage of our digital revolution than I think they have ever been, and they will decide whether or not something is appropriate,” says Sear.
Security is another factor. When Weve is ready to link a customer’s debit card to their phone so that they can make payments, those details will be held on the Sim card. Should the phone be lost or stolen, the data can be remotely deleted by the operator.
Memory wiping was a favourite theme of Philip K Dick, on whose writing Minority Report was based. The film was made not long after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre, and Spielberg remarked at the time: “People are willing to give away a lot of their freedoms in order to feel safe. But the question is, where do you draw the line? How much freedom are you willing to give up?”
This applies increasingly to the trade-off between free services and private information. Those signing up for Weve’s service will at least be offered the choice.
View Shortlist and Vote for Best Video on Official MSC Cruises Facebook Pages
Income is the new Facebook.
Follow this link: The IPO market’s hottest craze: Dividends
Facebook has more than a billion users, and is bidding to reach more by a smartphone takeover – with a twist
Infectious diseases, says the World Health Organisation, “are caused by pathogenic microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi; the diseases can be spread, directly or indirectly, from one person to another.” Quite so. Just like Facebook addiction, which also spreads from person to person and has now reached pandemic proportions, with more than a billion sufferers worldwide.
The Facebook pathogen doesn’t kill people, of course, for the good reason that dead people don’t buy stuff. But it does seem to affect victims’ brains. For example, it reduces normally articulate and sophisticated people to gibbering in the online equivalent of grunts. Likewise, it obliges them to coalesce all the varieties of human relationships into a simply binary pair: “friends” v everyone else. I have some real friends – as opposed to “friends” – on Facebook and every so often one of them posts a comment on something I’ve written. I’ve just looked at one such observation. It’s thoughtful, subtle and nicely written. But beneath it is a button simply labelled “Like”. If I click on it, my friend will doubtless receive a message from Facebook telling him that I “like” his comment. Big deal.
What’s interesting about this is the way a software system has been designed to strip all of the nuances and complexities that characterise human interaction and compress them into a channel with the bandwidth of Morse code. Actually, the bandwidth is even more attenuated than that. At least with Morse, something can be either a dot or a dash, but Facebook lacks even that binary sophistication. It only has a “Like” button, possibly because a “Dislike” one might facilitate a higher level of discourse than that deemed desirable by the system’s architect.
Cultural critic Neil Postman once observed that you can’t use smoke signals for philosophical discussions: the communication channel simply doesn’t have the necessary bandwidth. One wonders what he would have made of Facebook, or of the fact that a sixth of the world’s population is apparently satisfied by such a primitive medium of communication.
Meanwhile, the efforts of Facebook’s owners to “monetise” these poor saps continue unabated. The basic idea is to use their personal data to refine the targeting of ads at them, which means that, as time goes on, the system becomes more and more tiresome to use. This raises the spectre that, one day, the worms might turn and depart.
But – hey! – Facebook management has a plan for that too. It’s revealed in a fascinating patent application just published. Like all patent applications, it consists of three coats of prime technical verbiage, and the devil is in the detail, but the essence of it is that in exchange for a monthly payment Facebook users will be able to get rid of ads and specify exactly what should replace them on their personal profiles. This is subtly different from what other “freemium” services like Spotify currently offer.
You have to admire the chutzpah implicit in this. First, you bombard your hapless users with ads. Then you offer them relief in return for payment. There’s a word for this in English, but m’learned friends don’t approve of it, so I will avoid it. I’ll be surprised if the patent is approved, but the US Patent and Trademark Office has a track record in granting daft patents, as, for example, US Patent 5,443,036 for a method of exercising a cat by getting it to follow a spot generated by a laser pointer, so I might be unduly optimistic.
For fiendish ingenuity, however, Facebook’s latest move into the mobile phone business takes the biscuit. Neatly avoiding the trap of getting into the handset-manufacturing game, the company has instead developed an Android app that really ought to be codenamed Cuckoo because it effectively takes over any handset on which it is installed. It can be downloaded for a subset of recent Android handsets and last week HTC unveiled the first phone that comes with Facebook Home pre-installed. The app conceals the array of apps that normally dominate Android home screens and instead puts Facebook activity squarely in the centre of the phone’s screen. It splashes status updates across the phone’s lock and home screens and makes Facebook’s messenger application ubiquitous with little “Chat Heads” that follow you from app to app, thereby making it easy to keep up with what pass for “conversations” on Facebook.
What Facebook Home means, of course, is that Facebook will be the first – and perhaps the only – thing that new users of smartphones, especially in emerging markets (ie poor countries), see when they fire up their phones. And when they want to search for something, why, they will use Facebook’s search engine rather than that of Google, the company that created the operating system on which Facebook’s app runs. Howzat!
Nasdaq is giving chief executive Robert Greifeld a smaller bonus this year, a decision the company says is directly linked to the bungled Facebook IPO.
Read this article: Bonuses cut at Nasdaq following Facebook debacle
Social network’s collaboration with HTC expected to customise functions ranging from camera to home screen
Facebook will take its biggest leap into mobile this evening when it is expected to unveil a collaboration with handset maker HTC and software that can take over any Android phone.
At an event in its San Francisco headquarters, the world’s largest social network will reveal how it intends to keep up with the computing habits of its 1 billion monthly users, 680 million of whom now access Facebook from a phone.
The centrepiece will be Facebook Home, an application which can be downloaded to Android phones to customise an array of functions from the camera to the home screen, according to a leak of the software seen by the Android Police website.
The software is likely to be illustrated on a device called Myst, specially made by Taiwanese firm HTC. The long-rumoured Facebook phone is the fruit of a two year development project whose early incarnation bore the codename ‘Buffy’ – presumably a reference to the vampire killer television series.
Other than an invitation to “Come see our new home on Android”, Facebook has given no clue as to the content of this evening’s presentation, but the Guardian’s west coast correspondent Rory Carroll will be reporting live from 1 Hacker Way, Menlo Park, when proceedings begin at 6pm GMT.
Facebook’s head of mobile Eric Tseng and other staff have been busy filing patents which hint at some of the big features that could appear. Chief among them is the ‘uberfeed’, according to technology news site Unwiredview, which will be visible from the locked home screen. It will gather information relevant to the owner not just from Facebook, but from emails, texts, news sources, location specific updates, and contain targeted advertising.
Enhanced caller identification pages could also show details of the person on the other end of the line including their location, and prompts such as the names of their children, their last holiday or a recent cinema outing.
The patent application, called “Caller identification using social networking information”, would essentially allow Facebook to take over the owner’s phone book and dialler. Tseng has even proposed ranking the hundreds of entries in the average smartphone contacts book according to ‘social proximity’, in otherword’s how close they are to the user.
Should all this feel too invasive, Facebook has patented a button or setting to switch sharing on and off. Leave it on, and everything you do from taking a train ride to photographing a friend’s birthday is broadcast over the internet.
The Myst handset will be more unique for its software, and the depth to which Facebook features such as its Instagram and instant messaging applications are integrated. The camera and memory are reportedly run of the mill, according to the anonymous Twitter user @LlabTooFeR, a source relied on by developers for unofficial updates on HTC’s plans.
The rear lens will have a modest 5 megapixel resolution rear lens for photos, the front facing camera 1.6 megapixels for video calls, and storage will be a basic 16GB. The screen is larger than the iPhone at 4.3 inches, and the handset will work on certain 4G networks.
Whatever Facebook is planning, founder Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear that the smarpthone will be his focus in 2013.
“You have a good version of all the Facebook features you know and want on your phone. So now the next thing we’re going to do is get really good at building new mobile-first experiences,” he told investors in January. “That’s going to be a big theme for us this year.”
Many of his customers now access Facebook only or mainly from a smartphone rather than a personal computer. In the last year, Facebook’s monthly active users over mobile have rocketed 57%, and if the network is to keep their attention it must ensure rival services such as Google+ do not outpace it on the small screen.