Apple’s OS X Yosemite 10.10.2 update fixes Wi-Fi, browser issues

OS X Yosemite

Apple released a new update to its OS X Yosemite operating system today. The update fixes an issue reported by some users that Yosemite causes Wi-Fi service to disconnect without warning. It also fixes an issue in the Safari browser that causes pages to load slowly.

The main points of the update are described in the screen grab from the App Store below.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.04.59 AM


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Facebook opens F8 registration

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Facebook has opened registration for its F8 developer conference, which it will hold in San Francisco on March 25 and 26.

Those who want to attend — and whose application to do so is accepted — will get a chance to play with all of Facebook’s developer products, including Parse, Login, App Ads, App Links, Audience Network, Live Rail, Video, and more.

There will also be more than 40 sessions covering just about everything developers might be interested in.

Oculus fans won’t be left in the lurch, as the virtual reality company will be offering demos of its Oculus Rift Crescent Bay prototype, as well as the Gear VR Innovator Edition.

And, Facebook will let people try out the Internet.org Innovation Lab, where they can test apps on the kinds of networks that many developing nations have.

If you’re a developer wanting to attend, click here. Facebook is charging a $495 fee for those whose registration is accepted.

F8 has been a rich source of news about Facebook’s efforts in the past. At the 2014 edition, for example, the company announced that Facebook logins were going anonymous; that its Parse mobile app development tool would work offline; and unveiled AppLinks, which lets multiple developers of mobile apps link their projects together.

At last year’s event, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg also said that the social media giant was “all-in” on mobile.


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Facebook and Twitter could be hate-speech ‘accomplices’ if new French law passes

France Flag

France president Francois Hollande has revealed plans to introduce a law that will make Internet companies hate-speech “accomplices” if they fail to block messages posted by extremist groups.

Speaking in Paris at a World War II memorial, Hollande made reference to a new draft law that’s due to be presented next month, reports Bloomberg, with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve shortly traveling to the U.S. to meet key people at Microsoft, Twitter, Google and Facebook.

Today’s news follows the terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo on January 7, with the French satirical magazine reportedly targeted for posting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. This led to further attacks in Paris in the days that followed.

It’s not entirely surprising that France is now looking to tighten its laws against inflammatory messages on the Internet, as at Davos in Switzerland last week, Hollande addressed Internet companies directly, requesting that “illegal content” be taken offline.

Hate-speech

France already has so-called hate-speech laws in place, allowing individuals to be charged if they’re deemed to have insulted a religion, ethnicity, or race. If this latest draft law is passed — and there is every chance it will be given current tensions in the country — any company that provides a platform for would-be terrorists could face sanctions.

“The big operators, and we know who they are, can no longer close their eyes if they are considered accomplices of what they host,” said Hollande. “We must act at the European and international level to define a legal framework so that Internet platforms which manage social media be considered responsible, and that sanctions can be taken.”

So how likely is France to succeed in getting the Facebooks of the world to remove perceived hate-speech content? Well, quite likely, if precedent is anything to go by.

In the days that followed the horrific attacks in Paris, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg vowed not to bow to extremists’ demands to censor Facebook, which was in reference to pictures of the Prophet Muhammad that had been shared on the social network previously.

However, Facebook generally does bow to the laws of the land and pressure from governments — it has removed “offensive” content in Pakistan and India to avoid being blocked. And following a Turkish court threat to ban Facebook over offensive Prophet Muhammad Pages just yesterday, Facebook finally complied with the request to block the Pages.

If Facebook, Twitter, and the rest are to be regarded as accomplices in hate-speech offences, you can bet they’ll do all in their power to remove messages posted by extremist groups post-haste.


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Next-Gen Email Platform Nilas (Previously Inbox) Grabs $8 Million, Preps Its Own Email Client

3 Nilas, the startup founded by Dropbox and MIT alums, previously known as Inbox and focused on offering developers a better API for building email client applications, has raised $8 million in Series A funding, the company announced this morning. The round was led by Formation 8, and included participation from prior investors Fuel Capital, SV Angel, Data Collective, Great Oaks and others.… Read More

Uber targets would-be drunk drivers with latest study

Promotional photograph from Uber

Is Uber the cure for drunk driving? No, but apparently ride sharing has meaningfully reduced drunk driving-related crashes in California.

A new study co-released by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Uber strongly suggests that Uber, and perhaps its ride sharing contenders, are responsible for preventing “nearly 1,800 crashes in California…since July 2012.”

According to the study, “in California, drunk-driving crashes fell 6.5% among drivers under 30 in the markets where Uber operates following the launch of uberX in the state. That represents potentially 60 fewer drunk driving crashes each month.”

The study was, of course, commissioned by Uber and thus will weigh in its favor. However, Uber and MADD aren’t the only ones who believe ride sharing can prevent drunk driving; Florida State Senator Jeff Brandes has also endorsed the idea.

Here’s the study, in full:


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It’s Snowing In The Northeast

wallstsnow You might not know it, because maybe you’re in some wonderful part of the country covered in sunshine warmth and rainbows, but for real people who live in the north east, it’s snowing. It’s been snowing for 24 hours now. It’s blown up with the media. They have given it a name, Winter Storm Juno, and promised snow up to our chins. Here in New York City, we were spared… Read More

With new platform, content management provider DNN adds content marketing to its resume

Customer engagement, as visualized on the DNN website.

DNN, long known as a provider of content management systems and communities, is now a content marketing company.

The evolution is marked by the release today of Evoq 8.0, the newest version of its central product. The Evoq platform, which includes CMS and Social, has about 2,000 customers globally and powers over 800,000 websites.

“Before, we were a content management company,” CEO and president Navin Nagiah told VentureBeat. “With 8.0, [we’re] a content marketing company, [where we] push content to any online channel and measure the effectiveness of that content.”

New features include real-time personalization based on visitors’ profiles, rule-based content distribution, and built-in integrations to marketing automation platform Marketo and cloud storage platforms Box and Dropbox.

There are also new capabilities for offering promotions and sharing opportunities to brand fans, and analytics indicating which content led to sales.

A content distribution system can now push content with metadata to Salesforce, in addition to the previous ability to push to websites, microsites, Facebook, Twitter, and branded communities.

The new Evoq manages content in multiple repositories.

Above: The new Evoq manages content in multiple repositories.

Image Credit: DNN Software

DNN now sees content marketing and engagement as part of a redefinition, not only of itself but of the category.

“Content management is not just about managing a website,” Nagiah told us, “but about managing content throughout the buyer’s journey.”

“The website is an anchor point, [and] as a customer engagement platform, we take content to the customer — wherever they are.”

DNN is making this transition rather late in the game, at a point when there are a number of tools for content marketing. But Nagiah said that “the domain is not as mature as marketing automation,” and there are still opportunities.

As one example, he noted that content is often stored in multiple locations, and “there is no standard repository” for many brands.

To deal with that, version 8.0 offers a single interface for managing content in multiple repositories, whether in Dropbox, Amazon Web Services, internal servers, or wherever.

Key competitors, he said, include Sitecore and the Adobe Marketing Cloud.

“We don’t do all the things Adobe does,” he noted, but “the difference is that we’re focused on the mid-market.” Subscriptions are $200 a year.


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Adobe’s new ad report: larger mobile screens are kicking ads into higher gear

The Samung Galaxy Note 4, one of the new large screen smartphones

The growing popularity of large-screen mobile devices is having a big effect on mobile ads. That’s one of the takeaways from the new Adobe Digital Index’s Q4 Digital Advertising Benchmark report, released today.

Bigger smartphones, as well as phablets and tablets, mean that more of the clicks on ads are intentional — and fewer are “fat finger” accidental ones.

Fingers tapping what people actually want appears to be affecting both clickthrough rates (CTR) and cost-per-click rates (CPCs) for mobile ads.

Clickthrough rates for mobile devices saw a big boost in the report, 27 percent year-over-year for tablets and 26 percent for smartphones. This, in turn, has driven a 19 percent increase in CTR for Google advertisers in general (Q4 year-over-year).

The much higher CTR also represents a more efficient ad spend, the report noted, since the cost-per-click (CPC) rates are up only 8 percent on Google. In other words, it’s more return for the buck. Yahoo/Bing, the report said, is not so efficiently optimized, as CPC there is up 7 percent year-over-year while CTR growth is zero.

Growth in Clickthrough Rates, by device

Above: Growth in Clickthrough Rates, by device

Image Credit: Adobe Digital Index

“The tablet is a great interface,” director of product marketing Tim Waddell told VentureBeat. “The engagement rate is great and the [sales] conversion is great.” So, he said, it makes sense that the same interaction pattern would apply to the new wave of larger screen mobile devices, like the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

‘Kind of war going on’

While the Adobe report doesn’t break down ad stats by screen size, principal analyst Tamara Gaffney told us there was “an indication” that the rise in clickthroughs was a result of the growth in larger screens.

And it is enough of an indication for her to predict that “as a result of larger screen smartphones, the value of CPC [cost-per-click] will increase.”

“Based on larger screen phones already in the market, we know that retail conversion and media consumption rates go up as screens get larger,” she said. And, as sales conversions increase, the clicks become more valuable.


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Gaffney described as “surprising” the fact that Yahoo/Bing CPC growth rates are about the same as Google’s, even though their CTR growth is flat. It’s “indicative of marketers spreading out their money [through] more tools that allow programmatic buying,” she said. Programmatic buying enables them to quickly maneuver as ad rates change so they can get the best return-on-investment, such as by finding effective places to run their ads.

“There’s a kind of war going on,” she added, where “marketers seem to be figuring out how to optimize their spend” through their automated tools.

Another takeaway: The spend on Google’s “Shopping Ads” ballooned during the just-passed holiday season, nearly eight times that of text ads. Year-over-year, Shopping Ads spend is up 47 percent.

Google’s Shopping Ads — which used to be called Product Listing Ads — are those image-based promotions that appear when you search for a product. The images and their positioning at the top of a results page appear to be making a big difference.

Whither text ads?

Shopping Ads represent about one-fifth of all retail search engine marketing in the U.S., the report said. Adobe is predicting that they will grow to nearly a third by 2015’s holiday season, and that nonretailers will also begin adopting them as visually based ads take a greater role in Google results.

By contrast, Yahoo/Bing’s Product Ads — released in March of last year — represented less than one percent of U.S. retail clicks.

In the retail sector, Google Text Ad spending is down 6 percent, year-over-year. The modest drop in Text Ad spending is surprising, Gaffney said, given that it is the reigning ad type.

“Text ads are still the big kahuna of search,” she noted, since they account for two-thirds of U.S. retail clicks. But the question is: for how much longer, given Shopping Ads’ growth and Text Ads’ decline?

Clicks by ad type

Above: Clicks by ad type

Image Credit: Adobe Digital Index

The data also shows that more mobile search is happening on Sundays and more desktop search on Mondays. Which makes sense, since people are out and about on the weekends and back at their desks on Monday.

It also appears that retailers are adjusting to Facebook’s change in its newsfeed algorithm, which has reduced organic brand posts to a trickle. Adobe predicts that Facebook organic impressions will plunge another 40 percent by next year.

“Organic,” Gaffney said, “is toast in Facebook for brands.” She said the fact that “it didn’t take long for brands to adjust [is] indicative of how important Facebook is to their mix.”

Paid impressions on Facebook by retailers were up 13 percent year-over-year for Q4, but boomed 53 percent compared to Q4 of 2013. Organic impressions, however, were down 32 percent year-over-year.

“Facebook aggressively makes it more difficult for brands to be successful on its platform without adopting their pay-to-play system of advertising,” Adobe said in its report.

The report draws on Adobe Marketing Cloud’s Adobe Media Optimizer and Adobe Social’s huge dataset of anonymous visits to brand websites from fourth quarter of 2013 to the same quarter last year. It also includes 400 billion Facebook post impressions and 500 billion Google and Yahoo/Bing ad impressions.


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WitKit launches collaboration platform with ‘unbreachable’ data

lock

Is there room in the market for another work collaboration platform?

Vancouver-based WitKit thinks so, and is today releasing a public beta of its collaboration product of the same name.

The big differentiator for WitKit, according to CEO and cofounder Sean Merat, is that “your data is unbreachable.”

“We’ve brought end-to-end security to a full suite,” he told us, via the platform’s proprietary WitCrypt.

Huddle, Podio, Slack, and other collaboration platforms also offer encryption, Merat said, but only in segments of their platforms.

“By having this [end-to-end encryption], users can create one network,” he said, providing solid security even in communications with external vendors or collaborators. Encryption and decryption are only conducted on local user devices, not on centralized servers. Data sent to WitKit’s servers is fully encrypted, decryptable only with the user’s passphrase.

When on-screen communications are encrypted, they show the kind of black bars familiar to fans of unredacted national security documents.

A not-yet-decrypted screen in WitKit

Above: A not-yet-decrypted screen in WitKit

Image Credit: WitKit

Encryption is one-way, so data stored on Google Drive or Dropbox — with which WitKit is integrated — is encrypted when it is moved into the platform.

The encryption technology is published on GitHub for auditing, Merat said. If the company were to go out of business, users have the capability to decrypt all of their data.

Three years in development, the platform offers the capabilities one expects for collaboration. There are customizable workspaces that can be set up for any project or task — here called Kits — as well as private and group messaging, task management, calendaring, posting, video conferencing, an API for third party applications, and similar functions.

An Activities screen in WitKit

Above: An Activities screen in WitKit

Image Credit: WitKit

The company, which has received $5 million in funding, says the current level of functionality will always remain free.

“In the future,” Merat said, “we’ll charge for additional functionality,” although he added those functions are still being determined.

As are such details as additional storage. Each user gets a whopping 50 gigabyte chunk of storage for free. But, while Merat said additional storage was available under some terms, he didn’t yet know what those would be.

“We’re still working out the logistics,” he said.

At the moment, “no one’s come close” to that limit among the current 4000 or so users, representing around 400 companies worldwide that are using the platform, he said.


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Twitter’s new postcode targeting could help politicians chase votes in the U.K. elections

UK Parliament

With the 2015 U.K. general election gearing up to be one of the most hotly contested elections in a long time, Twitter has announced that it’s opening up geo-targeted advertising to much narrower geographic regions.

This will have potentially powerful ramifications for political parties, particularly in areas where the results are expected to be a close call. For example, a party can use resources to push a specific policy or agenda in an area it’s most relevant in — if one constituency is fighting to keep a hospital open, for instance, an election candidate could promise to make that a priority if elected.

Twitter has offered geo-targeted advertising for a while already, with brands able to target consumers in 30 countries. Moreover, within the U.S., Canada, France, Spain, and the U.K., it has been possible to target more granularly — by regions, cities, and zip codes. So in the U.K., for example, advertisers could target by “London” or “Glasgow,” or the “East Midlands”, “North West” and “South East” of England.

Back in December, however, Twitter started testing postcode targeting, which lets advertisers zone-in on much narrower areas. Postcodes are kind of like the U.K. equivalent of ZIP codes in the U.S., except an individual postcode can be unique to as little as a few houses.

Though this will, of course, let any business target their wares down to specific neighborhoods, which could be useful for pizza shops, car mechanics or electricians, the introduction of postcode targeting in the build up to the general election on May 7 is notable.

However, it’s also worth noting that Twitter is only used by 15 million people in the U.K., or less than 25 percent of the population. So while the social network is clearly a great tool for politicians to target voters, good old-fashioned “door-knocking” will still have a crucial role to play.


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