A large group of internet companies, led by some of the biggest names in the business, have taken a stand against new net neutrality rules proposed by the FCC.
The plot thickens…
Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter and Yahoo are just some of the cosigners on a short yet sharp letter to the FCC.
“According to recent news reports,” the letter states, “the Commission intends to propose rules that would enable phone and cable internet service providers to discriminate both technically and financially against internet companies and to impose new tolls on them. If these reports are correct, this represents a grave threat to the internet.”
The companies note that instead of “permitting bargaining and discrimination,” the FCC’s edicts “should protect users and internet companies … against blocking, discrimination and paid prioritization, and should make the market for internet services more transparent.”
The internet companies’ furor comes amidst public outcry against proposed rules that would open internet “fast lanes” for companies willing to pay. Those who don’t pay would invariably be stuck in internet slow lanes.
While FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has maintained he’s on the side of an open internet, even a fellow commission member has said there are “real concerns” with the net neutrality proposals and wants to delay the commission’s “consideration” of them by at least a month.
The rules are set for a vote May 15, and a Sunshine Period by which the FCC can accept public comment ends tomorrow.
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel remarked a “torrent of public response” has been unleashed with the proposed rules and more time is needed collect public input.
Fancy playing a massively multiplayer online game with a billion other people? That could be what we ultimately see as a result of Facebook’s $2 billion purchase of Oculus VR.
Long term plans tough
While Facebook and Oculus VR have kept quiet about their goals following the acquisition, Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe has revealed the potential for an ambitious project while talking to an audience at TechCrunch Disrupt, saying: “This is going to be an MMO where we want to put a billion people in VR.”
It would certainly be an interesting way to engage Facebook’s enormous user base, with the social network acting as a meta-verse joining disparate virtual worlds.
Sadly we won’t be seeing it any time soon, with Iribe admitting the project will “take a bigger network than exists in the world today.”
There is still plenty for Oculus VR to do before that network does arrive, with Iribe revealing the company is aiming to convince players that they are having a “real conversation” with another person.
While it’s difficult to generate believable, photorealistic human faces in video games, Iribe believes this obstacle can be overcome if players are willing to “let go.”
Iribe’s comments reveal some of the thinking behind the sale of Oculus VR to Facebook, rather than one of the big gaming companies.
While a gaming giant may have seemed a more obvious choice, Iribe asked his audience, “Do you want to build a platform that has a billion users on it, or only 10, 20, or 50 million?”
Plus plans to make VR an iPhone-sized gaming platform
There’s a stigma that comes with being acquired by Facebook and Oculus VR CEO and co-founder Brendan Iribe was quick to dispel any fears its fans might have about the social network ruining the Oculus Rift’s future.
Talking about the future.
The reason we did the deal was Mark [Zuckerberg’s] commitment to the vision that we have, doing it even faster, bigger, and better,” Iribe expounded on the main stage at TechCrunch Disrupt.
Iribe specifically noted that thanks to the new partnership Oculus VR can leverage Facebook’s network, infrastructure, and most importantly, money into hardware research and development.
While Oculus VR has created a much-improved Crystal Cove Oculus Rift, Iribe said it wants to push the envelope even further replacing our vision.
“I would say mobile is the last 2D screen based platform that will be around for a long time but it is very mature,” he said. “It’s not going to get much better from where it is now kind of like the way PC and mobile OS has plateaued.”
Beyond screens, Iribe believes Oculus VR will synthetic vision, which users can hopefully put on as a pair of sunglasses.
“This is going to be what we call the final platform, replacing vision.” he said. Unlike playing a first-person shooter, watching a curved screen or even reading a book Iribe explained that virtual reality will finally let users fully immerse themselves into an experience.
“When you look at VR and replacing vision and especially the version that really fundamentally flips the switch comfortably and puts you there, which most people haven’t seen yet but it is there,” Iribe expounded, teasing that Facebook’s CEO has seen the prototype.
Beyond games Iribe believes that VR technology can be used for far more that gaming to create face to face conversations with someone over the web. “You will believe these virtual avatars are real and you will share a virtual space with them and have conversations.”
“You’ll look at their mouth while they’re talking and their eyes, going ‘I know that’s you but you’re a cartoon or you’ve changed your hair, but really I know that’s you.'” Iribe described a virtual encounter. ” You’ll have a face to face conversation with somebody and that’s the holy grail we’ve been trying to get to and it will take 10 or 20 years before it’s realistically looking.
Along with helping Oculus VR push the boundaries of VR, Iribe explained that the partnership will help it reach a boarder gaming audience.
“We’re very committed to gaming, but do we want to be GameBoy or do we want to be iPhone or Android?” he asked.
“For VR we want to be building a platform with a billion users or 10, 15, or 50 million, and that’s where we feel for content for games [Facebook] is going to have a lot more success shipping their content into a gaming ecosystem platform that has a billion users.”
Yahoo has announced it’s abandoning Do Not Track in favor of forcing users to choose a more personalized experience.
Yahoo Privacy Centre
Users can still manage individual privacy settings within Yahoo’s Privacy Center, but the company’s sites and services will from now on ignore web browsers’ Do Not Track preferences.
This is the inherent problem with Do Not Track: you can check the little box in your browser, but it’s websites themselves, not browsers, that have power to choose whether or not your activities are recorded.
And companies like Facebook, Google and Yahoo have already been ignoring the setting for years.
Yahoo was moaning about Do Not Track all the way back in 2012, when Microsoft turned it on by default in Internet Explorer 10.
The company said at the time that since users didn’t choose to turn it on, the request wouldn’t be honored.
That’s the sort of thing that has ruined the whole Do Not Track initiative – what good is it if the biggest companies refuse to honor it?
Now Yahoo is trotting out essentially the same argument, about how “the best web is a personalized one,” to justify ignoring Do Not Track settings across the board.
“Here at Yahoo, we work hard to provide our users with a highly personalized experience,” the Yahoo Privacy Team wrote on the company’s policies Tumblr. “We fundamentally believe the best web is a personalized one.”
“As the first major tech company to implement Do Not Track, we’ve been at the heart of conversations surrounding how to develop the most user-friendly standard,” it continued. “However, we have yet to see a single standard emerge that is effective, easy to use and has been adopted by the broader tech industry.
“Users can still manage their privacy on Yahoo while benefiting from a personalized web experience.”
Facebook had more than a few surprises for the web during today’s F8 conference held in San Francisco. Three in particular are going to add recognizable Facebook-friendly functionality to many of your favorite apps.
Facebook’s been busy!
The first, called “send to mobile,” will allow developers to connect users who frequent the web version of their app to the reciprocal mobile app.
That sounds tricky, but hear me out. Say someone goes to Pandora.com to listen to the latest tunes. Once there they’ll be notified about the availability of Pandora’s mobile app that they may – or in most cases may not – have heard about before.
Click the button and a notification will pop up on their phone with a link to the app’s page on the iTunes or Google Play storefront. Viola! No more scouring the app store for your favorite desktop app.
“Mobile like” is a bit easier to comprehend.
In addition to sharing content like you’ve done in the past, you’ll now be able to like app content to quickly and easily share your day-to-day activity. Using Flipboard and read something cool? All you need to do is click the like button and all your friends will know how passionate you are about whatever it is you’re reading.
Unfortunately this technology’s still in beta, but according to Ime Archibong, Director of Product Partnerships at Facebook, you should start seeing mobile like functionality popping up in your apps over the coming weeks.
There’s always been a problem with Facebook’s share function. Sometimes you just don’t want every one of your high school classmates to see how much you dig TaySwift’s new single.
But maybe you know another member of the guilty pleasure club and you think they’d like to give it a listen. All you need to do is click Facebook’s new built-in messenger tool and you’ll be able to send mobile content directly to your country-loving buddy.
It’s interesting technology and should help extend Facebook’s reach in the mobile app sector…not that they needed it.
During Facebook’s F8 developer conference, Deb Liu, product marketer for Facebook announced that the new mobile ad network: the “Audience Network” will be rolling out in the coming months.
Can you really fit more adds in FB?
The Audience Network is a tool for devs that allows Facebook to help with selling and targeting ads, payment and measuring engagement.
So far, 60% of the company’s revenue comes from mobile ads and $3b (£1.7b, AU$3.2b) of Facebook’s transactions come from ads alone.
The social network has dabbled with various ad platforms before and tested a newer version of the ad network earlier this year but it looks like the Audience Network is the final step and is ready for developers, meaning Facebook users will start seeing more ads in their mobile feeds soon.
Liu noted that the best way to engage Facebook users involves “ads that are integrated, not disruptive.”
With Facebook’s “world class targeting system” also in play, it’s likely you won’t see ads that aren’t relevant to you. Similar to how Instagram’s photo ads work, Facebook’s system may actually not be too intrusive despite being displayed front and center in the news feed.
You can also look forward to the three different types of ad formats showing up on Facebook mobile: banner, interstitial and native.
If more ads will just make you angry, at least Facebook is coming out with a new way to login and new mobile functions like the ability to (finally) like something on a mobile device.
Virtual reality wasn’t enough to satisfy Facebook’s ambitions – the social network has just announced that it’s bought fitness-tracking app Moves.
Run, Facebook, run!
Moves logs your daily activites using your smartphone, handily keeping track of when you’ve stopped for lunch, work etc.
Facebook clearly sees that fitness is the area to get in on right now, and the team behind Moves are joining Zuckerberg in the big blue.
In a statement, Moves said that it’s moving to Facebook “to work on building and improving” products and services “with a shared mission of supporting simple, efficient tools for more than a billion people.”
We’re told that Moves will contine to operate as a standalone app. As for privacy pundits, don’t fear – Moves says that it won’t “commingle” data with Facebook.
So that’s Whatsapp, Instagram, Oculus and now Moves. Who’s next?
Wait, what if I don't want my Facebook update on the 5 o'clock newswire?
Facebook wants to be everyone’s catchall provider for everything from Instagram photos to activity tracking. Next up the company is launching a digital newspaper.
FB’s take at news-making!
The social network announced it has launched FB Newswire, a regularly updated page with breaking news around the world made for journalists and news publications.
The new service is backed by the News Corp-owned Storyful, which will aggregate newsworthy content posted by Facebook users and organizations across the world. Through this process Facebook will effectively crowdsource reports from its users including photos and videos, as well as status updates from users on the ground of newsworthy events.
While Facebook is concentrated making sure every photo and updates taken from its users are verified by its editorial team, the social network did not mention anything about privacy concerns.
Instead the company is focused on making sure the FB Newswire Twitter account and page on Facebook itself is accurate and reliable for reporters.
Although Facebook might be targeting journalists specifically, Facebook already has an audience of over one billion mobile users swiping through the day’s events on their newsfeeds. So we could see how this service could easily expand allowing the social network to directly report the news to its users.
Facebook is maneuvering itself to become a source for timely public information similar to Twitter but in a much more direct approach.
Whereas Twitter has become a news resource organically with users live tweets during events such as the Boston Bombing, Facebook wants to harness all the social activity of its users for its own reports with an extra element of validity.
While Facebook is making a strong push to journalists, it seems the real-time news war is offically on between Twitter and the social network.