TSR on tech: your weekly news summary
|May 13, 2012||Posted by Elliot Davies under TSR on tech|
It has been a most unusual week in the tech world, with neither news about Apple nor any more mind-numbing patent lawsuits. Instead we’ve got some exciting intrigue at Yahoo! – did he alter it or didn’t he? – along with good news on ACTA, bad news about The Pirate Bay (sort of), several announcements from Facebook, and a couple of highly amusing computer glitches. Read about all this, and more, below.
The headlines this week were that Scott Thompson, CEO of Yahoo!, is being accused of falsifying his academic record. Thompson’s official Yahoo! profile (included as part of regulatory filings submitted to the SEC), as well as his official bio from his previous job at eBay, stated that he had graduated from Stonehill College with degrees in computer science and accounting. In fact, he graduated with only a bachelor’s in business administration. The error was spotted by Daniel Loeb, an activist shareholder in the company who has long expressed concern over the company’s management. Yahoo! is setting up a special committee to investigate the matter and determine whether Thompson deliberately embellished his record to lend himself more tech credibility – if he did, it will embarrass the company and could see his resignation. Thompson issued a statement apologising for the “distraction” caused but refused to apologise for the error itself.
(Update: All Things D is reporting that Thompson will step down, along with several directors.)
Yahoo! has already suffered one casualty over the issue in the form of Patti Hart, the director who vetted Thomspon when he applied for the CEO position. Hart, who is CEO at International Game Technology, has said she will not seek re-election at the next annual meeting – an effectual resignation. It has also been suggested that Hart may have altered her own record to claim she had a degree in economics and marketing, when in fact she has a degree in business administration, specialising in economics and marketing.
Research In Motion, which makes BlackBerry phones, has finally filled two of its vacant senior positions. Kristian Tear, formerly VP of Sony Mobile Communications, will become RIM’s chief operating officer, while Frank Boulben, formerly VP of strategy, marketing and sales at LightSquared, will serve as chief marketing officer. RIM recently showed off its new BlackBerry 10 OS, due to launch this autumn and designed to be a competitor to Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.
Eduardo Saverin, the Facebook co-founder you most likely remember from The Social Network, has renounced his US citizenship ahead of the upcoming Facebook IPO. Saverin, who stands to make around $3bn if the IPO is a success, will instead become a resident of Singapore, where he apparently plans to live for some time. Handily, Singapore, unlike the US, has no capital gains tax.
The European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, said this week that the invasive ACTA bill is unlikely to come into law. Though the bill was signed by 22 of the 27 EU member states, as well as the US, Canada, and Japan, it must be approved by the European Commission to become EU law. Kroes said: “[we are] likely to be in a world without SOPA and without ACTA,” and we should now “find solutions to make the Internet a place of freedom, openness, and innovation fit for all citizens.” The European Data Protection Supervisor last month released a 20-page document that highlighted ACTA’s flaws.
The Netherlands has become the second country (after Chile) to pass a net neutrality law ensuring all internet traffic is treated equally by Internet Service Providers. The issue arose after Dutch telecoms provider KPN announced plans to charge users more for services such as Skype that replaced KPN services. Net neutrality is also a growing issue in the US, where ISPs have threatened to give lower priority to traffic from load-heavy services such as Netflix.
The Financial Times has reported that Facebook’s purchase of Instagram could take between four months and a year to clear, owing to intervention by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC routinely reviews all deals worth over $66mn, but can stall them if it decides to conduct a closer inspection. In this case, the FTC is concerned that the acquisition could lead to antitrust issues with online and mobile advertising.
Hacking & Security
Virgin Media became the first UK ISP to comply with a court ruling to block the Pirate Bay, and promptly fell victim to a DDOS attack by the Anonymous hacking group. The country’s other ISPs – Everything Everywhere, O2, Sky, and TalkTalk – have yet to block the file-sharing site, perhaps because such bans are so easy to circumnavigate. The Pirate Bay decried the DDOS attack, pointing out how well the site is doing thanks to the publicity from the media coverage.
Major vulnerabilities have been discovered in Adobe Photoshop CS5 and earlier, which if exploited could allow malicious attackers to gain control of a user’s computer. Adobe has declined to patch the flaws, stating that the recently released Photoshop CS6 addresses the problems and advising users to upgrade. Many users are understandably outraged to have to pay hundreds of pounds to fix something that is after all Adobe’s fault.
As part of a recent update, Apple has fixed a bug that was causing FileVault passwords to appear as plain text in log files.
EA has confirmed rumours that The Old Republic, its Star Wars-themed MMO, has lost 25% of its subscribers since March. The game now has 1.3 million active players, down from 1.7 million just a few months ago. The game was launched in late 2011 and has failed to become a major competitor in the MMO market, though EA has suggested TOR could remain profitable with as few as half a million users, so it is unlikely to disappear any time soon.
Irrational Games has announced that BioShock Infinite will be delayed for just over four months. The new release date is February 26th, 2013. The extra wait is apparently because the development team has “come to realize that some specific tweaks and improvements will make Infinite into something even more extraordinary.”
An Assassin’s Creed III trailer has been released that uses in-game footage for the first time.
Facebook this week announced the App Center, a place for users to find free and paid apps that either build on Facebook or integrate with it. Although “the App Center is designed to grow mobile apps that use Facebook,” the move very obviously puts the social network in a position to compete with Apple and Google, both of whom have their own app stores. The App Center should also help fill out Facebook’s business model for mobile devices, an area where it currently makes very little money. Facebook did not specify when the App Center would be available to use, but developers can already start submitting their apps to it.
In a further attempt to shore up its finances, Facebook has also started testing a new feature called “Highlight,” which allows users to pay to promote their posts. This is the first time Facebook has looked at monetising regular posts – until now, the social network made about 85% of its profit from advertising and the other 15% from companies that use Facebook as a platform, such as Zynga.
The Highlight and App Center announcements both come amidst news that many social reading apps on Facebook have started losing a whole lot of users: for example, the Washington Post‘s social reader has lost 10 million users in a month, while the Guardian‘s app is now one-sixth its former size. This is probably because social reading apps effectively spread by spamming users’ news feeds, leading to annoyance and a rapid decline in users.
Microsoft has announced the next version of Bing, which will include a three-pane interface. On the left will be the traditional search results, in the middle a “snapshot” view for related searches and maps, and on the right a “social sidebar,” which will include related results from Facebook, Twitter, Windows Live, and LinkedIn. The move matches Google’s decision to incorporate Google+ into its search results, with the minor difference that nobody uses Bing.
The Lumia 900, the flagship Windows Phone from Nokia, is now available in the UK from Phones4U. The smartphone is currently available only in white, with the cyan and black editions to follow.
Google has revamped its Google+ app for the iPhone. In the words of one headline: “New Google+ iPhone App Looks So Good, You’ll Wish You Actually Used Google+”.
Two computer glitches caused great amusement this week. The first was a bug in the system at the Placer County court in California that meant 1,200 Californians were summoned for jury duty at the same place and time. The resulting traffic caused a gridlock that stretched for more than a quarter of a mile. At the same time in the UK, a glitch in the tills used by WHSmith meant that for several hours stores across the country would only print receipts for The Queen’s Knickers, a children’s book worth £5.99, regardless of the actual transaction.
Kim Dotcom, the infamous founder of Megaupload who is facing extradition to the US from New Zealand on charges of mass copyright infringement, is to have his story told in a feature documentary with the working title Mega Conspiracy. One wonders if the work will be illegally pirated on file-sharing sites.
For the truly paranoid, you can now buy WiFi-blocking wallpaper in a lovely snowflake design.