Welcome back to TSR on tech! This week we’ve got all sorts of exciting news, from the sudden sale of Digg right through to a nuclear-powered underwater deep-sea Chinese mining station. Quite seriously. Plus there’s everything in between: funding for GitHub, funding from Bing, patent settlements, activity from Anonymous, announcements about the next two major operating systems, and much more. Read on!
Digg, the social news site that was once valued at $175mn and was seen as one of the main drivers of internet traffic, has been sold to Betaworks, a technology development company, for just $500,000 plus equity. The site fell from favour after a series of missteps in the way it engaged its community, and since its early 2010 peak of 44 million unique visitors a month has ceded most of its ground to Reddit, Slashdot and others. The sale represents a huge loss for the venture capitalists who had put in around $45mn during the company’s independent life. Betwaworks said: “We are turning Digg back into a startup. Low budget, small team, fast cycles. … [We] will take Digg back to its essence: the best place to find, read and share the stories the internet is talking about. Right now.” The Washington Post is rumoured to be hiring away most of Digg’s technical staff, and Digg’s patent portfolio, consisting of one awarded patent and 15-20 applications, was sold to LinkedIn for $3.5mn.
GitHub, an online repository for source code with a strong developer community following, has raised $100mn from Andreessen Horowitz, the largest ever investment by the venture capital company. The deal values GitHub, which makes its money by charging for private code repositories, at $750mn. Over half of the code on GitHub is open source and free, and the site hosts over three million projects with 1.7 million users.
Microsoft has launched the Bing Fund, an incubator for start-ups looking to work with Microsoft. According to the Fund’s site, the program lasts at least four months and can provide the projects with workspaces, exposure to Microsoft staff and executives, subsidized use of Bing’s data, and funding. As to whether start-ups can expect to work with Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer: “We love entrepreneurs who dream big.”
Robert Williams, formerly Microsoft’s senior director for Windows Phone business development, has joined Amazon as director of the Amazon App Store. Meanwhile, HP’s vice president and deputy general counsel, Paul Porrini, has left to work as general counsel at YuMe, a video advertising company.
As many as seven million O2 customers were left without service on Wednesday and Thursday this week when a database issue meant their handsets were unable to authenticate with the network properly. O2 has not mentioned compensation, but at least we can all see how advanced their technical department is, which at one point offered this solid advice: “Customers affected may wish to try switching their mobile phones off and on as service returns.”
Facebook and Yahoo! have reached a settlement to resolve their mutual patent lawsuits. The deal will allow Facebook users to share Yahoo! content, and the companies will team up on advertising for events such as the upcoming Olympic Games. There will also be some cross-licensing of patents. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said: “I’m pleased that we were able to resolve this in a positive manner and look forward to partnering closely with Ross [Levinsohn, Yahoo!’s interim CEO] and the leadership at Yahoo!”
Kim Dotcom and his Megaupload co-founders have had their extradition hearings pushed back from August 6th of this year to March 2013, owing to legal complications including a judge’s finding that the search and seizure of Dotcom’s property was in fact wholly illegal. Dotcom tweeted to accuse the US of “dirty delay tactics,” and later offered to fly to the US without an extradition hearing if he could be guaranteed a fair trial and the return of funds to pay for legal costs. Dotcom’s lawyer refused to comment on whether a deal was being made.
A UK judge ruled this week that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab does not infringe Apple’s iPad design – because it’s not cool enough. Judge Birss said: “[Samsung’s tablets] do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design. They are not as cool.” Samsung was said to be pleased with the ruling, though this author is not sure quite how much of a victory it was.
The Russian State Duma has passed a controversial internet censorship bill despite blackout protests by websites including the Russian language Wikipedia, LiveJournal, the search engine Yandex and the social network vKontakte. The bill nominally targets sites hosting child pornography or materials that would encourage drug use or suicide, but has been criticised for being too vague and a threat to the free internet. The legislation must now pass through the Federation Council of Russia, the country’s upper house, and then be signed into law by President Putin.
Google, which in February admitted it had circumvented security settings in users’ iPhones in order to serve ads, is to pay $22.5mn to settle the matter with the Federal Trade Commission in the US.
Hacking & Security
The Anonymous group has taken credit for stealing the huge tranche of Syrian emails that WikiLeaks started publishing this week. The emails, of which there are more than 2.4 million, include communications from the ministries of presidential affairs, foreign affairs, finance, information, transport, and culture. Anonymous claims to have hacked into the Syrian servers on February 5th to steal the emails in a job so complex it involved multiple teams working for several weeks.
Anonymous also this week launched “#OpPedoChat,” a campaign to wipe out child pornography from the internet. In a video, the group said: “Anonymous aim to diminish if not eradicate this plague from the Internet. For the good of our followers, for the good of mankind, and for our own enjoyment we shall expel from the Internet and systematically destroy any such [websites] that continue to operate.” There is no way to tell whether this is a concerted effort by “factions of Anonymous from all over the globe,” as the video states, or just a small subsection of the group.
Users of Yahoo Voices and Formspring had their passwords and other information stolen this week after both sites were hacked into. Anyone using either service should change their passwords immediately, and remember never to use the same password across multiple sites.
BioWare has unveiled Earth, the latest DLC for Mass Effect 3. The free content is largely aimed at the multiplayer element of the game and will include new weapons, human classes and maps. A new level of difficulty will also be made available.
From July 30th PEGI will be the only legal ratings system for video games in the UK.
The Steam summer sales have arrived!
Google has released a Google+ app for iPad, following its Android phone, Android tablet and iPhone releases a few weeks ago. The apps all share similar aesthetics and features, though Wired notes that the iPad version allows users to pinch-to-zoom to increase the size of individual posts. The iPad version does not include Events, but this feature did see a delay before being added to the iPhone version, so it ought to arrive in due course.
Facebook has revamped its Events page to include calendar and list layouts. The feature should be in the process of rolling out to users; this author had not received the upgrade at the time of writing.
OS X Mountain Lion, the upcoming version of Apple’s desktop operating system, has reached “golden master” status. This means the company is extremely close to the final version, which is due to be released later this month. Apple has also released the system requirements for Mountain Lion, which can be found here.
Microsoft has formally announced the release of Windows 8 for October, saying that its “release to manufacturer” build will be ready to send to its hardware partners for the first week in August.
Not to spoil The Dark Knight Rises for you, but Batman’s cape would apparently be pretty dangerous in real life.
Google has launched a campaign, “Legalise Love,” to pressure governments into recognising LGBT rights.
Lockheed Martin has a nifty drone, the “Stalker,” that can be charged using lasers, meaning it could fly pretty much indefinitely.
French scientists are building discs that can store data for millions of years in order to warn future civilisations about nuclear waste.