Does the topic of laser guns intrigue you? Perhaps you’re more interested to learn about Facebook’s new anonymous chat app? Read on for all our news highlights from the last 24 hours, including Google’s Android Wear update, CERN’s mysterious photos, our very own gamer’s shopping list, and more.
Ello debuted with a big, idealistic promise: to be a different kind of social network unswayed by the influence of advertisers or corporate overlords. The notion was immediately questioned by just about everyone, but the startup is sticking to the idea. Today it announced that its advertiser-free status will be permanent, since it’s becoming a Public Benefit Corporation. Under Delaware law, a PBC is a special kind of for-profit entity that is legally obligated to consider the public impact of its actions. As such, the company has drawn up a company charter that bars the firm from ever selling user data or displaying ads from a third-party entity — and the company isn’t allowed to sell itself unless the buyer agrees to abide by these rules, too. It’s still not clear if Ello will last the in the long run, but if it does, at least there won’t be any ads.
If you haven’t, don’t worry. You’re probably not alone. These are just a few of the many social networks that have come and gone, most of them vanishing either through acquisition or simply due to lack of audience adoption.
That’s surprising, when you think about the sheer volume of social networks that have come our way over the years and the few that remain. Let’s face it: There are only a handful of social networks these days that people care about; namely, Facebook, Twitter and, to a certain extent, Google+, even as newcomers like Ello emerge. Some oldies like Myspace and Friendster are still hanging on, but as very different incarnations of themselves. Myspace, for example, is now almost entirely about music discovery, while Friendster currently describes itself as a social gaming site; a far cry from its heyday as one of the “original” social networks.
So what does it take for a social network to resonate with the public? And what makes one succeed where others fail? Here, we examine lessons learned from social networks past and present to see if we can suss out what they should or should not do to prevail in the ever-changing winds of the fickle internet.
1) Don’t be difficult
It seems like a no-brainer, but just like any site on the internet, social networks need to be easy to use. Yet, not everyone follows this simple philosophy. Myspace, for example, became a bloated nightmare, with profile pages that were so heavily bogged down with customizations and media embeds that it was a mess to navigate. It even had to introduce a “Lite” version to lighten some of that load. Yahoo 360 was also widely touted as complicated to set up, as it attempted to be your one-stop shop for blogs, photos and, well, too much of everything. Facebook’s settings aren’t exactly easy to navigate either, but many forget that it used to be much more complex than it is now. Still, it could stand to be even simpler — upstarts like Ello are already capitalizing on a supposed cleaner and more minimalist interface that’s free from clutter and ads.
2) Do keep up with the times
Perhaps one of the most important lessons when it comes to surviving the ever-changing whims of the internet is the willingness and ability to change. As is evident with sites like Myspace, Friendster and Orkut, many of the ones that fell by the wayside failed to keep up with the competition. While Facebook adapted readily by building News Feed, opening up its site to third-party developers and tweaking its site constantly, Myspace was content with its flashy profile pages and celebrity news site. Friendster, too, was weighted down with glitches and stagnation. Today, Facebook and Twitter seem mindful to not repeat the mistakes of their predecessors, with their constant experimentation and willingness to try something new.
3) Don’t be the same as everyone else
One of the problems with so many social networks is that it’s difficult for one to rise above the rest; many of them look the same after a while. That’s why copycat networks typically don’t fare well. Jaiku and Pownce were too comparable to Twitter, and though both offered unique features, they didn’t quite differentiate themselves enough to stand out from the pack. Google+, though not quite perfect, set itself apart with a unique Circles feature plus a robust photo-sharing system that rivals, and possibly exceeds, that of the competition. There are also many niche networks in place; LinkedIn is aimed at folks doing business, while Snapchat made ephemeral messaging its standout feature.
4) Do be mindful of privacy
Privacy is, without a doubt, the most important factor that social networks need to get right. Unfortunately, this is a concern that even the big ones have stumbled on, especially Facebook. The social networking giant’s privacy settings are famously complicated, and it’s faced controversy in the past by experimenting on its users and publicizing activities on third-party sites via its now-retired Beacon advertising program. While Facebook has managed to curb and rectify some of these concerns, some other sites aren’t so lucky. Google Buzz, for example, got into hot water almost immediately by combining its social network with your personal email account, which meant people could see who you emailed the most frequently. Though that wasn’t the sole reason Buzz died, it certainly didn’t do it any favors.
5) Don’t forget the community
A social network wouldn’t be a social network without its users, and the key part of any online community is that people should come first. This is easy to say, of course, and many networking sites do attempt to appease their users as much as possible, but it seems like they could do more. Facebook, for example, might want to reexamine its real name policy so as not to alienate those who wish to remain anonymous or have a different online persona. Twitter’s recent act of surfacing tweets in the timeline from people you don’t follow is another example of an action that doesn’t seem to be mindful of why most people like Twitter in the first place (i.e., the fact that you can curate your own feed). On the whole, it would behoove most social networks to have a more active dialog with their users on what they want out of their community and be more transparent with their actions.
Of course, these are just a few of our ideas on what social networks can do to be better. If you have any more suggestions, feel free to let us know, either in the forums or in the comments below. And if you want a little more history about some of the defunct social networks mentioned here, stroll down memory lane in this gallery.
[Image credit: Dimitri Otis]
Filed under: Internet
Remember how the DEA got caught impersonating a woman on Facebook in an attempt to catch criminals who contacted her? Yeah, Facebook isn’t at all pleased. It just sent a letter asking the anti-drug agency to promise that it won’t create fake accounts or otherwise stomp all over the social network’s terms of service. As the site argues, the DEA’s moves “threaten the integrity” of its user base — the point of Facebook’s real identity policy is to foster trust, and sting operations violate that trust. Law enforcement isn’t above this rule, the company says. It’s not certain if the letter will have any effect; the Justice Department tells BuzzFeed News that it doesn’t believe this trickery happens frequently. Whether or not that’s true, it’s safe to say that Mark Zuckerberg and crew have set some firm boundaries for future cases.
[Image credit: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images]
Via: BuzzFeed News
So, why hasn’t Apple updated its MacBook Air line with a Retina display? Here’s our two-word answer: battery life. That’s not all we have on deck though — check out the rest of our news highlights from the last 24 hours, including a breakthrough in fusion power, further decline of the record industry, a Comic Sans typewriter and more.
Facebook knows that password leaks endanger its users, even if it’s another website that’s been hacked, because people tend to reuse their log-in credentials (remember that recent Dropbox issue?). That’s why it has developed a process that actively monitors news of huge security breaches and scans “paste” sites like pastebin, which hackers typically use to distribute username and password dumps. Upon finding a collection of email addresses and passwords, the system uses an automated process to check them against the social network’s user database. Facebook says that doesn’t mean it has copies of people’s passwords in plain text, though: it encrypts or hashes stolen passwords first before comparing them to similarly encrypted log-in details. In the event that the system does spot an exact log-in combination that’s also used on Facebook, it walks the user through changing his password the next time he logs in.
While Facebook has just made this system a permanent layer of protection for its users, it’s already been tried and tested: the company used the same procedure in the past following a large-scale Adobe hack. Still, the social network advises its users to activate two-step authentication, or to at least use a password manager so they don’t have to reuse their mother’s maiden name (or worse, 123456) over and over again.
[Image credit: Shutterstock]
Facebook has just started rolling out Safety Check — its new emergency check-in feature, which enables users of the social network to quickly alert friends and family that they’re safe during times of natural disasters and crises.
The functionality was unveiled by Facebook’s acting CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, in Tokyo earlier today, and works by sending users a push notification asking them if they are safe should a natural disaster occur in the area listed as their current location. By opening the application, members can view a list of their Facebook friends in the area to see which of them have checked-in as safe.
According to Marcy Scott Lynn, global policy programs manager at Facebook, the social networking giant will determine what constitutes as a disaster worthy of a check-in by communicating with local authorities and natural disaster experts.
If you’d like to see the Safety Check feature in action, Facebook have produced a neat, little explanation and tutorial video, which can be seen below. Just hit the Play button to get started.
We’d love to hear your opinion on the new Safety Check feature. Will you be taking advantage of it if a natural disaster happens to strike in your area? Do you feel safe knowing that Facebook is constantly aware of your current location? be sure to let us know your thoughts by dropping a comment in the section below.
Come comment on this article: Facebook ‘Safety Check’ lets friends and family know you’re safe during a disaster
Despite the frivolous nature of most social media interactions, Facebook’s latest new feature is intended for use only in serious situations. Unveiled today in Japan, Safety Check notifications are pushed to users when a natural disaster hits and area you have listed as your location, where you’ve checked in on Nearby Friends, or where you recently logged in from. Tech companies like Google and Facebook have worked to connect people after significant disasters in the past, and Facebook says the project is an extension of the Disaster Message Board its Japanese engineers rolled out after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami there. Safety Check is rolling out globally on Android, iOS, feature phones and the desktop — there’s a demo video (embedded after the break) to explain how it all works.
A simple I’m safe / I’m not in the area set of buttons can push an update (and comments, if you enter them) that’s visible only to people on your friends list, intended to quickly give some piece of mind when they notice a USGS report for your zipcode — or worse. If you simply have friends who are in the area of a natural disaster, there’s a notification when they check-in as safe that can take you to a list of their updates.
A truly useful tool, or just a cagey way to try to take some of the creepiness out of the apps’ location tracking features? We’re figuring the latter impression doesn’t hurt from Facebook’s perspective, but in this connected age it’s also a reflection of how people really use the net in trying times. Additionally, it can take some pressure off of overloaded infrastructure with everyone trying to call affected areas after disasters hit, and of course, save you from a post-tragedy chewing out for failure to let people know you’re fine. C’mon, just call your parents / friends / casual acquaintances once in a while, it’s not that hard.
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Apple and other tech giants had better not lean too heavily on Ireland’s super-favorable tax environment; at least one big perk is going away. Finance minister Michael Noonan has detailed a new budget that, among other things, will phase out the “double Irish” system that let companies operating in Ireland (including Apple) move their revenue to an Ireland-registered offshore tax haven. As of 2015, companies incorporated in the country will have four years to make sure that they’re also tax resident — that is, they’ll pay the same as any other corporation operating on the Emerald Isle.
Not that foreign firms will necessarily be dying to leave. Noonan is keeping Ireland’s lower-than-average 12.5 percent corporate tax, and there will be big tax breaks for companies that conduct research and development on its soil. In essence, the minister is trying to strike a very careful balance. He wants to appease European Union investigators who say that Apple and its peers are flouting the law, but he also doesn’t want to raise taxes so much that these companies bolt toward other nations that offer considerably better deals. However well this strategy works, it’s safe to say that the move won’t have American companies repatriating their cash any time soon.
[Image credit: Anthony Sigalas, Flickr]
Via: The Guardian
Source: Department of Finance
Apparently, Facebook has been offering to cover the costs of egg freezing for female employees since January 1st this year, and you know who’s following in its footsteps? Apple. The iPhone-maker plans to offer the same service to its employees starting in January 2015. According to NBCNews, these two might just be the first employers willing to pay for the entire cost of egg freezing for non-medical reasons, which means everyone qualifies for the benefit, not just cancer patients for whom the procedure was originally intended. Most likely, employers hope to encourage female staff members to stay with them even during the last few years most women can conceive (late 30’s to early 40’s), as those are also the years one typically takes on senior positions. They’re probably also betting on the move to save them recruiting and hiring costs in the long run, while keeping top talent around and promoting gender diversity at the same time.
Egg freezing, as you might have guessed, allows women to store their egg cells until they’re ready to get pregnant. These eggs taken during a woman’s younger years have better chances of being fertilized later on, though the procedure doesn’t guarantee a 100 percent success rate. Harvesting around 10 eggs cost around $10,000, with storage adding $500 per year to that amount — both Facebook and Apple are willing to cover up to 20 grand.
While we’re sure there are many women who’d love to take advantage of the opportunity, this move will surely face a lot of criticisms. Some might view it as a ploy to make women sacrifice their childbearing years all for the sake of climbing up the corporate ladder. Others might be worried that having this option readily available places additional pressure on women to put having children on hold. Harvard Law School professor Glenn Cohen also raised a valid point in a blog post last year, where he asked: “…would [female employees] take this as a signal that the firm thinks that working there as an associate and pregnancy are incompatible?”
Still, egg freezing advocates believe it’s the right time to offer the procedure as a perk at work, as more and more people become open to the possibility of going through it. According to the founder of Extend Fertility, which promotes egg freezing in the US, more women now also view it as a means of empowerment and not just their last chance to have a child.
[Image credit: AFP/Getty Images]